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Finding a Home in a z User Group

z Systems groups are everywhere, you just need to know where to look

4/12/2017 12:00:17 AM | I’m happy to say that another SHARE event is in the books. SHARE has many fans, and we (as the authors of this article) are among them because we love the user experience it offers. It’s called SHARE for a reason; it generates a community to educate, network and influence. These excellent ideals are realized during the two annual weeklong conferences that SHARE delivers.

Admittedly, SHARE is only twice a year, and can be far away and costly. So is there another way to educate and network and influence? On a smaller and more local scale? … sure there is: User groups.

z Systems User Groups

A growing number of user groups are springing up to provide local support to IBM z Systems users. And why wouldn’t they be? In the fast-paced and accelerated world of IBM z products and technology, it’s clear that we need as much help (from each other) as we can get. Let’s look at a few examples.

Central Ohio Mainframe User Group
The Central Ohio Mainframe User Group (COMUG) has been around for over a decade. Founded by a small coalition of users and IBMers, the group has withstood the test of time by harnessing the expertise and energy of a small and dedicated steering committee that consists of three customers, one consultant, two IBMers and three retired mainframers. COMUG's mission is to provide education, co-support and socialization opportunities to its members. The group has monthly events; some are more educational, while others are more light-hearted and focusing on socialization.

Some past meetings include the year-end bowling and pizza party, and the annual "WAS Week" event. Over time, the group touched nearly every aspect of IBM z technology including Linux, z/OS, DB2, CICS, storage, high availability and disaster recover, and capacity planning.

COMUG has a member-only Wiggio presence, which will soon be switched to a LinkedIn group in order to better provide group management tools. COMUG is also on Meetup, in the hopes of attracting members from outside of the local user enterprises.  COMUG has no budget, no incorporation and no treasurer, so having IBM sponsor COMUG with free meeting rooms, the occasional free box of donuts and all-important coffee are welcome perks (pun intended).

Recently, COMUG has taken its mission of co-support to a new level; the group hopes to provide co-support to IBM with a project called "The COMUG Mainframe Franchise." In this franchise, the group executed a thought experiment wherein COMUG purchased the mainframe from IBM, and in so doing, sought new solutions to long-standing mainframe ecosystem problems. The group presented its findings at SHARE in San Antonio, and interesting discussions have ensued at both SHARE and IBM. If you’re interested in, or curious about COMUG, send any inquiries to: info@comug.info.

DFW z Systems User Group
The DFW z Systems User Group has also been around for about a decade. The group began as a grass-roots operation—where people wanted a chance to get together to network and learn. It’s a true user group in that the content and direction are specified by its attendees. IBM provides support through facilities and, when requested, presenters.

An IBMer handles the group administration, but direction is set by a group and advisory council. The group meets once a quarter, alternating Tuesdays and Thursdays to accommodate those who have standing meetings at work. Each meeting features content nominated by the group, and there is plenty of time for socializing and networking. Attendees can also enjoy games and trivia related to meeting topics, which brings a lighter side to the meetings.

The group has also done some social events in the past, such as happy hours or baseball games. You can find information about the group on its webpage or by contacting Jennifer Foley.

Looking for Personalized Groups

COMUG and the DFW z Systems User Group are just two examples of grass-roots localized z Systems users groups, and many more exist. So how do you find them? On Google of course. However, if you come up short on your Google search, you can always contact one of the authors of this article, as we have compiled a list of about two-dozen local-level groups touching upon z topics. Some user groups are for general purposes, like COMUG, while others are more "role-related," like CODUG (the Central Ohio DB2 User Group).

There are groups in Kansas City, Washington D.C., Raleigh and many other places. Most have IBM support and IBM sponsorship of some kind, and most are low to no cost to join and participate. Most importantly, all of them want and need more members.

So what if you still can’t find a user group that suits you? What if the nearest group is too far away? What if the local user group is oriented toward a role that you don’t play? To answer these questions—start your own group. All it takes is a little determination, as well as a few friends and/or co-workers (and having an IBMer on board would be helpful too) to generate the nexus for a user group. That's how our groups started, and if we can do it, so can you.


Learn More
SHARE user group
IBM training and skills 
z Council groups
z/VSE community


Monte Bauman is a certified IT Specialist and z Systems Technical Support Professional. Monte is focused on LinuxONE and Fit for Purpose analysis, helping customers understand the fit of z Systems and LinuxONE solutions as well as the processes appropriate to repeatedly and effectively map software to hardware meeting IT optimization criteria for requirements and cost. He can be reached at mbauman@us.ibm.com.

Jennifer Foley is an integrated architect for the worldwide Client Center for Systems Innovation with IBM. She can be reached at foleyje@us.ibm.com.

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