IBM Connect – My thoughts and the future

There has been radio silence on this blog since right before IBM Connect in the end of February. I intended to write a recap of IBM Connect after I got back from the conference, but I have just been very busy. I haven’t even had time to post the code from my presentation, but it will be up here shortly.

There has already been several good overviews of IBM Connect, but I want to share how I experienced it, and how the first conference away from Orlando was. It was both good and bad.

The bad part was just some minor things. Like everyone else I found San Francisco expensive, with a lot of homeless people. The venue also lacked some of the natural meeting spots we had in Orlando, when many of us were staying at the same hotel where the conference took place. The restrooms at the Moscone Center could also use a makeover. But none of these were things IBM really could do much about.

What they could have done better would have been to server a warm breakfast and lunch, at least a couple of days. The food in Orlando was great, and at last years conference it was even outstanding, in my opinion. So the breakfasts of cereal and pastries and sandwiches for lunch was a bit of a disappointment.

The conference itself was good. I enjoyed most of the sessions I attended, I learned about future enhancements to the Notes and Domino platform and ecosystem and I got to talk to a lot of people. I also met many of my friends in the community, but there however many faces missing. For the last few years more and more of the long-time Lotusphere/Connect attendees have moved away from the ICS platform into other technologies. It is just a natural progression. We all learn new things, try new technologies and broaden our horizons.

I have done that myself, for the last several years I have moved more and more into pure web development, using tools like jQuery and Bootstrap to build front-ends to data often (but not always) located on a Domino server. But I have also been looking into other technologies. Lately I have been working with NetSuite, an ERP system recently acquired by Oracle. NetSuite is using Javascript both on the server and for the browser, so the skills I have aquired during my time as a Domino deverloper enabled me to quickly start working with this platform. Another area where I have been spending a lot of time is more traditional web design using Javascript, as well as frameworks and libraries like jQuery and Bootstrap. These tools can be integrated into Domino applications, and after you learn them it is not hard to branch out and use them with a different backend.

One of the more exciting things that I brought back from Connect was the fact that Docker is a technology to watch. I attended a workshop that unfortunately had some technical problems, but it at least got me interested in starting to play around with it myself. It was not hard to install it on my workstation, install a couple of containers and start experimenting. If you are not familiar with Docker, it is a virtualization platform that encapsulate software into containers, who can then run on almost any platform. One good way to describe it is extremely lightweight virtual machines, running only one or a few applications. The containers can then be integrated with each other. You could have MongoDB running in one container, MySQL in another one and Node-RED in a third one talking to both of them. By the way, Node-RED is also using Javascript for the coding part.

IBM will build the next generation of Connections (codename: Pink) on Docker, using Nginx as the web server. Connections Pink is described by IBM as a vision, not a release. From what I understand IBM will be replacing (and most probably extending) the current functionality in steps. This approach makes total sense to me. If you want to read more about Connections Pink, read Gab Davis’ excellent post.

One of my biggest take-aways from Connect is how IBM is heading more and more towards component-ized solutions. BlueMix is just one example of this, where you can build your solutions by picking from a large number of different technologies, all on one host. IBM’s use of Docker is another example.

I see this as being the future: integrate a number of standards based technologies into your solution, running them virtualized on any platform or in the cloud, and then deploy your solution to the users or customers without you having to install half a dozen or more different servers.

What about the future of IBM Connect? Next year IBM will bring together a number of events into one flagship event called IBM Think 2018. This conference will take place in Las Vegas March 19-22 next year, and will include Connect, InterConnect, World of Watson, Amplify, Vision and PartnerWorld. So San Francisco seems to have been a one-time venue.

I think this a good choice by IBM. We all need to expand and break out of our comfort zone. Several of my friends from the ICS community attended InterConnect in Las Vegas a few weeks ago, and hearing them talk about all the exciting new technologies they learned about makes me really want to go. Lotusphere (and later Connect) had a good run for 25 years, but it is time to move on. There are so many exciting technologies out there, and why not learn what exists outside our own bubble, echo chamber or comfort zone?

Personally I can’t wait for March 2018!

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