The SHARE conference convenes on February 27th in Anaheim, with an agenda packed with industry initiatives and knowledge-sharing on the latest best practices and technology trends. In this Q&A, SHARE president Janet Sun provides her vision for the IBM users group in the coming years. "We see the mainframe as the center of the enterprise IT universe. If you don't think so, try unplugging it," says Sun. "Our organization focuses on enterprise IT, and that includes the mainframe. Today's SHARE membership continues to strive to leverage advances in information technology, and SHARE is a great place to do that." This is my 15th year as a SHARE volunteer, although I have been attending SHARE meetings for over 25 years.
DBTA: How long have you been active with SHARE?
DBTA: How has SHARE changed since you became involved with the organization?
Sun: SHARE has been emphasizing that it is more than just two meetings per year, more than just technical sessions, more than just mainframe. I've seen SHARE continue to reach out to new audiences. We've increasingly focused on aligning our technical program with business objectives. Technology always needs to support business goals, and we've tried to highlight that through our themes. We've added an Architecture Summit for those looking at the challenges of this increasingly complex environment, and an executive conference-within-a-conference, ExecuForum. SHARE has also begun to webcast its content so that those with budgetary constraints can still take advantage of the presentations.
DBTA: Is SHARE still primarily a mainframe-focused organization, or do you see a greater diversity among the membership in terms of systems? What is the common denominator you see among today's SHARE membership?
Sun: We see the mainframe as the center of the enterprise IT universe. If you don't think so, try unplugging it. Every larger enterprise with multiple types of systems still ties back to a mainframe. Our organization focuses on enterprise IT, and that includes the mainframe. Today's SHARE membership continues to strive to leverage advances in information technology, and SHARE is a great place to do that.
DBTA: What kinds of initiatives would you like to see SHARE pursue during your upcoming tenure?
Sun: The theme for this year is creating a year-round community. We want our constituents to be able to take advantage of access to our technical program as well as other SHARE members throughout the year, and realize that SHARE does not crawl into a cave and hibernate for 6 months when the SHARE week is over. You will see webcasts, discussion forums, and other programs which will drive engagement amongst our members in the coming year.
DBTA: So we'll also be seeing more electronically delivered events? How do you feel about the benefits of live, in-person events versus webcasts?
Sun: We will continue to offer SHARE Online from Anaheim where we webcast some of the content from our in-person event for members that cannot send delegates. However, it's always easier to establish rapport in a face-to-face meeting. Jumping in to a hallway conversation is much easier in person. SHARE is as much about community and relationships as it is about technology. The other benefit of being at the in-person event is that you have the option to change your mind. During the SHARE week, we typically have over 20 concurrent sessions, and you can easily change to another session if one doesn't meet your needs.
DBTA: Do you see a role for SHARE in social networking? Can we "friend" SHARE on Facebook? Are you investigating these channels?
Sun: SHARE has a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. This is still new for us, but we are looking at these channels as being part of our community discussion. These will augment discussion forums that are already in place. We encourage all of our attendees to participate in these dialogs.
DBTA: SHARE, of course, is a close partner with IBM. Is SHARE reaching out to other vendors as well? Do you see partnerships with vendors outside the IBM ecosystem?
Sun: SHARE has reached out to other vendors for many years. We had our Alliance Vendor program, where Alliance Vendors received special recognition and benefits. That program morphed into our Premier Partner program, and we now have Innovation Data Processing, Hitachi, Luminex, and Oracle participating.
DBTA: The upcoming SHARE conference features an "ExecuForum" program led by top industry leaders. Are there more senior IT executives joining the ranks of SHARE?
Sun: ExecuForum is a program that was designed by IT executives for IT executives. We realized that the typical SHARE format would not appeal to an IT executive. We shortened the program to minimize time out-of-the-office, selected topics that are top-of-mind for executives and changed the format to be more discussion oriented and less pure lecture. We want executives to get value out of the ExecuForum program, but at the same time, we want them to see what SHARE has to offer their technical teams.
DBTA: There's a lot of concern about our ability to recruit and train the next generation of large systems professionals. SHARE is proactive in this area, as well as IBM. Would you like to see additional initiatives to reach out to younger professionals?
Sun: As you have said, SHARE has been proactive in this area. SHARE's zNextGen Project is over 5 years old and has over 700 members from 24 countries. Last year we also awarded our first Academic Award for Excellence which recognized Ahmet Alper Tecimer, a graduate student at Yildiz Technical University in Istanbul, Turkey. He interned at Garanti Technology, and subsequently was employed by them when he graduated. We'll be announcing this year's winner of the Academic Award for Excellence at our meeting in Anaheim.
Also this year, we just completed a survey of our membership to understand what industry expects of university programs. Our intention is to make this information available to help guide universities in creating programs that can generate the skilled professionals required by our members.
DBTA: Other important topics these days are virtualization and cloud computing. What kind of challenges do these present to SHARE members?
Sun: At SHARE, we have been discussing virtualization for over 40 years. What's new is how to manage different virtualization technologies on different platforms. Virtualization continues to be an important topic, and we will be delivering more content and dialog on this.
Probably one of the biggest challenges around cloud computing is cutting through all the hype and understanding the value and impact to our member organizations. Our constituents will likely be the cloud providers and therefore will need to understand how to manage an even more dynamic environment. As a user community, we see other concerns around cloud having to do with security, metering, change management, approval processes, and charging algorithms. We have established a cloud task force to look at some of these issues.
For information about the upcoming SHARE conference, go to the SHARE website.