Saturday, 5 November 2011

Guide Share Europe – an impression

I could only make Day 1 of this year’s Guide Share Europe conference on the 1st and 2nd of November – which was a huge disappointment. For those of you who weren’t there, I thought I’d give you a flavour of my experience.

Firstly, it was at Whittlebury Hall again – which is a magnificent location just over the border from Buckinghamshire into Northamptonshire. The location is stunning and the facilities are excellent. It is in the countryside, so if you’re travelling by train, there’s a long taxi ride to get there. If you travel by car, there’s a huge car park.

The exhibition hall is big, but not so big you get lost in it. By having lunch and coffee in the hall, there were plenty of opportunities to engage with vendors and chat to other attendees. I always find it’s a great opportunity to catch up with old colleagues and make new friends. The quality of the coffee and food was good – which translates as excellent when compared to some venues!

But the point of GSE is not the food, it’s the presentations. I chair the Virtual IMS user group and the Virtual CICS user group, so I was torn between the CICS and IMS streams. In the end, I split my time between them. I watched Circle’s Ezriel Gross present on Using CICS to Deploy Microsoft .Net Winforms with Smart Client Technology – which was really fascinating. I’m sure we’re going to see more sites integrating their Windows technology with the power of mainframe subsystems. Ezriel made quite a complicated integration seem straightforward and obvious.

Next I watched IBM’s Alison Coughtrie talk about IMS 12 Overview. Another knowledgeable speaker with a lot of information to get over in the time. I certainly think I have a clearer idea of what’s new, and perhaps a small insight into where IBM is taking the product.

After lunch it was Neil Price, who works for TNT Express and chairs the IMS group for GSE, with a presentation entitled Memoirs of a HALDBA. I was so impressed with Neil’s real-life descriptions that I’ve asked him to speak to the Virtual IMS user group. Neil could have gone on for much longer than the time allowed. And I could happily have gone on listening.

Next up in the IMS stream was IBM’s Dougie Lawson. Dougie is another fantastically knowledgeable IBMer, who you may have come across when you’ve had an IMS problem. He talked about The Why and How of CSL. A real bits and bytes expert, who could have talked much longer.

I felt it was time to sit in on the CICS stream and the session I chose was IBM’s Ian Burnett talking about CICS Scalability. Yet again, a fact-filled presentation that would be hard to criticize. I felt my knowledge about CICS (and I used to edit CICS Update) making more sense and falling more into place.

But all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy – as they say. And the evening presentation was How To Cope With Pressure & Panics Without Going Into Headless Chicken Mode from Resli Costabell. A mixture of psychology, NLP, and audience participation made this a memorable session. If you get a chance to see her anywhere – don’t miss it!

After that there were drinks in the exhibition hall sponsored by Attachmate/Suse and Computacenter, followed by dinner sponsored by EMC and Computacenter. Both were very enjoyable in their own way, and they were an opportunity to chat more informally with vendors and real mainframe users. Obviously, I was telling vendors about sponsorship opportunities with the Arcati Mainframe Yearbook, and asking users to complete the user survey.

In conversation, I asked a few of the vendors how business was going. No-one admitted that double-dip recession was taking them out of business, but most suggested that they were keeping their heads above water and business generally was flat – but there was some business being done.

An IBMer suggested that over 30 z196s had been sold in the UK and eight of the new z114s. So, that’s good news for them.

My overall impression of the conference was that it was excellent. I bumped into Mark Wilson (the GSE technical coordinator) during the day as he rushed around making sure everything was going smoothly. And that’s why the conference works so well, because people like Mark work so hard to ensure it does.

Well done everyone who organized it and spoke at it. And if you missed it, go next year.

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