Insight 2015 Brain Dump


I call my post-conference blog posts brain dumps because that is largely what they are – information formatted in a way my brain understands but not necessarily as thoroughly organized and researched as you might be used to seeing from me.

Conference Generalities


Overall Themes

I sure wish that DB2 was more highlighted overall, but I’m sure that’s largely a personal bias. I find Insight to be very buzzword oriented. This year’s buzzwords were clearly Cognitive and Spark.


Big Data is no longer enough. Analytics (which I have had to add into all my spell checkers) is no longer enough. The new thing is cognitive computing – the using of “machine learning” and Watson Analytics on data and natural language. This is certainly a fascinating area, but I probably heard the word cognitive 50 times by 10 am every day. I’m still not sure how well this currently applies to mainstream analytics – actually using Watson must be ridiculously expensive, and I’m fairly sure that Watson itself is not behind some of the things they’re labeling as Watson Analytics. Are they going to try to rename DB2 to WatsonDB next year? Or maybe CognitiveDB?


There was an interesting focus on using Spark for Hadoop. Both Insight and IDUG EMEA really seem to be focusing in it.


There were no drop-in labs this year, and I missed them. Many labs were fully booked before the conference started, and there were lines for everyone on standby. I felt they could have done better here. I also didn’t find all the technical topics I wanted – I really wanted a lab on pureScale. Several weeks before the conference, I signed up for just one lab – Introduction to Data Science, but was put on standby at that time. When I got to the lab center, I found at least 20 people ahead of me in the standby line vying for what looked like about 8 open spots. Because of all this, I didn’t end up in a single lab this year.


The food was just fine for provided meals. I’m a vegetarian and that goes fairly well at this conference, but I still dislike the way meals are done at this conference. The conference attendance includes people with a variety of backgrounds and job descriptions, and all 10,000 (or however many actually attend the meals) are herded into the dining room and directed to random areas. So my chance of running into anyone I know or who does what I do is very low. Contrast this to a smaller conference like IDUG where whoever I sit with, they will have SOMETHING to do with DB2, and sitting randomly can be an interesting way to meet new people with whom I share some kind of common interest. I wish that for this conference, they would split the dining room by broad specialties so I would be more likely to have something in common with the people I end up sitting with.


I LOVED the silly signs on the long walks this week. These made me smile, and made the long walks more doable.





Event Connect. You’d think that for a conference that is all about integrating and making sense out of data that the data in event connect could sync with your calendar. Or that the app could actually work on Android (or on my Android anyway). This conference is hard to navigate due to its size, and having to pull out my iPad to see where I was to go next and having even that not work sometimes was frustrating. I may go the route I saw some doing this year and actually print things out on paper – something I usually make fun of others for, but having no idea where to go next is no fun.


Tuesday’s General Session

Before the general session, mine was one of the IBM Champion profiles that was displayed. It was pretty cool seeing my own face 8 feet tall.
I was offended by the promotion of a violent gun-promoting video game. At one point on the big screen, there was a gun-sight logo up on the screen, and on the adjacent screen was a picture of a mother and child with an iPad. It was distasteful. Wasn’t there any non-violent game that could have been promoted instead?

Wednesday’s General Session

I found Fredi Lajvardi really inspiring. I think his was the best speech of the whole conference. I love to hear good teachers speak about how deep their thought process goes for nurturing and inspiring students.
Ron Howard and Brian Grazer were also interesting.

Technical sessions

I love the technical sessions at a conference. My favorite speaker as always was Melanie Stopfer. She had a new presentation this conference on Memory management, and it was great. Even though I have directly discussed this topic with Melanie directly, I learned from the session. There were tons of other great technical sessions, and I have so many things to work on and to research that I don’t really even know where to start. I have some great things around BLU to work on.

Blog Ideas

I haven’t really reported this before. I don’t tend to lack for ideas anymore, but I always get a ton from the sessions I’m in. Even when I have seen some presentations before or I have a pretty high level of mastery of the topic, I still get ideas on how to blog on the idea or teach about it. Some that I hope to work on that came from this conference are:

  • Encryption concepts – maybe a summary linking to other sources?
  • Native Encryption key rotation
  • SQL to figure out the minimum table size to have at least one extent for each column
  • How to monitor for join and group by spilling (BLU/non-BLU)
  • Taking snapshot-level backup using GPFS
  • Research if you can use views on mon_get table functions to restrict permissions
  • Default workload management, both with and without BLU
  • Tuning sortheap and thresh, with and without BLU
  • What to do on BLU when someone comes to you with “I have a slow query”
  • For that matter, what to do on Row-Organized tables when someone has a slow query, though that requires far less research than the last one
  • Try out DSM query tuning and blog about it
  • Blog on how to find indexes that could go from 4 levels to 3 levels if they were on a larger page size (do I even have any to test that on?)
  • Review blogs on tuning package cache, and see if I’ve covered it enough
  • R&D’s demo on Spark and the insert speeds they’re getting there

I don’t promise all of those will make it through, but those are the things that stood out to me as the best blog ideas of the conference. I don’t think there was any single session like last year that I felt should have been named “10 things Ember should blog about”, but lots of good ideas sprinkled throughout.

Geeking out with DB2 Friends

This is one of my favorite parts of the week – seeing and hanging out with old friends. The Expo hall is actually really useful for this.
Before the General Session on Wenesday

In the Expo Hall

In the Expo hall with a new Spanish friend

Ian crashing a car that’s running on WebSphere

Social Media

I also very much enjoy the Twitter scene at IBM Insight. I always find interesting new people to follow, and this year, I passed 600 followers on Twitter. I created a Storify of some of my favorite moments:

Women in Technology

I haven’t generally been vocal on issues related to this, but I am obviously a female in a field that is, at least in the USA, very strongly male. I’m not making any judgments about Insight or IBM here, just observations. In sessions, I saw precisely one female speaker (and one in the TAB on Sunday). The representation on the main stage was much better than that, and I loved seeing female engineers, astronomers, and executives represented there.

As far as attendees, I thought it would be interesting to track the number of women vs. men in the sessions I was in. There were a few sessions I missed counting, and people come in and out of sessions – arriving late, leaving early, so I don’t promise all the counts are accurate – they were as of the time they were taken, usually about 10 to 15 minutes into the session. I also judge male or female based on outward appearance, which I figure is fairly likely to match with gender identity. Here are the breakdowns, without mentioning specific sessions:

Session Identifier Total Attendees Female Attendees Percent of the Audience that was Female
TAB 67 11 16.4%
1896A 40 4 10%
1489A 15 3 20%
3587A 56 13 23.2%
3593A 32 5 15.6%
3039A 22 5 22.7%
1118A 50 10 20.0%
3916A 28 8 (!) 28.6%
2033A 26 5 19.2%
3028A 47 4 8.5%
(female speaker)
79 14 17.7%
1964A 31 5 16.1%
(female speaker)
81 9 11.1%
1581A 67 12 17.9

Next Year

I plan to go again next year. I find this conference valuable. Guess where it is next year? Same place it has been for at least the last 9 years!

Ember Crooks
Ember Crooks

Ember is always curious and thrives on change. She has built internationally recognized expertise in IBM Db2, spent a year working with high-volume MySQL, and is now learning Snowflake. Ember shares both posts about her core skill sets and her journey learning Snowflake.

Ember lives in Denver and work from home

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One comment

  1. Hi Ember,

    was great to meet you at IBM Insight and of course we met multiple times during various sessions.

    All the sessions I attended were great and too many things to learn. I always say that “If you think you are smart, go to one of these conferences, and it will change the way you think”

    And yes BTW, that EventConnect app didn’t work very well for me either 🙁

    Hope to see you soon in more events.


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