SHARE Conference to Delve Deeper into SOA, Virtualization

With focuses on SOA, virtualization, next-generation data centers, and cloud computing, Summer SHARE will likely have plenty to interest attendees.

This week the bi-annual SHARE conference convenes in San Jose, Calif. Thousands of Big-Iron boosters will descend on the Golden State for mainframe-speak and to swap mainframe-related anecdotes (and solutions).

Summer SHARE might seem a bit anti-climactic, coming only a few months after the February SHARE event that served as a launch pad for System z10, the biggest and brawniest mainframe system to date. With focuses on SOA, virtualization, next-generation data centers, and cloud computing, as well as a number of z10-specific educational tracks, Summer SHARE will likely have plenty to interest attendees.

Whether attendance itself will slip now that many organizations are slashing travel and discretionary spending is another matter. SHARE vice president Pam Taylor, for her part, doesn't anticipate a decline.

"We always pay attention to what our attendance is going to be, and whenever there are economic downturns or economic uncertainty like we're in right now, we always try to take steps to react to whatever the top concern is," she says. "No doubt, there will be some travel-budget curtailment, but what we're seeing so far is that we're pretty much on target."

The reason, according to Taylor, is that attendees view SHARE -- more, perhaps, than other industry gatherings -- as an intrinsically valuable event, not just for its dozens of educational tracks but for the opportunity to interact (and hash out problems, issues, or next-gen trends) with Big-Iron colleagues and IBM representatives, among others.

"We've actually had two focus themes this year that we have been promoting. One is the SOA Journey, which was a focus in our February conferences and which will continue in San Jose; the other is virtualization.”

What Taylor and SHARE mean by an SOA "journey" sounds a lot like SOA lifecycle management: SOA isn't a one-and-done proposition, she argues, nor is it a technology prescription that's inherently resistant to change.

"SOA isn't just a snapshot in time. [It isn't as if] we do it [and then] we're done. It isn't a product-I-buy kind of event," she explains, "so we've been trying to shed a light on our [educational] offerings on everything from selling the business value [of SOA] within the organization to the relationship of SOA and other emerging technologies, such as where SOA fits in to the new cloud computing models, or the relationships between SOA and virtualization."

Virtualization is the other big San Jose SHARE focus area. While mainframe types might believe they've thought through virtualization and its ramifications -- Big Iron virtualization is both an infinitely tested and an infinitely scalable technology, after all -- Taylor believes there are still many things to consider, particularly when it comes to virtualization, SOA, and their interdisciplinary ramifications.

"What we're going to be focusing on [in San Jose] is how virtualization married with SOA architectures does lead to many of the future directions -- cloud computing being one of them," she indicates. "We want to get [attendees thinking about] the business problems they're trying to address -- how [they can address these problems] using SOA and virtualization -- as well as the implementation details between SOA architectures and what you're trying to deliver for the business. This is all intertwined."

SHARE prides itself on its ability to deliver substance, Taylor says, so in addition to high-level keynotes devoted to SOA, virtualization, and other cutting-edge topics, the conference will offer many similarly themed tracks.

"We're going to have distinguished engineers from IBM delving down deep into the technology and how to actually build your architecture and your environment and integrate all of the pieces together," she promises.

Quite aside from what mainframe pros might already know about Big Iron virtualization, the confluence -- some might call it a collision -- of SOA and virtualization begs several imaginative questions, Taylor says.

In a sense, she concedes, a technology combination of SOA and virtualization changes everything.

"What you see as people are using virtualization either to address power consumption issues or to reclaim stranded capacity on various machines or for server consolidation [is that] virtualization goes beyond just the virtual servers. There's even this concept of 'service virtualization,' so that when an application needs to invoke a service within the SOA, it doesn't necessarily need to know where that service is available," Taylor says.

For example, she explains that when an application kick offs a service to request data from a database, it doesn't need to interact directly with the database but merely with the service.

The upshot is that the data which the application requests could be virtualized in a number of ways. "The physical infrastructure that executes the application is essentially transparent to the application, so SOA and virtualization really go together hand and glove. Rather than crafting application environments now where the application explicitly communicates directly with the database and runs on a specific machine running a specific operating system and has hard-coded OS calls, everything is up a level to the service level and the underlying environment can be as totally virtualized."

All of this is preparatory to SHARE's big bombshell -- namely, that organizations have moved, if not en masse then in significant numbers, from planning to deploying SOAs.

"We're actually of the opinion that that's exactly where many organizations are. A lot of what's been happening in the SOA space in the last couple of years was … sort of planning, [for example,] getting the environment built up, starting to build a virtualized environment. Many organizations are now well beyond that planning-and-understanding-what-it's-all-about phase and focusing on implementation details."

In addition to its SOA and virtualization focuses, San Jose SHARE is also highlighting System z10 -- once again in the form of an on-premises z10 mainframe. Scheduled tracks include hands-on lab sessions -- in which, Taylor says, Big Iron pros can take bang away at System z10 -- to informational or best practices seminars, where z10 users discuss the benefits of that platform, including its business advantages and superior performance, relative both to its predecessors (e.g., System z9) and to competitive offerings.

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