Open The Door, Let The Future In
September 8, 2014 Dan Burger
People in the IBM i community continue to have their sights set on the future. The problem is that the numbers aren’t as big as they should be. With more than 100,000 IBM i customers worldwide, it would seem that future think would be a higher priority. One of the gauges that I use for this is the attendance at the technical conferences. Attendance is on the rise, but there should be a higher level of participation based on the system capabilities and the skills investments of companies using it. There will be several tech conferences with IBM i training in the spotlight this fall, and the annual COMMON Fall Conference is among the choices.
The conference architecture for this event is similar to the COMMON Annual Meeting each spring, but is purposely designed as a less expensive alternative because of its shorter duration and more reasonable travel and lodging alternatives. With more than 100 traditional lecture-type sessions, the topic choices cover a wide variety of subjects and provide a something-for-everyone smorgasbord. This basic plan has been in place for Fall COMMON Conferences since 2010.
“We put this format in place to meet the varying needs of the community, recognizing that many of our members can’t afford to be out of office for an extended period of time, especially at those companies where it’s a one- or two-man shop,” says Manzoor Siddiqui, marketing manager for the COMMON user group. The content changes to cover new technologies and the location changes, although it remains aligned with mostly Midwestern sites. Little has changed in terms of the basic format of this conference, which plays out over 2 and a half days. Siddiqui says the emphasis on minimizing travel and time out of the office works well and attendance is increasing in year-to-year comparisons.
Virtualization is a topic receiving more attention this year. Last year it wasn’t on the conference session agenda. This year the session lineup includes subjects related to the planning, installation, network configuration, memory sharing, external storage mapping, workloads, and sizing of IBM’s Virtual I/O Server (VIOS).
Predicting I/O activities and monitoring pooled applications behavior within logical partitions (LPARS) are topics of discussion within the IBM i community in recent months. Session abstracts on VIOS topics can be seen at this link.
Other topics with multiple sessions include: RPG Open Access, mobile access and programming, code modernization, IBM i 7.2 basic features and advanced training, Power8 hardware, embedding SQL into RPG Programs, DB2 Web Query, client connectivity, systems management, RPG, PHP, and SQL. An Online Session Guide is available to provide a quick glimpse of individual session game plans.
Two one-day, pre-conference workshops are also on the agenda. The session titles and speakers are “Application Modernization â€“ Database” by Birgitta Hauser and “Systems Management” by Larry Bolhuis.
“This year we actually have more speakers than we’ve had at the past three fall conferences,” Siddiqui says. “The number varies each year depending on the content being presented and making sure that we have the right experts delivering that content. . . . Our goal is to provide leading education on relevant topics by recognized industry experts from the community who are the most-qualified to deliver the content from a hands-on user perspective.”
A few weeks ago, I wrote about about the efforts of the COMMON Education Foundation to bring more students to the COMMON Fall Conference. This is a great opportunity to introduce students to the IBM i community as well as introduce the community to the students–any IBM i shops looking for some youth and enthusiasm? COMMON offers a substantially discounted student registration rate to all students, whether they are part of the CEF program or not.
At past COMMON conferences, the instructors and other volunteers organized an introductory session for student attendees.
“I expect we’ll the do the same again this year,” Siddiqui says, “and we will actively encourage them to volunteer on-site to begin participating in the community–something as simple as a speaker’s assistant is a great way to get engaged into the COMMON community.”
The current registration trends and a full vendor exposition area indicate this conference will at least match the 2013 Fall Conference, with no signs of a slowdown. Vendor participation is already sold out and addition of a room for more vendor booths has been included, which indicates vendor support for the community and the conference is high. A few vendor-hosted sessions are on the agenda.