A Post-Mortem on a Peppier COMMON and an APB for a Black Ford Mustang with a Big Dent
May 7, 2007 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Thanks to grand jury duty last fall, I missed the COMMON conference in Miami Beach, Florida, last September. So my recollection of how last week’s COMMON event in Anaheim, California, turned out is based against my recollection of the spring 2006 event in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a year ago. If I had to guess–and I have to since no one at COMMON has given out the official numbers yet–there were probably 1,500 or so attendees at the show in Anaheim last week.
If this turns out to be the case, it would represent a slight increase over attendance at the Minneapolis and Miami Beach events, and it would show that some of the changes that COMMON has made to make the event more appealing and relevant to attendees are working.
Like other people at the show, I like to walk the Expo area and just get a sense for what is happening in the market and what people are excited about. The System i5’s support for PHP and now, as of last week, the MySQL open source database (which will ride atop DB2 and use it as a data store) is obviously very hot news. Many companies that have long-since supported RPG application development and then extended these applications to the Web in a variety of ways, are now working on ways to incorporate PHP into their products. BCD was first out of the chute, and undoubtedly, other tool makers will follow. MySQL support will follow suit after PHP, too. We’ll be talking to all the major tool vendors to talk about what they will be doing to support PHP and MySQL, and what impact they think the PHP language and the MySQL database will have on the System i platform. Zend Technologies is obviously pretty pleased with the uptake of Zend Core on OS/400 V5R3 and i5/OS V5R4, and seems on track to have 20,000 downloads by the end of the year.
From the conversations I had at the show, I got the impression that suppliers of developer tools, systems software, and application software were also wrestling with how they should package and price their products on the new user-priced i5 515 and 525 servers. Companies used to OS/400 and i5/OS software tier pricing, or per server pricing that implies an unlimited number of users, have to stop and rethink their approach to the small and medium business market. If IBM is willing to slash prices and count users, then they might have to follow if they want to go where the new business is going to come from.
In general, people seemed to be happier than they have been at COMMON events that I have been to in past years, and I think this has more to do with the stability in the i5/OS and OS/400 market despite IBM’s declining iSeries and i5 sales. Our market is a tough one every day, and even if IBM is seeing server sales for the platform decline, there is plenty of money sloshing around in the market and there are plenty of vendors trying to address real problems that i5/OS and OS/400 shops need to solve.
I remain optimistic, and that is not just because Dan Burger, Alex Woodie, and myself survived a surprising car crash from a hit and run driver who slammed into us on Highway 5 as we were exiting to go to the COMMON show last Sunday morning. If any of you reading this were behind us on the highway as you were going to COMMON Sunday morning, we would really appreciate a license plate number for that black, late model Ford Mustang that slammed into the passenger door and hit me in the arm and shoulder like an angry Mike Tyson. I was too busy watching the grill come at me to catch the number. Aside from my sore arm, none of the IT Jungle team was hurt and there was not a 20-car pileup behind us on the six lane, which was a bit of a miracle considering that the Mustang spun out behind us and we were pushed across lanes of traffic sideways. But Dan’s 1964 Pontiac Le Mans did take a hit for us. Thank God for big iron, but this was too beautiful and historical of a car to do that to it. So if you saw something, say something.
Back to COMMON and optimism. My optimism is based on what it has always been based on: My belief that the i5/OS and OS/400 community is different, and that it persists despite all of the things that IBM does and does not do. In a way, I suspect, many of us in the community are just as eccentric and oddball as this wonderful computer is. We go together, and that is what makes this ecosystem resilient.