Volume 23, Number 25 -- July 15, 2013

Infor Customers Are Really Happy With IBM i, Survey Finds

Published: July 15, 2013

by Alex Woodie

A recent survey performed by Infor's EMEA group found a very high degree of satisfaction with the IBM i server platform. The survey, released on the 25th anniversary of the launch of the AS/400, finds a strong belief among users that the system is "future proof." However, more than half of the users considered a lack of IBM i skills as a looming problem for themselves.

Infor's EMEA System i Survey 2013 puts into numbers the feelings toward the box expressed by more than 100 managers and high-level decision makers at organizations that use the IBM i server to run production applications (archive systems were not allowed). The survey was conducted in the Europe, Middle East, and Africa region this spring.

Infor says that 71 percent of its IBM i users agreed with the statement that the "System i platform is future-proof." Besides the fact that Infor apparently can't help but to call the platform by its old name (even as the name "IBM i" slowly creeps into usage at the third largest ERP vendor), this statistic shows that the separation of hardware and operating system firmware that IBM engineers purposely built into the system three decades ago is still relevant today. Infor says 7 percent disagreed with the statement.

Nearly two-thirds of survey participants agreed with the "widely-held belief that IBM i applications can be deployed faster and maintained with fewer staff" than they can on other systems. This helps validate the funds that IBM has spent on numerous total cost of ownership (TCO) studies that sought to demonstrate this advantage in numbers, although it is perhaps better to hear users say it. Only about 5 percent said the IBM i server has a worse TCO than other systems.

More than 70 percent of respondents say they are able to access the data they need to run their business. Most of the remainder was neutral on the topic, and about 8 percent disagreed with this statement. The users who are having trouble getting to data may be stymied by the platforms' native green screen user interface. More than 70 percent of users, overall, were either happy or neutral with the DOS look, while 27 percent said they were "unhappy to some degree."

Reliability is the hallmark of the IBM i server, and here the platform nailed a perfect score in Infor EMEA's survey: 100. As in, 100 percent of the Infor customers running IBM i 7.1 said the system was "very reliable." Interestingly, the percentage of users saying it's "very reliable" goes down to 97 percent for those running IBM i 5.4, (i.e. i5/OS V5R4, which IBM is in the process of renaming "The worst operating system ever, so get off it already!" Well, it is true about getting off it, and not true about the worse OS. . . . But you get the idea).

The only black mark illuminated by the survey (besides the propensity for V5R4 to give the green screen of death) is in the area of skills. According to Infor, 52 percent of respondents say "attracting and retaining critical IT skills is becoming a problem," while 26 percent were neutral and 22 percent disagreed. This begs the question of whether we have, indeed, "reached a tipping point on IBM i skills," as Infor suggests.

Infor also asked its IBM i customers questions about the cloud, but the results are a bit muddled. When asked whether the cloud could help with the skills shortage, more than 50 percent of the respondents shrugged their shoulders and gave a "neutral" response. One-third said the cloud could not help, which was surprising to Infor.

When Infor asked where its users are investing in the IBM i, the areas with the strongest responses were: reporting and analytics, mobile enablement, 24/7 high availability, and "additional functionality." About 10 percent of the respondents indicated they had no plans for investment. Of this percentage, 3 percent doubted the IBM i server could support their business needs over the next 10 years.

"It is clear from this research that a lot of businesses are still reliant on IBM i and that the platform is holding its own amongst younger technologies," states Paul Field, Infor general manager for System i in EMEA, in a statement accompanying the statistics.

"The reliability, cost-effectiveness, and security of the platform combine to make it virtually future-proof at 25 years old," Field continues. "This is in itself quite an achievement, but even more impressive is that the platform continues to remain relevant with new updates and investment in capabilities such as mobile or analytics. It is clear, however, that some of this investment will need to focus on maintaining a base of skilled staff that will form the basis of this continued ROI in years to come."

The results of the survey jibe with most other surveys conducted on the IBM i user base. That is to say, most IBM i professionals really, really like the machine, and believe it to be stable, cost-effective, secure, and relevant. Of course, these users are biased, and a good percentage of them would self-identify themselves as fans of the IBM i platform, or possibly even fanatics.

Thousands of these IBM i fanatics were on hand at the Inforum 2013 event held in Orlando, Florida, earlier this year. During the keynote events, every mention of "AS/400" or "System i" would evoke cheers from the crowd. With 16,000 customers around the world running its IBM i-based products--ranging from System21, XA, and LX to M3, Infinium, and A+--Infor is by far the biggest IBM i application vendor in the world.

Infor seems to realize that this sort of devotion to IT products is rare, outside of Apple, the most valuable company in the history of the world. It's always striking how IBM--known as the most button-down and conservative IT company in the history of the world--came to make a product that generated, and continues to generate, such loyalty and passion among its user base. With the competitive challenges facing the IBM i market, it's not something that Big Blue or its partners can afford to take for granted.


Silver Anniversary For Silverlake

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Scant New Talent Is Finding IBM i

IBM i Top Concerns: Build Skills, Add High Availability, Serve Users

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Editor: Timothy Prickett Morgan
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