SHARE Fort Worth: Retaining the Magic of Real World Communication
As Politico and Bloomberg wrote several weeks ago, the world will never be the same.
Distance learning and distance communication technologies are booming. One might suggest that business and professional communication will securely remain online.
However, we believe that one day we will be able to leave our laptops to find ourselves not virtually, but physically together, having a laugh over a cup of coffee or visiting old friends and partners on the other side of the globe.
With 25+ years of remote work experience behind, we have to admit that no online platform can transmit that inexplicable part of human communication, which always escapes definition. It is the magic of unpredictable, unstructured, and often illogical face-to-face interaction that inspires scientists, motivates employees and after all, makes the world go round.
In this context, we would like to remember one of the latest events that IBA Group’s team attended.
Riddle: what do the cowboys and the IBA Group’s mainframers have in common?
Answer: they all shake the dust off their boots and go to Fort Worth 🙂
Fort Worth is nicknamed Cowtown for its deep roots in the cattle ranching and this year it hosted the SHARE conference, one of the major events in the mainframe industry. Our DevOps team were among 1,300 participants who gathered to educate, share and connect. The conference featured 500+ technical sessions and hands-on labs on enterprise IT hot topics such as security, open source, DevOps, and cloud.
That is what our mainframers, Yuliya, Dzmitry, Tatsiana, and Valery, tell about the event.
We arrived in the Cowtown on February 22, at night. The Sunday morning was not an easy one after a 22-hour transatlantic flight. However, a freshly brewed coffee and several Zowe sessions cheered us up. The welcome reception at a real Texas rancho was a nice ending of the day. We were happy to meet our old friends and partners from past SHARE events and we were also pleasantly surprised to see many new faces this time.
On February 24, I was a bit excited, as it was my first time presenting with Dzmitry. Co-presenting is like doing the DevOps pipeline in a way: everything depends on the teamwork. In our case, the presentation pipeline managed to embrace many members of the audience who were very responsive and helped us turn our presentation into a discussion that continued at our booth.
Another challenge was the headline, DevOps for DevOps. It intrigued many attendees and the expectations were quite high. Having attracted the attention, we had to keep the suspense. Dzmitry’s sense of humor livened up the technical part. Here is my favorite joke (see the screen on the photo)
In addition to sharing a laugh, we aimed to show in our presentation that DevOps engineers are common developers, who also feel the need to have VCS for their processes, automatic build and auto testing for CI/CD pipelines. It is especially true for the mainframe, where DevOps involves a great deal of custom code. That is what our team call self-DevOpsing 🙂
Overall, our presentation was well received; it was nice to get the feedback not only inside the SHARE network but also on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Tatsiana and Valery told about technical and cultural solutions for building DevOps on the mainframe in the presentation zDevOps: What We Do, How We Do on February 25. Many last year’s participants were looking forward to their presentation to find out about the project progress in the past four months.
My first conference experience
I remember my first SHARE conference in Whittlebury last year. I was absolutely shocked by the scale of the event and the countless opportunities it presented. At first, I was just listening not daring to ask or express any ideas of my own in front of people whom I considered legends of the mainframe. This time, I was more confident. First, I came to realize that my ideas are appreciated and listened to, and secondly, I am not alone. It is great to feel the support of your team at such events. It really feels like traveling with my family.
Booth 303 at the SHARE Technology Expo has become our second home in a way, a place where we gathered to discuss the presentations we attended, share the insights and fix appointments with other attendees.
We also took part in several Discussion Lounge conversations that followed technical sessions. What I like about presenting at SHARE is that you are not expected to know all the answers when presenting. You might as well ask the questions to the best industry experts and get answers that you would otherwise never have found.
Other networking opportunities included themed evening receptions and networking breaks where one could relax and have a chat with colleagues from all parts of the world.
Face-to-Face vs Online
I think that with the development of online communication the offline contact will become even more important and valuable. Impressions and contacts are the most precious part that we bring home from real world conferences. Online chats are not able to replace a face-to-face contact. For example, our DevOps team had taken part in dozens of automation trainings online but the test automation framework was out of use until Tanya and Yuliya brought the hands-on experience from Share. Thanks to their energy and commitment, the test automation framework has become a part of our daily workload. Online screens cannot inspire and motivate you in the way the real speakers do; they do not transmit the charisma and do not give the sensation of a once-in-a-lifetime moment.
Expectations vs reality
I expected to get caught up on what’s going on in the industry, build new connections and reconnect with established ones. That was a perfect opportunity for me to see where the mainframe industry is heading. The scale of the event was impressive with over a thousand attendees and huge presentation areas. Despite the size of the event, it felt very cozy and homelike. In addition, Texan barbecue was fantastic).
The conference was an excellent opportunity to get an insight of what is going on inside the “mainframe box”. The positive thing is that the audience at our sessions is getting bigger with every conference. This year we had a record number of 60 people at our presentation. The most rewarding part is to see that you are getting fans, people who come to your session at every conference. We were also glad to talk to our friends and partners from Compuware, the 21st century, Rocket and IBM.
The trending topics this year are DevOps and open source. As Greg Lotko from Broadcom said in his session, “Connectivity and openness can release the power of mainframe and fuel innovation”. New technologies open up mainframe to the new generation of developers. With automation and DevOps, Devs and Ops start working as one team. As a result, you have better visibility, more frequent releases, and happier customers.
Hybrid cloud is another popular technology that makes the mainframe more affordable while maintaining the same security level.
Another trend that cannot be left unnoticed is the fast development of large open source projects like Zowe and small ones supported by a few enthusiasts.
Tatsiana and Yuliya
The most interesting presentations to my mind were those on DevOps and test automation. The presentation about Galasa framework Solve Your DevOps Pipeline Headaches With an Open Source Framework for Test Automation by William Yates from IBM UK Laboratories was a real blast. IBM developed the framework released in open source git-repository (see the link on the photo). Galasa makes the mainframe more accessible to non-mainframers. It is an excellent opportunity for young developers to play with the mainframe outside the native environment. Extensible nature and open source make it easy to integrate with other testing tools of your choice. At the moment, we are discussing the applicability of the framework to our projects.
Another interesting session was from Rosalind Radcliffe and Suman Gopinath from IBM, titled True Unit Testing for z/OS Application. They were talking about the importance of unit testing at lower levels on developers’ side. The more unit tests you have the less tests you will need at further levels. ZUnit is an automated testing tool delivered in IBM Developer for z/OS. I hope that with time, its scope will widen beyond Cobol and CICS and it will help attract more users.
The presentation Lean Mean Machine – Keeping the Lights on for Agile/DevOps by Jeremy Hamilton focused on how DevOps engineers should define and deliver the best value to the customer. For this purpose, Dev and Ops teams, and the customer need to keep close contact to level the expectations and desired outcomes on the way.
We are one of the few mainframe teams in Belarus, most of our projects are carried out remotely as our major clients are from Europe and the US, including some of the biggest players in the mainframe market. Of course, 24/7 online contact with clients and project managers and Internet help you stay tuned to the industry’s updates, but only at SHARE events you get the unique feeling of being a part of the global mainframe community.
Yesterday was the deadline for paper submission for the next Share conference in Boston. So, our team had a real DevOps party last night, as the best ideas are always the last to come. As of today, the organizers have no plans to modify, postpone, or cancel SHARE Boston and we are looking forward to plunging into a buzzing atmosphere of the real-world SHARE conference!