Share Looks Back at 50 Years, Continues to Evolve

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- At the Share user group's conference here last week, a chunk of big-iron history was put on display as part of the group's 50th anniversary celebration. Display cases held items such as ancient tape spools and punch cards, prompting one gray-haired systems veteran to say this about all the mainframe memorabilia: "It's a bit sad when you actually remember them."

Chicago-based Share traces its start to a 1955 meeting of aerospace techies that included workers from rivals Boeing Airplane Co. and Lockheed Aircraft Corp., as the companies were known then. Group members began sharing IBM mainframe code, leading to the choice of the user group's name.

Fifty years later, the mainframe remains an important part of Share's focus. A hot topic among users at this year's conference was running Linux on mainframes, with many attendees saying that they're eyeing the open-source operating system as part of server consolidation strategies.

Pat Carroll, an enterprise technical architect who works on a mainframe at a large retailer and is a 30-year Share member, said that although many companies have moved applications to distributed environments, critical databases often remain on mainframes. "There is still an interest in keeping your family jewels on the mainframe," said Carroll.

Quirky items from Share's past were on display at the conference.
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Quirky items from Share's past were on display at the conference.
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But Share has also branched out to include distributed systems as many of its members have taken on responsibilities that extend beyond managing mainframes. "All the technologies have rolled over several times, but the problems have not gone away," said Anne Calvori, a past president of Share who works as an IT manager at a company that she asked not be identified.

Some 2,300 IT professionals were on hand at this year's event, well below the 6,000 or so attendees who showed up at one Share conference in the early 1990s. But Robert Rosen, Share's current president and a CIO at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., said that conference attendance is picking up slightly again and that the number of dues-paying members in the user group has remained stable at about 2,300 companies.

A button from 1969.
A button from 1969.
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