IDUG NA Technical Conference in Phoenix – May 2014

I’m so excited! The IDUG North American Technical Conference is less than a month away. Much like Melanie Stopfer mentioned in her blog entry on IDUG, this is one of MY favorite weeks of the year. There’s something about the IDUG conference. I have been to IBM’s DB2-related conference (which they’re now calling IBM Insight), and it was huge and interesting, but there is something more intimate about IDUG. It’s fun to see the same small group of friends each year and it’s a great place to make new DBA friends. I say friends rather than “contacts” because for me that’s more what this conference is about. Finding and catching up with people that I consider friends and talk to throughout the year. I’m a bit of an introvert, but for this one week, I become a social person, and it’s fun.

Conference for Newbies

The IDUG Conference is basically a week of DB2 education. There are such a variety of topics that each day there’s at least one, and possibly many, time slots where I have trouble figuring out which session I want to go to.

General Format

Like many conferences, IDUG consists of approximately hour-long presentations. The meat of the conference runs from Tuesday morning (May 13) through Friday mid-day (May 16). Monday consists of a day of extra-fee seminars. If you can get the funding for them. I particularly recommend Scott Hayes and Martin Hubel’s Top Gun Performance workshop. I have also heard good things about Roger Sanders’ Certification Preparation workshop. Personally, this year, I’m going for Dan Luksetitch’s Advanced SQL Coding and Performance workshop. I’m sure I’ll be blogging about it afterwards.

Usually the attendance peters out on Friday.

Registration

The check in desk is open every day starting on Sunday evening. The hours are:

 
Sunday:      4:30pm – 6:00pm
Monday:      7:00am – 5:00pm
Tuesday:     7:00am – 6:00pm
Wednesday:   7:00am – 5:00pm
Thursday:    7:00am – 6:15pm
Friday:      7:00am – 10:00am

 

Registration location:  Encanto Foyer, Second Level

Evenings

There are some interesting evening things. Usually IBM throws a party, and I believe it is on Wednesday night this year. It’s nothing like the big name bands at IBM Insight and other conferences, but it’s a good social chance to meet people and chat if they don’t play the music too loud. The Thursday night dine around is your chance to find one or two recognizable names in the DB2 world and just sit at a small table with them and chat. Each person pays their own bill, but they usually choose interesting restaurants, and I always loved getting some small group time with people I admired. I am proud to be one of the hosts of a dine around this year(squeeeee – am I a big DB2 name now?). I also lucked out in that I’m co-hosting with my DB2 hero, Melanie Stopfer, and we’re at Pizzeria Bianco, which I hear was named the top pizza restaurant in the United States a few years ago. Phew, this vegetarian did not pull a BBQ joint!

Building your schedule

If you haven’t been to IDUG before, or you’re not really familiar with the DB2 community, then navigating the sessions can be a bit difficult. The IDUG website has an agenda builder that lets you figure out for each time slot which session you want to go to. There is no requirement to sign up ahead of time, and no benefit for signing up through the agenda builder. Once you have registered for the conference, you should be able to go to the Attendee tab for the conference, and scroll down a bit to click on the large yellow “My Conference” button. It looks like this:
IDUG___2014_NA_Conference___Attendee_Resource_-_After_Grid

Once in the tool, click on “My Agenda” and then “Edit Agenda”. You can print out a compact sheet that will fit in your conference badge before heading out to IDUG, which is useful.

A tip in the tool – you can add a session to your agenda, then click on it to view the details to decide if you really want it. It is easy to remove the session if you discover it is not what you want.

There are fewer sessions that are outright sales pitches for IBM or for vendor tools, but you may still run into those. I most like to find speakers that I like and find the sessions that they are doing. But the IDUG agenda builder does not allow you to search on speaker name! The search feature doesn’t even let you search on a string. The way to look at things for IDUG is to look at sessions for the track that interests you. There are usually 2 tracks each for LUW and z/OS, a developer track, a track for big data, and a miscellaneous track (known as a la carte). You can even add every session for a track or two to your agenda, and then go through and filter out the things you don’t want to see.

Because using this tool doesn’t change the how the conference is run, I like to add all sessions I am interested in, including conflicting ones. It’s nice to have a backup plan and to talk to friends about which session you’re going to next, though I tend to avoid having more than 2 in a slot so I’m not making too many decisions on the fly. While at the conference, I tend to tweet where I’m going next or what I think are good bets for the day. There may be others tweeting this kind of information, so it’s nice to watch the #IDUG hashtag.

When looking at sessions, be aware of:
* The session’s track – this can give you an idea if the session is in an area you are interested in.
* The session’s audience experience level – it can be frustrating to end up in a session that is way too advanced for your knowledge in a subject area, or in one that is way too basic. Stretch yourself, just be aware of when you are doing so.
* The session’s presentation platform – many things that are true for LUW are not true for z/OS, and vice versa. If a presentation is cross platform, it will either list cross-platform or it will list both LUW and z/OS.

Vendor Expo

There’s a vendor Expo. It can be an interesting place to find tools for DB2 and talk details with the people who know about them. It’s also a good place to pick up swag for the kids. There’s usually a “passport to prizes” where you have certain vendors stamp/sign a card and can then be entered to win a host of prizes. You have to be present at the drawing to win. The Expo opens Tuesday night, and is open Wednesday around lunch and Wednesday evening, and then usually closes on Thursday after lunch. The reception on Tuesday night usually has drinks and light food – you can make a dinner out of it if you’re on a budget, or leave room to find dinner with friends later in the evening.

Since there are often food and drinks in or near this room (lunch is often next door or in the same room), it tends to be a place people hang out when there are no sessions.

There are two times – Wednesday after lunch, and Thursday before lunch, when there are Vendor Solution Presentations as the only options for a time slot. These can be interesting for exploring tools you might be interested in. They can be pretty sales-y, but they can also show you a tool in more detail.

When looking at the tools and also at sessions, remember to make sure you’re looking at things for LUW if you work with LUW or z/OS if you work with z/OS. It can sometimes be interesting to cross over and explore things on the dark side, but it’s frustrating if you don’t pay attention and end up with too much that doesn’t relate to what you want to learn about.

Presentation Downloads

All presentations will be available for download from the IDUG site. Usually before the conference even starts. We speakers are required to submit our presentations a month before the conference starts. If you’re really torn about which session to go to, you can look at the presentation to see which one interests you more. Some presentations also include great notes from the speaker. I’ve also seen people either print or make notes on PDF copies of the presentations. You’ll always see me with an iPad or laptop in hand taking my own notes, though historically I haven’t done it on PDFs. Might try that this year, we’ll see. Gotta love Evernote.

Certification

If you are ready for certification, they’ll be offering one free certification test on IBM Information Management products. If you pass the first one you take, then you may take another for free. Additional exams are only $25, a great discount for the ~$200 they’re charging for exams these days. This is usually a cost justification for going to the conference, and I haven’t taken a DB2 certification test outside of a conference in years. Especially if you’re going for a certification upgrade, just absorbing the information during the week may help you be ready for the exams. Certification hours are:

Tuesday, May 13:     10:00 - 17:00
Wednesday, May 14:   9:00 - 16:00
Thursday, May 15:    8:00 - 17:00
Friday, May 16       8:00 - 12:00

You can find the list of available exams here: http://www.idug.org/p/cm/ld/fid=502

Food

Generally IDUG provides lunch. There is usually no breakfast, so eat before starting the day. There usually is not even coffee available until the morning break time. Usually there is coffee and tea at the morning break. The afternoon break tends to include sodas and sometimes cookies or other light munchies. The only food provided in the evenings is what is specifically listed – usually light food in the Expo hall some nights. You pay your own way for the dine-arounds.

On Monday/Tuesday, I am usually searching for my Diet Coke dealer for the week. I need something like the “Kennedy plan” that Lily on “How I Met Your Mother” had for the last season, but with Diet Cokes. Every time I turn around, I want a cold Diet Coke in my hand.

Wi-Fi

IDUG tells me that there will be wifi throughout the conference this year, including in the sessions. Please be kind to the speakers and give them your full attention.

Often finding power outlets can be an issue, too. If I’ve got my laptop on me, then I’ll also have a mini-power-squid with an outlet or two available to share.

We all have day jobs and many of us may have to take breaks from sessions in order to take care of work tasks. One conference I promised my boss that I’d put in a 40-hour work week, while attending the conference. Let me tell you, that was no fun, and boy was I fried at the end of that week. I may have to play an on-call role for half of this conference – we’ll see. I also keep meaning to blog throughout the conference, but tend to run out of steam on that. Usually my blog entries take an hour or two to write, and that on top of a full day of sessions and evening fun and keeping up with work just doesn’t usually happen. I do tweet heavily throughout the conference, so follow me on twitter – @ember_crooks.

Wardrobe

I tend to go more business than casual, but many people will be in jeans. My main reason is because I only travel on business about 4 or 5 weeks a year, so I have to actually use those business clothes. The one thing I change from business wear, though is usually to wear my Birks with everything. No pantyhose and comfortable shoes are my concession to the casual. Another reason I tend towards business is because I freeze my rear off at these conferences, and at least all my business stuff tends to have a jacket. I may actually add in some sweater tights to improve my thermal factor. Hmm, what do I have that works with long underwear?

Zero Weight Gain

It is hard to keep up with healthy eating habits when on trips like this. And I usually don’t do great, but I do try some, and that includes bringing workout gear in the delusion that I’ll actually work out. I do plan to do some walking, and I think Ian Bjhovde may actually set up a competition for those with FitBits or Jawbone Ups. IDUG is usually at smaller venues than conferences such as IOD/IBM Insight. That means less built-in walking. In Phoenix, I’m pretty sure it will in the 90’s or higher every day, so walking outdoors is mostly out. Maybe we’ll get a nice cool day on Sunday, and someone will have a car and we can go out hiking or something. At least it’s unlikely to be the near 24/7 rain we saw last year in Orlando. Maybe I can get a room on a higher floor and take the stairs most of the time

Come and find Ember at IDUG

I will certainly be at IDUG NA in Phoenix. I have the following scheduled events:

  • Tuesday, May 13th at 3:15 PM in Ahwatukee – Session E03 Why Low-Cardinality Indexes Negatively Impact Performance
  • Thursday, May 15th at 9:15 AM in Camelback – Session D10 High Availability Two-Step: HADR and Power-HA. I’m co-presenting this one with DB2’s Got Talent winner Michael Krafick
  • Thurday night dine around. Paper sheets for signup will go up on Tuesday after either the keynote or the spotlight sessions. These usually fill up really quickly, so sign up as soon as the sheets go up. Melanie Stopfer and I will be hosting a group at Pizzeria Bianco.

Additionally, I promise you that I want to talk to each and every blog reader and love meeting folks. So if you see me, don’t hesitate to introduce yourself. And take a picture! I’d love to have pictures to post on the blog and on Twitter.

Some of Ember’s Top Picks

I always enjoy the Special Interest Groups (SIGs) on Wednesday at 3:30. I am always torn between two or three of them. There is also a panel on Thursday afternoon at 4:45 PM in Paradise Valley that I enjoy – it’s an open-format question and answer with the top experts in DB2 up on the podium – so fun to be able to ask anything and see the questions others are asking.

One of my favorite sessions that I go to every chance I get is Matt Huras’ DB2 Internals for Administrators sessions. This is a two-part session on Tuesday, and every time I go, I take something different away from it. There is simply no other place you can go to learn what DB2’s doing in this kind of depth. I generally come out bleary eyed from the technical details, and I remember being vastly overwhelmed when I was a DBA of about 3 years. But truly it’s such awesome details and will make just about anyone think about something they haven’t before.

Another favorite for me is anything Melanie Stopfer presents. She will cram more information into your brain in one hour than many other presenters would in a day. Her presentations also have awesome student notes. I even go to her sessions when it is something I don’t expect to apply to me, because I will invariably learn something that will help me in my job anyway. Her upgrade presentations are simply a giant bomb of useful information from the real world – it’s not just about how the IBM Toronto Lab expects things to work. Her presentations this year are:

  • Wed May 14, 8:00 AM, Paradise Valley – C05 Best Practices Upgrade to DB2 10.5 with BLU Acceleration
  • Thu May 15, 1:00 PM, Camelback – D11 Using Row and Column Access Controls (RCAC) with DB2 LUW

There are many other good speakers. I like Michael Kwok (his presentation conflicts with mine! Darn it!), Michael Krafick (Wed 8 AM, Attack of the Blob! (Managing BLOBs within a DB2 database)), Scott Hayes (Wed 9:15 AM, Sage Advice: 20 Invaluable DB2 LUW Performance Insights from Around the Globe), Kohli (Wed 10:30 AM, Nifty Performance Tricks: Essentials for Success), and Dale McInnis (Thu 2:15 PM, Continuous Availability with DB2 AND Fri 9:15 AM, High availability disaster recovery and performance – a marriage made in heaven).

I’m so looking forward to the conference, and hope to see you there!

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