A Word Cloud of IBM Server Brand Names
May 19, 2008 Timothy Prickett Morgan
A few weeks ago, I was admonished by a loyal reader of this newsletter that the rebranding of the System i and i5/OS platform was far from over. That while those of us in the i-ntelligentsia (that’s my pun, not his, and I don’t actually like it), by which I mean members of the reseller community, those in the press and analyst community, and those who sell applications for the i platform, may be up to speed with and maybe in some cases on page with what IBM has done, as for the actual customer base, this whole name game was far from over.
I have been thinking about this issue for some time, mulling it over, and a number of readers (like this one) want to actually try to do something to compel IBM to change its mind, to actually do what IT Jungle contributor Cervantes suggested in jest on April Fool’s Day in the article entitled IBM Changes Name Back to AS/400, Promises Return to Glory, TV Ads.
Well, as far as I can tell, rebrandings are usually far from over and a complete and successful rebranding–like our own quick and I would say relatively successful transition from Midrange Server to IT Jungle–is the exception, not the rule. And when I rebranded this site in 2004, I only knew I was doing the right thing, considering my diverse goals editorially for this company; I had no idea if we would survive it, particularly since we were also changing domain names, too. My point is, although I am no marketing expert–thank heavens for that–I have a hard time coming up with rebrandings in the IT sector that please vendors or customers. It just doesn’t happen all that often, and old–and usually the original–brand names stick around for a long time.
To get a sense of the lingering old IBM server brands, I did a thoroughly unscientific, absolutely statistically invalid trolling of the three major search engines–Google, Yahoo, and Live Search from Microsoft–for old and new brand names and counted up the number of pages that were indexed with these brands. Here’s the stats for the server hardware brands:
The first thing to point out is that searching for “System i” is difficult because search engine crawlers and indexers ignore punctuation, which means a phrase “I wanted to kill the system; I shot it dead” would come up in a search for “System i.” So I added “IBM” to the search to try to shake out all the pages that had the words “system” and “I” next to each other that had nothing to do with the OS/400 platform. (Again, this is not terribly scientific.) “Power Systems” is an equally useless phrase, since generators of electricity have those words describing them all the time, as do all brands of computers, for that matter. So I forced the words to be next to each other and to also have IBM on the page.
I think visually, so I made a bar chart of the three sets of page searches, which sometimes come up with radically different counts, as you can see from the table above. Take a look at the chart:
Yahoo thinks the iSeries is a great brand, by comparison, and in general, the AS/400 and the System i didn’t do too badly, either. The AS/400 brand is represented a heck of a lot more than the RS/6000, but I will concede that there has been a lot more complaining about the AS/400 than about the RS/6000, which might explain much. The System x and System z rebranding in 2006 seems to have been more or less successful–if you judge it by Web page counts, anyway.
This is still a bit too complex to take in all at once, so I took the average of the three data sets and made something called a word cloud out of the data. Basically, you use color and the size of the type to convey the relative importance of data in a set. Here’s what a word cloud (albeit one a bit more linear in format than most I have seen) looks like for the IBM server brands:
Look at which ones are the biggest. They all have to do with the OS/400 platform, excepting the tiny Power Systems plus IBM together. Look at the insignificance of the old “Netfinity” PC brand, which even benefits from the fact that Netfinity was the original name of the systems management programs that IBM got when it acquired Tivoli Systems more than a decade ago. S/390 doesn’t do too well, either.
Because I was bored for a few minutes last week, I also did a bunch of searches for operating system platforms. You cannot search for “i” so I searched for “i for Business,” a term IBM put in the operating system logo but which Big Blue apparently is not going to use in the name of the operating system. (Yes, I know. That is i-diotic.) Anyway, here’s the operating system table:
You have the same problem searching for “Windows” that you do for “i” and that is why I searched for Microsoft and Windows on the same page to get those counts. Linux is just Linux, of course. Either way, there is no way I can build a bar chart or a word cloud with the operating system data. There are several orders of magnitude between “i for Business” and “Linux.” In a word cloud, the size of “i for Business” would be about the size of a cell in your body, and the word Linux would be in 327 point type (almost 4 inches high, and the word “Linux” would fill the middle part of your screen. Even if you restrict the search to Linux and IBM on the same page (which is a funny thought in and of itself), you end up with a 41 point font. Windows and Microsoft yields a 178 point font, about half the size of Linux. For most of the other IBM platforms, the fonts are too small–between 1 point and 4 points in size–to read. “AIX” is a problem because it is a French city in Provence; I am not sure if the Armani Exchange (A|X) gets corrupted to AIX. (I suspect not.) So don’t take those IBM and IBM searches to heart. I don’t think it is representative of the popularity of AIX versus OS/400 and MVS, er, OS/390, er z/OS.
If Web pages were votes, IBM would be calling its midrange server the iSeries and it would be calling the operating system OS/400. This much is clear–at least to the Internet.