Evangelizing Mainframe
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Get Expert Answers via Twitter Through the Mainframe Debate

As a keen cyclist, I follow several cycling retailers on Facebook. One of these retailers hosts a weekly “Ask the Mechanic” session where you get to ask a mechanic anything you want about bikes. This form of interaction has proven to be really useful for those people who find their local bike shop an intimidating place, due to the “expert” knowledge required to engage any of the staff.

This got me to thinking that the same applies to the mainframe, and that there’s a community of people who are eager to know more about the platform but might be scared to ask or don’t know how to get in touch with an expert. The first #MainframeDebate was designed with this in mind following the launch of zEnterprise EC12. We had IBM Vice President and CTO for System z Mark Anzani as the first featured “mechanic.”

Now, every month (for the past 10 months), select IBMers have come together to field questions live via Twitter in chat format, which are then answered from the @IBM_System_z Twitter handle. The panel includes representatives from System z chip design, sales, support and architects. By being live and with no questions staged in advance, the panel gets a direct link with the people posing the questions and vice versa. This makes the #MainframeDebate feel more real than other online chats and is now a central part of the “rules” of the #MainframeDebate.

People joining the chat know they’re getting real answers from real people. Another “rule” is that we will answer any question from any source. While this creates a real headache for digital marketing lead @CarlyExum when questions about sensitive topics come up, we have to keep the #MainframedDebate real and interactive, while complying with IBM’s social computing guidelines, to avoid becoming too marketing in nature. On the flip side, however, this has led to some great responses from the panel, such as z196 "power consumption being the same as 4 bagel toasters.” (Source: Marriott Stays Ahead of the Competition by Maintaining an Agile IT Environment.)

Competition is also another area where “rules” have to come into play. While IBM obviously has a lot to say about the mainframe, so, too, do other key stakeholders. These include IBM's direct competitors. The rule of the #MainframeDebate is that the panel will play nice with these competitors and genuinely encourage participation and interaction. Why? Well, the panel feels that if the mainframe community has some wider presence on Twitter that discusses the issues around the platform, then everyone will benefit, and if IBM’s competitors gain from this interaction then, ultimately, the platform ecosystem benefits. In fact, we actively encourage IBM's competition to use the #MainframeDebate hashtag in their campaigns and messaging so we can all build recognition for the hashtag and stimulate the debate.

The next #MainframeDebate has been timed to follow IBM's big announcements scheduled for July 23, and we hope to have some special guest panelists. So join us on Twitter from 4 to 5 p.m. GMT/11 a.m.-noon EST on Thursday, July 25, and ask the panel anything you want. We hope to see you there!

Steven Dickens is responsible for the mainframe relationship with several key IBM clients in the UK. He has been actively involved in driving IBM's efforts around cloud computing on System z and led a team to pull together a TCO comparison of x86 versus Linux on System z. Working in the IT industry since 1995, he chairs the monthly Twitter chat #MainframeDebate from @StevenDickens3 and blogs at www.mainframeandhybrid.blogspot.com.

Posted: 7/16/2013 1:01:01 AM by Steven Dickens

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