Published: January 11, 2010
by Dan Burger
First of all, there is no crime scene investigation. You've been watching too much television. In this case, CSI is an abbreviation for COMMON Session of Interest. I was poking around on the COMMON Annual Meeting Web site last Thursday and followed a trail to the preliminary online session guide. That hardly qualifies me as a special agent, but if you are the investigative type, I recommend you check out what's being presented at the conference in early May.
For those who have never attended COMMON, the first thing you need to know is that it has the widest variety of educational and training sessions that are pertinent to the IBM Power Systems i platform. It also has the largest number of independent software vendors exhibiting in its expo area. Networking with the largest gathering of Power Systems i users is also a big reason people attend. COMMON has been the king of social networking for midrange computing professionals for exactly 50 years, and that includes many years prior to the redundant word "social" being added to the core word "networking." This is face-to-face connecting with subject matter experts and people who are in the same boat as you.
The session lineup at this conference is weighted toward application development and systems administration. Database and security skills are also prominent. IBM tools and application software also get plenty of attention.
The preliminary online session guide is easy to peruse on the COMMON Web site, even though there are something close to 300 sessions on the agenda. To sort through those presentations there are 44 categories referred to as Courses of Study. Among these listings are 18 specific to IBM i, 10 specific to AIX, and two specific to Linux.
Other category titles include topics such as developing business skills, IT leadership and management, IT strategy, Personal Development, Project Management, Middleware, and New Technology Overview.
When peeling through the 18 i-centric categories, Systems Management carries the heaviest course load with 41 sessions. This is where topics related to performance management, integrating BladeCenter blade servers, virtualization, and i 6.1 system upgrades can be found.
Another popular Course of Study is Application Development, where 26 sessions are listed. RPG IV has its own category with 16 sessions. And Web Applications: Architecture and Development has 22 sessions, with an orientation toward Java and Web Service. Nine presentations in the App Dev category are related to IBM Rational tools.
Additional i-specific categories with more than 20 sessions include DB2, where six sessions hone in on IBM's Web Query software; Security Management; and High Availability Resilience, with courses on topics such as journaling, encryption, disaster recovery planning, and backup and recovery windows.
On the AIX side, there are 10 categories featuring AIX content. The category with the largest number of sessions (nine) is high availability. There are seven sessions in the Lotus Collaboration category and seven in the Web Applications: Architecture and Development area.
The Lotus Collaboration category geared toward i users has 12 sessions.
And, by the way, the word preliminary is used with the Online Session Guide because it is subject to change and there are a few sessions listed without the details found with nearly all of the sessions.
COMMON president Wayne Madden, in an interview with The Four Hundred about six weeks ago (see A New Look for the COMMON Session Grid), said he has confidence that the education team at COMMON--consisting of subject matter experts--has done its job well and serves the wishes of the user group.
Session selection, Madden says, is based on factors such as session ratings provided by attendees and session attendance at past conferences. The education committee also factors in topic areas it thinks are important now and in the future. This year, for instance, it was decided to expand in areas considered to be future directions.
"We do a lot of surveys to ask people what they want," Madden said in that interview. "COMMON develops a strategic plan and part of that is where we want to be as a user organization. And we have stated very plainly that we are becoming a Power Systems user organization, because i runs on Power Systems. We are going to support Power Systems i and look more at AIX and Linux and other things because our users are saying to us 'We run all those things in our shops.' They are giving us that input and we are trying to follow their lead."
Madden is vice president and editor in chief of the IBM Technology Group at Penton Technology Media as well as president of COMMON.
COMMON's 2010 Annual Meeting & Exposition is scheduled for May 3 through 6 in Orlando, Florida. It is the 50th anniversary for the COMMON user group, which for all but three of those years--prior to Power Systems convergence last year--was 99 and 44/100ths percent platform specific.
The opening session includes a video address by IBM's president, chief executive officer, and chairman, Sam Palmisano. It's rare when IBM even acknowledges the existence of the i platform these days, so expect a lot of Power Systems and Smart Planet language in Palmisano's message even though his audience will be 90 percent AS/400 loyalists celebrating 50 years of platform-specific success. The keynote speaker at the Opening Session will be Rod Adkins, senior vice president and general manager of the Systems and Technology Group. I would expect some i hardware and software announcements from Adkins--maybe even specifics about IBM long-term investments in the operating system, RPG, and i-centric software.
The Power Systems Expo will be dominated by IBM i vendors. More than 80 exhibitors, including IBM, are expected. It provides attendees with a hands-on opportunity to compare products and talk pricing with the manufacturers. Many of these vendors have large and loyal customer bases using products that were chosen over similar products developed and marketed by IBM. Smart shoppers can make some great deals on the expo floor.
COMMON Directions Canceled
In addition to the COMMON Annual Meeting and Expo in Orlando, the user group organizes events called COMMON Directions and COMMON Focus. The Directions event for 2010, scheduled for January 21, was canceled last Friday due to a lack of registrations. This event was billed as a virtual conference and was planned in conjunction with Penton Media. COMMON is considering rescheduling this event later in the year, after the Annual Meeting and before COMMON Focus in the fall, according to Manzoor Siddiqui, media relations representative for the user group.
A New Look for the COMMON Session Grid
COMMON Exceeds Expectations in Reno, But Group's Future Uncertain
COMMON Takes a Trip to DisneyWorld for 2010
COMMON Prepares for the Power Systems Evolution