Visiting IBM Think 2018

April 11, 2018

I decided to attend the IBM Think 2018 conference in Las Vegas. It was the first time that IBM brought all of its big conference together at one location.

The program is impressive with a wide area of topics:

- Cloud

- Collaboration

- Customer Engagement

- Data and Analytics

- Dev

- Human Resources and Talent

- IBM Research

- Internet of Things

- IT Infrastructure

- Mobile

- Security

- Watson

Given that Integration Designers has a strong focus on IBM Integration solutions I was mainly interested in the updates around IBM DataPower, IBM API Connect, IBM Integration Bus and IBM MQ. I was also hoping to get better insights in the various deployment and license models.

The session browser indicates that there are 2768 sessions… Not a trivial endeavor to craft an agenda for the week. To make things more complicated a separate integration track has been set up at a different location with none matching timeslots. 
 I decided to start with the sessions of the separate integration track. These sessions were held in a small room for an audience of approximately 20 people. I spent my Monday listening to updates on IBM Integration Bus, now called App Connect Enterprise, IBM DataPower, an overview of the IBM Integration Portfolio, and a session on SalesForce connectivity. Very in-depth discussions on the various topics. The small audience allowed for a good interaction. Between each session there was also sufficient time to discuss specific customer cases. Certainly, the update around SalesForce integration is of good use for one of our clients. A follow up meeting with the labs has been scheduled. For the final session I picked one of the official agenda. The topic was Lightweight Integration, hosted by Ben Thompson. While moving to the central conference center I experienced how many people were attending the conference. Hallways were packed, and a lot of sessions had the ‘session full’ sign. I got the feeling that integration was not/no longer the hottest topic on the agenda J. Also, our internal WhatsApp group reported many full sessions and disappointments.

Hoping for some early wake up because of jet lag I planned to start Tuesday with a run. Unfortunately, I slept well J. The first session was the key note of Ginni Rometty, the CEO of IBM. Sharp start at 8h30 and a well-rehearsed speech. IBM is clearly focusing on (hybrid) cloud and AI. Three customers joined the stage to talk about how digital transformation was changing their business and how IBM helped them with the journey. A good start for the day. Next, I decided to escape the crowds again and headed to the integration rooms. Sessions on DataPower architectures and API Connect developer portal gave me further insights in the latest releases.

Time to meet one of my heroes, Dr Michio Kaku, the physicist. He shared his view on the future and the technological trends coming our way. According to Mr Kaku we still have to wait until the end of this century to see AI robots as smart as a monkey.

Progress is made but not as fast as some hope/fear. He strongly believes that man and computer will start to collaborate more and more of the next decades and that this will be beneficial to the human race. I tend to agree 🙂

For the final session of the day I headed to the Business and AI campus to listen to a talk on Digital Business Automation. This session shared IBM’s view on how Robotic Process Automation, BPM and Case Management will help companies to automate their processes. A little but too fluffy for me but the solution is definitely promising. Together with our colleagues of Roborana we will start looking at this solution to address the Belgian market.

On Wednesday I started with two customer sessions, one on IIB and docker, and one on APIC and a multi-cloud deployment. Interesting to see how some of the customers are already embracing the latest technologies from the IBM labs. It is clear that IBM is betting big on Docker and Kubernetes to support its hybrid cloud solutions (more on this in another blog).

Next, I followed a session on a new capability to setup high availability for IBM MQ, called Replicated Data Queue Managers (RDQM). Interesting solution for those customers who don’t have a HA storage component available. Next up was a session on APIC and DataPower performance. Interesting but I do not have sufficient knowledge on DataPower to fully understand all discussions…
 To end the day I attend the ‘Meet and Greet the Integration Specialists’ session. Good discussions on various IBM software solutions. Very interesting to discuss the changing role of integration specialists and how the tooling is responding to this.

Thursday was only a half day of sessions. The conference formally ended at 1pm. I planned, together with my colleague Jef, a F2F session with Ben Thompson, chief architect of IBM Integration Bus, now called App Connect Enterprise. Originally planned to last 45 minutes we ended up talking almost 1h30. We fired our well-prepared list of questions and Ben responded openly and with passion. Topics like lightweight integration, mapping technologies, deployment models, missing features (our view ;-)), best practices and future development were brought to table. Needless to say, that this was a very interesting session. We missed two other session that we would have liked to attend but we didn’t regret our choice.

Looking back at the conference I was pleased that I took the time to attend. New insights in the latest product developments and good discussions on customer cases made it worthwhile. Las Vegas if far from an interesting place to visit, the food was sub-optimal, but the sessions and the nice weather made up for the discomforts of travelling to a remote location J

It is clear that IBM continuous to focus on Cloud and AI. Certainly, within the integration portfolio, we say nice improvements scheduled to be released at the end of March. ACE v11 (new IIB version) and APIC 2018.1 are solution to watch out for. These releases raise the bar for IBM’s competitors and will provide additional value to the customers.

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