What Happens In Vegas . . . Comes Back To The Office
October 15, 2012 Dan Burger
Encouraging employees to upgrade skills used to be emphasized a lot more than it is these days. I don’t think there’s any debate about that. It was more widely believed that learning to do more with the on-premise hardware and software was directly related to increases in productivity and a better return on the overall IT investment. There are still companies that believe investing in people is money well spent, but you could probably make a case for them becoming an endangered species.
One place you can glimpse these increasingly rare organizations is at the IBM Power Systems Technical University, which is being held at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas October 29 through November 2. This is IBM‘s annual dog and pony show for customers, business partners, and IBM employees. It’s not the biggest Power Systems event of the year. That still belongs to the COMMON Annual Meeting and Exposition, which is also billed as a Power Systems event, but is primarily supported by IBM i users and vendors.
IBM is very supportive of COMMON, but it puts more effort (and, no doubt, more money) into its Power Systems Technical University, which was known for many years as the IBM Tech Conference. That was before the Power Systems convergence of the IBM i, AIX, and Linux platforms.
A few things that distinguish this conference from others, including COMMON, is that the sessions are practically all specific to IBM hardware, software, and services, and are presented by IBMers.
That’s good in that attendees are hearing about products and services from the people who know them inside and out. Many of them have been involved in a product’s development; they interact with the customers who are using them and have seen the roadmaps and experimented with the new technologies that will play larger roles in the future.
For IBM i users, the session schedule includes product-focused sessions on database optimization, PowerHA, VIOS, virtual tape and encryption, Systems Navigator, system and performance management, BRMS, software as a service, cloud computing, and a variety of i OS topics. Twenty-seven sessions are listed online.
There are 10 Power Systems sessions listed including migration and upgrade planning, capacity on demand, and several classes featuring Systems Director.
There are 21 sessions that pertain to AIX, six aimed at Linux users, and 11 related to storage topics.
IBM PureSystems, launched in April, will get a lot of attention at this conference.
PureSystems combine multiple server architectures, networking, chassis, storage, and system management capabilities into a single integrated system with the main benefits being easier deployment and management. There are 14 PureSystems presentations that examine topics such as implementation, first experiences, managing virtualization, networking, private cloud environments, and several technical overviews.
According to IBM, there are “hundreds of sessions” available. The ones I’ve counted come from a web page titled “Highlights and Feature Sessions.”
As you load up on information, there’s always the caveat that it will be coming through the Big Blue filters allowing more bias to creep into the discussions. I’d say this is a few shades of grey darker compared to COMMON, which moves the needle a little more toward community than toward corporation.
Most of the speakers handling IBM i topics are also speaking at COMMON, but the AIX and Linux participation is much greater at the Technical University event. For instance, key speakers at this event include Colin Parris, general manager for IBM’s Power Systems division, and Steve Will, chief architect for the IBM i operating system. Both were on hand at COMMON earlier this year. But also at this event are Jeff Jonas, chief scientist, for the IBM Entity Analytics Group and an IBM distinguished engineer; Pat O’Rourke, the technology lead for the IBM AIX Executive Briefing Center in Austin, Texas; Mark Olson, the business programs manager for Power and System z worldwide product management; and Jeff Scheel, senior technical staff member in IBM’s Linux Technology Center.
Captain Chesley Sullenberger, well known and greatly admired for calmly making an emergency landing of a passenger plane in New York’s Hudson River, will be a guest speaker. He’ll talk about the “Miracle on the Hudson” as well as the life lessons that prepared him to handle crisis.
That ties in well with the concept of skills enhancement and being prepared as IT professionals.
The Technical University is a four and one-half day conference. There are also pre-conference workshops for IBM employees and business partners.
The registration cost for this conference is not cheap. It’s $2,495, with travel, lodging ($185/night), and incidental expenses to consider. That can be a substantial chunk of the training budget for many companies, and the entire budget for some. IBM has educational packages, which provide discounts on thousands of courses, technical conferences, on-site training, and e-training. Discounts begin at 5 percent at the $10,000 level and a bump to 10 percent at the $25,000 level.
But the importance of training and education and the decisions on whether skills enhancements are a good investment or not don’t hinge on this one conference. Even if the IBM Technical University is unaffordable, there are other worthwhile events of shorter duration and without the added expense of travel that offer a reasonable return on investment.