Operating Systems

It’s been a busy month in the VM and Linux world. I just returned from the 2012 VM Workshop at the University of Kentucky, which was held June 27 to June 30. For those of you who haven’t encountered the VM Workshop, it’s a revival of an older conference of the same name and purpose; it’s a totally user-driven, two-and a-half day conference organized by a small, grass-roots group of volunteers who talk about and share their knowledge of VM and Linux in the VM environment. The workshop is held on college campuses during the summer months to keep costs low (can you imagine $17 a night housing? Dorm life at it’s finest!), and delivers the same high-quality content you see at larger conferences in a far more intimate setting. For $100 a person, including meals, you can’t beat the price.

Attendance this year was up substantially, and the mix of great content in the classroom and the proverbial hallway bull sessions was more fun than ever. Where else can you end up in the dorm lounge after hours discussing everything from 1401 programming to operations management for the delivery of pasteurized processed cheese foods?

This year’s workshop had several interesting topics worth mentioning: First, this year is VM’s 40th anniversary. To honor that, naturally, it was the occasion for a party, and the opening session reflected that festivity. About 10 years ago, a copy of the original VM/370 announcement document and the slides and script for the IBM announcement presentation came into my possession. We opened the conference with me giving a repeat of that presentation in its entirety—all 52 wonderfully psychedelic, colored 35mm slides—with some great interjections from the audience on the finer points of the presentation, since they’d actually been there. Chuck Morse, a recently retired IBMer, familiar to many from his constant trade show and VM education presentations, discussed how he had given the presentation repeatedly and how it had changed his career to become one of the champions of VM in the days when VM wasn’t cool at IBM. The party at the end of day one was (in the tradition of all VM events) an epic event—spice cake and a very fine dinner. The VM bear mascot, M. Edgar Beargen, made an appearance on his world tour, and hoisted a few with a great crowd.

After all that history, we turned to the present and the future. A range of VM and Linux luminaries from widely diverse companies—and people who paid their own way to share their knowledge—presented both technical and business topics. Topics ranged from a detailed insider view of the VM scheduler by Kevin Adams (one of the CP maintainers from IBM Endicott) to performance tuning sessions by IBM’s Bill “Parity” Bitner and Barton Robinson of Velocity Software, to user experiences with Linux cloning by Jim Moling at the U.S. Treasury Department. One of the most popular non-technical talks was Len Diegel’s “Linux on z: Why Some People Get It and Others Don’t,” which was based on his personal experience explaining the Linux on z business case to upper management. Bill also shared the VM roadmap for the future—tasty stuff. There were also several “first time” presenters such as Leland Lucius’ “Building a Linux-Based Batch Farm.” The VM Workshop’s history made it a great place to share good ideas in a friendly environment.

There’s one other thing that stood out above the technical content, something that speaks to the core of the VM community: we take care of our own. One of the attendees had a major medical problem during the conference, and a group of attendees came to his rescue, treating him with competence and compassion mixed with as much support as could be provided. Watching the VM community gather, get the fellow the help he needed, going to the campus hospital with him, and taking care of getting his family on site—all without even thinking twice—it was clear that it’s what we do in the VM community, no questions asked. That’s rare in any environment, and I’m proud to be associated with people who think that way—and make it a real part of their lives.

By the time you read this, presentations and pictures should be available at www.vmworkshop.org. Check it out and consider volunteering to help! You couldn’t meet a nicer bunch of people, and everyone’s welcome.