In the past two weeks, I have had the chance to speak to, and talk with, customers from around the United States at the Power Technical University in Las Vegas and from Japan at the 23rd Intermediate Systems Users Conference in Sendai. I put the English link there, but if you’re able to read Japanese, there is a big site for our Japanese speaking clients. You might not be aware of it, but IBM i has a very large presence in Japan. The conference was notable – maybe even impressive – for a number of reasons.
The attendance at this annual conference was well over 1,000 this year – I think I heard a final number around 1,200. I’ve only been to this conference once before, but other IBMers who attend more regularly assure me this is quite typical. The number of partners and clients who want to learn about IBM i and the related Power Systems products each year is quite high. But, while there are some people who attend no matter where it’s held, there are also many of our Japanese customers who attend depending on their budgets and the location of the conference. This makes it very similar to COMMON in North America, really, where a venue on the West Coast draws a different crowd than a venue in another part of the country. In any case, attending a conference with more than 1,000 people enthusiastic about IBM i is always exciting.
One thing that made this experience special, though, is the number of youth at the conference. I heard that the average age of those who attended was 30, and while I cannot be sure that’s an official number, it certainly seems accurate based on my experience. I met many young professionals at the conference and saw many more. It seems clear that the businesses that use IBM i in Japan are very interested in getting younger people involved and educated, and they back it up by sending them to this conference.
As part of the conference, Alison Butterill (IBM i Product Manager) and I met with representatives of the iManifest organization in Japan. We had a wide ranging discussion, held in a conference room with a setup that was quite unusual for this Minnesota guy. (See the photo – yes, those chairs don’t have legs. Very cool; very Japanese!) But that was not our only chance to have an unscripted interaction with our Japanese customers, because we had a session that was billed as a “Requirements” session, but that really involved a lot of questions & answers.
At the Q&A session, as well as during the rest of our time in Japan, it was very nice to have Mike Pavlak from Zend and his colleague Tim Benson to help us discuss PHP and open source applications on IBM i, which are attracting quite a following in Japan. The photo can be found on the Facebook page from the conference. Here’s the link, though, again, knowing Japanese is helpful!
I want to publicly thank the conference organizers for the invitation to participate and the IBM Japan team who helped us with translation and arrangements. It was an excellent experience – one I hope to repeat!