COMMON POWERUp 2023 – Reporter’s Notebook
April 26, 2023 Alex Woodie
The international IBM i community descended upon Denver this week for COMMON’s annual POWERUp conference, which continues through tomorrow. By all accounts, the show was a success among attendees, educators, exhibitors, and IBM. Here are a few observations on the show.
COMMON’s top-notch education was the big draw in the High Plains of Colorado, with more than 300 sessions planned over the four-day event. Sessions containing information about the latest Technology Refreshes (TRs) of IBM i, including 7.5 TR2 and 7.4 TR8, were well attended, including those from IBM i CTO Steve Will and his business architects, including Scott Forstie and Tim Rowe.
New features unveiled with the TRs are due to ship next month, but the sessions were also a reminder that not everything ships with a TR. Enhancements to many components of what we think of as the IBM i operating environment are released on their own schedule, making the TRs mostly a convenient time to roll stuff.
The POWERUp Expo hall was full of attendees during the evening reception on Monday and through mid-day Tuesday. Vendors reported good traffic at the booths, with a solid level of interest in IBM i solutions.
There were a number of new vendors exhibiting at the show, as well as pre-existing vendors with new names (not to mention the tried-and-true vendors, whom we also appreciate – stay tuned to IT Jungle for stories about new software the weeks to come). Among the fresh faces was Kato Integrations, which you might know better as Krengel Technology. The Mankato, Minnesota-based company announced its name change back in February.
Another new-but-old-vendor at POWERUp 2023 is Fortra. Formerly known as HelpSystems, the Eden Prairie, Minnesota company completed its pivot to cybersecurity last year. The company remains committed to serving its IBM i customers, which account for about 10,000 of its 30,000 total installed base, but the strategic focus is now on security.
There was a FOG sighting in Denver. No, it wasn’t a result of the fierce spring storm that rolled into Denver Tuesday afternoon. It was the Friedmann Operating Group, which has assembled a nice collection of IBM i (and non-IBM i) assets over the past few years, including ERP vendors Friedman Corp.; Logimax, shipping software provider Varsity Logistics, and its latest addition, credit card software provider Curbstone. FOG, which itself is in Constellation Software’s massive orbit, was the only application provider on the floor.
Xorux also made its POWERUp debut this week. The Czech company develops infrastructure monitoring software that supports a wide range of operating systems, databases, and applications, as well as servers, storage, and networking gear. Notable: the company’s software is all free and open source.
Technically, Kyndryl is also a newcomer to POWERUp, although it did participate in last fall’s NAViGATE show in St. Louis, Missouri. But of course, the folks at the global tech firm are mostly long-time IBMers, having been spun off 18 months ago from Big Blue. On the flip side, the company 8,000 or so IBM i and mainframe experts have an average age of 35 years, a senior Kyndryl exec tells us. Perhaps the company actually has developed the fountain of youth.
Another managed service provider (MSP) making its way to POWERUp for the first time is FNTS (formerly First National Technology Solutions). The Omaha, Nebraska, company, which is an IT company that was spun out of a bank, had dozens of IBM i and mainframe customers when we profiled it back in 2017. With the growth of the MSP business and FNTS’s presence in Denver, it’s likely the company has added quite a bit more customers by now.
Finally, there is Greymine, a Florida-based company making its debut at POWERUp. The company, which was founded in 2020, develops a performance monitoring and capacity planning solution called PERFSCAN that works with IBM i and other Power platforms.
There were at least seven IBM executives roaming the halls (and many elevators) of the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel. Among the execs spotted were Steve Sibley, vice president and business line executive for Power; Steve Will, the CTO of IBM i and an IBM distinguished engineer; Dave Nelson, director of IBM i development; Nancy Bearry, director of Power ecosystem for the Americas, Gina King, director of global Power ecosystem and alliances; Jessica Eidem, director of technical sales for Power; and Bill Starke, chief architect of Power Processor and a IBM Distinguished Engineer.
The presence of seven executives may sound impressive, but it wasn’t even close to matching the all-time high turnout of suits at the Spring COMMON conference in Nashville, Tennessee, back in April 2008. Longtime IBM i professionals will remember that show took place just as the company was merging the iSeries and pSeries lines into the Power Systems platform for the first time.
So how many execs turned out for the big convergence announcement? The exact number was 16, according to Alison Butterill, the IBM i product manager.
“So not only was Steve [Will, the platform’s new chief architect] telling all you about i, but he had to do it with confidence and really sell it because they were all in the audience, 16 at once. Too much for anybody.”
Heard in the halls: COMMON director Scott Klement, whose day job is at Midrange Dynamics, during his “What’s New and Exciting in RPG” session Monday morning.
“The side effect [of the TR release cycle] is people complain when a new release comes out. For example, when 7.5 comes out, they say ‘IBM’s not investing in RPG. There’s nothing new.’ There is something new, you just already got it over the last several years as they’ve been putting it out piece by piece over those years. They’re developing actually more things than they ever had before. And that’s when I go – aaarrgh! – completely crazy because we’re getting more than we’ve ever gotten before and people think there’s nothing new because it’s not coming out with the release.”
Initial attendance was reported at just shy of 1,000, which puts the Denver show in line with other recent annual conferences. COMMON also announced that its NAViGATE show will be held in Virginia Beach, Virginia, October 9-11. POWERUp 2024, meanwhile, will take place May 20-23 in Fort Worth, Texas. Giddyap!
IBM i Education Goes a Mile High at COMMON’s POWERUp 2023