Take Advantage of the Freebies at iSeries DevCon 2009

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Registering gets you a free stay at one of Las Vegas' best hotels, the Rio All-Suite.


There are a few things that you don't do in a down economy. Number one, you don't pass up an opportunity for the government to give you $4,500 for your old jalopy. Number two, you don't pass up the chance for an $8,000 government grant toward a new home for yourself or your first-time-buyer kids. And number three, you don't pass up a limited opportunity for a free hotel stay at next month's iSeries DevCon 2009.


This year will be the 11th in a series of successful conferences for iSeries DevCon (October 25-28 in Las Vegas). As everyone knows, corporate travel budgets are tight. But I remember paying a hotel bill at COMMON last year in Nashville that was over $500. Getting a free hotel room, even if it's in Las Vegas, is nothing to sniff at. The conference is at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino, by the way, which, in my opinion, is one of the best locations in Vegas—big rooms and very nice décor. For those who sign up for the conference by October 9, bingo (no pun intended)! Free hotel accommodations! I can't understand why any iSeries professional would not want to attend iSeries DevCon 2009, given the amount of technical training that will be presented. And who doesn't like keynoter Trevor Perry? The man is funny and insightful.


If you can drive to DevCon 2009, fine, but if you're flying, you can take advantage of one more discount: there is a 5 percent airfare discount if you fly on JetBlue Airways. Do you get the impression that these people want your business? Oh, and this is in addition to the three free continental breakfasts, the three free lunches and the evening reception. Nothing, of course, is actually free; it's just included in the price—only $1,499.


Celia Hamilton, one of the conference organizers, conducted interviews with Trevor Perry and Joe Pluta of Pluta Brothers Design, a frequent contributor to MC Press Online. Hamilton posted the interviews as podcasts on the iSeries DevCon Web site and did a good job of drilling down on what the core issues for iSeries developers are in the minds of Perry and Pluta, who focus on challenges that developers face today. There is no question: the world is changing, and if you want to keep your job, you will have to stay relevant.


For Pluta, that means you must get into Web development. If you're not willing to learn a new language or don't have time, then you should get comfortable with RPG CGI. If you are willing to learn a new language but want to learn one and only one that can do everything, Pluta recommends not PHP but EGL. To encourage users to get up to speed on EGL through access to IBM's EGL Café, Pluta has even provided a convenient URL to get there—www.tinyurl.com/eglcafe. Here, you can find tutorials, discussions, and other information about EGL while you await Pluta's forthcoming book on the subject. Note that IBM just released a free community edition of EGL, called EGL CE, that developers can use not only to learn EGL but to actually develop complete applications. Download EGL CE here.


Given the variety of sessions at DevCon, Pluta urges attendees to concentrate on the ones that deal with EGL, PHP, MySQL, SQL, RPG free-format, and IBM's new RDI. Also, he suggests searching for sessions on the future architecture of building multitier applications.


Perry acknowledges that the biggest challenge for companies today is cost—or a shortage of cash. IT managers want to move forward with modernization plans, but they have very limited budgets to work with. Perry sees the cash crunch impacting IT by turning the department into a way to save money rather than gain strategic advantage with business planners. The cash crunch has removed some of the pressure on IT departments to modernize their applications and systems, giving managers breathing room to plan ahead. Where they stand today, where they are headed, and how they should get there are issues that need to be addressed. Perry suggests spending some quality time planning a modernization path, even if the funds may not be available right now to implement the plan.


The biggest challenge for today's developers, says Perry, is how to remake themselves into agents of change using existing technology. IBMers have the best operating system in the market today with IBM i and the best platform with Power Systems. Selling that message is the responsibility of every IT professional, but it takes confidence. Confidence, says Perry, comes from being ahead of the technology curve and knowing skills such as HTML, XML, PHP, and SQL—all of which will be used to transform today's systems into tomorrow's streamlined platforms. Regardless of what detractors may say, today's applications contain a wealth of good code and good business logic that needs to be preserved and enhanced to meet tomorrow's business challenges. Developers must learn and grow and be able to do more than just re-face an application; they must know about database modernization and they must write reusable code. They need to learn best practices of change management and governance and must be up on the latest change-management tools.


One of the nice features of DevCon is that it offers attendees a chance to spend one-on-one time with iSeries development and systems management experts. You can get on-the-spot recommendations for solving your unique problems and challenge experts with tough questions. In short, you can get personal advice from some of the world's most experienced developers. Attendees won't leave empty-handed, either. Everyone attending will take home a CD-ROM packed with all the materials for each session, including a lot of working code, dozens of development-specific articles, and custom-made applications developed specifically for attendees of the event.


This year's conference has a special jump-start day. The three-hour morning and afternoon sessions will provide the fundamentals of optimal SQL performance; methods to create, deploy, and maintain Web services from your RPG programs; an XML primer for RPG programmers; and a comprehensive introduction to PHP programming. The latter two sessions are offered by MC Press Editorial Board members Susan Gantner and Jon Paris of Partner400.


There are five educational tracks at the conference: Accessing and Working with System i Data; Web Development with Java, RDI-SOA, Rational, and Related Technologies; Developing Applications with RPG; Modernizing and Extending Your System i Applications; and finally, System i Management and Administration.


Within track four, Modernizing and Extending Your System i Applications, there are such sessions as "Creating dynamic Web 2.0 applications using JavaScript frameworks and RPG," "Extending your application set with PHP," "Moving from SEU and PDM to Remote System Explorer (RSE)," "An introduction to the latest in IBM's refacing tools," "EGL: the next generation in application design," and "V6R1 development tools from IBM Rational: Which is right for you?"


There will also be a hands-on lab at DevCon that includes an introduction to PHP programming that will provide users with the fundamentals of the PHP language and explain how it's implemented on the System i. Attendees will be taken through examples of how to use DB2 for i and i-specific extensions available with Zend Core. Users will be familiarized with the basics of PHP, including variables, arrays, and database access and see how PHP interacts with a browser. They will get an introduction to a PHP management console and compare its performance on IBM i to that of other management products. Users are expected to leave the lab with the skills they need to take advantage of emerging open-source technology and be equipped with the basics of PHP programming from an RPG programmer's perspective.


I see iSeries DevCon 2009 as a great opportunity for developers throughout the country to enhance their skills, educate themselves on the technology of the next decade, and network with leading professionals in their field. So if you missed out on the cash-for-clunkers program and you can't take advantage of the $8,000 first-time-buyers program that the government is offering, at least take advantage of the free hotel stay at the Rio All-Suites at one of this season's most enlightening conferences. Remember, October 9 is the deadline for the free room!