Volume 23, Number 9 -- March 4, 2013

COMMON Hopes Everything Is Bigger in Texas

Published: March 4, 2013

by Dan Burger

Computers and the Internet have been important drivers in long distance education, which serves a purpose when time away from the IT department and tight budgets prevent travel. But most educators and students believe in the classroom education leads to greater success. A traditional classroom environment, hands-on lab sessions, as well as the networking with your peers are why people get excited to attend the COMMON Annual Meeting and Exposition, which is coming up April 7 through 10 in Austin, Texas.

The COMMON conference, or simply COMMON, as most people refer to it, is a special event--the largest gathering of IBM i users and vendors in the world. Although it has broadened its horizons to include the AIX and Linux members of the IBM Power Systems family, COMMON depends on the IBM i community for the greatest share of participation. And, vice versa, the IBM i community depends on COMMON to organize and orchestrate this annual training event.

More than 300 educational sessions, labs, and all-day workshops are saddled up for this Texas rodeo. Topics expected to draw the largest crowds include PHP, Open RPG, mobile technology, and cloud computing. An online session guide is available at this link. The guide was designed to allow searches based on courses of study (i.e., app dev, security, systems management, personal development, leadership and management, etc.), session speaker, day of the week, and also includes a keyword search. Courses are also grouped by operating system.

COMMON continues to make efforts aimed at attracting the AIX users, but it's a tough row to hoe. The AIX crowd has never had a community like the IBM i users, so bringing them together is a bit like catching fish with your bare hands. IBM would like to unify Power Systems users like its Power Systems line converged the hardware. COMMON would like to help achieve that goal.

There's another increase in AIX sessions this year at COMMON, which isn't a surprise when you realize that Austin is where the majority of AIX development is done. It is also the home of the AIX Collaboration Center, the AIX Executive Briefing Center, and where a portion of the Power processor design work originates. With access to local brainpower (technical and executive), the educational session instructor pool was expanded in that direction.

"This is COMMON's first time in Austin," COMMON president Randy Dufault mentioned to me during a phone call last week. "Austin is as much a home to the Power Systems servers as Rochester, Minnesota, is. We have some local IBM Lab people coming to speak on AIX topics and we have dialed up the AIX education. There are also some new vendors (new to COMMON) that are more closely tied to the AIX market. Any Power Systems user (AIX, IBM i, or Linux) is going to be able to get a whole lot out of our annual meeting."

It all begins with three, all-day, pre-conference workshops, which are being offered on Saturday, April 6. The topics and speakers are: PHP with Mike Pavlak; Rational Developer for Power with Charles Guarino and IBM i security with Carol Woodbury. Pre-conference workshops require a separate registration fee than the main conference. You can sort out the registration details at the Annual Meeting and Exposition link from the COMMON webpage.

The deadline for early registration discounts for this conference is Thursday, March 7. It's a $200 savings if you can manage it.

Colin Parris, IBM general manager of Power Systems, will be attending the COMMON conference again this year and, once again, will give a keynote speech. Last year he met with IT Jungle and discussed a variety of topics including Power Systems expectations, customer migrations to newer hardware, hardware maintenance, PureSystems, and IBM investments in IBM i.

Those articles can be found here and here if you missed them the first time.

IBM's brain trust of i-centric evangelists will be in Austin as well. Steve Will, chief architect for IBM i; Alison Butterill, product offering manager for IBM i, Gene Cobb, DB2 for i technology specialist; Dawn May, technical staff member for IBM Systems Director; Barbara Morris, lead developer for RPG compilers; Tim Rowe, IBM i business architect for application development; Debbie Saugen, technical owner of IBM i backup and recovery; and Jeff Uehling, technology chief engineering manager for IBM i security, are making presentations and can usually be found in the IBM booth in the exposition hall.

IBM has always supported COMMON by bringing a lot of technical firepower to the conference. A high percentage of the educational sessions are led by IBMers or ex-IBMers. Many of those people have or had key roles in product development and others are subject matter experts in their specific areas. That's just one of the ways IBM cooperates with COMMON.

This year there will be a new partnership between Big Blue and the user group. Dufault says the Power Systems segment of the IBM Academic Initiative will have a booth in the exposition area with the goal of getting closer to the community and developing a better understanding of what Power Systems companies want in terms of college graduates' skills. The cooperation signals a tighter relationship between AI and COMMON and an improved collaboration effort between colleges teaching IBM i skills and the organizations that are insisting the pipeline for young talent has been turned off.

COMMON board member Bob Krzeczowski has been designated as the liaison to the Academic Initiative. That position did not exist in the past.

Dufault also had some news about the COMMON certification program. By the time the COMMON conference takes place, completed study guides for two of the three certifications will be available. The study guide materials are for the COMMON Business Computer Associate (CBCA) certification and the ILE RPG certification examinations that were designed to measure and validate an individual's effectiveness in each of those disciplines.

Links to the completed study materials can be found at the CBCA Exam webpage and the partially completed study guide for the RPG exam can be found at the ILE RPG Certification webpage. Check back in the coming weeks to access the completed ILE RPG study guide.

As of yet there are no study guide materials for the Certified Business Computing Professional examination. Testing for all three certifications will be available at the COMMON Annual Meeting and Exposition.

One thing that will be missing from the upcoming event in Austin is the COMMON LiveTrack video streaming that was offered a year ago. LiveTrack allowed those who did not attend the conference, to watch the opening session for free and view selected sessions on a pay per view basis. According to Manzoor Siddiqui, COMMON's marketing manager, the organization's virtual products have expanded over the past year creating a content overlap with sessions at the Annual Meeting.

For those of you attending the conference, you not only get to soak in the full COMMON experience from session hoping to birds-of-a-feather flocking to wheeling and dealing with vendors in the exposition hall, but you also get a great Austin-style Texas adventure. Keep in mind that the unofficial slogan in this city is "Keep Austin Weird." Have fun. Hope to see you there.


COMMON Introduces New Educational Options

COMMON Turning Up the Value

COMMON Finds Its Happy Spot With IBM i And Disneyland

COMMON Adds Youthfulness To Board Of Directors

COMMON Reactivates RPG Certification

COMMON Prepares Business Computing Certification for Orlando Show

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Editor: Timothy Prickett Morgan
Contributing Editors: Dan Burger, Joe Hertvik, Victor Rozek,
Jenny Thomas, Hesh Wiener, Alex Woodie
Publisher and Advertising Director: Jenny Thomas
Advertising Sales Representative: Kim Reed
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