Thoughts On Think

IBM have announced their new one-size-fits-all conference Think 2018 which will take place in Las Vegas next March.  This will consolidate several existing conferences including Connect (previously San Francisco and before that Orlando) , InterConnect (Las Vegas) and World of Watson (Las Vegas).

So to start with I’d like to say this is a great idea and what, as a 20+ year veteran of Connect (Lotusphere) and a newbie to InterConnect, I had hoped for.  However it’s also a lot of content, brands, interests, objectives and attendees to merge together so IBM to their credit are inviting feedback in their JAM session on June 20th on how best to do this.  I couldn’t wait until then and my friends are bored of hearing it so here are my top level ideas

  • Of all things let’s not separate brands into their own locations, especially ICS.  There is enormous value in being part of a larger pool of content, products and speakers
  • How about having a “brand” day at the end of the event or even the beginning so the brand focused strategy sessions could be presented to the brand focused audience.  Those brand days could be held at any hotel in Vegas
  • I’d hope that IBM maintain a single conference location for the main conference even if that means fewer and shorter sessions from everyone.

    To that end, I noticed InterConnect did not have the low level “how to” sessions that we’re used to in Connect. However there are plenty of great ICS user groups all over the world that do have those sessions.  Can we give up trying to find room for them in Think in favour of higher level more strategic sessions ?  I think so.

  • Why not group sessions together by interest area not brand.  ?
    • For developers working with ICS products, wouldn’t they also be interested in other development technologies and opportunities?  Why not have all the developer sessions across all brands near each other
    • As an admin much of my work involves integrating technologies and learning about what’s available across the entire stack.  The most valuable thing would be to make it easy for me to move between sessions / cross brands in one location. Whether it’s ICS, Cognitive, Security or Cloud – it’s all admin and I want to learn about it all.
    • For CIOs attending surely they would be more likely to go to multiple strategy sessions about multiple brands and products if they were located near each other ?
    • Having the opportunity for designated conference areas also increases the opportunities for networking with like minded people
  • Interconnect this year offered pick and go sandwiches and snacks over lunch in the Concourse (showfloor) which was a lot faster and easier than marching 1.5 miles to the aircraft hanger size room where the formal buffet was.  That’s also a huge space that could be freed up for more sessions.  Why not deliver cold sandwich lunches, more informal seating areas and more stations around the conference centre. There are also many places around to grab your own snacks or lunch.  I didn’t eat in the large hall at all after I realised how much time was wasted getting there and back.

Just a few thoughts that have been burbling in my head.  I’ll definitely be joining the JAM and you can register to do and read more about Think here

 

Watson Work Services – Connect Review #4

I know it’s a bit late in the day but I have a couple more things I want to talk about post Connect and with preparations for Interconnect and trying to tie up work before I go away – well these got pushed back.

Watson Work Services, what is it?  WWS (not sure if anyone else is using that acronym but let’s go with it) is not a product, it’s a platform. It is designed to connect to Watson’s APIs and leverage those for language, search, and data. The results can then be fed back to your application and used to trigger actions.  If you’ve seen Watson Workspace (formerly known as “Toscana”) then you might know that it is underpinned by Watson Work Services.   I stole this screenshot from Marc Pagnier’s presentation which I think explains the role WWS is intended to play.

Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 23.37.37

So why is this good news? Well most of us have heard of IBM’s Watson efforts and understand some of the things Watson can do but for the majority the idea of accessing Watson’s APIs or applying its intelligence to our data appeared out of reach. I mean it’s not like you’re going to install Watson on site.  WWS gives any size company or even single developer access to those Watson APIs without installing anything on site and without investing a lot of money.  In fact WWS works within Bluemix and so your application, whether on premises or in the cloud, can call a query to WWS to feed it data and get results back you can then store and act on.  The cost is calculated in pennies each time you run a WWS query so , as an application designer, that is entirely within your control.   With that model you can easily and quickly experiment with integrating cognitive logic and intelligent behaviour into your applications.

To get started with WWS go to https://developer.watsonwork.ibm.com and to access example applications visit http://github.com/watsonwork . To stimulate  your creative brain here’s another screenshot I stole that shows some of Watson’s APIs and you can find out more about what they can do here Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 23.53.36

For a start we already have several ideas for our customers who generate a lot of data and would benefit from integrating  intelligent analysis and action triggers into their applications.

 

 

Connections Futures – IBM Connect Review #3

We interrupt this blog to apologise. Usually I like to sanity check my statements before publishing them but 80%+ of presentations from IBM Connect are missing online. That means my notes are all I have right now.

So let’s talk about IBM Connections and where it’s going.  You’ve probably heard references to Connections 6 as well as Connections Pink maybe Muse or Livegrid so let’s try and clear some of that stuff up.

First Connections 6 will be shipping in Q2 (tbc) and will be an upgrade from Connections 5.5 (possibly 5.x). It will have the same architecture as existing Connections and that means WebSphere, DB2/SQL/Oracle ,TDI etc.  There are some much needed new features in Connections 6 like the ability to customise as well as copy Communities. It will also ship with the first component of Connections Pink in Orient Me which will be an optional service offering an intelligent newspaper like homepage that customises itself for each person and their activities / interests.

To get to Connections Pink you’ll first need to be on Connections 6 so let’s talk about Pink and what it is.

To quote IBM Pink “is a Vision, not a Release”.  It is the future of Connections reconceived from the ground up.  There are several principles behind that Vision

  1. Currently there are multiple code streams for Connections depending on whether you are in the cloud or on premises.  There will be a single code stream
  2. Websphere will be gone
  3. Everything will be delivered as a microservice inside a docker container
  4. DB2/SQL/Oracle will be gone and replaced by MongoDB
  5. You will be able to choose the location of data for each service/component so if you want your Activities data in the cloud but your profiles on premises you can have that
  6. Every service / component will have a published API
  7. You will be able to develop your own extensions and publish them to your own github repository to deploy

There’s a lot more but essentially the ties to the legacy IBM architecture are gone. The keywords (as far as I could tell) are customisable,  flexible and developer focused. If you’re an admin then things should get much easier as you’ll be deploying services that are prebuilt inside docker containers and can automatically pick up updates directly from IBM as you would any other online software update.

So let’s take a brief timeout and discuss docker.  If you’re a developer you probably already know and maybe use docker but as an admin, especially one managing production environments it’s likely you haven’t come across it.  A docker container can be deployed anywhere as inside it are both the software code and application and the operating system needed to run it.  In theory simply starting a docker container will enable you to run the application inside it without ever having installed anything.  As you can imagine that’s a very tempting idea for Connections where we have 14+ individual applications that could then each be run inside their own individual docker containers.  Now that seems simple but as admins we will still have to understand docker behaviour, networking, container to container communications and so on.  It does mean however that add / removing / upating services becomes a simpler task.

One of the important goals of Pink is that there is to be no migration effort  from Connections 6 to Pink.  As they are doing with Orient Me, IBM will gradually introduce Pink elements into the existing Connections architecture and those elements will read data from the legacy components into their new Pink components so that at some time in the future it’s all Pink.  I stole this chart from Maureen Leland’s presentation and there are three important things to note from it.

  1. Yes those are a lot of scary looking technologies
  2. No you do not and will not need to learn or understand any of them. That entire middleware layer will be invisible to you
  3. The takeway from the diagram is that the Connections cloud code (Green) and the Connections blue code (on premises) will seemlessly transition to the Connections Pink code without you touching a thing.  Like magic.

screen-shot-2017-02-28-at-22-04-00

The other feature I want to talk about is the Muse Proxy.  Overlaid on top of Connections it will allow us to customise our Connections UI.  If you want to add a button on screen or  javascript action somewhere one doesn’t exist, you can do that using Muse and without touching the docker containers that have the services in them.  Think of it like a really powerful stylesheet (well I’m an admin so that’s how i’m going to think of it).  Now imagine your docker containers continue to update with the latest code but your configuration settings via your Muse proxy don’t change. We can separate the customisation elements from the service elements.

So I could type pages more on this and I will in future blogs when I want to talk about all of the technologies that you should not need to learn but want to be aware of.  Livegrid for instance is a new development platform for Connections and that gets a blog all of its own. The good news here is that IBM are dismissing the more lumbering dated and complex technologies and trying to replace them with architecture designed as if they were a new startup with all the technologies in the world to choose from and not just ones branded IBM.  It’s a big vision thing and I hope they can pull it off.

To quote Jason Roy Gary the Director of Software Development for IBM Connections

“We don’t want to develop software for you, we want to develop it with you”

– I applaud both the intent and the HUGE effort being put in.  As partners and customers we will do what we can to contribute to that end goal.

So to summarise, you need to get ready for Connections 6 not just for its new features (of which the Community customisations would be worth the upgrade alone) but because you will get the first Pink service (Orient Me) and have everything in place for the Pink updates and services as they arrive.  Connections 6 should be the last whole system upgrade you need to do.(that’s me saying that not IBM) 🙂

 

 

 

 

So What About Domino @ IBM Connect? Review Post #2

Domino was very visible at Connect this year, not only in both of the opening sessions but in about 40% of the sessions overall.   The ones I picked to attend were talking about strategy and futures so that’s what I wanted to talk about here.

Verse on premises which shipped at the end of Dec 2016 is a very nice browser mail client right now which is easy to install on your Domino server (and you should) but it’s missing an updated calendar interface,  so I was pleased to hear the commitment to deliver that and other functionality to bring on premises in line with Verse in the cloud.  If you don’t have Verse installed on premises now on your Domino servers you need to be looking at it as your path forward.

Feature packs continue to be the strategic path with updates coming via FP installers but with template updates slipstreamed in optionally and separately downloadable through Fix Central.  I wouldn’t look for the templates to ship in step with the feature packs so you’re going to have to plan to subscribe to fix central for updates if you aren’t already.

From Barry Rosen’s strategy presentation here are a couple of snapshots showing planned feature pack features including those for FP8 which should ship soon.

Notes Feature Pack highlights screen-shot-2017-02-26-at-20-51-26

Domino Application Development feature pack highlights (FP8 shipping soon)screen-shot-2017-02-26-at-20-51-41

 

For application design the path IBM appear to be on is one we and many other Business Partners have been pursuing for some time with Domino as a back end data store and a web based UI on whatever platform you choose.  To that end the really good news is that we will finally be getting some extensions to the existing REST APIs including ones for

  • Directory
  • Mail Contacts
  • Mail File Search
  • Polling for changes in databases

In addition the application modernisation story at the conference was focused around partner solutions.  Of particular interest is Panagenda’s ApplicationInsights tool coming in a freemium model to all maintenace customers in Q2.  That version I believe will allow you to analyse your most prominent existing applications and instances to see what is being used by who and how. More information about it can be found here.

So lots of Domino sessions, lots of talk of future client and server developments, lots of confirmation of support at least to 2021.  For a nearly 30 year old product that’s not bad going.  With the investment in Verse and the introduction of cognitive features in on premises applications as well as a cognitive plugin for Notes, I’m feeling positive about where we are and the support IBM are offering.

Oh and my watch word for 2017 continues to be “Hybrid”

 

 

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 http://ericwhitacre.com/the-virtual-choir/history/vc4-flytoparadise
  • 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.

Livegrid

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.

 

 

Nerd Girl Badges – Your Votes Please

As some of you may know the Nerd Girls group has produced lots of badges in the past which we’ve handed out at conferences including Connect around the world.  We haven’t produced new ones in a few years and we would like to do that again with a plan to have them available at IBM and non-IBM events as well as available to order on other items from a zazzle shop.

I’d like to thank the team of Kathy Brown, Maria Enderstam, Amanda Bauman, Wannes Rams, Francie Tanner, Katie Harrison, Jamie Magee and especially Jennifer Stevenson who managed to turn our ideas into the images below.

We hope to produce the images in badge format and in some cases decal format for sticking on cars or computers so we’d like some feedback from you. With Connect fast approaching we hope to have them to hand out to attendees there.

For each image please let me or any of the team know via comment or twitter , email or anything else and spread the word

  1. Do you like it
  2. Would you wear it / gift it as a badge
  3. Would you wear it / gift it as a decal
  4. Do you have an event you would like to distribute these at

Please bear in mind the materials aren’t sponsored in any way so we may have to make some hard choices about what and how many are produced to fit within our budget but we hope you like them all 🙂

nerdybynature

We think this works as both badge, decal and t shirt

ifiwereawoman

The guys said they would wear “if i were a girl I’d be a nerd girl”. We think this works as a badge

keepcalm

We think this works as badge and decal .. possibly t shirt

proud

this is slightly off brand but it replaces our ‘my daughter is a nerd girl” as a badge

supernerdgirl

We think this would work well as a decal for either computer or car