Nashville, Tenn., is traditionally known for its country music heritage. But to attendees of the recent Common conference, it will also be known as the place where System i, iSeries and AS/400 hardware were laid to rest and reborn as Power.
I complained on my System i blog that the Common opening session was boring and could have used something to punch it up. You could tell that there was nothing to talk about because they were saving the news for the town meeting. Randy Default and Mark Shearer spoke mostly about things we already knew and could have guessed. The good news was that IBM has started to press colleges to work with i and Power, and the company is listening to the user group and delivering solutions based on what users request.
IBM reveals Power Systems merger
By noon on Wednesday, IBM announced that System i and System p would merge to form the Power platform, a strategy they're marketing as Power = i + p. With that announcement, II forgave IBM for an uneventful first day. It was on the same scale as the 1988 merger of S/36 and S/38 that created what we know now as AS/400. Over the past eight years, IBM has had trouble figuring out what to do about naming iSeries, or more recently, System i. During the town hall meeting we heard talk of unification, single hardware platform and the i as the center of the OS offering for the new Power equation. IBM decided that Common was the place to let this cat out of the bag, and looking back it was more like a boxcar full of tigers. Look out world, here comes Power, and now we have a choice between some of the most powerful OSes on the planet.
I was a bit overwhelmed at the town hall meeting. Even though I knew what was coming in the meetings, I was in awe and truly overcome with the power of the statement. The energy in the room was amazing, people were excited and all of us knew that "i for business" is a very good thing.
IBM unified the platform into Power, and in doing that they did not say it directly, but implied that i, AIX and soon Linux on Power will have a common bond as well: Power as a platform. The biggest question I walked away asking is what do we do to welcome our newfound brothers and sisters in the AIX and Linux on Power communities?
I want to be the first to extend open arms to them both. While the AIX community has been a strong part of IBM's heritage and that part needs to be recognized, i and p have not had much in common, nor have we ever thought of the other as a partner. That all changed and I would hope the AIX community is just as excited about the i community as we are about them. I want to meet knowing we all share a common bond called Power.
Vendors out in full force on the expo floor
While most of the excitement of the week was wrapped up in the IBM announcement, there was much more going on. For example there was an expo floor feud between two rival software companies. In a show of solidarity, one competing software company wore kilts to protest another's comments that they would give away software or even drop their pants to sell it. I thought that was clever.
Vision Solutions seems to have taken all the negative comments about their acquisitions to heart. They are realizing that they have three large customer bases that choose different solutions for their own reasons, and they need to deal with each customer differently. Vision Solutions' attitude this year was 180 degrees from last year, when they were in overpower and overtake mode.
PHP and Zend had a very large presence at the show. The time to experiment with PHP and MySQL on i is over, and now people are in deployment mode. For example, Zend is busy working with customers to deploy large 5250-to-PHP Web solutions. It seems to me that there are too many 5250 or RPG-to-GUI companies. That space is overcrowded and I would hope that in the next six to 12 months there is clarity either with acquisitions or attrition.
Common sessions evolving in Focus and Directions
I attended many sessions and presented as well. The quality of sessions this year was really well rounded. Year after year, Common puts together a great variety of sessions for the people attending. The annual meeting is the place to get a very diverse set of information on as many topics as possible. My focus was on the open source track, which covered everything from basic Linux commands to deploying PHP and MySQL on i. The people that show up every year and present are a great bunch of folks. The community is charged and passionate about i. Members come to the meetings to feed off of each other's energy, learn, and participate. The Common annual meeting is becoming an example of how to interact and participate with IBM on their solutions.
Common announced Common Focus and Common Directions this year. Both are great ways for members to get more during other parts of the year. Common Directions will be in Dallas, Texas, this year and will put on a two-day intensive i conference with a very limited number of attendees. There will be training and a small expo for attendees to get cozy with solutions providers. Common Focus will be in San Francisco, Calif., in October and will focus on day-long workshops and education. Focus will be a smaller venue and will last a total of three days.
Attendees had a good time after working and learning all day, thanks to nightly events hosted by iSociety, which included giveaways, such as a trip to Rochester, Minn., and a laptop. The nightly meetings and iSocial events carried the same theme since 2004, but this year it seemed to have more voice and more significance as we begin building a community around i and the Power platform.
Overall, I can't complain about this year's Common conference. It was a wonderful week and I can't wait to be in my fellow Common members' presence again, sharing, talking and catching up on what will be the week, months and year to come. As you all go back to work think about staying in touch, get on iSociety.org, and find ways to help out more next year when we meet.
As a side note and an addition to this article, I would like to dedicate this to the memory of a Common community legend, Al Barsa Jr. He touched all of us in many different ways, and on the last day of Common passed away in the night. Al Barsa will be missed. Al was the presenter of one of my all-time favorite Common sessions, which I will never forget. He was a passionate speaker and cared about everyone he met. Common will not be the same without Al Barsa Jr.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Vasta is the Lotus Notes Administration Team Lead over North America at Atlas Copco. He has 17 years of data center and iSeries experience working in companies such as IBM, REAL and Cingular.