From December 17 to 20, 2018, our lab proudly hosted the 11th IEEE/ACM International Conference on Utility and Cloud Computing (UCC) along with its collocated event 5th IEEE/ACM International Conference on Big Data Computing, Applications and Technologies (BDCAT). We welcomed around 200 attendees in the Zurich Technopark, making it a record event in the multi-year conference series, the biggest neutral cloud conference in Switzerland, and a successful venue to present and discuss recent advances around the wider field of utility, big data and cloud computing. This blogpost briefly summarises the event and gives some information about how it came all together.
UCC and BDCAT are international conference series in the top tier of their kind. With their highly selective choice of technical paper presentations, around 20% of all submissions for both conferences, along with several collocated tracks and workshops, they have become known for quality discourse on where cloud computing is heading and where impactful research efforts should be invested. In 2018, the event took place for the fourth time in Europe and for the first time in Switzerland. According to the feedback we received, the event went very well and many of its conscious design decisions were widely appreciated both on the convenience and on the quality sides. The following paragraphs give a brief impression from the organiser’s perspective in chronological order.
December 2017 to November 2018:
We assembled the conference committee (with general chair hat on) and looked into local tasks (with local team hat on). Over the months, we set up remote links to the sponsoring organisations IEEE and ACM, in particular the technical meeting planner of the Computer Society, to SIGHPC/SIGARCH/TCSC, the publisher and registration system provider, and to the banking system. The complimentary debit card proved very useful in that context. The development of the conference over acceptance of workshops and setup of their public presence, initial and extended calls and their dissemination, incoming tutorial offers, as well as all paper submissions was regularly tracked. Much of the committee work was bilateral and decentralised, and of course, involved a lot of SaaS such as EasyChair, Google Apps for Business mailing lists, shared documents and spreadsheets, and MailChimp. The websites were continuously updated as news emerged.
Moreover, we established local links to the venue, the caterer, the WiFi provider, the satellite location room management, the social event locations, printing and production companies, the public transport association and the tourism agency, and had our share in promoting the events and looking for corporate supporters. Regularly, especially after the camera-ready deadline, we tracked incoming registrations and adjusted the budget forecast accordingly (with some custom Pandas logic operating on the CSV export of Regfox). We chased down missing registrations and finally reviewed the proceedings as most prestigious tangible outcome of any conference. Additionally, we signed and mailed visa invitation letters for those in need. To assure links with industry, a traditional strong point of the conferences, we invited industry speakers, always mandating their regular participation to foster discussion on equal terms among all conference attendees. Finally, we started producing and ordering material for the operation of the conference, primarily the anticipated registration and info desks, but also awards and other physical and digital (marketing) material.
Early December 2018:
We created the conference booklet with useful information, ran the final print and order jobs based on our estimation of attendance, and then started packing leaflets into folders, and folders into bags, and USB drives containing the proceedings (now also available online for UCC/UCC-Companion 2018 and BDCAT 2018) into badge holders, and badge holders into bags, which at the scale of the event ended up in several intense sessions involving much of the local team in this phase. Eventually, we drove a number of larger objects including rollups and several large boxes to the venue where the final assembly and preparation took place on the day before the conference start.
We named it the “cloud-native day” due to the hosting of the CNAX workshop on this day, but also a keynote and several other content parts which evolved around the question about the very nature of cloud computing and how applications can work better in cloud and post-cloud environments. In six parallel tracks, four workshops (CNAX, BDASE, CloudAM and mF2C) and three tutorials offered a hard choice on what to attend. In the evening, we invited all attendants to the MS Albis ship on Lake Zurich. A particular highlight was the participation of a representative of the Republic of Korea due to the (positively unexpected) high number of Korean researchers attending the event.
The main conferences started on this day, and the doctoral symposium also took place along with two half-day workshops, IWTCC and SCCTSA. We prepared the opening slide deck to reveal statistics about acceptance and participation, and to introduce the speakers of the day. A small-group steering committee meeting was held in the afternoon to discuss aspects of the conferences happening in the next years. A still small but slightly larger-group chairs dinner featuring classical cheese fondue was then happening in the evening on the Top of Zurich location, Uetliberg, to thank the chairs for their work and to continue the future conference discussions.
We named it the “industry day” due to an industry-balanced panel discussion and many interesting discussions on how developers, operators and researchers can improve their working relationship. To showcase the importance of cloud computing in practice, an ad-hoc session was organised by CERN involving VR headsets to virtuall walk around their data centres and experiment facilities. The cloud challenge finalists both did a good job and a prize was given out by VSHN (see tweet). Moreover, a dinner in the historic district of Zurich concluded the day with the right atmosphere.
A highlight on this day was the well-attended WoSC workshop focusing on research around FaaS. Also, another tutorial was offered on end-to-end testing, resulting from the European H2020 Elastest project our Service Prototyping Lab is involved with. The closing session first provided an outlook at UCC/BDCAT 2019 in New Zealand, a brief outlook already on UCC/BDCAT 2020 in Brazil, and finally presented eight engraved awards for quality contributions to the conference. The two main conference tracks UCC and BDCAT concluded successfully without any unaccounted no-shows.
As complementary event, and additional opportunity for the conference attendees, we held ESSCA as dedicated symposium focusing on research and innovation around FaaS which was attended by around 40 people. We intend to have a separate event report on ESSCA soon.
Wrap-up and lessons learned
We thank our corporate supporters (Cloud Native Computing Foundation, Siemens, Swiss Alliance for Data-Intensive Services) for their early commitment and their on-site contributions to the conference. Many points in favour of meaningful, impactful applied research in this space were raised and debated during the event.
All in all, the event budget to be collected, managed and redistributed was in the range of 170 000 CHF. We learned that our university administration under the current leadership is incapable of handling the banking and integral marketing efforts and financial flexibility needed to attract large-scale international events, and resorted to doing much of that by ourselves with decent support from within our institute. We underestimated the number of last-minute registrations, most of which were from local industry for which we are really grateful, and we overestimated the share of attendees on the social events – several probably used the chance to explore Zurich and the region. Apart from these small glitches, all numbers made sense and few surprises disturbed the smooth organisation.
Looking into the future, we as applied research laboratory and more holistically as research community intend to use the successful event as jumping board for future efforts, primarily around the topics of cloud-native computing and serverless computing. We’re also delighted to work on the Journal of Cloud Computing with a special thematic series over multiple years to disseminate extended top papers in open access format.