IBM Connections Pink Developer Briefing (and Watson Workspace)

(Originally posted on my LinkedIn Profile)

It was GREAT !!!

I’m on my plane from Dublin back to Rome and I’m writing this short report for everyone that has any kind of interest in IBM Connections or in Enterprise Social Collaboration.

I spent my last three days in IBM’s Dublin lab (Building 6) to participate in a unique developer (and admin, I’d say) briefing setup by Alan Hamilton and a great group of people working to make a better IBM Connections (Yes, I’m talking about you: Heath, Joel, Eamon, Martin, Andre, Miky and everybody else that presented and supported the event).

The objective of this three day “show & tell” and open discussion event was to provide us, Partners and a few customers, a first hand experience of what’s happening now, what will happen soon and what will happen from now on in the journey that’s called “Connections Pink”

What’s Connections Pink (for those who don’t know yet) ?

If you don’t know what Connections Pink is.. we’ll it’s the new course of the product announced by Jason Roy Gary at Connect (and in some briefing before it). I’d define Pink as an “evolutionary re-boot”. Building on what’s there and taking dramatically different directions to get to what’s better and right for customers, developers, admins.

Pink brings a shift from a proprietary software stack (WebSphere, DB2 and others) to a best of breed stack that will be supporting Connections for the next decade. Docker, NodeJS and a lot of other components are now part of the stack as the rule that imposed IBM products to be built on IBM Products seems to be no longer in place. Pink is being built with what makes sense.

Aside from a pure technological view what Pink brings is a fresh look at the market and the future of collaboration. Connection has been a revolution when it was born and even if today there’s not a solution that can match it in terms of capabilities / scalability (not my words, I’m citing a “huge” customer that attended the event) it is lagging when it’s a matter of capturing users in regard to friendliness and eye-candy.

Pink’s mission is to get it right. Enterprise ready, user friendly. If you’re told Facebook Workplace is cool… well, Pink is going to be better (to me Facebook Workplace is an engagement-toy, sorry Facebook) and will be much more than that (as Connections is today)

If you want to learn more, check out Jason’s “3 things to remember about Pink

Engaging the community, impressive logistics

Back to the event, what Alan setup has been an in-person and virtual event taking place, live, over 3 days (half a day on Wednesday, full Thursday, half Friday) with people following it from all over the world.

160+ people were registered in total (in-person + virtual) and we used a great mix of tools to share information and moderate. A dedicated Connections community was created to contain content created and shared during the event.

IBM Watson Workspace and Slack were linked together to allow people from all over the world to interact in real time (questions, clarifications, even jokes) and Alan took up the task of coordinating the show allowing everybody to have a word or to get their questions answered.

Webex was used to transmit audio / video and presentation content all over the place. Everybody even from home-office was able to follow and interact.

This “briefing” was actually more than a briefing it was an “hands-on” lab. Presentations covered half-of it. The other half was labs working on real Connections 6.0 and Pink environments.. problem is .. How to have labs machines for everybody … (16 Gb memory for Pink all-in one + 32 Gb for Connections 6.0 + CCM + Docs + Metrics + Cognos + LDAP + TDI).

Easy fixed… enter the cloud (aka SoftLayer 😊) … The team provided each participant a fully installed environment, no compromises. Quick calculation. We had an infrastructure that accounted to to 7.5+ Tb of Ram.. this wouldn’t have been possible in the past and I think this is the first time ever an IBM briefing has gone that far !!!

Special event also happened on Wednesday evening those on-site were invited out for dinner in a great location in Dublin. An extra opportunity to connect partners, customers and IBMers. Thank you.

The content and speakers you would expect (and I was looking for)

When you get to move abroad for three days (time and costs involved) you’re seriously looking for something that’s good enough to justify your investment. I wasn’t disappointed.

Given recent (last few years) experience I could only “hope” for something better. What we got was outstandingly better than anything before. Having developers and architects that are building the product be on stage, sharing information and getting feedback, is the way to go.

In the past we got “slideware” but specific questions would have gone “we’ll follow up”… This time slides were supporting material but we’ve been able to ask about everything and get immediate answers from people designing it, planning it, doing it.

The bar is now set so high I won’t accept anything less than this from IBM. I think anybody who invested his time in this event got back more than expected.

For those that weren’t unable to attend we’ve good news. Alan recorded everything and it will be available for anybody to consume and replay.

My takeaways

I participated to the briefing with my two “identities”. On one side as CEO and CTO of Factor-y on the other side as Advisor to the AppFusions / AppSpokes team building integrations for IBM Connections.

As CTO of Factor-y a “classic” IBM partner implementing ICS solutions for customers (in cloud and on-prem) I’m more confident than ever our customer’s investment is safe. Right now Connections is working for customers, it’s not shiny but it does the job nothing else can do. From now on we’re going to just improve and as Pink components get out of the door customers will get even more value. We’re currently learning the new stuff ourselves, soon we’ll start planning upgrades for on-prem customers to move to Connections 6 (Blue)/Pink. In regard to cloud we’ve just to wait.. IBM will nicely do the work for us and deploy Connections 6 (Green)/Pink for us.. nothing to do but to wait for it to happen (I’d hint.. by june end)

As an advisor at AppFusions, working on cloud services (AppSpokes integrations for IBM Connections) to extend the platform and to integrate “any kind” of business services, I’m finally satisfied with what I see.

So far creating solutions for Connections on-prem and in Cloud was complex and limited by a significant number of restrictions. The new Pink course is fixing this too, an application catalog is coming soon and ISVs who invest and will begin to invest into Connections are likely to find a great platform. The ecosystem will bloom (my opinion) around Pink.

If you got this far.. thank you, share this with those you think maybe interested in reading about the “new world”, get the word out.

To IBM

We want more of this, we need more of this, keep going and bring more of this to Partners and Customers, you’ll be rewarded.

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