IBM i Future Reflected in LANSA 2010 iPulse Survey
November 15, 2010 Alex Woodie
Both good and bad signs about the IBM i business emerged from LANSA‘s 2010 iPulse survey, the results of which were released last week. For example, while nearly two-thirds of IBM i professionals say the platform faces a low to non-existent threat of being dumped at their shops, nearly half report their new software budget as being zero, which brings future platform investments into question. The survey also asked the 1,700 participants from 50 countries to name the leading IBM i software vendors across several product categories.
The catchphrase “in these uncertain times” has been used to describe all sorts of problems and circumstances stemming from the rapid decline in global economic health that started in 2008. The phrase has been overused to the point that it’s almost become a cliché. Just the same, the phrase seems to carry some bit of essential truth and succinctly expresses the alternating phases–wariness of the current condition, but an innate faith that it will pass–that have gripped the collective psyche.
LANSA’s 2010 iPulse survey reflects this uncertainty in the minds of business and IT professionals who make their living working with the IBM i platform and the surrounding ecosystem. The survey’s first question gets right to the heart of the matter: “Is the future of your IBM i system under threat?”
The responses show that most IBM i professionals who took the survey do not view the platform as being threatened at their shops. A full 64 percent said the platform faced a low or non-existent threat of going away in their organizations, compared to 36 percent who said it faced a medium or high threat. (It should be noted that not all of the respondents actually have an IBM i server at their place of work, but it’s still a good referendum on the overall outlook for the platform).
Ironically, this solid showing of IBM i support is likely due, in part, to the poor economy. The spending freezes and budget cuts that have been implemented at many companies mean that IT departments must make do with what they have. For IBM i shops (who run older AS/400, iSeries, i5, and System i servers as well as newer Power Systems boxes), this means sticking with the “legacy” platform and applications, and holding off on migrating to that brand-spanking new Windows or Linux system that is going to result is so much more efficiency (a dubious plan in many situations, but that’s an argument for another day).
The second question digs deeper into IBM i plans at respondents’ organizations. According to LANSA’s survey results (which we encourage readers to view in whole at at this link), 38 percent say they will continue to develop new applications on the platform, and 20 percent say they will modernize their existing applications. These two numbers (which overlap a bit because they’re non-exclusive) represent those organizations that have full faith in the platform’s ability to run their businesses, and are good indicators that there is a committed base of IBM i shops in the world.
Other responses to question number two show that the platform is not in everybody’s long-term plans. One quarter of respondents say their IBM i applications are “idling in maintenance mode,” 12 percent say they are planning on migrating to another platform, and 5 percent say they are moving to another package. With a customer base somewhere north of 100,000, there is always going to be some churning in the background, so it’s hard to say if these numbers are good or bad without looking at several year’s worth of data.
It’s worth noting here that, despite the very large number of respondents, LANSA’s survey was not scientific in that it was not based on random sampling of customers. Respondents took it upon themselves to participate in the survey after reading about it on blogs, social media sites, and advertisements in newsletters and magazines (as opposed to being approached by the questioner randomly, which is the only way to do a scientifically valid survey). These self-selecting respondents would tend to skew the results in the direction of more active involvement with the platform, not less. But the 2010 iPulse survey looks to be as good as it gets–it would be practically impossible to select and survey an entirely random sample of IBM i customers without IBM‘s customer list–and even IBM admits they don’t know who all their customers are.
The answers to LANSA’s third question are unquestionably and unequivocally bad, especially in light of the survey’s built-in skew towards more active platform involvement. According to the survey results, 49 percent of respondents have no budget for investing in new software for the IBM i server. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Of the rest, 14 percent have a budget of less than $10,000, 9 percent have a budget of over $100,000, and the rest are somewhere in between.
Unless the bulk of survey respondents are roll-your-own coders that write everything–from ERP systems and backup utilities to security programs and development tools–the fact that 50 percent of IBM i shops have no plans to buy any software is a giant red flag, not only for the viability of IBM i shops to adapt, but for the future health of independent software vendors (ISVs) trying to make a living in the IBM i market. LANSA’s EMEA marketing manager, Ian Piddock, who guides us through the results on the LANSA blog page referenced above, is correct in warning that the lack of new software investment could spell the end of smaller ISVs and that customers would be wise to check their financial health before doing business with them.
LANSA also asked respondents to outline how their software budget will be spent. Application development led the pack with 26 percent of the budget, followed by AD’s close sibling, application modernization, with 23 percent. Eating between 10 and 22 percent of the budget (with bigger eaters first) are: Web enablement; high availability and disaster recovery; general utilities such as backup and job scheduling; business intelligence; application integration; document management and workflow; and security. For the full list, see LANSA’s blog.
Now for the fun part: the naming of the top vendors. LANSA asked respondents to name who they perceived to be the “leading vendors” across eight product categories. LANSA led the results with four first-place finishes, in application modernization, Web enablement, application development, and application integration, while IBM took top honors in three categories: business intelligence (with Cognos), document management and workflow, and security. Vision Solutions was named the top vendor for high availability and disaster recovery, while Help/Systems was named top vendor in utilities.
Other vendors gaining recognition in their respective categories were: Business Computer Design Int’l (BCD), BusinessObjects (now part of SAP), Bsafe Information Systems, CA Technologies, Inovis (now part of GXS), Linoma Software, looksoftware, Maxava, Microsoft, NetIQ, Oracle, PowerTech, Prodata Computer Services, RJS Software, Real Vision Software (RVI), SoftLanding Systems, Trader’s, Quadrant Software, QlikTech, Zend Technologies.
This is the first year that LANSA has conducted the iPulse survey. It plans to conduct the next one in 2011, a spokesperson says. To see the full results of the 2010 iPulse survey, go to blog.lansa.com/general/ipulse-2010-survey-results.