What’s in Store for 2006? The iSeries Community Predicts
January 3, 2006 Mary Lou Roberts
One of the best games for the end of one year and the beginning of a new one is sitting around the fire with friends, sipping egg nog, munching on cookies, feeding Aunt Millie’s fruitcake to the dogs (who actually like it), and reminiscing about times past. But even more fun (especially after the libations have mellowed the guests) are the predictions of what’s to come in the new year. Folks in the iSeries community are no slouches at prognosticating their own futures, and several of them were kind enough to share their thoughts–some of them obviously tongue in cheek–with me.
Ed Garrett, programmer/analyst for Royal Home Fashions predicts that early in the new year, we’ll see the following come over the news wires: “IBM, in an effort to curb rampant enthusiasm for the iSeries, changed its name again in January 2006. However, the new name is IBM confidential, and was only disclosed after Robert Novak was given the name that had been leaked to a reporter. The reporter, Mary Lou Roberts, was locked up for 85 days in Rochester when she refused to disclose her source. She was freed when an appellate court ruled that she was not an enemy combatant and that she was being abused by the guards at Rochester. IBM is appealing the ruling. In a news release, the publisher, IT Jungle, emphasized its confidence in Ms. Roberts and vowed to stand behind her. (Actually, quite a distance behind her.) Meanwhile, the appeals court has granted IBM a temporary injunction prohibiting the use of the new name. IT Jungle, with some grumbling, has complied and will not only refer to “the system formerly known as iSeries” in its publication. IBM management in Rochester has denied any wrongdoing, declaring that ‘she had it coming.'”
Mike Crump, manager, computing services, Saint-Gobain Containers believes that by the end of 2006, we’ll have reported four significant events. First, in a stunning announcement, IBM will release details on its new multiple on-demand system. Frank Soltis will state, “This system is the ultimate machine for our SMB customers and is the realization of many of the speeches that I have made over the last few years.” The new system will not only support OS/400 but, instead of the traditional support for Linux or AIX, it will contain support for on-demand processors that support the Microsoft, Nintendo, or Sony modern gaming systems. When necessary, an iSeries customer can activate a processor to play Microsoft 360, Nintendo Revolution, or PS/3 games. In keeping with IBM traditions, the system will be branded under multiple monikers. In breaking with tradition, it will be branded all of those names from Day 1. The new system will be referred to as the “i5-i360-iRevolution-iPS/3” or “i to the 4th” or “iQuint” or “iQuatro” or . . . . wait for the official IBM announcement for details.
Second, Crump predicts that, in a not-so-surprising announcement, IBM’s chief financial officer will announce the licensing for the iQuatro. If the on-demand function is not used, a customer will be charged the traditional $45,000 per processor OS/400 license fee. If any on-demand processor is activated, that charge will increase to $75,000 for OS/400. Depending on which gaming console is activated, the customer may have to pay Microsoft $300, Nintendo $290, or Sony $310. “We view this as a fair and equitable way to charge the customer,” Loughrin will say. “No other machine can do this function, so it makes sense to charge them more for it. Besides, this kind of logic worked with our charging for 5250 capacity, so we thought we’d try it again.”
Crump’s third prediction is that IBM’s Malcolm Haines will announce a new position at IBM: Official iSeries Propaganda Minister. Haines will explain, “Now that I have a marketing budget, my workload in working with customers has increased to the point that I can no longer spend the many fruitless hours marketing iSeries internally within IBM. Besides Frank Soltis, Mark Shearer, Peter Bingaman, and I are tired of pulling double duty within our own company.” Our own Timothy Prickett Morgan, president of Guild Companies and editor in chief at IT Jungle, has already accepted the position, which rotates every two years. Prickett Morgan will point out, “If I’m going to be ignored, I might as well get paid for it.”
Finally, in a strange twist, Crump predicts that IBM will rename the iSeries or i5 to eServer. All other IBM platforms will now be referred to as the non-eServers. “e” stands for easy to support, easy to secure, easy to make stable, easy to grow. No other platform met that criteria–thus, the separation. The good news is that many marketing tools and products will still carry the eServer label, so it will be a cost-effective move. As expected, the other divisions will reject the non-eServer branding.
A systems analyst (who wishes to remain unnamed) employed at an end-user iSeries shop predicts that IBM will adopt a pricing strategy that rewards long-term AS/400-iSeries customers for running 5250 applications written in RPG. IBM will also improve the performance of WebSphere and Java to match 5250 RPG and will provide enhancements and improve the performance of the WebSphere Development Studio tools to make them a better environment than PDM/SEU for maintaining older RPG applications. Finally, memory and disk drive pricing will be reduced to that of competitive servers. (But, being serious for a moment, he actually believes that IBM will do none of the above, and will lose market share to Linux/Apache/PHP/MySQL servers operating in clustered, redundant configurations that are priced an order of magnitude less than current iSeries servers. Thud.)
And then there’s the forecast of Brian Kelly, of Kelly Consulting. First, Kelly prophesies that, just like when IBM stopped using the term “SE billable services” back in 1970 when charging for support that had not yet come of age, in 2006, the “eServer homogenizers” will all be bottled up and sent off to fertilize other pastures. They may start a rock group of the same name because nobody will understand it. The name “eServer” will disappear, and nobody with a good job in IBM will remember it again.
Kelly also predicts that IBM will let Malcolm Haines direct its first one-hour infomercial on the i5. This infomercial will be in two parts. Part I will chronicle the life of a Maytag repairman (MTR) and will attempt to explain why these guys seemingly only need a few hours of sleep per night. Of course, the chronicling will mostly be the buzzing of the schnoz of the MTR and an occasional startle and almost neck-break as the phone rings and he must make a five-minute service call. The infomercial will show Haines playing the part of the MTR, squawking about what a terrible job it is to have no work. As he laments of his plight, he will say, “Aha–there is one worse job.” The scene will then switch, and for the next part of the infomercial, the camera will zoom in on Haines, now playing the IBM iSeries Repairman, dressed in Doctor Dentons and with a stocking on his head. He is sound asleep, snoring in bed under the covers with the lights out at the IBM i5 Repair Depot. The word “REPAIR” on the sign has the international cross-out symbol on it. The infomercial continues for another 19 minutes until the illuminated clock says 5:15 p.m. (IBM quitting time). Then the alarm rings and a voice says, “Wake up, Malcolm. It’s time to go home. Your work is done for the day.”
Of course, no forecast for the future of the iSeries would be complete without knowing what’s in store for COMMON. Beverly Russell, COMMON president, fills us in on what’s coming up in 2006: “In order to keep step with IBM on regularly “refreshing” the name of their product, COMMON plans to unveil a new name in 2006 (and every year thereafter). In early 2006, COMMON will become known as c/oMMON, and members are invited to attend the c/oMMON Spring 2006 c/oNFerence in Minneapolis, the territory of the AS/400 . . . we mean the iSeries . . . we mean the i5.”
Finally, Pete Elliot, director of marketing for Key Information Systems, was kind enough to let me sit in as he interviewed his own personal oracle (oops, bad choice of words–perhaps we should call it his own “crystal ball.”) Here’s how that interview went:
Elliot: Crystal Ball, Crystal Ball. Speak to me of the future, Crystal Ball.
Crystal Ball: Yes. I am here.
Elliot: I’d like to know about what’s going to happen in 2006. But first, can you tell me what your process is for predicting the future?
Crystal Ball: Essentially, I really don’t have much of a process. I get smoky and I see the future. Very simply, the more I smoke, the clearer the picture. Although it’s bad for my health, I do this as a public service.
Elliot: Thanks. Now, can you tell me what is the future holds for IBM in 2006?
Crystal Ball: IBM? Why not HP, or Sun, or Apple? They’re easy. IBM, EMC, and Oracle (my nemesis) are tougher and require a lot of smoke.
Elliot: Where there’s smoke, there’s fire?
Crystal Ball: Point well taken. Okay–here we go. [Long pause, while smoke swirls thickly through the crystal ball.] Well now, there’s something interesting, but it’s very smoky. I see a long history–something called the System/3, then the System/34, then I see the System/38 and the System 36, then something called “Silverlake,” which is the AS/400, and then the iSeries. I see OS/400–V5R1, V5R2, V5R3, V5R4 . . . lots of VRs. I see LPARs and external disk storage. I see JDEdwards, PeopleSoft, and Oracle. I see RPG, RPG II, RPG II, and RPG IV. I see ISVs, Linux, Unix, Java, Save While Active, high availability, IFS, improved performance, upgrades, software maintenance agreement renewal, importing and exporting of data. I see security, Sarbanes-Oxley, Frank Soltis, XML, integrated database, IBM business partners, the channel, and COMMON, and I see Don Atkins, Sam Palmisano, open source, single-level load member source, synergy. WebSphere, SAN, and . . . Oh dear! Now it’s all going dark.
Elliot: But what does it mean?
Crystal Ball: Mean? I don’t know what it means. I’m only the messenger. Did you check my batteries?
As for me, I predict that at this time next year, iSeries folks will be making jokes about AS/400-iSeries-i5-??? name changes; that everyone at COMMON (which will be well attended) will be predicting the demise of COMMON (as they have for many years but COMMON just keeps on rolling); that no one in IBM outside of Rochester will be able to speak knowledgeably to a reporter about the i5; that the iSeries community–a group of people and companies as steadfast and reliable as the platform it stands behind–will still be largely unknown, underestimated and/or underrated by the rest of the IT world; that IBM will still be trying to convince long-time AS/400 users that Java and WebSphere are easy to use; and that whole boatloads of people will still be running RPG and loving it.
In short, I believe we’ll be in much the same state we were in last year. A wise mentor of mine once told me, “Happiness isn’t having what you want–it’s wanting what you have.” The iSeries community wants its iSeries–and I predict it still will as 2007 rolls around, but with more new faces to join the party.