What’s in the New System i5 Name?
February 20, 2006 Mary Lou Roberts
Shakespeare observed, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet.” This certainly seems to have been true for the faithful OS/400 community, who continue to believe that their AS/400s continue to be sweet, no matter what moniker IBM chooses to attach to them. But that doesn’t mean that frequent name changes are welcome or that all agree that they are in the best interest of the platform’s acceptance in the marketplace.
What do customers, analysts, and ISVs think of “System i5”?
Bob Djurdevic, president of Annex Research, laughs, calling the name change a non-issue because “customers have become numb. Everyone will still call it the iSeries or even the AS/400. Even the people from IBM are still calling it the iSeries.”
He’s right. Tom Huntington, vice president of technical services for Help/Systems, points out that even IBM hasn’t changed its own documentation, which even says AS/400 in many places after more than five years of eServer branding. And note that the iSeries Information Center says, uh, iSeries Information Center.
Huntington expects that “System i5” will just add more confusion in the market. “It just shows that the group formerly known as the iSeries team has very little clout over their own product name. Peter Bingaman just stood up in front of the loyal group at COMMON and proclaimed the box as an iSeries no matter what. I just had a customer this past week ask me if he could come to a seminar that we were promoting for an iSeries user. He claimed that he was on an eServer 9406. He was, but that box is also sometimes called AS/400 or iSeries or i5 or System i5. The platform just got smaller with a new name, depending on your perspective.”
But Huntington isn’t happy that ISVs will once again have to change all of their documentation to reflect the new name. “Why should we even bother?” he asks. “The next announcement, this time next year, could be that the new name is System i6, but that would be too logical. It could possibly be the AS/6 in the next name change.”
Duncan Kenzie, president of Excel Systems , the development and technical support arm of BCD Software, does have concerns about the change, noting that the iSeries name is just now beginning to gain traction. “I think i5 is too generic. Also, the move back to ‘system’ from ‘server’ makes it sound like IBM can’t make up its mind what the platform is. It is a business system solution platform or an Internet server platform? We’ve always known what it is (the former), but new customers will probably just be totally confused by the new branding. IBM has just destroyed any name recognition and brand good-will with this decision.”
Pete Isaksson, business development manager for looksoftware, raises a very practical concern about the new name. “While this change may prove beneficial to new sales, it may also introduce some challenges and demand some marketing changes for solution providers whose offerings are discovered through Web searches targeted at the ‘iSeries’ or even ‘AS/400′ monikers. New customers searching for i5 software and solutions may have to dig deeper to uncover the wealth of applications and tools available for the platform formerly known as the iSeries. It seems that in order to satisfy all inquiries, vendors’ Web site metadata and other marketing or search flags may now have to include all three naming conventions.”
Nigel Fortlage, vice president of information technology for GHY International, isn’t happy either. “I have usually been a big supporter of some past name changes, but this one confuses even me. I know that they are all part of the Systems and Technology Group, but wasn’t the infamous eServer campaign supposed to make them all common units, just different flavors? Is this the new flavor, or is there something more? But, isn’t the big iron called System z9? Maybe there is more to a name?”
Al Barsa, president of Barsa Consulting Group, has no problem with the change, but he does believe that IBM will have to keep this name for a while. “The entire eServer concept that came out five years ago was not a good one. Now they are backing off from it and trying to establish their own identity again.” He points out that many customers still know the system as the AS/400, even though when they bought the system, IBM called it the iSeries. “That was a problem. Even the renaming of OS/400 to i5/OS, which occurred in V5R3, said OS/400, because that decision was literally made a month before V5R3 shipped, and the translation cycle is 18 to 24 months.”
Wayne Kernochen, president of Infostructure Associates, is unconcerned, also believing that “the installed base finds the names a little confusing, but not seriously inconveniencing, while prospects often have not heard of the AS/400, iSeries, or System i5.”
On the other hand, Doug Piper, director of solutions management for Vision Solutions, is positive about the change. “Change for the sake of change isn’t good when it comes to brand strategy. However, in this case, returning to the ‘System’ designation across the eServer family does help solidify a unified brand approach and leverages some positive historical brand equity. The notion that the ‘System’ moniker encompasses hardware, operating systems, virtualization, and middleware that can act as hosts, hubs, and infrastructure boxes should play well and have broad appeal while offering the opportunity to target specific customer needs.”
Leon Stewart, CEO for WorksRight Software is pragmatic: “Insiders have become accustomed to the name changes. We all still say AS/400. I don’t know what new prospects will think. Maybe it’s a good thing that they will not automatically think AS/400.”
Finally, one end user who wishes to remain unnamed and who is clearly not yet satisfied with IBM’s pricing for the platform, quips, “Why would you care what they call it if you can’t afford to buy it?”