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October 23, 2012

The Value of Early Access

I want to follow up on my recent post about the IBM DB2 11 for z/OS Early Support Program (ESP).

When I was working as a DBA I never participated in an IBM ESP, but I would have loved to have had the opportunity. I did, however, take part in a few beta programs run by other product vendors.

Getting early access to a product is hugely beneficial. First, it gives you the opportunity to test a product in your environment and ensure it doesn't negatively impact your system or applications. It also allows you to try out new features and provide feedback that helps your fellow customers. Vendors really do value and implement customer input. A number of my suggestions were acted upon, and because I'd offered constructive comments, vendors were more responsive to me when I asked for changes or additions. It's almost like a direct line to development.

I also saw internal benefits from taking part in product betas. As soon as the product was made generally available (went GA), I knew I had management buy-in, because my bosses knew that rolling out this new release wouldn't pose any negative impact on the business.

Now consider all that, and imagine getting to preview something as integral to your work life as DB2. By participating in the IBM DB2 ESP, you get the benefit of testing new features and seeing how they'll integrate with your own system and applications. You have the assurance, from testing, that the next release of DB2 will work well in your environment. From the day DB2 11 GAs, your company will immediately benefit from the new release. And finally, you can benefit professionally from your experience by sharing what you've learned at a local user group meeting or as a presenter at an IDUG conference.

As a vendor (CA Technologies), we get early access to DB2 as an IBM development partner. IBM provides us with a list of enhancements that could impact our products and we work through these changes. We also find bugs in DB2 and work with IBM to get them corrected.

While there are system requirements for companies looking to join in the DB2 ESP, keep in mind that IBM is seeking diversity. You don't have to be a large customer or a prominent vendor to take part; the goal is to test DB2 in all types of environments.

Perhaps you've participated in a past DB2 ESP. If so, it'd be great to read about your experience in Comments. What prompted your company to take part? What were the benefits?