An Open Letter to i Shops from the Power Systems GM
October 6, 2008 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Last week, Ross Mauri, the general manager of the Power Systems division, published an open letter to the i half of the merged System i and System p communities. The open letter follows a few weeks after IBM hosted two Power Systems Technical Universities in Chicago, one for the i base and the other for the AIX and Linux bases. Given the state of the global economy, the letter was meant to be reassuring to IBM’s 200,000-strong customer base, which spans most industries and countries.
In the wake of technical conferences, there is always a lot of talk about what is going on now–bugs, customer complaints, and such–as well as what IBM says is coming down the pike in the coming year or two, and The Four Hundred has already told you some information Mauri shared in his open letter, which you can read here. For instance, readers of this newsletter know from information that leaked out of the i edition of the Power Systems Technical University in early September that IBM was expected to launch the i 6.2 operating system release in early 2010, perhaps January, with an interim release to fix issues with the Virtual I/O Server used on JS12 and JS22 Power6-based blades, called i 6.1.5 according to the rumors, coming out maybe in May 2009. What we are now calling i 6.2 might end up being called i 7.1 at this point, since its launch will coincide with the debut of Power7-based servers using this forthcoming eight-core chip designed by Big Blue.
Mauri did not clear up the naming and timing of future i operating systems in the letter, which lacked some important specifics. As such letters usually do, considering they are talking about future products. But it does confirm a new release is indeed coming in 2010. “The i operating environment is an important, strategic element in the IBM product portfolio and we are making substantial investments in the future of i because its continued success in the market is essential to IBM’s overall business performance,” Mauri explained. “Our IBM Rochester development team is already working on the next release of IBM i planned for 2010. As always, we are designing the new release incorporating your requirements through our valued advisory councils, including COMMON, COMMON Europe, ISVs and the Large User Group.”
The Power Systems general manager also said that after six months of shipping, i 6.1 has over 1,000 ISV applications certified, which if memory serves is par for the course. It usually takes years to get 3,000 or 4,000 applications certified, and there are only about 5,000 i, i5/OS, and OS/400 applications that are currently sold in the base; there are 10,000 AIX and Linux applications, by the way, according to IBM’s own estimates.
Mauri also said in his letter that “that the transition to the new Power Systems is going extremely well,” and that specifically, the majority of shipments of new i platform shipments in the third quarter, which just ended last week, would be for Power6-based machines bearing the Power Systems labels. He added that System i machines based on Power5+ chips are being gradually withdrawn from marketing–a transition that he said would be completed at the end of this year.
The main thing that Mauri seemed to want to do in this open letter, particularly given the uncertainty in the economies of the world and the relatively recent merger of the System i and System p product lines, where the AS/400 and its successors lost their unique identity and a separate division to support it, was to reassure customers that IBM’s commitment to the i platform was “solid and unchanged.”
The timing of the letter is not an accident. IBM just completed the third quarter, and given the silly way that IBM is counting old System i sales and putting Power6-based sales into a Merged System p line in its financials (rather than just call it Power Systems and merge it), it is fair to assume that the legacy System i line item in the third quarter financials that will come out on October 16 will show a massive decline. And because IBM was adding Power6-based System i machines plus big 570 and 595 iron in the Converged System p product category to make its Unix system sales look stronger than they really were in Q1 and Q2, we won’t be able to see how the i platform is really doing. And Mauri wants to explain that the product line is actually doing well–without being terribly specific–before these numbers come out on October 16 and freak everyone in the i base all the way out.
As I have done for the first and second quarters of this year, when IBM’s bookkeepers went nuts, I will pull apart the server sales figures and try to figure out what sales were by dominant operating system, either i or AIX/Linux. (See IBM’s Q2 Server Sales: Let’s Do Some Math and Let’s Unscramble IBM’s Server Sales in Q1 2008 a Little for that, if you want to see the details.) To recap, as best as I can figure, the i platform had $161 million in sales, down 12 percent, in Q1 and $236 million in sales in Q2, actually up 6 percent when you get rid of IBM’s shenanigans. Why did IBM do this? Because if it didn’t, it would have to actually cop to the truth that AIX/Linux server sales on the Power platform were down by what I estimated to be 11 percent in Q1, to $871 million, rather than moving some i platform sales over and saying sales were up 2 percent to what I reckon was $986 million. In the second quarter, I believe that AIX/Linux on Power server sales rose by 14 percent to $1.16 billion. There was no reason to play games with the numbers, but by then, it was now the way the books were being done. Once the Power5 and Power5+ machines are removed from marketing, expect a single Power Systems line item in the IBM books.