Friday, January 8, 2010

Top 10 List:What IT Managers should get for their team

As 2009 drew to a close I noticed a lot of articles from folks about resolutions and summaries of the year. I thought about doing something similar and then said to myself “let’s not reinvent the wheel, here!” But I still wanted to talk about a something to help IT managers and staff so I thought I’d put a new spin on the wish list concept. This list is my recommendation for what the IT Manager in an IBM i shop should get for staff in 2010.

Now many people are thinking why should the IT manager get me anything? Maybe you get a review and a couple of bucks each year. In the spirit of giving and capitalism, can’t we share a little more with the people who are producing in hopes of maybe building a better team? My list has 10 items that I think every IBM i shop should have and I will count them down to what I feel is the best item. Sorting them in order was no easy process and I still believe ALL of them have great value. I welcome comments from all members of the IT staff as responses to this piece. You never know if your boss is reading this and maybe will surprise you before Valentine’s Day!

#10 Upgrade to i6.1
No, IBM is not sponsoring my blog. Not yet, at least! (You listening, Craig?) Keeping current with patches, PTF’s and versions of the OS was one of the most important things I did as an IT director. It breaks my heart to run into folks who can only code RPG III style applications because some penny pincher locked the hardware or software at a certain level. I have talked to many companies still running V5R4 and I know that IBM has extended the life of that version. But please, take advantage of performance increases, database functionality, RPG features and great additions to the OS like CL commands for SSH in i6.1. Besides, getting current now will only make it easier to move to i7.1 this Spring! For those of you stuck on V5R4, the Zend stack still runs and is supported there.

#9 Plan your trip to ZendCon now!
November 1-4 is the date for the number one PHP event in the world. Wouldn’t it be an awesome way to motivate the team by offering a round trip to San Jose to meet and greet PHP developers from around the world sharing ideas and code regarding our favorite technology? I recently read a blog about a long time IBM i player and her first trip to ZendCon and how this will now be added in as an annual pilgrimage. I had the pleasure of meeting PHP developers for the IBM i from all over the globe. So plan for so many of your staffers this year and so many next year. Get it in the budget and I hope to see you there!

#8 Zend offers training credits
This is a really great way to tell your staff how much you appreciate them. Investing in education is expensive, but so is ignorance! Zend Training Credits offer the maximum flexibility to an IT manager while delivering a predictable expense. You purchase them in bulk and use them as the year rolls on for any online class that Zend offers. This way you do not lock you or your staff into a fixed training cycle. If they need a little more time between classes, they can take it. If they pick things up a little quicker you can accelerate their pace. This is the ultimate in flexibility and works well within tight budgets!

#7 Power 6 hardware
Upgrading your OS is great. Upgrading your hardware is even greater! Recently I had the opportunity to use a brand new Power 6 machine instead of the LPAR I have on a Power 5 box. I installed the Zend stack in a fraction of the time it usually takes me to complete the exercise. This means IBM is really delivering on its promise of more and more for less and less. If you are on lease you should seriously consider the cost savings in maintenance and productivity improvements of your staff and users by taking a good hard look at some new hardware. Give your BP a shout today!

#6 Development LPAR
Too many companies that I run into these days still have the developers in the same machine AND the same LPAR as production. This is a HUGE red flag for any ITIL or SOX compliance issue. But for years it was difficult to cost justify giving the developers their own box because the price was high and library lists worked too well. Well, as applications continue to get more and more complicated and middleware continues to get more and more integrated the library list is getting to be harder and harder to rely on. But fear not, if you upgrade to i6.1 on Power 6 hardware, IBM has implemented this new thing called Guest IBM i LPAR! These LPAR’s do not have the hardware requirements that the old LPAR’s had and can be configured in minutes instead of hours. Once you get the hang of it, you could fire up an LPAR for each developer. So if you cannot afford an additional machine, you can still isolate your developers from the production environment at a very low cost. Take a look at this great feature today! You know you want to upgrade, this could be a really good reason to find justification.

#5 Zend Developer Solution
So you are taking the leap into PHP and maybe you bought a little training. Your developers have avidly watched all of the IBM i webcasts out at and are actively building the next web page. But they get stuck on something. They read through the forums and are confused. They can do something a myriad of ways, but which is the best? Zend has the answer with the development bundle. The development bundle is very nice because it wraps a full versions of Zend Studio with telephone support along with a full version of Zend Platform with telephone support. This alone takes the bundle a great deal but for enterprise customers we throw in 8 hours of “how-to” consulting with one of our Zend PHP sharp-shooters! By giving the developers 2 incidents of 4 hours each in the standard package and 4 incidents of 4 hours each for Enterprise, you now have the ability to call Zend when you hit a brick wall or just plain want to understand something a little bit better. Zend Framework how to is included in the Enterprise package and has become VERY popular among IBM i shops. And if you run out of time, don’t worry. We would be happy to sell you more!

#4 PHP Architect Magazine
If your budget is REALLY tight then this will work for you. Our good friends at PHP Architect magazine publish a very affordable monthly magazine that is loaded with great PHP and Framework advice. Articles on all sorts of topics like best practices, IDE’s debugging and the latest and greatest concepts of UI development using PHP applications are available and you get both print and a PDF copy for the low-low price of $35 for the year of 12 issues. Don’t worry that the content would be too advanced. While some article really gets deep into the fun of PHP, there are others like the “HTML for Developers” piece in the October 2009 issue that is ideal for anyone looking to pick up PHP! One of the truly interesting pieces is the ElePHPants pictures. This is a page dedicated to folks traveling the world with their little blue PHP Elephants and snapping a candid shot in interesting places.

#3 Kevin and Jeff’s really good book – IBM i Programmers Guide to PHP
Anyone starting out with PHP on IBM i must get this book. This book was written by two guys who have excellent skills in their respective areas and a completely open mind about each other’s space. Kevin is a PHP sharpshooter who has a day job as a Technical Consultant at Zend and moonlights as a musician. Jeff is a long time IBM midranger and currently heads up iManifest and enjoys stargazing in the Southern California skies. This book covers a lot of the fundamentals of basic PHP and how it works on IBM i. Code samples and a companion website on Linked-In give you a great start with PHP. It is available from MC Press.

#2 COMMON 2010: 50 years and counting!
The annual COMMON conference is a must see for any IBM i developer, manager or administrator. The content is solid and lots of great speakers and attendees to network with. Plus a bunch of 50th anniversary activities for all to share. Staff will get a lot of good education and management needs to check out the ITEC conference where IT industry leaders get and exclusive executive experience that is second to none!. I will be there with a host of other PHP bigots talking about the latest features of IBM i, the Zend stack and much more. Not to mention the announcements about the new version of the operating system. Make your plans today and come join the fun. I will be at the Zend booth, presenting or hanging out with the CAAC members.

#1 Zend Server for IBM i
The next generation PHP stack for IBM i is currently in beta and due for GA sometime REALLY soon. This has easily been the best Christmas present I could have asked for. If you haven’t had a chance to download and play you are really missing out! There is no automated upgrade path from Zend Core/Platform to Zend Server and this implementation allows you to run parallel quite nicely. This allows existing PHP shops to continue working while testing the new stack all on the same LPAR. Enhanced performance and lots of new features like code tracing and Job Queue make this solution a must see. Plus we eliminated the Apache server inside PASE and cleaned up a lot of the administration with a single user interface. Easier implementation, administration and usage will give management and staff a lot to be thankful for this New Year. Yes, this stack will run on all supported IBM i operating systems (V5R4, i6.1 and whatever they decide to call the next one).

I hope my list helps your shop plan and enjoy 2010. I think there is a lot to chew on in there and many great places to show your staff you care by investing a little and getting a whole lot! Please let me know what is essential in your IT strategy for the New Year. Good luck in 2010 and God Bless!