Reader Feedback on Power vs. Nehalem: Scalability Is So 1995, Cash is So 2009
April 13, 2009 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Why do you have to be so right and why does IBM have to generally ignore your insightful, thoughtful advice on how to compete?
Thank you for the wonderful writing you and your team produce. My simple words cannot show my appreciation enough.
Thanks so much for your kind words about my team and what we do here at IT Jungle. And simple words do show appreciation. Some days, appreciation is the only force that keeps us going, since money surely is not enough. So don’t think I don’t appreciate your appreciation. (OK, this is spiraling out of control. . . . HA!)
Now, as far as answering your question: Why does IBM ignore good advice on how to compete? That is the $100 billion question, isn’t it? I have spent almost 20 years now watching what IBM does and does not do, and reckoning that against the forces in the market and the tactics and strategies that its competition use to maneuver into position to get their pieces of that IT budget pie.
IBM is coming up on 100 years of being in existence, and has adapted many times. So it is not a stupid company by any stretch of the imagination. But that doesn’t mean the company’s managers are not sometimes idiotic about choices they make–they most certainly are. But the breadth and depth of what Big Blue sells and its knowledge compensates for a lot of the mistakes it makes and the product lines it doesn’t focus on when we all know it should. I think a lot of it has to do with the way executives are trained and compensated–they only have a decade or so to make their mark, so they go for the quickest way to gain influence and control within the IBM Company. The product lines are incidental, since executives know that, for instance, if they are the general manager of the AS/400 Division, this is but a stepping stone to another job.
For me, this is the job. Perhaps one of many different jobs I do, but it is not a stepping stone to anywhere else. The Four Hundred is who I am, it is what I do. And for a lot of people in the AS/400 market–no matter what IBM calls it–this is their jobs, and their platform. If there is a true meaning to proprietary system, perhaps that is it: a machine that people claim to own, not the vendor.
Too bad, then, that IBM hasn’t made someone actually and absolutely responsible for something still called the AS/400. Imagine if that person had two options a decade ago: Make the AS/400 survive, adapt, and thrive, or be fired. Not moved to another division, not moved overseas, but fired. And imagine still that this person was given the power and the mandate to do what it takes to make it happen. What a different midrange it would be today.
Instead, we have the IBM that has fought competitive skirmishes, not battles, a company that is more interested in dedicating as little resources as possible to the largest customer base Big Blue has. And that, my friend, is the definition of stark-raving mad.
Good thing the AS/400 business is used to this sort of treatment, I guess. We somehow all persevere. And for that, I am thankful.