The database conference organization I’ve focused on for most of my career – IDUG (International Db2 Users Group) is not interested in cross-platform content. Despite being a top speaker most conferences, they are not interested in content from me that covers things like transitioning from Db2 to MySQL or technical writing about database concepts. I don’t really begrudge them this – it is their decision to stay laser-focused on a small group of technologies, and to avoid professional development in other areas if they so choose. I had hoped I could keep speaking and attending and creating some wider content for them, but I’ll be looking for new directions instead.
I asked two questions about multi-platform work when I was speaking this year, and in the entirely unscientific sample of people who attended my session about running Db2 in containers, nearly all of them either had worked or were currently working on at least one other platform outside of Db2.
Up until earlier this year, I was laser-focused on Db2. From that perspective, the focus of a conference and user groups on a single platform made a lot of sense. However, now that I am working on another RDBMs, a more database-focused, but platform-diverse approach makes more sense. The question is – am I the only one? Am I missing content, users groups, and conferences that span multiple platforms? Is “database” or even “RDBMS” too broad of a category for content? I would love to be able to do presentations that focus on a database topic such as locking or logging, go into detail on a couple of platforms and maybe mention a few others, but other than this blog, I’m not sure where such content would feel at home.
I am aware of conferences like pydata that focus on working with data using a specific language and may include some RDBMS content.
I am also aware of conferences like VLDB, which focus on a particular type of database. There also seem to be a number of academically focused conferences. As I dig through what is available, I start to wonder if there aren’t already too many different ways of defining content.
I suspect there are a couple of issues at play here beyond too many ways of dividing and conquering. First, I don’t have any desire to instigate database wars. I don’t want to talk or argue about which platform is “better” and why. Not only because this might run me afoul of a DeWitt clause in a software licensing agreement, but also because this is not a productive way to spend time. Talking about strengths and weaknesses well supported with data is fine, but it will be rare for any two database practitioners to truly benefit from all out war.
I also suspect funding is a major issue. Many conferences are funded in whole or part by a vendor either of the RDBMS or tools relating to it. For the closed source platforms this is obvious, but is true even for open source. For example, there is PerconaLive, which focuses on open source databases. These vendors might not want to sponsor something where they have to compete with another vendor for floor space, presentation space, and mind space. Is there any conference where I could speak about Db2 (closed source, IBM) and open source (MySQL) and actually have an audience?
Some conferences, like IDUG, are driven by the dedication of a focused user group, and that user group defines what they want to work on or with, and their focus likely depends on the factors above along with where the most dedicated volunteers think the organization should go. Is it hard to be passionate about “relational databases” and find a community of those who are like-minded and want to explore similarities and differences between platforms?
One thing to also mention is that while I find a good user group an amazing resource, in general, membership in the ones I participate in has been declining. This could be a result of the market share of Db2 falling, it could be a result of a decline in having dedicated database professionals on staff, or it could be a generational divide or change in how people prefer to learn and interact with others. Or some other factor entirely. I still find a lot of value in meeting with others who do a similar job in different organizations – learning from others is huge for me.
Help me readers! Share with me in the comments how you would feel about a cross-platform RDBMS conference or users’ group and what your thoughts are on the barriers to this when so many of us work with multiple products!
I completely agree Ember; I think the days of being a single-product DBA may have gone. At the very least we need to be able to compare and contrast (as you say, no value in starting internecine warfare in the RDBMS community) so that we can advise customers on what is the best option. DB2 may not always be it but, by the same token, I like to be equipped for a rational discussion about open source v closed, on-prem v cloud, etc. Some form of cross-platform group would be a real benefit
Looks more like a trend than one-off career change. At least the fellow dba’s I speak with in FiDUG are facing similar situations. Corporates are moving more and more to data-centric approach where certain RDMS does not anymore matter. Anyways, the technical staff are given these platforms to take care as granted. You sre welcome to present in Finnish user group anytime you would like 🙂
Have you taken s a look at the Dataversity conferences? They have several that focus on data issues, Moro than database issues, but they have database related content and works likely welcome your participation! Dataversity.net
I will take a look, thanks!
I completely understand you Ember! Beside the old joke/confusion, if the ‘I’ in IDUG stands for International or IBM, the conference focus is really on Db2. Even Db2 for SAP users are pretty neglected in the conference program. The mission of IDUG https://www.idug.org/about/about-idug is concise and – in a certain way – I like it that way.
First of all it is much easier to prepare the conference if you can neglect any confrontation by allowing plain Db2 related content. Second it is simpler for a DBA to ask the manager to go to a plain Db2 conference instead of a fuzzy defined, cover all conference like Think or a more general database conference. I guess, the reason why you came to IDUG was exactly the laser sharp focus, suiting your previous demands.
And as a previous CPC member I can add, your conference submission might have got other results, if the focus would have been other way round (e.g. Migrating to Db2 from MySQL, hence causing other potential issues for you). But even then it would have been a touchy topic.
You bring up many good points in your post. There have been many lively discussions in CPC and board meetings about what kind of content should be at IDUG conferences and many experiments have been made in adding content over the years. IIUG and IDUG hosted conferences in the same location a couple of times. One conference had IMS content in addition to Db2 content. Another experiment was the Data Tech Summit which focused more on data architecture and data science topics. It is really hard to move away from the original concept of the International Db2 Users Group and still remain true to Db2. I have not found any conference (except Oracle Cloud World) that has a lot of deep DBMS content that does not totally focus on one single DBMS. Oracle Cloud World is a bit different because they have two DBMS that have huge market shares. I am not sure looking at the conference site how many sessions they have for MySQL, though. I really enjoy attending All Things Open in Raleigh because they have great open source coverage but are actually pretty light on actual DBMS coverage. It would be interesting to go to a conference that has solid DBMS coverage of several DBMS but not sure what organization could pull off an event like that. Conferences are heavily dependent on the vendor community for funding and finding the right mix of vendors to support a mixed DBMS conference would be very tricky.