Modernizing Apps, IBM Toronto Labs in Spotlight At COMMON
September 27, 2004 Dan Burger
Based on a 10-hour workday (who works eight-hour days anymore?) and a five-day work week, let’s say you work 50 hours a week. Well, if you applied that schedule to attending classes at the COMMON conference, it would take 12 weeks to attend all the available sessions. So how do you maximize the five days that the conference runs? You plan very carefully, and you expect to return again and again.
The typical conference attendee spends 22 hours in sessions, according to COMMON. That’s without taking into consideration the time that that typical attendee spends in the expo area, talking with vendors and collecting their free giveaways, or the networking time with other OS/400 professionals. It also does not include the time at various receptions and events, like the COMMON user discussion socials or taking a behind-the-scenes tour. (In Toronto, the tour goes to IBM‘s Software Lab in Markham, Ontario. Sign up early or there won’t be room for you.)
Most attendees have a particular educational objective, and so they map out a plan for attending sessions related to their subject of interest. COMMON has what it calls the focused educational roadmap to assist people in choosing sessions and labs that provide the in-depth knowledge that keeps them coming back.
At each COMMON conference, a specific topic is singled out as the lead educational focus. Topics such as security, Linux, and WebSphere have been in the spotlight during past events. Enterprise application modernization (EAM) is the main attraction in Toronto. EAM is a huge topic in many OS/400 shops where integrating existing applications into a heterogeneous environment, and gaining a higher return on investment by reusing these assets, has become a priority. Another way of describing this is going from a “silo” type of application infrastructure to a shared application resource infrastructure. The idea of shared application resources allows for interdependent software components that make it easier to innovate and produce new applications quickly and efficiently. EAM involves many steps, beginning with improving the user interface and ending with applications that span platforms seamlessly. (Well, that’s the dream, anyway.)
The fact that many of IBM’s internal developers associated with EAM tools, compilers, development, and support are based at the Toronto Software Labs nearby will add to the “big blueness” of the conference. In addition to the tour of Toronto Labs, on Wednesday, October 20, there will be an opportunity to meet and ask questions of key members of the Toronto Labs, in a session being held on Monday, October 18.
Before the start of the main conference, there will be five workshops, available on Saturday, October 16, and Sunday, October 17. These are EAM-focused workshops and are priced separately from the conference itself. COMMON registration does not enable you to go to these workshops automatically. Lecture EAM workshops cost $295, and lab EAM workshops cost $395. Only registered conference attendees can participate, and pre-registration for the workshops is required. Space in each workshop is limited and will be on a first-come, first-served basis. The Saturday workshops are being held at the IBM Research Center in Markham, which is a one-hour bus ride from the convention center.
Throughout the EAM educational sessions, there will be a heavy emphasis on WebSphere and WebFacing, IBM’s preferred tools for doing EAM. You will find vendors in the expo with alternative solutions for EAM that can be used as well, of course, and we encourage you to explore your options before following the IBM way. Some of the expo vendors have sessions of their own, which may be of interest to you and your company.
The pre-conference workshops are somewhat of an experiment for COMMON, according to Bob Boyson, president of the user group. A test of the workshop concept was done at the last COMMON conference, in San Antonio, where Linux was the educational focus. The difference was that the Linux workshops were free. “We just wanted to see if people were interested in doing this Saturday-Sunday type of thing,” Boyson says. Those workshops were packed, and people signed up to be on waiting lists. “We found out people would come if it’s free, so now we are finding out whether people will pay a small price for it. If people are willing to pay for a specialized workshop, then maybe we can provide these concentrated, in-depth, one-day seminars.”
Part of the reason why these workshops are an extra charge to the COMMON attendee is that the speakers are being paid. Speakers at the general COMMON conference are volunteers.
Boyson says that if this experiment works, it could lead to COMMON taking mini-conferences on the road. COMMON tried doing regional conferences in the past, but without success. Boyson thinks that they could be done better this time around. He cites a recent COMMON survey that indicates a significant number of people are not able to take five days away from work, and the expense of extending travel that long is also an obstacle. “So maybe there is a need to do one- or two-day events that are closer to home for people.”
Early registrations indicate the pre-conference EAM workshops next month will be “fairly successful,” Boyson says. “This gives us a feel for how to run a one-day or two-day workshop. You will see COMMON, over the next couple of years, try some different things to try to get out to the market, rather than just doing two conferences each year. We [the COMMON directors] believe that is a plan for better serving our people. There will be a lot of discussion among the board members about this in the next year.”
COMMON is wrestling with exactly how to do this. One approach would be topic focuses such as Java, WebFacing, RPG, or security. Another would be to take an industry focus such as financial, retail, distribution, or manufacturing.
The partnership between COMMON and SHARE, which will result in a simultaneous iSeries/pSeries (COMMON/UserBlue) conference in Chicago next spring, is another signal that change is under way and that COMMON in Toronto may be the last of what may come to be known as the traditional COMMON conferences.
Speaking of COMMON’s history, the keynote speaker at the opening session in Toronto will be Bill Zeitler, IBM’s senior vice president of Systems & Technology Group. Zeitler is an old-school AS/400 guy who ran the division back in what could be called the glory days. Through the years, he has remained an ally and a protector of the OS/400 platform in the ivory towers of IBM. After his presentation “On-Demand Breakthroughs with eServer iSeries,” Zeitler is scheduled for a 10-to-15-minute question and answer session. The COMMON Web site notes that questions for Zeitler are to be submitted in advance, and you can do this on COMMON’s Web site.
Once again there will be an IT executive conference in conjunction with COMMON. The three-day event is being billed as an opportunity to learn more abut leveraging an iSeries investment. IBM executives will be on hand to talk about IBM’s directions for iSeries, the iSeries migration path, and how the iSeries can be responsive to emerging requirements in various enterprises. Additional IT industry experts will present topics such as “Improving Your iSeries’ Image to the CFO: a Unique TCO study,” “iSeries Strategies from a Management Perspective,” and “Leveraging Your iSeries’ Assets: Enterprise Transformation.” Executive conference attendees also gain admission to the general COMMON conference. The executive conference will be held at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in downtown Toronto.
Information about COMMON registration and hotel accommodations can be found on COMMON’s Web site.