IBM Fast Start 2020 – A Four-day Diary by Integration Designers

February 11, 2020

On Sunday January 26th we boarded from Brussels heading for Vienna, where ​IBM Fast Start 2020 was taking place. The Fast Start conference is the yearly enablement session for IBM Sales, Technical Sales and business partners. For Integration Designers this is a good opportunity to receive ​updates on the ​IBM offerings​, but it is also the perfect occasion to ​discuss​ with ​product management​, ​senior IBM Management​ and the ​local sales teams​ in a relaxing environment (think: evenings at the bar ☺). In short: four days of technical content, interesting discussions and sufficient time to catch up with former colleagues !

The event took place in the​ Austria Center Vienna​, just outside the city center. This is a big conference area with ample facilities to host the 5,600 participants from all over Europe, Africa and Middle East.

When preparing for the event it became clear that most integration sessions would address the Cloud Pak for Integration(CP4I)​. This is a new software solution of IBM that runs on OpenShift and bundles the various integration solutions. CP4I provides customers one tool to address all their integration needs with the best possible component. No more misuse of IIB to (un)securely expose REST API’s? ;-). Also for the other tracks there was a very strong ​focus on the Cloud Paks​. IBM is bundling its various software offerings to Cloud Paks in order to group common solutions into a dedicated offering. There are currently ​six Cloud Paks​.


We started off on Monday with a session called ‘​Mastering the technical case for CP4I​’. I was doubting if this would be good and unfortunately it wasn’t. The session aimed to highlight the importance of the ​integration workshop​ offered ​by IBM​ and ​the value of CP4I​. The presentation was, in my opinion, very confusion, lots of content but limited structure. To make things worse it took place in a big room where the organization had created smaller rooms using plastic Igloo’s.

Not really practical when they are placed very close to each other and when each presenter is using a microphone to address his audience. Net result, headache after 10 minutes and very difficult to follow the session. For the second session it was decided the no microphones could be used anymore. This meant, try to sit in the front rows if you want to understand what was said.... Not much better but at least the headache could fade away. Luckily the second session was much better. Good update on​ Messaging​ (MQ and Event Streams).

After the (excellent) lunch we received an ​update​ ​on​ the ​CP4I Roadmap​. This should have been one of the most interesting sessions but most of the useful discussion were unable to follow since there were no microphones allowed. Luckily we have access to the slides. We were also promised that there would be a replay session via webex the coming weeks. Meanwhile the organization promised to fix the problem with the sound on Tuesday. Either they would relocate, either they would provide headphones. They chose the latter.

The second session was a follow on to the CP4I Roadmap update. Good discussion on the solutions but again difficult to follow. We skip the last session of the afternoon. Title wasn’t very appealing and some urgent mails and telephone calls needed to be made (at least that was our excuse ;-)). We will not discuss the evening program for GDPR reasons. Sorry!


Tuesday started with a full morning of ​hands-on work.​ We needed to develop a ​use case​ using the CP4I solution​. In total two mornings could be spent (and nights ;-)) to work on the use case. The price: eternal fame!

The audience was split into groups of three or four. We teamed with the ​IBM Tech Sales​ from Belgium and somebody from France specialized in ​Aspera​ (smart move since we have never used Aspera before, and where hoping that the other teams would not use Aspera, good to be different was our strategy). We quickly agreed to extend the use case develop by the Tech Sales (so yes, we didn’t start from zero...). This use case handled the ​registration of payment requests​ in a ​central ledger​ by exposing ​REST API’s​. The components used were IBM API Connect, IBM App Connect Enterprise (a lot), IBM MQ, Event Streams, App Connect (Designer part), Aspera, Slack and Salesforce. Everything running nicely on the IBM Cloud!

Oké, maybe somewhat over-engineered but you can’t blame us for being over-enthusiastic ☺. To cut the long story short. We completed the use case and won the competition! Below the ​overview​ of the ​solution​.

Tuesday afternoon we took the time to have some ​in-depth discussion​ with the ​product management​ ​team​ of ​IBM API Connect​ and IBM CP4I​. Happy that we took the time to discuss our questions and concerns.


Wednesday started with the completion of the above use case. The afternoon was filled with ​client stories ​on the ​usage​ of ​CP4I​ and some success stories ​of using the ​Integration Architecture workshop​. Some stories provided new insights but all in all we would have preferred some more technical update sessions on the various components inside the CP4I, the real integration solutions.


Thursday was the last day of the event. The first session discussed ​deployment of the CP4I in an HA environment​. We were really looking forward to this session but it appeared that the presenter was not always sure on the best way to do things. A missed opportunity in our opinion. Back to the knowledge center...

Next we needed to present the ​use cases​. To our surprise we were selected as best in class and so we had our moment of fame. Good teaming and a good use case to start from proved to be our key to success.

The last session before lunch was about ​Aspera​, ​the WAN file transfer solution​. It was a good session, clear messages, good examples of use cases and a knowledgeable speaker. We almost forgot that it was time to go for lunch. After lunch we had one more session on ​Blockchain and CP4I​. In reality it was ​a demo of the blockchain solution​ with a couple of slides on how to integration with CP4I using MQ. Nonetheless it was nice to play with the blockchain solution.

It was time to leave Vienna behind and return to Belgium. It was a ​good conference​. Some of the sessions could have been better but the hands-on session with the CP4I was really useful. As always, a lot of value ​was obtained ​by talking to the IBM experts and (technical)sales contacts​. Several follow up meetings were planned with the Dutch team. Let’s use these to further boost our business in The Netherlands.

Who knows, we might participate again in 2021. Next big event for us: ​Hursley Workshop​. Stay tuned to get more info on this!

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