Readers Pipe Up On the STG Reorg and System i Wish List
January 28, 2008 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Last week’s issue featured a story about IBM‘s plans for its Systems and Technology Group in 2008 as well as reader feedback on the “Official 2008 TPM System i Wish List.” Three weeks ago, as our 2008 publishing year was getting under way, we reported on the reorganization Big Blue did in its STG organization in early January. The feedback on these issues keeps coming in, and if you have something you want to say, don’t be shy. This is the AS/400 community, and no matter what name you give it, it is still a community.
It’s deja Blue, TPM.
IBM’s reorganization to focus on industry client groups is a recurring phenomenon over the last several decades. “Industry Systems” marketing groups come and go.
It seems obvious that it is a good thing to have “300 system sales manager positions, who have the complete responsibility for a group of IBM clients and who work with IBM’s Sales and Distribution sales and channel organization to keep these clients happy.”
So, how can this fail to reincarnate the iSeries and achieve other business goals? Conversely, why were groups like the original PC and System/3 successful? I think it has to do with how client /industry requirements are handled inside IBM. Picture 300 gladiators in a stadium all competing for the same prize–development resources! It is one thing to see a client need and quite another to win the internal competition for your share of development resources!
In the past, these industry groups sometimes concentrated too much on fixing things that matter right now rather than doing the homework necessary to make a business case for longer term investments. It is a tough job for the same people to be responsive to the issue of the minute and do quality staff work on product requirements. We’ll see how it works out.
The System/3 and PC groups were more integrated from development through marketing, which led to great success, followed by complexity. . . to where we are now.
Thanks for keeping us informed on the incredibly complex organizational and product writhings of the Blue ones. Maybe this is your golden hour to have them listen intently to your analysis of what’s needed. . . hmmm?
One can only hope that IBM is listening to what a lot of us have been saying for so long. I am not ready to be a cab driver in New York City quite yet, but I am probably a bad enough driver and crazy enough to be as good as most of the drivers I have been on the road with.
I left IBM in 1982 and my dream career (as a senior systems engineer with five weeks vacation, and software author of ABS at IBM), after John Opel, IBM’s chairman, said if you are a programmer, we don’t need you. Basically, what he said to us is that IBM is going to become the low-cost, high-volume hardware company and cut the fat, and then it closed the IBM National Apparel Support Center.
In last week’s story, you quoted IBM thus: “We have to revitalize this thing,” Zeitler said, referring to the i5/OS platform. “The idea of keeping something simple–and we can come back a year from now and see if I was right–is the right idea. We just got away from it. We focused too much on the technology and not enough on the problems that customers had.”
Here’s a thought. Those problems would be not focusing on applications (and canning all IBM applications support–or is it caning?) and not keeping it simple with a powerful integrated GUI Web interface for RPG?
The person responsible for THAT would be: Bill Zeitler????
It will not be simple until the System i platform can develop powerful and competitive applications simply in an integrated manner and become the best (again) application development and support platform. That will not happen in one year with any hardware announcements or change (again) in IBM structure.
Great job, TPM.
Timothy, I think you missed a change in the System i brand organization. I believe that all System i people in STG (as opposed to sales) are back in the same group whether they’re high-end or low-end systems people.
I think Lee Kroon is more up-to-date when he writes at MC Press Online (see this link): “Importantly for System i customers, the reorganization reverses a decision that IBM made last July to split management of the System i between the Power Systems and Business Systems Division (BSD). Effective immediately, all System i models are managed by the Power Systems Division, which is managed by Ross Mauri. That said, BSD will still be responsible for packaging and selling STG products for the SMB market. Those packages will include all System i models as well as relevant products from the other platform divisions.”
I’m just a front-line System i sales technician, so I’m frequently puzzled by my company’s reorganizations. It will be interesting so see what it looks like when the dust settles!
Now that I am not running a high fever, I see what you mean. One should not respond to email with a 103 degree fever. So ignore my first email, which I am not printing here. HA!
That said, I think this is an exercise in hair-splitting that IBM has us all doing.
Power Systems had control of the entire development for the System p line, including operating systems and Power chips and the rack, tower, and blade servers. It already had this back in July 2007. System i uses the same exact iron (excepting some rack differences at the high end), so Business Systems was never doing iron development per se, except in a minimal fashion. What Business Systems was supposed to do is package up hardware and software and aim it at the SMB market, with an emphasis on i5/OS and then Linux. It was more of a pricing, packaging, and marketing thing from the get-go. At least that is what I was told. Nominally, Business Systems had control of the i5 515, 525, 520, and 550 machines, but only in terms of packaging–and that is what IBM meant by “development” I guess. What you and I would have said is they are grabbing System p iron, packing it up with i5/OS and Linux, and showing this to SMB customers and the channel.
The question I still do not have an answer to is this: What if Business Systems wants something different from what Power Systems and Modular Systems are supplying as raw components?
Just a comment about #8 on your list: “an affordable development platform.” Instead of a cheap box to purchase, why not model it after the Amazon AWS environment? Let developers buy slices of time on AS/400 clusters hosted by IBM. IBM has the servers and associated storage to create an IBMWS environment for developers. Heck, why not even make it available to the educational market for free I know, IBM can’t be as nimble as an Amazon–but it was a thought.
I could not agree more, and have said much the same to many past general managers of the iSeries and System i product lines. I outlined the idea in its latest incarnation in this story, back in January 2006, dubbing it Utility Service/400.
To quote me (which is weird, I must tell you):
“So, if there are over 200,000 OS/400 shops out there in the world, the question is how many of them would gladly ditch their boxes and move their code to an i5 utility? There are probably tens of thousands of customers with homegrown software who might do this and who might never consider buying a modern i5. There is no point to it, or they would have done it by now. It is clearly an issue of economics and desire. IBM won’t make a lot of money on this so-called Utility Service/400–and it will lose a lot of footprints. You could cram tens of thousands of customers around the world onto a few dozen i5 595s. But if IBM doesn’t do this, then some intrepid entrepreneur is going to figure it out. And you better watch out, IBM. I happen to think that a free six months of Utility Service/400 is just the right kind of tactic that will get the attention of the neglected OS/400-RPG customer base that doesn’t care very much about WebSphere or Java . . . . “
I didn’t think of it solely as a development box, but clearly it works. To its credit, IBM has offered slices of machines running in the Rochester labs so independent software vendors can port their code and test it. That is not the same thing as letting several hundreds thousand coders have access to such a machine. But it is certainly worth considering.
It’s all in a name. (Hence my Silverlake wish list.)
Yes, it’s true that “A rose by any other name. . .” should mean that users, and more importantly purchasing decision makers, buy the System i for what it does rather than what it’s called. The unfortunate truth is that even the name sounds clunky and old.
Whenever marketers, or worse politicians, want us to aspire to something, they give it a catchy and inspirational name. Examples include: Concorde (now who in their right mind didn’t want to fly that fast?), Mirage (the first of the newer Mega casinos), even Thinkpad.
For me, going to my customers with something called a System i, running i5/OS sounds lame even to me, and I’m a confirmed AS/400 bigot.
Why not have the platform named something inspirational?
Edmund Hillary passed away recently, and it got me to thinking. Everest (or even Everest 6) running the Blizzard 6.1 operating system. If mountaineering isn’t your cup of tea, what about flight? Eagle 6, running Raptor 6.1, or for the traditionalists, as it once was, Silverlake, running SPF (yeah ok SPF isn’t sexy, but I like it better than i5/OS). Aquatic theme: Neptune, running Wave 6.1. Sports: Medallion, running Touchdown 6.1
The point is, IBM is tied up in knots trying to get names that mean something. It doesn’t matter. We have, here in Australia, two leading cars called the Commodore and the Falcon. Neither one of them comes with a yachting cap or talons. Both have changed over time, but the names have remained the same (in the case of the Falcon, since 1960). We still buy them.
Keep up the good work,
Thanks to your recent “Wish List” article, I decided to revisit my 2002 essay. Even though the market has changed and business requirements have changed, I found that much of it could have been written yesterday. It would appear that greed does not always pay off.
Greed only pays off in a short term and only for a small pool of selfish people who can hide the dough somehow. It is not the way to create and maintain a business as far as I am concerned. If I have to do it that way, I’d rather drive a truck.
A simple, native solution for Web interface that does not demand Java.
The biggest issue I have with the i5 is the lack of an integrated Web-based interface. It seems I remember someone at IBM saying (about 20 years ago) that the 5250 and HTTP protocols were remarkably similar. It seems that already having external display file specifications would have given them a step up, but IBM seems unable to leverage that.