IBM Readies Some Sort of System i Announcements at COMMON
March 3, 2008 Timothy Prickett Morgan
The now annual COMMON midrange system user conference and vendor exposition will be held at the end of March and into early April in Nashville, Tennessee, and the user group wants people to stick around beyond April Fool’s Day for a big announcement from key executives within IBM‘s Systems and Technology Group.
Specifically, the notice up on the COMMON Web site says that Mark Shearer, currently vice president of marketing and offerings for the Business Systems division, and Ross Mauri, general manager of the Power Systems division, will jointly host a special town hall meeting on the morning April 2, which is a Wednesday. (The regular System i Town Hall meeting usually takes place on Sunday and kind of gets the juices flowing for the rest of the event.) COMMON says that there will be “news you will want to hear and an opportunity to dialogue with IBM executives.” The two execs are expected to “make a special announcement of an important initiative” called the New Power Equation.
Heaven only knows what that is. But it is my guess that IBM will be at pains to explain that despite not having a dedicated product line, vertically integrated with development, marketing, and sales, that the System i platform is not going to get lost in the shuffle. Indeed, it might be argued that it will be hard for all of Big Blue’s server and storage products to not get lost in the shuffle, since the customer-facing Enterprise Systems and Business Systems divisions are not pushing a particular solution so much as pushing IBM as the solution. For a customer base, employee base, and business partner channel that has been product-centric for decades, this shift is not going to be easy. And if there is a new power equation at IBM, it is that IBM will sell the things it makes and it will make the things that sell. (Yes, this is a bit of a chicken and egg problem, I realize.)
IBM is not even hinting about any System i product announcements at this point, but it seems very likely that IBM will debut Power6-based 520 and 550 servers as the meat of this COMMON announcement and will try to position it as potatoes compared to its new strategy of having one side of IBM create Power products and two other divisions sell either high-end (Enterprise Systems) or low-end and midrange (Business Systems) machines. The System p product line got these Power6-based servers back in January, when the STG reorganization was announced, and it is inconceivable that IBM does not want to ship i5/OS V6R1 on them. That new operating system starts shipping on March 21, a week and a half before the April 2 special town hall meeting at COMMON. There seems little doubt that IBM will position the upgraded 520 as a new user-based 515 box and could extend the user-based pricing scheme that debuted last April as part of the “Project Ignite” launch of the 515 and 525 machines up as high as the new Power6-based 550.
If IBM does not put new iron into the field as part of this announcement, it sure ought to. We’ll let you know what happens, of course. Stay tuned.