Message from SHARE: Education for Every Need at SHARE Atlanta

By J.O. Skip Robinson, MVS Program Co-Manager

SHARE Atlanta will make good use of the pre-week Sunday by offering two parallel, all-day academies: one for general program debugging and one for CICS TS Architecture. In addition, there will be a reprise of New to z Systems, an in-week program that debuted at SHARE in Orlando 2015, serving as a sort of embedded academy.

Sunday academies make good business sense because most of the conference overhead has been accounted for and the week’s infrastructure already established. With so many resources cranked up on site, as Billy Crystal said in the movie “City Slickers,” all we need is a place.

The debugging academy, z/OS Bug Busterz, will be hosted by two IBM Level 2 experts who have experience both in problem diagnosis and in teaching and presenting: Patty Little and John Shebey. Debugging has become something of a challenging art in recent times, but it’s more vital than ever for a well-rounded professional. The Internet has simplified and speeded up shipping dumps and traces to vendors, but someone at a customer site needs to determine a ballpark problem area in order to know what data to acquire and send as documentation. And if a failure involves in-house application code, it’s the prime responsibility of local staff to unravel it.

Some of the Bug Busterz content will be inspired by other presentations, but much of it will be developed specifically for the academy. It will be an intense day of lecture and related lab work. Widely available debugging tools—including those embedded in z/OS—will be examined and exercised.

CICS TS is IBM’s premier transaction processing system. Most customer interactive z/OS applications make use of CICS in one way or another, including increasingly important mobile and web-based applications. CICS is both powerful and complex, now exploiting Java, HTTP, RESTful and SOAP, in addition to tools as traditional as COBOL and batch JCL. CICS was designed decades ago to perform many OS-like functions, and, like an OS, is governed and manipulated through well-documented control blocks that are the key to understanding and managing a complex application. Topics in the CICS Immersion Academy will be targeted to various levels of expertise from novice to intermediate to advanced. The academy will also delve into debugging issues that are unique to CICS. An overriding theme is that modern CICS is capable of much more modern function than many folks are aware of.

New to z Systems comprises sessions targeted specifically to beginners on the platform. As IBM has largely withdrawn from introductory education, the job of training incoming professionals falls increasingly on SHARE and other user groups. Because it’s difficult to create a single technical session that satisfies the needs of both novices and experts, New to z Systems will present sessions designed for those at the beginning cusp of their mainframe career. This embedded program is scheduled in the first three days of the week, Monday through Wednesday, allowing participants an abbreviated attendance if that is desired.

Much of the New to z Systems content is technical, but there’s also a cultural element. If you want to be a duck—or at least be taken for one—you need to learn how to walk and talk like a duck. Although the mainframe platform predates most other computing architectures, the next generation grew up with computers they could carry around the house. While modern mainframes are no longer massive behemoths—and size may or may not matter anyway—mainframe terminology differs from mid-range lingo in ways sometimes subtle and sometimes startling. Some malapropisms are droll—what is bootstrap vs. IPL?—but some may reflect a deeper misunderstanding of mainframe processes. Some mainframe professionals may not know what “MVS” stands for, but having that knowledge enhances their creditability to use the term adroitly. 3270 is not just an old fashioned form of interactive screen. It works in ways fundamentally different from a PC. Veteran mainframers often take such knowledge for granted. New to z Systems will help illuminate and fill in common gaps.

All three programs can be explored on the SHARE website, so don’t forget to check them out.

Skip Robinson has worked in IT for decades following a previous life in teaching that included a stint in the Peace Corps in West Africa. Except for a couple years in applications, he has been a mainframe system programmer for various companies including the ancestor of Experian; a tech subsidiary of Citibank; an L.A. bank that was swallowed up by another bank, which was then swallowed up by yet another. Robinson is now at Southern California Edison, an investor-owned electric utility. He has been a SHARE volunteer for over 25 years, having missed only one conference since the mid-1980s. After spending many release cycles in the JES2 Project, Robinson is currently MVS Program co-manager.

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