Share exec spells out user group's wish list

Share, a Chicago-based IBM user group, has assembled a "wish list" of things it would like vendors to do to address some of the IT issues large enterprises face. Many of the items on Share's list call for improved vendor interoperability around file systems and identity management, according to Share President Robert Rosen, who is also CIO of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. Rosen also outlined the user group's motives and some of its needs in an interview with Computerworld. Among the items on the group's list: enterprise-worthy open-source software, easier server consolidation, interoperable calendaring capabilities, longer-lasting batteries for mobile computing, and a standards-based distributed file system.

By doing this, are you trying to make Share and user groups more relevant at a time when the trend seems to be in the opposite direction?

I disagree. I don't think user groups have become less relevant, but I think what we're really doing is getting the word to a broader audience about the kinds of things that Share is involved in and doing. This has to do with the big IT shop, the enterprises -- where are their pain points? Where would they like some relief?

Why is it important for Share to do this?

I think it's important because we're the people in the trenches. We're the people living with these problems, and we need these kinds of solutions.

Many of the things that you are asking for require multivendor cooperation, particularly around standards and interoperability, including file system, identity management and calendaring interoperability. Is that a major thrust?

We are seeing more and more of our people interested in the open systems and very much interested in standards. Nobody has a one-vendor shop anymore. Even the vendors don't have one-vendor shops anymore. They've got to work together, and standards are the only thing that is gong to make this work.

Do you think your members, many of whom are IT managers, are aggressive enough in demanding interoperability from vendors?

I am sure there are some that are aggressive enough and others who aren't. I think that's one of the strengths that Share brings to the process. We can leverage the voice of these managers in a more concentrated way. We're representing 2,200 organizations, 80% of the Fortune 500. That's a strong voice.

Do you intend to cite examples of vendor products that meet your requirements for interoperability?

Typically, those things are presented at a Share meeting. People will come and say, "Here's my experience with Vendor X or Vendor Y. Here's how it works with the standard, or didn't work." Again, here's one of things that make the user group relevant: You can get that information and participate in those kinds of discussions.

If you were the rank the things on this list, what would want addressed first?

It really depends. Different companies are going to have different pain points. More and more, as we move to the mobile stuff, the battery life has become a bigger and bigger issue. I think easier use of open software in making it enterprise-worthy -- so it installs, operates, and you can manage it in a manner that works in an enterprise -- I think that's going to be one of the big areas.

What open-source systems in particular?

Certainly, Linux is one.

You don't think that's enterprise-worthy yet?

It still takes too much tweaking to really get up to where you want it be. Some people have that down, but especially in the small to midsize marketplace, without the big IT staffs, that's an issue for a lot of them. The one thing that is going to be really interesting is the whole OpenOffice arena. Everybody says that buying Microsoft Office is expensive, but the retraining cost to go to another package is astronomical. So I don't know how you work all that out.

Is there anything on this list that is IBM-specific? What will you ask IBM to do from this list?

The Parallel File System [a high-performance cluster file system] is one area we are seeing a lot of interest in. Another one is the cell processor for high-performance computing. Granted, most of the enterprises don't view themselves as HPC organizations, [but] in fact more and more of them are -- and how would you work with this new processor? The other one -- this one was an interesting one -- you want to ensure continuation of people coming into the IT field. You keep hearing that the IT field is not a good field to go into anymore, yet my personal belief is that it still is.

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