COMMON: The Blues Play Well in Minneapolis
April 11, 2011 Dan Burger
Are you Blue? I’m not talking about you nearly frozen survivors of the winter of 2010-11. I’m talking about the IBM Power Systems users who support Big Blue. The COMMON 2011 Annual Meeting and Exposition is only three weeks away. It’s almost time to pack the bags and head to Minneapolis, where last week COMMON president Pete Massiello told me there will be “a lot of cool things going on.”
First of all, let’s take into account that IBM Rochester, always the hive of IBM i activity, is down the road from Minneapolis. It stands to reason that the COMMON conference will be a magnet for IBM i and Power Systems experts. Attendees will certainly have a better than usual chance of finding subject matter experts with all the extra brainpower in the building.
Massiello suggested several ways to make the connection with IBMers. One is to attend the “Ask the Experts” session Sunday evening. His second recommendation is the COMMON-IBM Power Bar. Although it sounds like an energy snack or possibly a watering hole, it’s actually an area within the expo hall that will be staffed by IBM and industry experts. If you have technical questions, this is the designated place for answers. And then there are the more than 300 educational sessions on the agenda. IBMers will be making more presentations than usual and they will also be attending more sessions. Ask questions during sessions and the chances of getting it answered is almost assured.
The 300-plus sessions match up with what was offered in Orlando, Florida, a year ago when COMMON was celebrating its 50th anniversary. The session agenda still relies on the traditional steak and potatoes that 50 years of educational home cooking that satisfies the most attendees. Expect big portions of IBM i-related material. Beyond the core topics, Massiello noted modern topics such as PHP, Open RPG, mobile technology, and cloud computing.
“We made sure we had the core stuff, but also the stuff people need to start looking at,” he said. “Due to the commonality of Power Systems, you’ll see some sessions being attended by IBM i, AIX, or Linux attendees.”
To make sure the AIX and Linux folks have good reason to attend COMMON, Massiello says there’s a session specific to their interests scheduled every hour of the conference. This effort to attract a wider audience to COMMON has been underway since the iSeries and pSeries convergence, but Massiello says “we’ve built upon it even more so this year.”
The number of AIX-oriented attendees is growing, he says. It’s too early to say the COMMON name is well known in the AIX community, but it’s believed that the name recognition is building.
“This is kind of a chicken and egg situation,” Massiello says. “You can’t have great sessions until you have a lot of people attending, and you are not going to get people there until you have great sessions.”
The ISV community is also playing a bigger role in the sessions.
“There’s a lot of expertise in the vendor community,” Massiello points out. “COMMON wants to tap into that. There are a lot of smart developers. They know tricks. We want them to share that with our members.”
Some of this expertise has been applied to sessions for many years at COMMON. That trend is continuing and expanding to schedule sessions that allow vendors to discuss their products in much the same way that IBM does.
The online session grid is a convenient aid that allows users to search within 35 course of study categories, which is convenient for those honed in on a specific topic or two. It also allows searches by keywords, speakers, and day of the conference.
Not in Minneapolis?
For those not attending COMMON there’s some big news.
The COMMON Opening Session will be streamed live on the Internet and there will be a virtual conference option as well.
The opening session will be a free feed for everyone with a Web connection to watch. It will be highlighted by presentations by Eric Brown, a member of the design team that created Watson, the TV quiz show phenom that was built on the Power Systems platform. Tom Rosamilia, general manager of Power Systems, and Colin Parris, vice president and business line manager for Power Systems, will present the IBM business update. Massiello will highlight the achievements of COMMON in the past year.
The virtual conference has yet to be officially announced, but Massiello describes it as a “subset of sessions streamed live from the conference for a fee.”
One of the other perks of having IBM Rochester nearby is the opportunity to tour the hallowed halls. There are two tours scheduled for Wednesday, May 4. Each has a capacity of 50. The price is $75. Included on the tour are the acoustic chamber, the electromagnetic compatibility chamber, the performance and scalability services facility, systems manufacturing, and the customer solutions center.
Business Computing Certification
One year ago at the COMMON conference a new certification was introduced called the COMMON Certified Business Computing Associate. This year there will be a new certification called the COMMON Certified Business Computing Professional certification. This is a progression from the associate level, and to achieve the professional certification will require a third-party technical certification along with the associate certification.
Massiello says that since its introduction at COMMON in Orlando in 2010, the associate level certification has been popular. Certification testing has been done at the Fall COMMON event, several local user group conferences, and at COMMON Europe.
“We have a lot of people taking the certification,” he says, “but not everyone passes them. It actually shows whether people know the concepts that need to be applied in the field.”
There will be an information session on the business computing certifications Sunday at COMMON and the testing will be available throughout the conference.
Registrations and Vendor Participation Solid
Massiello was happy to report that conference registrations are on par with the 2010 50th anniversary event and that the number of vendors wanting in the expo area required an expansion of the originally allotted space. He said a similar circumstance occurred at the Fall COMMON conference, but there was no room to expand, so some vendors were turned away. Eighty companies are signed up for the upcoming show. The attendance one year ago in Orlando was reported to be 1,150.
Three open positions on the COMMON Board of Directors will be filled in an election that takes place at COMMON. There are four candidates: Jeff Carey, who works for a large IBM i shop in the healthcare software industry and is president of the Chicago area local user group known as OMNI; Robert Krzeczowski, who has previously served on the board and has been a COMMON volunteer for more than 15 years; Phil McCullough, an IT director for a medial certification board and a member of the COMMON Advisory Council since 2004; and Russell Meyer, a senior iSeries administrator for an insurance company and a COMMON member for 12 years.
More information on these individuals, including their position statements, can be found on the COMMON Board of Directors election website. If you are a member, you can vote online.