What's different about COMMON this year?
An increased coverage of the focus topic, SOA [service-oriented architecture], from an education session standpoint. SOA-orientated vendors at the expo will be another way for an attendee to gain knowledge. A pre-Conference workshop on SOA is also available, as well as additional events taking place around the focus topic.
We're also trying integrated seminars, which are meant to provide education on a particular topic in a 'top to bottom' type of format. The real idea of a seminar format has been something COMMON has done in the past, for instance in some fashion 'COMMON U.' We are also trying to define new ways to offer educational content in addition to our session presentations. And we hope to gain some insight into how our attendees react. What are some hot issues right now and how are they being addressed?
My personal priority is governance compliance -- Canadian Bill 198 and US Sarbanes Oxley -- simply because I am facing these back at my own shop. Another issue being discussed in the System i community is the availability of trained staff, particularly at the junior level and the possible shortage of skilled iSeries professionals to fill the places being vacated by retirees. The IBM Academic Initiative and the COMMON Education Foundation and the YiPs (Young iSeries Professionals) are all ways to address this problem.
Another big problem is the ability to take time away from the office. COMMON has recognized that not everyone can take a week out of their busy schedules to attend a national conference, but they still have education needs that must be met. We've introduced the COMMON Seminar Series, in-depth one-day seminars that bring the quality COMMON education to a city near you. We have also begun holding webinars and over the next couple of years expect to grow both programs so we can reach out and touch more of our members more frequently. What are you looking forward to at this show?
Because it's so close to IBM Rochester, we will literally be bussing in hundreds of IBM developers to participate in this conference.
I'm also looking forward to hearing ... [the] keynote address from Robert LeBlanc, the general manager of the Application & Integration Middleware Division for IBM Software Group. He leads more than 8,000 developers and marketing professionals in 11 laboratories worldwide, and is responsible for driving the strategic direction behind IBM's middleware technologies, which include web application servers, e-Commerce servers, transaction and messaging systems, pervasive computing, business integration solutions and industry-oriented middleware solutions.
Mr. LeBlanc will discuss the role SOA is playing in the market, the results companies are seeing from adopting SOA, and where IBM sees SOA going in the future. In addition to his role as General Manager of AIM/WebSphere, Robert is driving the SOA mission across all brands within IBM's Software Group, so his view of the SOA landscape will be comprehensive. 2006 looks to be an important year for iSeries. What do you hope to see happen?
I see the iSeries re-gaining its momentum. System i is the best platform for business applications. I see the machine steadily gaining ground as business partners release new applications that take advantage of the traditional strengths of the System i (reliability, scalability, integrated low TCO [total cost of ownership] etc.), while also taking on the other workloads like web apps, Linux apps, Windows integration, SOA and AIX apps. I am thrilled about the increased focus on the System i Academic Initiative to educate students about its capabilities. I see increased job opportunities for System i professionals. I see an increase in the number of members turning to COMMON to learn more about the platform so they can take even more advantage of their IT investment.