IBM Connect 2017 – Review Post #1 The Good & Not So Good

So here I am still in San Francisco, it’s Friday morning and IBM Connect officially finished its last session at 3.15 yesterday but we all know sessions are only part of the story, there was then the on stage photo, the post conference Penumbra meeting (in the bar of course) the post meeting drinks, the post post drinks early evening drinks with people who left last night and then the wrap up celebratory drinks.  I’ve drunk a lot of water overnight.

So – how was it?  I’ll summarise here but I want to go into more details on further posts today and over the weekend. I didn’t want to make this too big.  Someone asked me last weekend what would I consider a successful Connect for me.  It was a good question and my answer goes to the core of what any conference is about for me, did I learn new things and find new things to learn.  The answer this year was yes, I most definitely did.

In fact I would say it delivered the best content in an IBM conference for years.  

(going all in on the formatting there to make sure the point isn’t missed).

So what worked and what didn’t?  I’m a positive person and I came out of this conference on a high and excited about the future of what the products are delivering for customers and how IBM are entirely changing (at least in one area first)  their development process. Oh and I have lots of shiny new things to learn. I was told that not everyone likes to learn new things but I refuse to believe that.  So I’m starting with the good. If you want to see the not so good scroll to the bottom and maybe question why you want to do that 🙂

  • The engagement sessions on the expo floor were a great idea. 30 minute sessions that were held in a cubed area within the show floor with lots of interesting side topics given by industry presenters.  My favourite being “The Internet of You” given by Linden Tibbets the CEO of IFTTT.
  • Friends and champions were there. Seeing people in person, talking honestly about what we think is good and bad and where we go from here, is a huge part of why I attend
  • The content and breadth of topics was better than I’ve seen in years and in fact I went to more sessions than I have probably been to in a decade, and learnt more too.
  • Having the design studio as well as the research lab on the show floor accessible in an open area
  • The format of both Opening General Sessions
  • The speaker at the closing general session (Eric Whitacre) – who spoke about music, creativity and collaborative choirs.  This is the piece he finished with which was accompanied by an onstage choir as well.  I think most of us found it hard to speak afterwards. Go watch this
  • The IBM team who were not only available but seemed genuinely positive about the products’ future, their own initiatives and the conference. Everyone was keen to both hear our feedback and ask questions.
  • The Nerd Girl session on The Imposter Syndrome which was I believe our most successful yet.  I’ll be posting slides and more
  • My own session on Single Identity including risk and the Internet of Things. I was nervous but I think it went well.  I want to add some more words to the slides for anyone downloading and once i’ve done that i’ll post it.
  • Being able to say “see you in three weeks at Interconnect” or “see you in Antwerp in May” to friends as we parted 🙂

There were a lot of sessions about new technologies and strategies and I want to talk about each of these in separate posts but briefly…

Domino, Cognitive and REST APIs

Several good news items from the Domino side but I think IBM “buried the lead” somewhat in the OGS with only a brief mention of the new REST APIs that are coming out for Domino including those for directories and calendar.  I also spoke to several IBM engineers about Domino and they are very pleased about the move to feature packs because it allows them to roll out new features sooner.  There was no downplaying of Domino or its future and some interesting updates coming in FP9.

Connections and Connections Pink

Take a deep breath – this is exciting and speaks to a complete change in how IBM are approaching product development and engagement with partners/customers during development.  If you are using Connections on premises then Connections 6 with all its new features is due early in Q2 and you want Connections 6 not just for itself (Orient Me and custom Community design to name only two) but also because that’s how you will then get to Connections Pink.

So what is Pink?

Imagine IBM has thrown out the current Connections architecture, no more WebSphere, DB2, SQL, Oracle, Cognos, J2EE applications all gone.  Imagine they have a single code stream for Connections so that whether you’re in the cloud or on premises the features are identical.  Imagine all of this is deployed inside docker containers – basically a way of packaging and deploying applications that don’t require you to understand how the applications themselves work, only how to install the containers (think VMs yet not VMs but like VMs but not).  Now imagine you can choose where your data is stored by service, maybe you are happy to have your blog content stored in the cloud but want your profiles data stored on premises.  Imagine you will have a proxy service that allows you to not only “skin” Connections to look how you want but also to place your own elements like buttons and actions “floating” on top of an activity page for instance. Now imagine all of that without any data or system migration to get there.

It’s a magical world and there are a lot of very very smart people who are working hard to get you there.  Much more on this on my next blog post.


A new development platform for Connections Pink (led by the work of the amazing Maureen Leland) to allow you to write your own applications (in addition to all the extensibility stuff). Intended for use by everyone from power users up to hardcore developers.  Very promising ideas still in early days but working in real life and with a big shining light directed on it.

Watson Work Services

You’ve heard the jokes about how will on premises customers get access to Watson right? I mean it’s a huge giant brain and you can’t just install that in your offices. It’s also been presented as a solution to big problems within big industries, healthcare for instance, so exciting as Watson is conceptually it was hard to see how most businesses could access it. What if I want to use the intelligence of Watson in my applications or even for development – how do I do that?  Watson Work Services is the answer as it allows you to write code that calls on Watson in the cloud and delivers back data in response to queries. It’s charged by the number of calls you make to the service so, as the designer of the application, the cost is entirely within your control.  Even better, as application developers our cost of entry to introduce Watson services into our applications is potentially pennies. IBM confirmed that Verse on premises will have cognitive services and that there will even be a cognitive plugin for the Notes client.

Sametime 9.0.1 Fixpack 5

Not just any old fixpack but one that includes lots of new features for on premises that bring it more inline with Sametime in the cloud.

Onto The “Not So Good”

Let me start this by saying I’m not someone who lives in the past, I believe in what’s in front of me having as much potential as what’s behind me.  This isn’t Lotusphere and I’m not just saying that because the name changed. Or the month. Or the location.  It just isn’t that conference. It has a very different feel and focus.  Having said that, I missed the Dolphin Rotunda. I’d take any single place where you can sit and see people as they walk through and bump into friends and just hang out. With everyone staying at different hotels (7 or 8 different ones) there was no chance of bumping into people, nowhere to retreat and watch the conference pass by and a lot of effort required to arrange meet ups each evening.  Wherever Connect ends up or whatever it ends up being we need to fix that next time.

My second biggest problem with the event was the attempt to hang onto the past and still move into the future, at least that’s what it felt like.  Things like Gurupalooza and references to the “nifty fifty” are meant to be comforting to us old schoolers but to me they are just a depressing reminder of a time that has past.  It was great, I loved it for 20+ years but it’s gone now and let’s not pretend otherwise.  We don’t need pandering to and we don’t need a pretzel cookie.  Those of us that are there are there because we have moved forwards and we do believe what’s in front of us is better to focus on than what’s behind us. YMMV

I hated the location. The Moscone West is fine as a conference site but it was a bit soulless and there wasn’t really anywhere to hang out. The surrounding area was ‘let me walk you back to your hotel” sketchy as well.  And the food. Oh dear. Universally cheap and terrible and I’m not usually bothered by that kind of thing. Cold sandwiches, plastic cutlery. Cheap cheap cheap.

The low energy crowd in the OGS was a bit disconcerting.  There were several places I would have applauded but it didn’t feel the room was with me.  Interested yes.  Enthused no. The pocket of Champions in the room were giving it the old school energy but I realised this conference had a very difference audience and they weren’t responding as “we” used to.  It’s OK. In every technical session I went to that didn’t happen and people were clapping all the way through.

So that’s my initial wrap up.  Lots of good.  Enough so that if it had been held somewhere else I would have said it was better even than last year.  Let’s do it again soon, just maybe not here.



8 thoughts on “IBM Connect 2017 – Review Post #1 The Good & Not So Good

  1. Gabriella, I think the Hilton from last year was the ideal location for the size that IBM Connect is now. If they have it next year, they should go back there but who am I going to say anything.

  2. Thanx Gabriella, for this nice intro into – good and bad things on Connect 2017. What you would say about Domino Future, or what the people were talking about it. Maybe you can mention it on your next post. Well FP9 will be maybe with 1.8 Java, maybe this year, who knows. But is there any power into future updates (Feature Packs?) or it is just like “We will give them Java and maybe they will be confident for the next x years”. I personally still miss something bigger, what could be done with Domino. I know the people in OpenNTF are doing their bests, but i still miss some really energetic kick from IBM. … Thanx, and im looking forward to read more details about the Connect2017.

  3. Thank you, Gab. I was waiting for your comment. A reason why I was not there this time was exactly what you mentioned. Moscone, hotels all over the place and thus an awaited separation. Whatever.
    I always was a fan of Maureens attempts to develop good developer interfaces and I am happy IBM is again counting on her. Especially wirh Martin.
    I also have the feeling, there is much more more momentum in IBM bringing the ship out of the harbour, from what I have seen (it’s only the oGS). Ed and Chris did the hell of a job presenting like in the old days. Yes, the products may not be there yet. Yes, Watson may not be the bot we are interested in for the next time (in Europe). But they are now able to again tell a story, like I AM back then was.
    Eager meeting in Antwerp, when many things will have lost the fog of San Francisco.

  4. Thanks Gab. We unfortunately couldn’t attend this year so I really appreciate your point of view. I am energized by your positive feedback and I’m excited by the new product changes and to me it feels as if there is a more realistic, flexible and aware approach to dev of the products esp Connections Pink. Can I ask though where do you see Domino sitting, what are ibm pitching it as?

  5. Hi Gab – thanks for the thorough analysis. You’ve captured the story of the event quite well. A few specific comments:
    1) The setup for the general session room was terrible. Because the seats faced the stage but the screens were at the sides, energy in the room was dispersed. It was very frustrating for both audience and presenters. Everyone universally agreed on this, but it led to an eerie quiet in the room for the most part.
    2) I tried to make sure that the Domino news would get clear attention by separating it from year in review and future roadmap into its own section, but without a demo or a developer message it was a little lost. I’m glad you were able to suss it out from the other sessions and we’ll do more to highlight in the future.
    3) The reference to “Nifty Fifty” and Kimono’s and even my mention of Lotusphere (a word that was verboten on the stage for many years) was designed to signal that we get the past. It was of my own doing to say that I respect our shared history. Also we thought if Sapho demonstrated a Notes V2/V3-era app that it would make the point that anything in the typical Notes estate can be leveraged and updated via their platform. My own team loved the “cyan flashback” as they described it, maybe we were a little off.

    We agree the conference needs a home base… and not a casual one like the top floor of the Marriott. As a team we are discussing how to approach future events, and that thought is paramount. Location, venue, etc are all up for discussion…we will solicit input when/as appropriate.

    • Ed, my opinion was the two opening sessions were a good idea but the demos, news and customer stories and info could have been even between them. each would have had more momentum.

      As for the screens being on the side, that was a distraction only sometimes. But that is something that had to have been known and planned months in advance?

      • I honestly disagree about the structure of the opening sessions. I liked having the separate focus and having the technical information and demos in the technical OGS. I also liked the tighter format of 2 x 75 mins which kept my focus. YM (clearly) V 🙂

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