For the past week, I have been in Berlin, Germany, participating in the 2019 COMMON Europe Congress (CEC). For me, it was truly one of the hottest conferences I have attended in some time, with temperatures soaring into the 90’s.  The venue was a hotel in the heart of Berlin with a spectacular 7-story high fish tank in the middle of the hotel atrium, complete with many varieties of fish and plant life with an elevator down the center for viewing.  As I am always interested in how other engineers patch things together with bailing wire and paperclips, I was fascinated that they had applied duct tape to seal said aquarium in the hotel lobby and not a drop of water was to be seen.

For me, one thing that is very different from my participation at the North America POWERUp Conferences, is that at the CEC, I have some time to attend sessions and learn, not just present sessions and attend meetings. Additionally, with the time zone change, many of my colleagues and customers are still asleep while I am in class learning – no urgent calls or email!

By far, one of the most interesting aspects of attending the COMMON Europe events is that I have an opportunity to hear ideas and thoughts from European speakers and attendees. Their perspectives bring in their cultural and marketplace experiences which in many cases are quite different from an American point of view.

I met with many of the IBM Champions from Europe as well as other committed community members, many with great ideas not just about pushing technology into the future and testing the limits of IBM i, but also thoughts about building stronger community spirit and friendship. Every champion whom I’ve met, is a Champion of the platform. This was especially visible at CEC as they converged from many countries from America to Russia and Sweden to Italy to Spain and all points in between. Everyone spoke of contributions and successes. It’s truly invigorating to meet, discuss, think and imagine. IBMers and IBM Champions showed more and more customer stories… they just keep coming!! The stories are about companies from everywhere; from small to big, local to international, and in businesses across the spectrum.

At the CEC, just as at POWERUp 2019, IBM spoke about the number of consecutive quarters of growth. It was recently announced that for the eleventh year in a row, Power Systems have been named as the most reliable server family.

I would like to share a more personal experience. After many years of working in the marketplace, talking to IBMers, customers and other partners, I thought I “got it”. I have seen the charts with new release roadmaps for both hardware and software. I have seen the architecture growing into the future. While I have always believed those charts, I felt that the reason for the long life was a combination of steady improvements delivered by IBM, new features and options from our vendor community and of course, both of them aided by the world’s most supportive user community. Straight forward and reliable, but perhaps not really exciting.

While I was in Berlin, my “Aha!” moment arrived!  Over the 31 years (more if the S/3x machines are included) that led to today’s platform, there have been many, many improvements to IBM i. There were new opcodes and new functions added here and there as the languages got more modern capabilities. New editors were announced, based on open standards. The database got more capabilities and even a name! The system got new communication capabilities and many new services. New file systems and new security bits were added. The hardware got faster and faster and as our amazing O/S allows the adoption of new technology quickly, frequently IBM i could use it before anyone else! We got cool new hardware stuff, and you know me, I love new hardware stuff!

Let me share some of the things that led up to my “Aha!” moment:

Over the last few years we have all been hearing rumblings about new and exciting things. Rumblings about the ability to do administration through a web browser. Rumblings that there was a client for ACS that would allow attachment from MAC or Linux machines, complete with actual, significant, usable, and ongoing improvements. The flexible deployment of ACS so easy that system administrators don’t even believe it. Rumblings that system administration could be done with SQL. But that was far from all. Capabilities were added to allow the solid and fine tuned character based applications to be readily web enabled and enabled for mobile too!

The database, Db2 for i, would amaze and delight Dr. E.F. Codd. Unbelievable capabilities fantastic performance, and tools to know how it’s working and how to make it work better.
Open Source on IBM i, while initially very exciting, had some issues with PTF deployment. However, even before the reality of this had sunk in to most IBM i customers, Yellowdog with YUM appeared and open source went from ‘we have some ideas’ to ‘we MEAN business.  RPMs literally appeared overnight and not just my personal favorites of joe and rsync, but hundreds of them now including R and other serious and widely adopted technologies.

Speaking of Open Source, I am working on a portal to provide instant access for developers.  My efforts here were stalled a little during the hectic run up to ‘Conference Season’ but that won’t stop us!  Using this portal, developers will be able to sign up for access. The system will be available within minutes if not seconds, bill by the hour, and all done automatically.  EVERY time I mention this to anyone in the open source space they cheer. It Will Happen.

Over the years, security has improved. There are accelerated enhancements to encryption and reporting and AUTHORITY COLLECTION!  At the CEC this week, I watched Carol Woodbury have to pause for a second as she told the audience about this new feature.  She is so thrilled with it.

And the latest release, IBM i 7.4 has so much content. The biggest feature is of course Db/2 Mirror for i. WOW!! Truly amazing and from many reports the effort invested to make this work will have positive implications in other areas not the least of which are database performance and communications.

Finally, I want to talk about cognitive computing in the IBM i marketplace.  In my experience, many customers are still trying to understand what might be possible with this new suite of technologies.  IBM is already delivering tools and showing early success stories. IBM i on POWER Servers is well positioned to deliver on this promise. At COMMON North America, we are working hard to create awareness and education to help customers do even more with their systems to solve real business problems with cognitive computing.

 

My “Aha!” moment happened.  As you can tell, I am in awe of both the subtle and not so subtle changes that have made the system what it is today with IBM I 7.4.  Truly an amazing revelation to me.

Admittedly I’ve might have missed some favorite technologies in my review. That is not to say any are less important, but rather because there are so many!!

Conferences are often a place to recharge. COMMON North America named the annual event to POWERUp for that reason!  The CEC was no different.

There were times this week I just wanted to stand up and cheer and I probably should have. At one opening session a few years ago, President Pete Massiello stepped onto the stage at the conference Opening Session wearing sunglasses because our future was so bright. I think today we should all be wearing welding glasses!

To the IBM team, I say BRAVO. Well done. Awesome. And of course keep it coming!!!

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