I had the opportunity to attend the WMCPA technical conference last week. I’d never attended this conference before and I was very impressed. It was a small conference; the staff that hosted the event was very friendly as were all the attendees that I met. It was wonderful to see IBM i students from Gateway Technical College assist and attend the conference as well. These conferences are great ways to connect with others that enjoy working with IBM i and hear how they use the system.
Tuesday evening had a session with a panel to discuss the “State of our i” followed by time for questions. I was impressed with the positive perspectives the panelists had regarding i and its future; there’s a lot of optimism for the coming year with POWER7 and 7.1. Indeed, POWER7 and the 7.1 release are a great combination.
Wednesday's keynote address was given by Dr. Frank Soltis and it was interesting as well and entertaining. Frank is clearly a fan of the “i” toys made by Apple and their integrated nature as he talked about these “i” toys a bit. Frank poked a bit of fun at IBM for not attempting to license “iOS” for IBM i, while Apple was able to do so for their operating system. Frank's main message was, however, the future of processors – hybrid processors with additional special-purpose processors, and how more function is moving from software into the hardware.
Thursday's keynote address was given by IBM i's Chief Architect, Steve Will. I've heard Steve's presentation on “Why i” and the “7.1 Overview” before – and in his “IBM i, Today, Tomorrow and Beyond” presentation, he took the best of those, added some new material, and had a great presentation that covered what may be the future for many (IBM i 6.1 and 7.1), while giving a glimpse at what the future is for IBM. Steve's point was clear – IBM i has great technology for today and it will be there in the future.
I always enjoy the opportunity to talk with our clients and partners. The passion for the platform is strong, although marketing and skills continue to the main issues that are raised. Regarding the skills issue, I was quite impressed with the cooperation between the WMCPA organization and the students that attend Gateway Technical College, taking IBM i courses. And while the broader IBM may not actively market i they way many would like, those of us passionate about the system are trying to do little things to promote it – the blogs and tweets are one way we can try to share information to a larger community.
There are still many shops on the 5.4 release, but more and more are on 6.1 or 7.1. In fact, the 6.1 versus 7.1 question was talked about quite a bit last week. The general consensus is to upgrade directly to 7.1; the release is stable, has additional new function, and will be supported longer than 6.1. If you're on 5.4, it's a no-brainer to go directly to 7.1.
This was the first of several conferences this spring. In April, I'll be attending the New England Users Group Conference, and of course, there is COMMON in May.