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Plugging into IBM i’s Future at POWERUp18

Where better to celebrate the 30th birthday of the IBM i than at POWERUp18, the annual meeting of the COMMON user group, held this past week in San Antonio, Texas? The title of Monday’s keynote session, “30 years of innovation and we’re just getting started” aptly summed up the event as hundreds of IT professionals, and the vendors that serve them, gathered to commemorate the history of the IBM i platform and prepare for the future.

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As Dr. Stefanie Chiras, IBM’s Vice President of Offering Management for IBM Cognitive Systems, noted during Sunday’s opening session, “we are moving from the age of automation into the age of insight.” During this transition, IT professionals will shift focus beyond automating human tasks to extracting knowledge and insight from vast amounts of data. IBM i cognitive systems are evolving to play a key role in machine learning, and Chiras noted that IBM will continue to drive forward into self-learning through accelerated software that is easy to consume.

It’s no wonder that Justin Porter, president of the COMMON board of directors, identified keeping skillsets current as the number one concern of COMMON members – particularly skillsets related to application modernization and security. Education is, in fact, the core focus of the COMMON annual conference, offering attendees hundreds of content sessions, labs and certifications throughout its four days. As Porter predicted, courses on application modernization and security were in particular demand.

I took the opportunity to sit in on 12 hours of training on security topics, several hours on high availability, and other professional development sessions. What struck me, and what strikes me every year at COMMON, is the degree of excellence in the education sessions. From the breadth of training offered, to the time and preparation put into each session, to the genuine interest on the part of the speakers in sharing their expertise, the education is top notch.

Syncsort’s Guy Marmorat, a frequent speaker at COMMON Europe, spoke for the first time at COMMON US, delivering two sessions on security topics: “Is GDPR Knocking at your Door?” and “Ten Tips for Auditing and Compliance.” Both were packed with insights learned from his years in the industry.

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In Marmorat’s sessions, and in the other security sessions I attended, I ran into people at all points in their security journey. The IBM i, long thought to be secure and impenetrable, is now interconnected with systems all over the globe and is known by hackers to be a rich source of data. In one security session, there were audible gasps and a few groans as IBM i system vulnerabilities were exposed. Hopefully, the insights obtained at POWERUp18 will empower attendees to undertake projects that will protect their organizations by blocking access to their systems, more securely configuring system definitions, taking control of user authorities, implementing encryption strategies, and monitoring database and system logs for suspicious activity.

While POWERUp18 was the 30th birthday for COMMON, it was Syncsort’s first year at the event. It was exciting for the Syncsort team to debut our new corporate brand at this year’s event, and to have our Cilasoft, Enforcive, iTERA, MIMIX and Quick-EDD solutions all in one booth! In addition to speaking with attendees about how our solutions can help them assure data availability and security, Syncsort made two important announcements during the event. On Monday, May 21, Syncsort announced both the release of Ironstream for i, a solution to forward logs from IBM i to Splunk and other SIEM platforms, as well as the acquisition of Townsend Security’s IBM i security products. Next year, we’ll have even more to share at the Syncsort booth!

Just for fun, we used the whiteboards in the Syncsort booth to list all the IBM systems that have evolved into today’s IBM i, including the System/32, System/34, System/36, System/38, AS/400, System i, and IBM i. We asked attendees to add their name under the first IBM system they worked on. Most names fell under the System/34 and System/36. We even had to add a box for the IBM 1620! It was fun to look back at that history in our booth while looking forward to the solutions we can all build together.  Add a comment to this blog to share the first system you worked on!

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“30 years of innovation and we’re just getting started” was truly the theme at COMMON, for our community and our company. In sessions and on the expo floor, we celebrated 30 years of the IBM i while looking forward to its exciting future. In the Syncsort booth, we introduced our long-standing, marketing-leading high availability and security products under the Syncsort brand, and we looked forward to partnering with the IBM i community to build new solutions and solve new problems together. And the IBM i professionals in attendance looked back at all they’ve done on the platform over the years, while they prepared themselves to dive into the new challenges of the future. I look forward to next year’s annual meeting to POWERUp again!

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