Power Systems GM Discusses Upcoming i Announcements in Chat
November 17, 2008 Alex Woodie
IBM Power Systems head honcho Ross Mauri sat down for a one-hour “fireside” chat with members of the i community last week. The GM fielded a variety of questions, ranging from upcoming disk- and SAN-related enhancements for i-based blades (expected in 2009) to what are the platform’s hottest applications (virtualization and anything written in MySQL/PHP). Mauri was even asked to name his favorite operating system: IBM i, Linux, or AIX? The answer may surprise you. . . . Then again, it may not.
Tuesday’s online forum was the first fireside chat for Mauri, who took the job as general manager of the newly formed Power Systems division in July 2007, and the first chat with any Power System or IBM i personnel since February for iSociety, which hosts the chats on its Website. Users can joint iSociety using their COMMON ID number.
Mauri started things off by begging for iSociety members to take it easy on him. “I still consider myself a newbie, especially when it comes to the long technical history that most of you all have with IBM i,” wrote Mauri, who had worked in IBM’s mainframe division for years before taking a job as head of Power Systems.
They would not.
Aside from a few softball questions about how the new job is going (“it’s been a lot of fun so far”) and what is the hottest new application (“virtual i partitions support is one of the most exciting new capabilities”), Mauri fielded direct questions, may of which were of a fairly technical nature. And by all appearances, he answered them completely (at least within the confines imposed by IBM), and he even shed some light on upcoming announcements.
Much of the fireside chatter concerned blades, a titillating topic for the technically inclined. Mauri said IBM currently has only a “small number” of customers running i 6.1 in on BladeCenter blade servers at this point, but that he expects the percentage of blade customers to approach the industry average of 15 percent (by total spending) in 2009.
“We just completed our first round of worldwide education on blades with business partners,” Mauri said. “We expect that to pay off in 2009. We are also investing in additional blade support virtual tape and new disk options, so we will hit some key customer requirements for blades in the first half of 2009.”
Mauri said the first half of 2009 will also bring support for RAID on the BladeCenter S, or BC-S, a smaller blade chassis than the BC-H and one that’s more appropriate for the small and mid sized businesses, for whom the BC-H is way overkill. Mauri further explained that IBM i customers will also be able to connect their BC-S to external SAN arrays, but will lose support for internal DASD in doing so.
He was also asked how IBM’s efforts to recruit new ISVs to the platform were going. “The area we are seeing the most new ISVs is around PHP/MySQL applications,” Mauri said. “It seems that customers are taking advantage of the broad range of open source applications available today and also writing their new applications to this paradigm and I think the ability to integrate these new open source applications into their existing IBM i environment is a key value point.”
A follow-up question was asked about how work was going on the development of a new product that would allow DB2/400 to be the storage engine for MySQL, thereby giving customers quick and easy access to scads of data stored in DB2/400 from the awesome new generation of MySQL applications. IBM announced plans to build the product with MySQL way back in April 2007, but has said nary a word about it since.
“That function is currently in beta,” Mauri responded (the first official response to that question by IBM in more than a year). But wait! Mauri even had a tentative ship date to share: first quarter of 2009. “And when ready, it will come from MySQL,” Mauri said.
MySQL, of course, is now owned by Sun Microsystems, which may not be in a hurry to deliver the promised functionality. A Sun Microsystems spokesman did not return a request for comment on the development of the DB2/400-MySQL storage engine (and the circle of life begins anew).
Mauri was also peppered with questions about that perennially favorite topic: IBM i advertising. Namely: When will it happen?
In short: No time soon.
“Our marketing spend[ing] to attract new customers is not TV ads,” Mauri said. “It’s investment in co-marketing programs with ISVs. We have seen real results from those types of programs because they speak directly to customers business needs more so than a generic TV spot. [But] I do realize you all want to see IBM i on TV.”
Besides seeing IBM i on TV, many members of the IBM i community would like to see evidence that the business is growing. Absent that, they would at least like to know just how fast it’s shrinking. But IBM’s current accounting method–in which revenue for i, AIX, and Linux deals on Power6 iron is thrown into a single pot, and a rapidly sinking System i category on older iron shows an 82 percent decline last quarter is the only figure people can hang their hat on–does not allow for that.
Mauri was asked during the fireside chat to break out the IBM i portions of the Power Systems revenue. He declined. It most likely is not his decision to withhold this number, which is so important to so many people in the midrange. Rather, it’s the decision of bean counters and corporate strategists intent on bolstering the Power Systems brand, even if it hurts the IBM i (System i, iSeries, AS/400) business along the way.
Perhaps sensing weakness–or at least a proclivity toward Unix–the fireside wolves moved in. “One straight forward question,” one person asked. “Which among the three is the favorite OS of IBM?”
Mauri was not amused by the question, but being the good sport that he is, he played along. “Come on,” he said. “I told you all that we have three tier-one operating systems for Power. I said that and I meant it. And I love all my children equally.”
The complete transcript of Ross Mauri’s November 11 fireside chat can be viewed at www.isociety.org/Chat20081111.html.
Editor’s Note: If you read the transcript, and someone asking questions has the user ID “tpm,” that was Alex using my account. –TPM