Looks Like i 7.1 Is Coming In April
January 25, 2010 Timothy Prickett Morgan
The word on the street is that IBM is gearing up to get the future release of its i/OS all buffed and polished so it can ship sooner rather than later. Which is good news for the Power Systems i business partner community. A broad new announcement, which the future operating system, to be dubbed i 7.1 unless the current naming plan changes, represents exactly what resellers need to give them a reason to come a-calling on AS/400, iSeries, and System i shops.
According to sources familiar with Big Blue’s plans, i 7.1 is slated for delivery during the third week of April. If IBM was consistent, and if you consider April 1 and 2, which are a Thursday and a Friday, a week and you expect IBM to deliver software on a Friday, as it often does, after announcing it on a Tuesday the month before, then I would expect i 7.1 to be available electronically on April 16; if you are talking full weeks, then we are talking April 23. No one I am talking to knows when the announcement will be, but if historical patterns mean anything, then i 7.1 could be announced on March 15 or March 22.
Then again, if the Power Systems i market is stalled because everyone is waiting for new Power7 servers and their related i 7.1 operating system, the announcement of the operating system could come at any time between now and whenever the Power7 iron is announced. (See IBM Preps Power7 Launch For This Quarter elsewhere in this issue for more on the impending Power7 server announcement.)
As usual, IBM is putting i 7.1 through the paces in an early release program as you read this, and some bigtime i/OS shops are clamoring to get into the program so they can help themselves as well as IBM. Many companies are no doubt keen on getting their hands on the native XML features of the DB2 for i database integrated with the i 7.1 operating system. (See this story for more about the features in i 7.1, which were divulged last October when the i 6.1.1 interim release came out.)
It is not clear what Power-based servers i 7.1 will be supported on, but my guess is Power5, Power5+, Power6, Power6+, and Power7 machines will be able to run the new version of the midrange operating system. i 6.1.1 is supported on earlier Power4 and Power4+ machinery and is supported on the initial Power7 machines, much as i5/OS V5R4M5 (remember that?) was supported as an interim release on the initial Power6 boxes three years ago. In a sense, the interim releases are to test the new iron running old software, while the early release program is to test new software on old hardware and, for the select few, early release hardware.
The real questions I have about i 7.1 have nothing to do with features, but packaging and pricing. It would be interesting to see i 7.1 come out with different and perhaps more sophisticated packaging; as I have said before, having an integrated stack of software doesn’t mean every customer needs all of the features in that stack or wants to (or is able to) pay for all of those features. Vendors don’t make customers buy absolutely fully configured software, and it makes no sense to take this kind of approach with i/OS. Not every machine or logical partition needs a database or Web application server, for instance, so charging for the integrated DB2 for i database is silly. Which is why IBM created the Application Server distribution of i5/OS, which had a lower price than the regular i5/OS V5R4 when it was announced in April 2007. I would love to see the entire i5/OS stack tightly integrated, but priced in a fine-grained, utility-style monthly rental scheme as well as for perpetual licenses. Do something to get that initial sticker price down.
As I suggested last week in discussing what high-end Power7 machines might look like, it would be wonderful to see i 7.1 bundled for free on all Power7-based boxes. But absent that, perpetual license prices that are lower than the combination of AIX and DB2 Universal Database are what is necessary on midrange and high-end boxes and lower than the equivalent Windows stack from Microsoft. You can’t charge a premium for a product when it is the underdog, after all. And at this point, i 7.1 is entering the market as an underdog to Unix or Windows, depending on the box it runs on. Best to admit that and price to compete and make it up in volume. Pricing at tens of thousands of dollars per core and giving prospective customers intense sticker shock clearly is not working.
Try something different, IBM. It just might work.