Last week I had a chance to sit down with Randy Newell, Marketing Director for DevOps at IBM. We talked about the buzz starting to build around InterConnect 2016 this February in Las Vegas. The call for speakers is open until September 25th. Randy and I spoke about last years event and what to expect this year,
Alan Shimel: Hi. This is Alan Shimel and this is another DevOps chat. Our guest today is a friend of mine, Mr. Randy Newell, Worldwide Marketing at IBM. Randy, I’m pretty sure I messed up your title. Why don’t you correct me for our audience?
Randy Newell: Sure. I’m Marketing Director for DevOps at IBM.
Alan Shimel: Fantastic. Randy, we’re on today to talk because the buzz has already started building for InterConnect 2016, which is February 21st though the 25th, if I’m not mistaken, out at the MGM Grand in Mandalay Bay Hotels in Las Vegas. Is that correct?
Randy Newell: That’s right, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.
Alan Shimel: Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas. Randy, for a few people in our audience maybe who are not familiar with InterConnect, can you give us a quick background on the conference?
Randy Newell: Sure. IBM InterConnect is IBM’s Premier Cloud and Mobile Conference. The first time event was actually last year. It was a mash-up of three different events that IBM has been doing previously, Impact, Pulse, and Innovate, all having different angles to them. We mashed them together and then kind of put in an overall mobile and cloud focus on it.
We ended up having somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 attendees last year, and delivered an enormous amount of curriculum and content, about 2,500 sessions. It was a tremendous success. So we’re excited to be back at it and planning it now for next February.
Alan Shimel: Randy, near and dear to the hearts of our listeners here on DevOps.com, under those 2,500 or so sessions there was a tremendous amount of dev-ops related content and curriculum at the show, wasn’t there?
Randy Newell: Yes, there was. I think in all the number was something like 385 dev-ops sessions, and that includes presentations, labs, workshops, et cetera. So it was one of the major streams. I think we had five total streams last year. Dev-ops was one of them. Streams is just conference vernacular for a grouping of tracks. We’re essentially doing a similar approach this year, so there will be a similar major presence for dev-ops, somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 or 400 total sessions.
I think what’s interesting about this year is you’ll actually see dev-ops in addition to being in its own stream, its own set of tracks, will actually permeate a number of the other streams as well like hybrid cloud, mobile, Internet of things, security, et cetera. So that’s kind of neat because we’ll see it put into the context of some of these other streams.
Alan Shimel: And that very much is in line with where dev-ops is in the market today. It seems to be everywhere. Randy, for those who are listening, I wrote an article just the other day about “Up Your Game” when you go to these conferences. Rather than participating by listening, participate by speaking. The call for speakers is still open, correct?
Randy Newell: That’s right. It actually closes out on Friday, September 25th. So those who are reading your blog and taking the challenge to get themselves out and present this year, we really encourage them, if they’ve got a good story of their dev-ops journey, to really consider putting together a response to that call for speakers and getting that submitted by this Friday, by September 25th.
Alan Shimel: Randy, I’ve spoken to dozens if not more of people who say, “Oh, why do people want to hear about me? What do I have to say to people?” Can you give us sort of a peek into what are the kinds of stories or presentations that you guys are looking for, for InterConnect this year?
Randy Newell: I think that’s a great question. First of all, just maybe a minute on the way that we’ve organized dev-ops at the conference, the way that the stream looks. Dev-ops is the overall stream, and then think of it organized into a couple of interesting tracks. One really positions dev-ops overall as an enabler of transformation. So if you’re thinking about submitting and you have stories about the way dev-ops has helped transform application development delivery generally or transform for faster innovation, which is really where we’re seeing a lot of these come in now, consider that particular track.
Then there are a series of tracks that are knitted together that dive into what we refer to as option paths or phases of the software delivery lifecycle, so focus on plan, dev, test, deploy, operate. So if you’ve got a particular story in that space, then I would encourage you to think about that context.
Then we’ve got a track that actually addresses the unique considerations of dev-ops in large enterprise, where you’ve got multi-platform environments, so considerations relative to Z mainframe, for example, power environments, and get into neat concepts like variable speed IT, bimodal, those sorts of concepts within that context.
Then of course the other tracks that I mentioned are streams on hybrid cloud, on mobile, security. So first I’d think of, “Hey, do I have a story that fits particularly well into this framework,” not that you have to work within that framework, but it would give you some context.
Then I think what we saw playing particularly well last year, so conference sessions that end up getting scored particularly well are about your dev-ops journey, and think of sharing it at really one of two levels, because InterConnect is very broad and we should probably talk about that a little bit. But what’s interesting is we have management topics and we have technical topics. So I would generally think about whether you’re grouping your story into one of those two.
The management topics and technical topics can actually play against everything that I’ve mentioned so far, but the important thing is sharing the journey. What were your successes and also your challenges? Envision yourself sitting in the seat. Am I learning something? What am I learning from this particular session? So I’m listening to the presenter. Tell me about their journey and not just, “Hey, we hit the following KPIs around speed or quality or engagement,” or what the particular metric might be for your particular execution, but what were the challenges politically, especially cultural issues. How did we get that first starter project through? What were the challenges on scaling for the next project?
I think it’s those sorts of things that work particularly well. I would encourage people the way to get your track approved and, importantly, that in most cases will get you a free conference pass which is worth a couple thousand dollars, which is good, is to get specific about the learnings, the metrics, what you were able to accomplish with some good quantitative aspects behind it.
But as I indicated, don’t forget some of the qualitative aspects that would say, “Hey, while this was dev-ops and was largely about increasing speed or increasing quality, what did it allow the business to do?” Because in the end we were after gaining some business agility or some increased market speed, and what did that mean. Increased market share. Were we able to launch a new business venture? Did we increase customer sat? Those sorts of things come out extremely well, especially if you’re talking some of the management tracks.
Then if you’re looking at a technical track, really peel back and look at some of the leading edge implementations and use cases. I think that’s where we’re going to see a lot of excitement.
Alan Shimel: Absolutely. Randy, I always like to tell people talk about what you’re passionate about, and chances are there will be other people who are passionate about the same thing, and birds of a feather will flock together and they’ll join in your passion. There’s nothing better than a presentation where you have a room full of people that are passionate about the subject that’s being presented. It makes for the best presentation.
So I highly, highly encourage you. If you are thinking about it, dipping your toe in, whether you’ve spoken before at conferences or not, if you’ve got something you think you want to share with the world and talk about your dream and your path and your journey, as you said, Randy, it is open till September 25th, the call for speakers.
I believe you can get to it at www.ibm.com/cloud-computing/us/en/interconnect. But don’t worry if you didn’t write that down. We do have it up on our website at DevOps.com. You can find it there under an article I wrote called “Up Your Game: Speak at a Conference” or something to that effect.
Randy Newell: You can also just use your favorite search engine to just search on IBM InterConnect 2016 call for speakers.
Alan Shimel: That sounds too easy.
Randy Newell: It might take you right there.
Alan Shimel: Yeah. That’s another way. Randy, all work and no play makes us dull boys and girls. The other great thing about InterConnect is it’s such a great networking event. I don’t mean switches and routers. I mean human networking. Talk a little bit about some of the social activities maybe from last year and what we might look to see this year.
Randy Newell: I think one thing to note and obviously anybody that’s paying attention to DevOps.com knows that there are an awful lot of conferences that are going on in the industry. I think what’s neat about InterConnect and what’s maybe a little bit different than some of the other conferences is the breadth of the conference itself.
As I indicated earlier, we intentionally blended a number of prior events into this, and then obviously have extended the curriculum to be largely around mobile and cloud. Surprise, surprise, it’s about the enterprise. That’s where IBM plays. So it’s a very rich enterprise environment.
But what really hit home last year, we used to have a prior event called Innovate, which was a dev conference. We had another conference called Pulse, which was kind of an operations conference. We had another conference that was Impact, which was largely about middleware integration concepts, et cetera. All of those, every one of them had 4,000, 10,000, 12,000, and now this is combined and we’ll do well over 20,000 at this event this year.
When you put all those together and you have a topic, especially like dev-ops, and we might have addressed in prior years and it might lean towards a dev topic. It might lean towards an ops topic, depending on which of these events. When you put this attendance base together, it really is exciting because you’ve got major enterprise customers that are sending in some cases dozens if not over 100 attendees from a given organization, and they’re from different parts of the organization, yet you’re hearing the same major conference topics. You’re able to segment your path, your personal roadmap through the event to get what you want out of it, but you’re able to basically go share experiences as well.
So if you want to go onto the show floor, going back to your question about what’s going on socially, the mix of sessions and labs and workshops and going out onto the show floor, whether it’s demos and touch and feel and let’s build an app together and those sorts of things, especially when you do it with your colleagues who might represent your dev-ops team. That’s kind of cool.
Alan Shimel: I agree, Randy.
Randy Newell: We do some neat stuff, too, and I know you were there last year and I appreciate your collaboration around the event. IBM knows how to throw a party as well. Last year we had Aerosmith there and we took over the MGM coliseum. Obviously it was sold out. I think it was well over 12,000 or 13,000 people. And it rocked.
We end up kind of blending what turns out to be very long days with lots of excitement and lots of technology and lots of learning and sharing and networking, but there’s an awful lot of play time, and Vegas is certainly a great place to do that. There’s certainly an awful lot of distractions and opportunities for –
Alan Shimel: For those who want to partake. Randy, I will just mention as a participant last year, as an attendee, as an observer, what I really loved about the InterConnect experience was it is a really big show, and sometimes though one can get lost in a really big show. What I liked about InterConnect was the keynotes were by the kinds of luminaries you would expect to see at a show of this magnitude. These were real headliners, not just keynotes, headliners.
But because of the breadth and width of this show, almost 400 dev-ops tracks, if there was a particular aspect that you wanted to explore and take a deeper dive into – so many shows have dev-ops and three-quarters of the things are: what does dev-ops mean to me? What is dev-ops? Why should you care? At a show like InterConnect you could slice minute slices into stuff that you’re really important on. How can I facilitate better continuous delivery and better feedback loops in a banking scenario, in a financial institution scenario? How is a Fortune 100 bank delivering mobile applications based upon mainframe technology?
Those are the kinds of deeper dives that you’re not going to get at a show that doesn’t have that depth, doesn’t have that breadth. So I highly recommend it for that reason.
Randy Newell: I don’t think we’re unique in this, but I think what we’re getting better at with the InterConnect Conference and IBM conferences in general is tagging the content. So if you go on to your personal agenda builder as you’re readying for the conference, you can build yourself a personal track based on: am I looking for management tracks on this topic? Am I looking for technical tracks? When I’m thinking about how advanced the tracks are, am I signing myself up for novice stuff? Am I going for double black diamond? Those sorts of things.
So I think there’s ability in all of that breadth to actually really find a personal track through it. I think we uncovered some gems last year based on ratings, based on attendance, and of course our updating that based on what we’ve been hearing over the last year, since the last conference, is we’ve evolved in the dev-ops space from a lot of clients trying to understand what dev-ops is, and we still answer that question and will answer the question this year with sessions that are designed for that, but we’ve seen customers evolve not just from doing pilot dev-ops projects or drilling down in a particular adoption path area like deployment automation or agile planning or something like that, but to actually now start to build full integration across the lifecycle so that they’re actually achieving real continuous delivery. That’s really cool.
For the clients that haven’t gotten to that point, there becomes a question that says: how do I get started? One of the things that we delivered last year and I think you’re aware of is we ran some workshops. The workshops were designed to do a dev-ops assessment. Where are you on your readiness for dev-ops?
These were kind of cool environments where you’d bring in either a single client and you’d actually get 10 or 12 people in the room all from that client, or you might run it in a multi-client environment and just a common topic. But the point was you do an assessment right there live as a workshop, and these things are run by pretty heavy-duty folks from IBM. These are distinguished engineers. They might be IBM fellows. They might be global services partners or directors who bill out for a fair amount of money. You’re talking about live, basically included in the price of your conference fee, consulting on how ready are you for going towards dev-ops and getting to a point of, “We understand where we’re broken and where the right starting point is.”
We’re going to keep building on that for this year. So we’ll continue to see those types of workshops, like I just discussed, but we’ll actually progress it and blending it with some of the stuff that we’re doing now in our Bluemix Garages, for example. I don’t know if you’ve heard about this, but we’ve opened up a whole host of Bluemix Garages and these utilize a neat approach. It’s a startup methodology that they use.
What we’re finding is that enterprise customers are coming into that garage environment, and they’re understanding how you can very rapidly use this kind of startup culture as well as a kind of rapid methodology that’s there, to go from ideation to MVP in a matter of a couple of weeks. If you’re talking about line of business, being able to see that kind of responsiveness, that’s exciting, and that becomes kind of the way that you can go back to the enterprise and scale that sort of startup culture within the enterprise environment. We’re trying to harness that.
So being able to put that kind of environment into InterConnect to say, “Let’s go from your assessment,” if that’s where your readiness is, to understand where you are, for those who have progressed and want to understand some of the design thinking and aspects that go into this very rapid movement from ideation to MVP, so that you can start to show this to your business stakeholders. That’s a neat thing that we’ll be experimenting this year as well within the context of InterConnect.
There are a few things that have enabled that. Last year we were working off of a beta version of Bluemix, which is IBM’s platform as a service. Bluemix together with SoftLayer have become a really pivotal part of the way that we can deliver dev-ops in a hybrid cloud environment. Bluemix has since gone GA last summer and is now actually the fastest growing platform as a service in the industry right now, and that’s the tip of the arrow for doing rapid dev-ops environments. So you have this immediate standup environment that’s available on the Bluemix platform, and then you have this integrated experience for your dev-ops team within that environment, and able to go right from build to test to automated deployment instantaneously, literally a one-click environment within that context.
So that’s something that we’re going to leverage in the InterConnect environment, to be able to show that speed with which you can get to that initial end.
Alan Shimel: Fantastic. Randy, we’re way over time here, so I’m going to have to wrap it up. You know what? We’ll be doing more chats as we get closer to InterConnect certainly.
Just a quick reminder again, if you listened to nothing else today, if you want to speak at InterConnect September 25th is the deadline. Don’t miss it. There are a lot of openings, a lot of slots. So I encourage everyone to share their journey and apply.
Randy Newell, thank you very much for giving us a little InterConnect 2016 insight today. We look forward to having you again as a guest on our show.
This is Alan Shimel for DevOps.com. Till next time, thank you very much.
Randy Newell: Thanks, Alan.