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iSeries tech conference or COMMON?

With IBM's iSeries technical conference scheduled in Florida, site of the upcoming COMMON show, many iSeries users are wondering which show to attend.

If you're an IT professional working on the iSeries, chances are you'll be packing your bags for Florida in the very near future.

IBM created a logjam of sorts by scheduling its iSeries technical conference, which provides attendees the latest information on i5 servers and i5/OS, from Oct. 17-21 in Miami Beach, less than one month after the COMMON user group conference in Orlando. Given the logistics, budget constraints and the fact that most people simply do not want to travel to the same state twice in a 25-day span, many IT managers are picking just one conference to send either themselves or their employees.

Opinions on which conference is the right one are varied, but at the end of the day it all comes down to that old clichÉ: Time is money. So where's the best place to spend it?

From the responses we've received, it seems almost unanimous. Because of its wider scope of sessions, the vendor exposition and the chance to meet with fellow iSeries users, COMMON was cited as a much better value.

And it's even cheaper. The iSeries technical conference costs attendees $1,995. COMMON runs anywhere from $1,495 to $1,795, depending on how early you register and where you stay.

For Paul H. Harkins, the decision to attend COMMON is a no-brainer. Harkins is the president and chief technology officer of Harkins Audit Software, which makes iSeries programming tools. As a vendor, Harkins sees COMMON as a great way to hobnob with some of his colleagues -- and potential customers -- in a setting much more geared for networking than the iSeries technical conference, which is primarily about education.

"I primarily go for the vendor expo, and some key classes on [the opening day] rather than straight technology classes," Harkins said.

COMMON president Beverly R. Russell pulls no punches when it comes to which conference she prefers. For her, COMMON is a much better use of her time because it not only offers IBM's take on things, but alternatives as well. She also prefers the increased networking chances COMMON provides, as well as the potential solutions vendors at the expo have to offer.

"The reason, for years, that I have chosen going to COMMON, and have sent my team members as well, over going to the IBM tech conference is quite simple really. I want to hear not only from the IBM speakers but from the user speakers as well," Russell said. "COMMON offers a wider scope of sessions, topics and, most importantly, speakers. COMMON just has so much more to offer than the tech conference that I find it is a better investment of our training dollars."

Brian Kelly, an IT consultant for Wilkes-Barre, Pa.-based Kelly Consulting, said he's had issues with COMMON for years about what he considers "substantially higher prices for semiannual seminars for no apparent additional value," and questions the conference's decision to cut discussion session time in half. That being said, Kelly said COMMON's strong points make it still worth the time, effort and, most importantly, money.

For more information:

Which is better, IBM tech conferences or COMMON?

News from COMMON

"COMMON has always been the best opportunity to gain quality education about the iSeries in any number of areas. It still is. The best and most knowledgeable speakers in our industry conduct the sessions," Kelly said.

IBM was unavailable to comment for this story.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Luke Meredith, News Writer

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