Thursday, May 31, 2007

Three days left to respond to IDUG's call for volunteers

VolunteerIDUG website: Become an IDUG Volunteer

If, for whatever reason, attending an IDUG conference has motivated you to find out more about helping them as a volunteer for 2007-2008, here's your chance. As mentioned in the Call For Volunteers breakfast at IDUG's recent conference in San Jose, IDUG has posted a Word/OpenOffice application form on the IDUG website.

The impending deadline of June 4, 2007 means it's now put up or shut up time. All those ideas you've had on how to improve the yearly conference have a much better chance of being realized if you become a part of the NACPC or one of the other IDUG committees.

Good luck!

...and thanks to Tim Parkinson for the nifty photo.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Last chance to submit your IDUG attendee survey and win prizes IDUG 2007 North America attendee evaluation

If you attended IDUG 2007 in San Jose, you have until the end of Friday, May 25th, to complete an online survey which will not only help IDUG leadership improve the conference, but will also put you in the running for a free conference registration for IDUG 2008 (a US$2000 value). There's really no easier way to get a chance at a free conference reg, so I hope you'll take a moment out of your Friday lunch break to offer your opinion to IDUG.


Monday, May 21, 2007

IDUG... but you may want to as well

Takeaways from IDUG NA 2007

Yeah, I know...IDUG wrapped up its 2007 conference a while ago, but I took a bit of a vacation afterward, so I'm just starting to dig myself out of the pile of notes, business cards, and action items that I maneuvered my self into back in San Jose. I'm sharing my observations so those of you who didn't attend the conference can get a feel for what goes on there. Even if you did attend, IDUG is kind of a big conference, with a lot going on at the same time, so maybe I saw a few things that you missed.

The numbers
IDUG staffers with SmithBucklin estimate this year's conference turnout at around 1500 attendees, which beats last year's numbers and this year's initial projections. Surprisingly, quite a few attendees simply showed up the first day and paid full rip at the registration booth, rather than booking just a few weeks in advance and saving several hundred dollars. If those folks waited until the last minute to register, they probably paid top dollar for their airfare and lodging as well. I'm a bit puzzled by that tactic, but perhaps it's because I don't work for a big, indecisive company.

Jeff JonasThe surprisingly good keynote
After fidgeting my way through much of the pitch-heavy keynote at Monday's kickoff session, I didn't have very high expectations for Wednesday's keynote from Jeff Jonas, a guy I'd never met, whose company made some sort of fraud-detecting software that IBM acquired over two years ago. I couldn't have been more wrong. First and foremost, Jeff was genuinely funny, which made the 90 minutes fly by. His slides were illustrated primarily with monochromatic squiggles that one would assume were drawn by a hyperactive first-grader or perhaps a clever parrot, until he explains that he does his own illustrations mostly during long flights and without the aid of a mouse (as if using a mouse would even help). Despite having a title of Chief Scientist, Jeff was surprisingly humble when he talked about the events that shaped his career, such as the stint where he lived out of his car before forming SRD, and the executives he actively recruited to replace him as CEO and chairman of his own company. Even when Jeff got down to brass tacks about his company's software, it was still thoroughly interesting. He covered a lot of ground in his talk, rarely spending more than a minute per slide, in a bit of a rush to catch a mid-morning flight out of San Jose. Many of my colleagues either couldn't or didn't drag themselves to this early morning session, but I'm glad I did, because it was very well done and a refreshingly unique presentation for IDUG.

An afternoon at Nerdvana
The other highlight that day was a late afternoon reception at SVL, which will soon be comemmorating its 30th anniversary as the world's first large-scale software development lab. Conference attendees who caught the IDUG bus to SVL could mingle amongst themselves, talk to DB2 developers from the Toronto Lab, or follow SVL's big-brained Martians on a guided tour through much of the facility. Among other things, the tour revealed that IBM routinely videotapes users (with permission, of course) in order to improve software usability, and that the average software developer at SVL has a private office with a door (what a good idea). We also saw countless zSeries mainframes, and over a third of a petabyte of high-end storage. It may not be the Googleplex, but our sunny afternoon at SVL was the best off-site reception of the six IDUG conferences I've attended.

Emerging details of Viper II
Just when you thought IBM had unveiled all of their database tricks last year when DB2 9 came out, IBMers from the Toronto Lab are already making careful proclamations about the enhancements in the release they're calling Viper II (which is far less confusing than its original codename of Python). I attended some of those IDUG sessions, as well as the closed beta kickoff for Viper II back in March, and I can safely say that IBM is not content to sit and coast after releasing DB2 9. Viper II contains an impressive mix of enhanced features along with entirely new functionality that aims to profoundly change the way DBAs work with DB2. Unfortunately, I am a bit intimidated by the dense stream of legalese preceding those Viper II slides, so I won't be going into detail about what was discussed in those sessions. The good news is that if you attended the conference (or work with someone who did), you can read all about it on the conference DVD. That way, you get the information straight from the source, and I don't get banned from future DB2 beta briefings, which are typically held in Toronto in the dead of winter.

Little DB2 and Big DB2
For various reasons, many mainframe DB2 shops out there are dipping their toes (or being thrown screaming) into DB2 for LUW, and quite a few of them don't like what they see. That can be evidenced by IDUG sessions that are geared to help perplexed mainframe DBAs navigate the alien world of UNIX, and also by the types of questions and complaints that a few mainframe DBAs raised during open discussions with a panel of DB2 LUW developers from the Toronto Lab. One rather vocal mainframe DBA gave DB2 LUW the snarky nickname of "little DB2" and made a habit of saying it in front of the panelists. To dismiss this person as yet another cranky mainframe bigot would be easy, but unfair. He had legitimate issues with DB2 LUW and suffered significantly more from those problems than he ever did on the mainframe. He also touched on the culture clash between old-guard mainframe administrators (JCL-wielding beardos in suspenders) and UNIX admins (Slashdot-worshipping reboot monkeys). The stories from the mainframers in the room made it loud and clear that in many large corporations, mainframes and LUW systems are butting up against each other like tectonic plates, with similar consequences. It's also happening faster than either mainframers or IBM are ready to handle. Imagine being a mainframe DBA who must migrate a DB2 z/OS application over to an DB2 on AIX, only to find that after decades of co-existing, there are still fundamental discrepancies between their SQL instruction sets. I see similar frustration on the other side, with UNIX DBAs who are sincerely interested in learning more about the mainframe, but are unable to find decent transitional guides that offer a basic introduction to mainframe concepts or zSeries architecture. Rather than being annoyed by the mainframe bellyaching in a DB2 LUW session, I was encouraged when I recognized it as an instance of the two tribes coming together, and the improved software and documentation that will hopefully come from it.

This is actually just a minor portion of what I took away from IDUG, so if you're not sure if IDUG is worth attending, I hope you'll realize just how much valuable material is packed into just a few days each year.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Latest issue of DB2 Magazine emerges at IDUG

DB2 magazine coverDB2 Magazine: Volume 12 Issue 1

I was wondering where DB2 Magazine was hiding this year, only to find it waiting for me here at the IDUG conference in San Jose. The cover caption, "Escaping Information Anarchy", points to Mark Leon's article, which offers a bit of a reality check for organizations working toward data governance. Features by Scott Hayes and Stuart Litel round out the trio for this issue. On the z/OS side, if you've ever wondered what the new face of the mainframe will be, her picture appears in this issue's Dream Job section, and her name is Kristine Harper.

You may have noticed that you've never paid for an issue of DB2 Magazine, which means that someone else has. If DB2 magazine is helpful to you and you'd like it to continue to exist as a free publication, please drop a line to editor Kim Moutsos and tell her how her magazine helps you with your job.


Obligatory IDUG 2007 conference writeup

new IDUG logoDispatches from the IDUG conference

As my new blog buddies on PlanetDB2 can attest, it
is a real challenge to diligently write about a conference while it's still underway. My theory is that there's a problem with one of the beverages being served at the conference (or at the hotel bar) that suddenly makes the person who drank it very sleepy and, consequently, unable to post updates to his blog. Unfortunately, with so many types of beverages implicated at this event, it's difficult to pinpoint the exact one, so it may take a significant amount of collaborative testing to isolate the root cause. Despite this issue, a flaky hotel thermostat presented me with the opportunity to wake up in the middle of the night and post this update as I wait for the technician to arrive.

Monday, May 7th was the first full day of the conference, kicked off by a series of announcements preceding the keynote speech.

  • IDUG has a new logo. Readers are encouraged to post comments to this blog to list all the other logos the new one resembles.

  • This year's sessions will not only be audiotaped, but also synchronized with each presenter's slides. Surprisingly, that coordination will not require any special software on presenters' PCs, posing what must be an interesting challenge for the recording company.

  • The next IDUG North America conference will be held in Dallas from May 18-22, 2008.

With the IDUG formalities out of the way, it was time for the much-awaited keynote from retired IBM Fellows Don Haderle and Pat Selinger. I was a bit disappointed to see these two remarkable computer scientists being so underutilized on stage, relegated to serving as emcees for various IBM executives who were pitching the types of PowerPoint decks we've all seen far too often. Pat and Don are both undisputed legends in the world of modern databases, so it would have been much more appropriate in my opinion for them to share some of the war stories that led to their breakthrough discoveries. There were some good bits in their talks, but those bits were scattered amongst too much marketing fodder to justify pulling Haderle and Selinger out of retirement.

As with every IDUG keynote, the happy numbers fly by, but I managed to catch a few worth remembering and repeating (as I do ever year):

  • 4800 new DB2/IMS/Informix customers in 2006

  • 180 new business partners in the data management arena

  • 500 organizations exploiting pureXML in DB2 9

  • 9 of the nation's top ten insurance firms use DB2

  • 23 of the top 25 retail corporations use DB2

  • 10 years without an unplanned outage on DB2 servers running at TD Bank

  • 23 terabytes of data stored in DB2 for the Land Registry, the world's largest OLTP database

As we left the keynote, IDUG staffers were handing out the new IDUG logo, which was embossed onto brown circles that were either very nice leather drink coasters or the worst jerky ever.

There are plenty more IDUG nuggets worth mentioning, and I hope to post them soon.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

DB2 takes another CODiE!

CODiE winner logoCODiE Website: 2007 CODiE Award Winners

After DB2 9 was announced as a finalist, I honestly thought I had created an alarm to remind me to check on this one, but April 17th uneventfully came and went, which left me ignorant as to who won this year's CODiE for best DBMS. After rousing from my apparent slumber, I was pleased to arrive at the CODiE website and find that DB2 9 took the prize for Best Database Management Solution. I can easily imagine the DB2 gang as they stood tall before that cliquish panel of smirking, dismissive CODiE judge-models, never once yielding under the withering gaze. The pressure of being evaluated by those ladies must have been tremendous indeed, but DB2 clearly had "the guts to be judged".

How sweet it must have been for IBM to triumphantly return to the podium of the CODiE awards banquet (after enjoying the cyber-comedy stylings of Greg Schwem) and pick up DB2's fourth CODiE in just 8 years.

Congratulations, guys, and keep up the good work.