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The People’s Group

By Destination Z posted Mon December 23, 2019 03:41 PM


The history of SHARE Inc., an independent, volunteer-run information technology association, predates the mainframe itself. This year, the organization is celebrating its 60th year as a user group that provides education, professional networking and industry influence to the enterprise IT community. View a brief history of SHARE here.

Destination z talked with current SHARE President James Vincent, of Nationwide Insurance, about the history and future of the group, and what attendees can expect at the upcoming SHARE event in Orlando from Aug. 9 to 14.

Destination z (Dz): How did SHARE begin, especially since it pre-dates the mainframe itself?
James Vincent (JV): SHARE was formed in 1955 and, as a group, focused on the IBM 701, 704 and 709 machines. These were the business-class machines in use before the IBM 360 was developed. Since the idea of “red books” and “user experiences” was not yet established, a core group of the users of these IBM systems got together to share their solutions and experiences, and to offer IBM feedback to make the systems and software much better.

Dz: What do you most attribute to SHARE’s continuing success and longevity?
JV: Hands down, it has to be the people. The passion of members and volunteers along with the vendor partners of SHARE have made the biggest contributions to our longevity. Mix into that the technology advancements of enterprise computing and the evolution of mainframe systems and it paints a great picture of SHARE’s success.

SHARE’s values have been and always will be to provide pertinent, useful and honest information to our member companies and their delegates, who are our event attendees. This means we have a priority to offer real user experiences in order to get the good, the challenging and even the pit-fall information into the hands of others facing the same challenges. We also encourage multiple vendors to participate in many topic areas.

Dz: What role does SHARE play in the mainframe community, both in the past and present?
JV: SHARE has been and will continue to be the No. 1 resource that our member companies turn to when they need information and guidance on what is happening in enterprise IT computing.

If you look at our tagline, it really sums it up nicely: Educate, Network, Influence. We provide current and useful education on enterprise computing, an environment that fosters peer-to-peer networking, and engagement between our community members that influences vendor and industrywide change.

Dz: What are a few of the big impacts the group has had on the mainframe community and platform in the past 60 years?
JV: There’s plenty to say about the advancements, impacts and successes that have been accomplished over the past 60 years of SHARE. A sampling of these impacts includes:

• The thousands of requirements that have been submitted to IBM and ISVs, and the high percentage of them accepted
• The work of the ASCII-EBCDIC task force to produce one worldwide character set
• Convincing IBM to release REXX just one year after EXEC 2 was released
• A role in keeping z/VM relevant by showing its true potential in hosting Linux virtual servers
• The creation and support of zNextGen to provide a community and education focus for new IBM z Systems professionals

Dz: How do current technology shifts affect SHARE?
JV: Technology is ever changing and SHARE will always be right there with it. One of the challenges is that changes in technology are happening more rapidly. For instance, cloud computing has developed and is being considered and adopted more now than it has been over the last few years. As cloud computing is being evaluated more in enterprise IT, both public and private cloud, we are seeing that not all organizations see it as the right solution for them; however, the adoption rate is still on a steady incline and we are seeing more interest in SHARE building additional focus on IT architecture than ever. SHARE will focus on the needs of our members as technology changes.

Dz: Looking forward to the next few years, what are SHARE’s big priorities and directions?
JV: Our main goal is to keep SHARE as the No. 1 resource that member companies turn to when they need information and guidance on what is happening in enterprise IT computing. We have established initiatives to not only improve access to SHARE resources for our members and for others interested in what we have to offer, but we are also working on new thought leadership projects that will provide timely, valued information to enterprise IT professionals.

Additionally we have a goal to build leadership development opportunities for SHARE volunteers that provide them with the tools necessary to lead both within our user group and within their own careers. Enabling people to lead effectively opens so many doors on a personal and organizational level.

Dz: Why did SHARE recently change its mission?
JV: We did not change the core logo, but we did change the tagline on it to match what SHARE is more succinctly. We also updated our mission to reflect this…to make our message clearer and more succinct. We want to ensure that it is obvious to someone new to SHARE that we deliver education, networking and influence for our Member organizations. All three of those key offerings embody what SHARE is.

Dz: What do you see the future holding for SHARE and the mainframe?
JV: There are challenges that we deal with now that will have an impact on what our future holds. For instance, the Internet has been a great boon for many reasons but there is a limitation to it. Many companies tend to have a philosophy that employees can simply “get on the Internet” to find the training they need. SHARE sees this as a missed opportunity for both the employees and their companies. There is tremendous value in networking face-to-face and interacting with people from around the world that share the same passion of excellence in IT. Not only does it help the employee grow in his or her career, but it can also provide good press to the company by showcasing thought leadership.

An opportunity I see is around security. Specifically raising awareness around mainframe security. Security is a big deal and there is little doubt that protecting customer identity, strategic internal corporate data and more are top-of-mind for practically all IT executives. SHARE is looking to help with this topic by providing more insight into the best mainframe security practices. SHARE had a fantastic keynote this past March during SHARE in Seattle, Philip Young, who encouraged the thought of doing more around mainframe security ‘hacking’—offering people the chance to try to break in to a mainframe. This is a way to not only show the strength of a well-configured system but also to plug any holes that no one thought about.

Dz: What can we expect regarding commemorating 60 years of SHARE?
JV: SHARE in Orlando is shaping up to be a really tremendous event! We will have a commemoration area showing the rich history of SHARE as well as all of the key individuals who have done so much for SHARE and the industry over the years. Many of our SHARE past presidents and many others will be there to celebrate with us, too. Further, we will highlight what SHARE is now, and what there is to look forward to from SHARE over the next 60 years.

Our focus is to make the event something very special for our members, delegates and volunteers. SHARE has done some phenomenal things throughout the past 60 years, but it is really more about the people that made it all happen and those that continue with a strong passion, to make SHARE as successful as it is. We want to make the celebration special for all of them.

Dz: What are the overall focuses of SHARE in Orlando?
JV: The overall focus is security. This topic is still strong and will continue to be for some time. There are still a lot of questions around best practices along with software, processes and procedures being developed to address current issues. SHARE is going to be working hard to get the best and most current information around mainframe security made available.

There is also a new program starting in Orlando called “New to z Systems.” This program is intended to help onboard people that are new to z Systems technology quickly so that they can go back to their companies with a foundation of skills and be successful in their roles.

There will also be a lot of content around the new IBM z13 mainframe, the z/OS 2.2 release, and other key hot topic areas such as mobile and social networking in the enterprise, cloud as a disruptive technology and big data/big analytics. To browse all educational content, visit

Dz: What will you be focusing on during your term as president?
JV: It is hard to believe but I will only have one more year after Orlando before the next SHARE president is elected. My focus will be to continue building the leadership of SHARE in order to do what the organization needs for our member companies. We have a number of initiatives that we have started and some we are considering that can be beneficial to our member companies that are important to me to see come to fruition. Our website redesign has recently rolled out and we are also working on an initiative to provide thought-leadership in the form of papers that will include timely, valued information for enterprise IT professionals.

One project that has rolled out is our new “SHARE’d Intelligence” e-newsletter which offers insight from SHARE leadership, thought leadership from other key people in the industry and current news from the IT world.

Dz: How did you get involved with SHARE?
JV: I have been attending SHARE events since 1993. I started attending because I had heard my fellow peers at my company talk about what they got from attending SHARE events. I had been attending a vendor conference for a while, and thought I would try SHARE to see what it would be like.

The first time was very overwhelming, simply because I wanted to be in at least three places at once. There was so much offered that it was hard to choose what to go to. The value I got from attending SHARE was tremendous in that I was able to solve challenges and issues back at work, and I also made contacts through the networking opportunities that helped me through questions or issues later on.

From all that I got from attending SHARE, I thought it would be good to give something back. I began speaking on topics that were important to my fellow peers and offering my insight on things I got to work on before most others. This opportunity not only helped my name to be recognized more, but it showed that my company had people contributing to enterprise IT solutions. From there, I began serving in various volunteer roles at SHARE. The technical content is something I value as an IT professional but I personally find the opportunity to learn and practice leadership skills particularly rewarding. Many of the leadership skills that I have honed are extremely valuable to my employer and I would not have had the opportunity to grow them had it not been for my involvement with SHARE.

Dz: What are your favorite SHARE memories?
JV: My most favorite memory highlights the value of networking. Many years ago I was presenting a session on the new IBM z/VM OS that was recently released and that my company had helped with as an “Early Ship” participant. In that talk, I made mention of a pain-point where when the system is started, we really need key operational users automatically logged on to a physical terminal for monitoring and alerting. The ability to log a user on to a physical terminal was not available in z/VM.

After the talk, during one of the evening receptions, some people were asking me about my presentation and I was chatting with them about it. The powerful thing about networking at SHARE is that all are welcome to join in and in this group was an IBM architect that had heard my pain-point in my session. He asked more about it and gave a lot of “what if” questions that he wanted my feedback on. The others also gave feedback and suggestions. That conversation resulted in that very feature being added to the next release of z/VM.

I was—and still am!—really amazed at the power of participating at SHARE and how networking with fellow IT professionals can turn into real solutions.

Dz: Anything else you would like to add?
JV: Thank you Destination z for this opportunity! Destination z is a fellow community that focuses on all aspects of mainframe technologies, and SHARE is very proud to be part of it.

Valerie Dennis is site editor of
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