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Nobody bitten at SharkFest 2015. Very popular feeding ground though!

8 July 2015 NetFort Blog By: Darragh Delaney
SharkFest 2015 Conference

SharkFest 2015

Last week I attended the annual SharkFest conference in Mountain View. Long haul from Galway, Ireland but also visited some customers and partners (first visit to the Brazilian steakhouse in Palo Alto BTW, I’ll be back) overall was definitely worth the trip.

SharkFest is a seriously techy conference, primarily targeted at the Wireshark community, both developers and users. There are a number of streams, beginners, intermediate and advanced. The advanced stream is definitely not for the faint-hearted, usually presented by guys who love packets, reading HEX and Wireshark. The number of monthly downloads are in the multiples of 100k range. Although, one of the questions raised by a forensics guy at the conference was ‘How come so many people are downloading? I didn’t know that there were so many network engineers out there…’

I’m always amazed when I see the Wireshark experts or core developers analyzing packet traces and asking questions like ‘so what’s unusual about this?’ and at least 4 or 5 guys would immediately spot the offender, ‘look the negotiation on the TCP window size did not complete so ….’ I’m thinking, wow, that was fast, how do they do it ?  There is no doubt that there is real gold in the network packets, granular detail to really understand what is happening for so many IT security and operational use cases, but, packets and traces can also be very complex and overwhelming for many people.  It can be very difficult to ‘get the big picture’ see the wood from the tress and then drill down to the detail.

"there seems to be an upsurge in demand for network traffic analysis, using wire data to troubleshoot, report, drill down and eliminate guesswork."

From talking to some of the attendees though, there seems to be an upsurge in demand for network traffic analysis, using wire data to troubleshoot, report, drill down and eliminate guesswork. Encryption can make life difficult at times but there are workarounds. I think the recent high profile security breaches, issues like phishing, Ransomware are definitely driving this trend.

Many delegates also highlighted the demand for more visibility, rich data to go back on for network forensics, for network activity (both security and operations) monitoring. Wireshark is undoubtedly a very flexible tool with a very hard working community behind it, just pop along to the next SharkFest, meet the users, developers, receive free training, all in a very relaxed environment, you will not be sorry.

The location was the Computer History Museum, my first visit, what a great location for a techy conference. I will get to the exhibits in a bit, but all the people working there are super passionate and really friendly.

The CEO of the museum, John Hollar gave the opening keynote which was really interesting, like a step back in time. Names like Fairchild and Shockley were familiar to me but not all the detail on why they left Shockley, how they did it, the signed one dollar bill contracts, etc. Unfortunately though it made me realize how old I am!

Time is really moving on when you see some of the equipment you worked on, old DEC microcomputers, VMS in a museum. Although, I met a guy working in the US gov and they are still using VMS, he loves it, his comment was ‘you should see the up-time, its years, not weeks, months’. I graduated from Electronic Engineering in 1986, remember queuing and waiting for a terminal connected to the VAX, assembly language programming, C, Fotran and Pascal. I can barely read the printouts now without my glasses.  I’m biased but DEC had great technology, great engineers.

The exhibits, tour, demos are fantastic. Sometimes I visit a museum and seem to get tired almost immediately,  walking around almost feels like running a marathon, feet hurt, feel hot and stuffy and can’t wait to get out and grab a beer. This museum is different but probably because I’m also a bit of a geek. You can see a working IBM mainframe for example, it includes so much on the history of IBM, how Watson ran the company, how they executed.

You need time though, it’s not the sort of museum one can just browse around, every exhibit and stand is worth a visit and time.  Lot of good lessons to be learnt there too, technology has changed but it is still all down to the people, management, the team, passion and you still have to execute.

I would definitely recommend a visit to the Computer History Museum if you are in the area. I don’t know who picked this location as a venue for SharkFest but it was the highlight of the week for me, even better than the Brazilian steakhouse Charles!

John Brosnan
NetFort CEO