IBM i Manifest Takes Root in Japan
June 22, 2009 Alex Woodie
Does today’s Power Systems server provide a viable and healthy platform on which companies should bet their business? Companies around the world have been asking themselves this question since the platform was born more than 30 years ago when the System/38 debuted. Now, a group of AS/400 vendors and customers in Japan, not content to rely on IBM to promote the platform, are taking matters into their own hands and promoting the platform themselves through a movement they call the IBM i Manifest.
The roots of the IBM i Manifest, or iManifest, go back more than a year, when a group of ISVs, resellers, and a quarterly IBM i magazine in Japan got together and decided a new approach was needed to “break through the clutter” and promote the real benefits and value of the Power Systems-i 6.1 combination as a business computing platform.
The result of this meeting was a full-page advertisement in a January 2009 issue of the Nikkei, Japan’s most influential daily financial newspaper and online news service. The cost of the ad: about $100,000, according to Gordon Davies, a vice president with LANSA‘s Asia Pacific group, who has been promoting the iManifest and its goals from his office in Australia.
The ad was immediately successful, and spurred a surge of interest in the group and its aims. According to Davies, traffic to the Japanese Web site iForum, which was mentioned in the ad, spiked from about 1,000 hits a week to more than 24,000. More importantly, the ad caught the eye of numerous software developers and hardware resellers in the competitive Japanese System i market.
By encouraging vendors to look beyond their entrenched competitive positions and realize the greater communal good, the iManifest started to grow. The result was the formation of the iManifest with 71 founding members, and a 432-word joint declaration–the “iManifest” itself, as it were. (See the text of that iManifest at the bottom of this story.)
The iManifest has three main goals, Davies says. First, it wants to revitalize the IBM i market in Japan, and increase the customer installed base. Second, it wants to assure users, resellers, and ISVs that the IBM i platform will not only survive, but “continue to prosper” as well. Lastly, the group seeks to inform the wider IT community of the unique value proposition of IBM i.
Those are all valuable goals, and the iManifest group is putting some money and effort behind actually realizing them. Leading the charge is the iManifest Advisory Board. One of the board members is S. Kakizawa, the president of Sanwa Comtec. Kakizawa adapted President Kennedy’s famous saying in creating the iManifiest credo: “Ask not what IBM can do for you, ask instead what you can do for your IBM i community.” Other members of the board include Tetsuo Yamamoto and Kyoko Iida, who run the Japanese i-related publication iMagazine.
IBM, of course, is tickled pink that vendors are taking up the cause of promoting the Power Systems platform. According to Davies, IBM Rochester executive Ian Jarman says IBM is “actively supporting” the iManifest group, “with people assigned to assist with the various initiatives.” IBMer Jim Herring and Frank Soltis, who is no longer with IBM, have also backed the Japanese iManifest effort.
This sudden interest in grassroots marketing begs some questions. For example, now that the Japanese vendors showing such verve for the platform, isn’t it time for European and North American AS/400 vendors to step up to the plate and try to match their fervor? At least one prominent industry blogger, Martin Finchman, who works in LANSA’s European division, thinks it is.
“We should import more from Japan,” Finchman titles a recent posting on his blog, My Midrange Meddle, which is at midmed.blogspot.com. “It sounds like another innovation from the East that could well be heading West.”
While there is currently no iManifest group or equivalent in the United States, it’s not for lack of zeal or excitement on the part of the user and vendor community. American AS/400 shops, vendors, and resellers are just as passionate about the platform as their colleagues overseas. Over the years, various groups dedicated to spreading the word of the platform have come and gone. iSeries Nation started off with a bang, but eventually fizzled; so did iSociety, which is technically still alive but awfully quiet. Perhaps our Japanese colleagues can show us how a grassroots awareness campaign should be run with iManifest.
IBM i Manifest
IBM i marked its 20th Anniversary last year. The platform was launched to the world as AS/400 and changed its name several times but the basic concept and underlying architecture remain unchanged. From its genesis IBM i was designed to be a “genuinely useful system for business”, always eagerly absorbing the latest state of the art technologies.
We do not know of any machine other than IBM i which has resolutely protected user assets for 20 years and would continue to protect them in the future. We think we have a mission to convey its excellence and superiority. We can justifiably describe IBM i as “the miracle in computer history,” especially when we speak to enterprise management, thought leaders in the business world and all those engaged in information system departments.
Everyone in business continues to face a fierce battle, if described in a simple word, to innovate the old to create the new, by incessant managerial and operational innovation. We firmly believe from our communication with many customers and by looking back at our own experience that there would be no progress without innovation in Information Technology to support business.
IBM i is well known for having the largest number of customers using a single systems family. It has retained its brilliant record of No.1 position for more than 10 years in the “Customers’ Satisfaction Survey” conducted every year in Japan by the Nikkei Computer magazine. The platform’s reliability, stability, resilience and high ROI stand out from all others.
Taking the opportunity of IBM i’s 20th anniversary we have established the IBM i Manifest to ask users to again recognize the value and achievements of IBM i. We ask that they renew their firm confidence and belief that IBM i is the best infrastructure available to support managerial and operational innovation.
Further we think that the merits of this excellent system should be shared by many others. More widespread usage of IBM i is the best way for corporations to strengthen their management capability and business power. We have started activities to add to the user community as many new companies as possible. We, the IBM i Manifest initiative support members, have been very proud of assisting our customers over many years with this very rare product, IBM i. We will act widely, in various ways and continuously, to help business-people to recognize the merit, excellence and achievements of IBM i.
We, 71 members will go forward with IBM i users together into the future. We promise to offer products and service solutions to increase our customers’ corporate value.