Week 3: Clouds and Cafes

This week was kind of different from the others because on Thursday, we attended the GigaOm Structure conference instead of going to the True office for a speaker series. The conference was held in the Mission Bay Conference Center on the campus of UCSF, and the floors were packed with company booths, which were packed with tables full of all kinds of conference swag: everything from rubik’s cubes to slinkies. At one point during the day while I was asking questions about solid state cloud storage at one of the booths, a representative came from the adjacent booth, pointed to the foam zebra (a swag item) I was holding in my hands, and said, “As you get older, you find out that those are the best parts of the conference.” I’m not going to lie, the vast variety of trinkets on the showroom floor did kind of blow my mind.

In general, it was awesome walking around the conference and listening to elevator pitches from all the different company reps; it really helped me construct a succinct concept of how cloud computing looks today. And while I can’t tell you exactly what cloud computing is (there was a moment during the conference when one of the panelists actually said, “We tried to define what exactly the cloud is… in the end, we came to no clear conclusion.”), I can say that I did absorb a lot of knowledge just from listening to all the representatives speak about their products. The coolest thing I learned at the conference came from speaking with Jonathon Bryce (founder of Rackspace) about the merits of open vs. closed platforms. In particular, I was really curious about how open platforms could be monetized if, by definition, they are free and open. “Monetize the support services.” Jonathon’s explanation was pretty darn eye-opening: his work at OpenStack (open source cloud software projects) is not commercialized directly, it simply serves as a catalyst to drive usage and demand for other cloud services, such as cloud storage. It just so happens that Rackspace does cloud storage. Bam! Open platform commercialized. Razors and razorblades.

Over the weekend, I got to do a bit of exploring around San Francisco and the bay at large. I attended a StartupDigest hosted party in Palo Alto with fellow intern Vicki and got to soak up a bit of that “work hard, play hard” atmosphere of the startup world. On the same day, I went to Summit café in the Mission district, a café famous for hosting baller entrepreneurs who randomly show up and churn out code while lounging on their sofas. It was a really awesome environment, and in the spirit of the café, my friend and I were experimenting with some code from the Facebook API. I also ordered a jar of Moroccan mint tea, which was served with its own hourglass, colored a brilliant shade of bionic blue. “You can drink the tea after the hourglass runs out,” instructed the lady behind the counter. For some reason, I felt ridiculously classy sitting there waiting for the hourglass to run out so I could enjoy my delicious cup of Moroccan mint tea.

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