Sunday, 18 November 2012

Guide Share Europe - my impression

Yet again, I could only get to the first day of this year’s Guide Share Europe conference on the 13 and 14 November – which was shame. I hoped I could arrange my meetings to take place at the conference, but there we are. So, I thought that, for those people who were unable to make even the first day, I’d give you a flavour of what you missed.

As usual, the conference was at Whittlebury Hall – which is near Silverstone, but just into Northamptonshire. The location is stunning, so a walk outside to get a breath of air is always worthwhile.

The exhibition hall is big, and busy, and its where lunch and coffees are served, making it easy to chat to the vendors and other attendees. I always find it’s a great opportunity to put faces to people I usually talk to by e-mail, to catch up with old colleagues, and make new friends. The quality of the food is always good, particularly the conference dinner.

 With 14 streams and pretty much 10 sessions in each stream, it can be hard to decide which sessions to attend. I chair the Virtual IMS user group and the Virtual CICS user group, so I split my time between the CICS and IMS streams. 

The first session I went to, I saw IBM’s Steve Foley and the new CICS Director, Danny Mace, talk about CICS TS Version 5.1. They highlighted improvements in CICS capacity and scalability suggesting users could have two or three times more workloads per region. They spoke about new autonomic policy-based management, and increased availability including being able to refresh SSL certificates without a CICS restart. They also spent some time clarifying the concepts of what an ‘application’ is and what a ‘platform’ is. You may think you already know, but this way, it becomes easier to move an application to a different platform. Steve also ran over some of the portfolio updates too. And the session ended with an interesting conversation about pricing.

Next I headed for a presentation about IMS 13 by Paul Fletcher (also from IBM). He said that the new version came with improvements in performance, reductions in storage usage, and reduced TCO (Total Cost of Ownership). The HALDB ALTER and the DEDB ALTER commands allow changes to be made without needing a database outage. You can have multiple views of a physical database in the IMS catalog. And he talked about IMS Connect enhancements.

After lunch it was back to the CICS stream to see IBM’s Inderpal Singh talk about CICS and cloud computing. He said that an ‘application’ contained a collection of CICS bundles. It seemed that no-one in the room was using CICS bundles at this time. He also spoke about the life-cycle of an application – install, enable, disable, and discard. It’s that final stage that doesn’t seem to happen at most installations, where things are left in-place, just in case they’re needed in the future. You can create a CICS bundle in CICS Explorer using the new-look Cloud Explorer interface for CICS.

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 DRD and the IMS repository – and tried to break the record for the most slides you can show in an hour!. He explained that the repository is a data store of resource information and the repository catalog is points to repository and is quite different from the IMS Catalog.

The final technical session of the afternoon was an old friend of the Virtual IMS user group, GT Software’s Dusty Rivers, talking about IMS modernization. The main thrust of his presentation was about making data and applications available on other platforms. He suggested that mainframe modernization means different things to different people and he grouped these into adding a Web look-and-feel, getting access to mainframe data, getting to mainframe business logic, the need to consolidate logic, the need to reduce MIPS, and the need to integrate with new technologies (such as cloud and smartphones). 

After a day full of so many technical presentations, you might think people would give an extra session a miss. But it was standing room only for the always-excellent Resli Costabell, who talked about dealing with ‘difficult’ people. Her definition of difficult people, is that they are just people that you’ve run out of skills to deal with! And she said that the power in such a situation is with the person being difficult – so we should accept them as they are and stay calm. She even gave us a strategy. You talk as if you’re talking to a friend and say: “I know you’re only [insert positive intention], and [insert negative effect], so [and here you ask for what you want them to do]”. She also suggested that whatever someone does, they do with the best intentions, and they are doing the best that they know how. Resli explained to the group that some people look for similarities between what you’re telling them and their experience, and some look for differences. In the latter case, again she had a strategy. Tell them that they won’t like what you have to say and that there are only a few situations where they can use it. Your difficult person will immediately find lots of ways that they can use it (which is really what you wanted all along!). A really great session – and I haven’t even mentioned Mark Wilson’s contribution!!

Over drinks in the exhibition hall sponsored by Vanguard, Attachmate, and Suse, and an excellent dinner sponsored by Computacenter and PKWARE, I chatted more informally with vendors and real mainframe users. As usual, I was encouraging vendors to complete their entry in the Arcati Mainframe Yearbook, and explaining the benefits of sponsoring it. And I was asking mainframe users to complete the user survey.

My overall impression of the conference was that it was excellent. Mark Wilson (the GSE technical coordinator) and his colleagues made sure everything worked well. I picked up loads of information, and had a really good day.

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

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