POWERUp Brings IBM i Base Back Together in the Big Easy
May 25, 2022 Alex Woodie
After two years of lockdowns and Zoom calls, IBM i professionals were joyful to be face to face with fellow users this week at the POWERUp conference in New Orleans. The celebration lasted all week, and spilled over onto Bourbon Street at times, but that didn’t get in the way of the primary mission: Getting educated on IBM i. And with the latest enhancements, there was a lot to learn.
For many POWERUp 2022 attendees and ISVs, COMMON’s annual conference is the first physical event they’ve attended since the pandemic started back in March 2020. With the easing of COVID-19 protocols, the user group was able to finally hold POWERUp in a physical venue without any restrictions.
“It’s great to be back in person,” COMMON board member Jeff Carey, who’s also a senior systems engineer at managed services provider Ensono, said during the POWERUp opening session. That sentiment was echoed throughout the week.
COMMON has held many virtual events over the past 26 months, and it even held a hybrid fall conference last year with an in-person component. But nothing really compares to meeting in person, which 650 or so folks did this week at the Marriott New Orleans in the heart of the French Quarter.
“Pivoting was the word in 2020,” COMMON President Gordon Leary said during the opening session Monday morning. “We pivoted so many times, adapted so many times – it’s amazing how often.”
There is definitely value to pivoting (and re-pivoting) to virtual meetings when necessary. During the heart of the pandemic, that was only way we could collaborate. And for some folks, that’s the only way they can attend meetings, viral pandemic or not, Leary said. But there are some things you can get only by meeting in person. Pete Massiello, a COMMON board member and president of iTech Solutions, spelled out some of those.
“You’re going to get education three different ways when you come to COMMON,” Massiello told the crowd of about 300 people attending the opening session. “We always go to sessions. That’s kind of obvious. The second one is networking. You get more out of networking than you realize. You should really concentrate on networking while you’re here. And the third pillar of that education is the expo. There’s a lot of knowledge in the expo.”
IBM i users aren’t the only ones getting benefit from the show. IBM executives, such as Steve Sibley, the vice president and global offering management for Cognitive Systems, finds the whole event useful.
“COMMON is all about the networking side,” Sibley said during the opening session. “It’s such a great source of engaging the broader . . . IBM i community, being able to talk to users, customers, at all kinds of levels, as well as the better interactions. It’s always a privilege to be here. This year I’m even more excited about getting back in person and engaging with you.”
IBM i Offering Manager Alison Butterill presented her share of POWERUp sessions this week. But she also finds time to drop into other people’s sessions because she always learns something.
“I go and sit in the back of the session room and I learn stuff,” Butterill said. “I learn stuff about products that we deliver to you that we never thought could be used in the way you use them. . . . It’s two-way street. It’s truly a community of users.”
Many POWERUp attendees say they’re looking forward to learning more about IBM i 7.5, which was unveiled early this month and is now shipping. Specific topics of interest include the new Modernization Engine for Lifecycle Integration (Merlin), the database enhancements, and the new security features.
“The biggest concern from a client perspective is security. That’s number one,” Freddy Alves Vaquero, vice president of worldwide Power sales, said during a panel discussion with Sibley and fellow IBM executives.
Many IBM i shops developed many new applications without giving enough concern to security, Vaquero said. “It is out of control in some ways,” he said. “And some customers, the bigger they are, the more complex environments they have. And they’re really concerned on how . . . to capture the right skills so they have some level of control real control.”
IBM took the initiative in stepping up security in IBM i 7.5 and 7.4 TR6, specifically around making the server more secure by default, said Dave Nelson, the director of IBM i development.
“We’ve got security enhancements, new system level security settings, stronger password enforcement,” Nelson said. “Security has been and is and will continue to be a focus area for us. It’s a hallmark.”
Nelson also highlighted Merlin, database enhancements, new features in New Nav, RPG compiler enhancements, support for Power 10 hardware, and an update to Db2 Mirror, which now enables a no-downtime upgrade between 7.4 and 7.5. “The team did a phenomenal job of delivering,” Nelson said.
You could also say that COMMON did a phenomenal job finally hosting an in-person annual conference. The group, which is celebrating its 62nd birthday this year, handed out pins for the 60th anniversary event that was supposed to happen in Atlanta in 2020 (the 2021 show in Virginia Beach was also nixed).
If all goes as planned, COMMON’s next in-person event, NAViGATE, will take place this October in St. Louis, with the next POWERUp conference slated for Denver in April 2023.