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August 17, 2005

SHARE, IBM User Group, To Celebrate 50th Anniversary

Courtesy of TechWeb News

IBM's user group will meet next week in Boston to celebrate its 50th anniversary and to examine how IT has changed from the huge bulky mainframe to the networked installation of multiple computers while somehow retaining much of its past traditions.

“We’ll have people who still work with Fortran, Cobol and assembler ,” said Robert Rosen, SHARE president, in an interview. “And we’ve added a half-dozen sessions on IBM’s new zSeries mainframes, which were just announced.” Through the years, said Rosen, the underlying theme of SHARE has remained the same: To provide users with help and assistance in operating their IT installations.

“Users provide the real quality of this meeting,” said Rosen. “They tell it like it is. They share ideas and share software, too. SHARE and its SHARE library invented the open source concept.” While the first meeting of SHARE 50 years ago was convened to help scientific users grapple with the problems of IBM’s first major commercial mainframe, the 704, next week’s meeting in Boston will cover issues ranging from networking and security to operating systems and applications software.

Rosen, who is a CIO at the National Institute of Health, noted that users still show up to learn the latest developments in Fortran and Cobol. The latter business software is enjoying something of a renaissance these days, he said. “And our assembler ‘boot camp’ is very popular,” he said. “You can’t get in the door.”

While SHARE addresses traditional issues, recent developments are the most important feature at most of the 700 sessions scheduled for the meeting. IBM’s new versions of its zSeries is the latest in the firm’s long mainframe genealogy that began in the 1960s with the 360 and later by the 370, then the 390.

“We tried to find out if anyone was still running a 360,” he said. “There may be one in the Defense Department, but we couldn’t find out. The power requirements are too high for the 360 today.” While many software issues have been similar through the decades, Rosen noted that personal development sessions also have been a constant and have been in demand over the years.

The zSeries’ software including Linux, VSE, VM and OS will be discussed. Other areas of major interest include recent developments in Java and IBM’s WebSphere. Storage and its peripheral issues of compliance and information lifecycle are attracting more attendees as those issues rise to the fore.

Rosen tells an IT story that illustrates SHARE at its best. A few years ago, a CIO was faced with a huge problem in his shop. A vendor offered to fix it for $150,000. At the SHARE meeting, the CIO explained his plight. Another attendee came forward, wrote a dozen or so lines of code and fixed the CIO’s problem. The incident is an example of SHARE at its best, said Rosen.

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