Sunday, August 21, 2011

Congratulations Dr. Chathura Herath!

It gives me great pleasure to congratulations Chathura Herath on completing his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Indiana University on the topic Programming Abstraction for Resource Aware Stream Processing in Scientific Workflows. Chathura is a student of Prof. Beth Plale.

Chathura was also one of the original members of the Apache Axis2 crew and is now the 4th of the original group of 6 to finish their Ph.D. degrees. He joins Srinath (in WSO2), Jaliya (in Microsoft Research), Eran (heading to Wall Street) to finish off leaving just Ajith (in Wright State) and Deepal (in Georgia Tech) in the pipeline. Chathura is heading towards an academic career. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Are you attending WSO2Con 2011?

WSO2Con 2011 is happening in Sri Lanka at the awesome Waters Edge Conference Center (just outside the capital Colombo) from Monday, September 12th to Friday, September 16th. Have you signed up yet? If not here are a bunch of reasons to do it NOW!

The Program

The overal agenda is a combination of superb keynotes, talks by users about various solutions / case studies, talks by WSO2 folks about various new and up and coming cool things, couple of superb panels and of course some pre- and post-conference tutorials to help get an overview first and then an indepth understanding of various topics. Here's a circular view of the week:

This year we ran an open call for papers and selected nearly 20 external speakers to present their stories from amongst a large number of submissions. The speakers are coming from more than 10 countries (14 if I remember right) from North America, South America, Europe, Asia (including Sri Lanka, of course) and Australia/NZ. With attendees coming from various other countries too this is a truly global event with one hell of a program.

I would be doing a great dis-service if I didn't highlight our keynote speakers. We have 4 outside keynotes from IBM, eBay, Google and Cognizant. Paul and I are doing keynotes too. These folks who are coming in to give the keynotes are highly accomplished individuals who will undoubtedly have superb stuff to say .. listening to them itself will justify the trip!

The Place

Sri Lanka is one of the hottest tourist destinations in the world today. In one small accessible package, Sri Lanka offers everything from awesome beaches to great surf to archeology to history to mountains to hang gliding to hot air ballooning to just plain going native. After having ended a 30-year horrendous war more than 2 years ago, we're now one of the safest places in the world! Interestingly, while most places in the world are increasing their security levels Sri Lanka is massively opening up.

We still of course have ways to go to build up many key infrastructure aspects in the country. In a way the whole country is under construction right now .. but not in the way that you wouldn't have the best time of your life here! Coming now will save you a lot of bucks too .. tourism in Sri Lanka WILL get much more expensive in the next 5 years!

Certainly don't just take my word for it. Instead, how about:
Who am I to argue with places like New York Times and National Geographic telling you to come to Sri Lanka!

The conference hotel we've chosen is Cinnamon Lakeside in Colombo. This is one of the best (5-star, of course) hotels in Colombo and sits next to the Beira Lake in Colombo. In addition to being a great hotel smack in the middle of Colombo, it also houses several superb restaurants. Do not miss Royal Thai.

The conference itself is being held at the very very cool Waters Edge Conference Center, about 10km (6 miles) out of Colombo. Its a very large facility and is in fact part of a golf course and is home to all the high-end events in Colombo. We will have buses organized to shuttle you to/from the hotel to the conference location.

The People

One of the best things about going to a conference is of course the opportunity to hang out with like minded people .. some of who will end up becoming your buddies for the rest of your life. At WSO2Con 2011 you will have the opportunity to interact with people from 20 countries, people who are total geeks, people who are world famous and of course the people from WSO2 who create and develop the products you love.

In order to make sure you get maximum time to interact and engage with each other we are also organizing several evening events. Don't plan to leave as the sessions finish!

The Deal

We want you to come from wherever you are in the world. At the same time, we realize its not easy to get travel approval these days with an unknown budget to travel to an exotic destination ("you want to go to a conference where?").

So, in order to make that process easier we're offering a complete, soup-to-nuts package that covers everything:
  • round-trip (economy class) airfare
  • up to 6 nites hotel accommodation at the conference hotel
  • all ground transportation in Sri Lanka
  • all meals within those 6 nights
  • (oh yeah) a full conference pass including both tutorial days
How much? They are priced based on where you're coming from:
  • Anywhere from South Asia: $1,900
  • Anywhere from Europe, Australia or New Zealand: $2,400
  • Anywhere else in the world (America, Africa, rest of Asia, Arctic region, Antarctica etc.): $2,900
If you've ever paid and attended a 5-day event anywhere in the US you know that you easily spend more than $2,900 for that week all told. This is an incredible value .. even your manager will grok it :). AND you get to spend a week in Sri Lanka as a bonus!

We OF COURSE are hoping lots and lots of folks from Sri Lanka will attend! We don't have airfare included rates for that :) .. you just have to register at the regular rates (and we give a special discount to most LK organizations - government, SLASSCOM members, AMCHAM members, IESL members, etc. etc.).

What are you waiting for? REGISTER NOW and reserve your spot :-).

Saturday, August 6, 2011

10 years since returning to Sri Lanka

Today marks the 10 year anniversary of our returning home to Sri Lanka.

I went to the US in 1985 where I lived for a total of nearly 16 years .. first arriving on August 18, 1985 to go to Kent State University for undergraduate studies. I lived in Kent, Ohio for 4 years, finishing both a BS and an MS, and then moved to West Lafayette, Indiana for 8 years where I was a PhD student at Purdue for 5 years and then visiting faculty for 3 more. Then I joined IBM Research in August 1997 (starting August 4th) and moved to Yorktown Heights, New York and finally left the US on August 4th 2001 and arrived back home on August 6th, 2001. That's 10 years ago today :-).

Wow, 10 years .. time flies when you are having fun!

I remember that there were pieces of airplanes on the ground at the Colombo Airport when we landed - the dreaded LTTE had brazenly attacked the airport just 10 days before that destroying 3 Sri Lankan Airlines planes and damaging 3 more as well as damaging or destroying 26 Airforce aircraft and killing a bunch of people.

What a difference 10 years makes; guns have been silent and peace reigns loudly in Sri Lanka for more than 2 years now. Whether you like the current leadership team in the country or not, we all owe them an incredible debt of gratitude for putting everything aside and destroying the LTTE menace and creating a stable nation so we have (another) chance at becoming what Sri Lanka is capable of becoming.

I was of course still working for IBM Research when I came back .. working remotely from Sri Lanka. I finally quit on April 15, 2005 and started WSO2 a few months later. I started encouraging Sri Lankan developers to contribute to open source projects in fall 2002 and ended up starting the Lanka Software Foundation in early 2003 (along with friend, colleague and mentor Jivaka Weeratunge). LSF was of course instrumental in many projects that ended up in Apache and for Sahana, the tsunami-inspired disaster management system we created. (BTW IBM recently highlighted Sahana in their 100 year celebrations .. very cool!) I also started teaching as a volunteer visiting lecturer at the Computer Science and Engineering Department of the University of Moratuwa from around 2002, where many of the brilliant brains that contributed to LSF's projects, and later WSO2, came from. (We of course get brilliant people from many sources now .. but MRT still dominates!)

One of the things I'm really proud of is that so many people have benefitted from the work done in LSF to help get them into grad school for further studies. Counting WSO2 too, there are now more than 25 people in various places doing PhD's in Computer Science. Three have finished so far.


Many people have asked me at various times: "Have you ever regretted coming back home?". I can honestly say: NOT EVEN ONCE!

Don't get me wrong- the US was a great country to live in and I will never forget the superb education nor the wonderful experiences and friends I made in my 16 years there. However, this is home and there's nothing like home (for me). I love the fact that I can have some small impact on young people who can help Sri Lanka get ahead in its journey. I love the fact that I am not second class in any way in my home country. I love the fact that my kids are growing up here with roots in their home country - where they end up as adults is their decision, not mine. But at least they have a firm footing here as their home.

Moving back to Sri Lanka is not without its challenges. Many things that are easy in the US are not so easy here. At the same time, many things that are hard in the US are quite easy here. So its always a mixed bag .. what matters is your mindset about the journey: if you are committed to moving back then you can come back. If you are half-hearted and look for problems instead of challenges then you will run back to wherever you attempted to move back from.

I am writing this because I am very very keen to attract Sri Lankans living in other countries to come back home. We need our educated, experienced, connected, knowledgable Lankans to come back home and help us rebuild after the 30 year nightmare that ended 2 years ago. The opportunities here are absolutely amazing and this is the start of a boom period .. now is as good as ever to come back home.

OF COURSE Sri Lanka is not a perfect place. Neither is the US (can you say "debt ceiling"?) nor any other place. The advantage Sri Lanka offers to Sri Lankans is that this is our home. Whatever hard work you do will have tremendous impact. Sri Lanka is a small country .. that means the impact of your work is much more direct and immediate too. Every problem is an opportunity if you take up the challenge!

I, along with Dulith Herath, Founder and CEO of, along with SL2College (another non-profit project I'm involved in - founded by Nayana Samaranayake) are launching a "come back to Sri Lanka" effort soon. The idea is to help dispel many myths (that traffic is a nighmare, that everything is corrupt, that nothing is easy etc. etc.), get info about jobs and other opportunities, provide accurate and direct information and eventually help people who want to come back make the move and settle down (including things like kids school etc.).

BTW if you're a hardcore passionate techie wanting to come back then I know at least one great place to work ;-).

The last 10 years have been amazingly fantastic for me. The last 6 years have been most special because I have helped create a company that now employees more than 125 people here (and soon more here as well as in the US, UK and some in Europe). Thank you Paul for much of that!

The move was made easier by many many people who helped get settled in, helped get connected to various places and helped in various other ways. You are too numerous to list (and I know I will screw up by missing some key people) but please know that I know you played a crucial role in how well the last 10 years have gone. From the bottom of my heart: THANK YOU.