Maxava Bolsters IBM i Community with iFoundation, $50,000 in Grants
April 5, 2011 Alex Woodie
IBM i software developer Maxava put its money where its mouth is last week when it announced the creation of a new foundation that aims to support initiatives that help to grow and strengthen the IBM i community. The group, called the Maxava iFoundation, will give away $50,000 in grants through 2012. The money will be given to nonprofit organizations that foster the free exchange of IBM i ideas and skills, and the deadline for applying is June 30.
The IBM i server is a lot of things to a lot of people. It’s simultaneously an overachieving feat of daring-do by a small band in America’s heartland and a technological underachiever that can never get over the hump. For the last decade, a hundred thousand companies have hitched their businesses to this computational draft horse, but analysts always have it one bad quarter away from being sent to the glue factory. It’s the black sheep of the computing world and the red-headed stepchild of Big Blue, and the world’s best selling business computer that nobody has ever heard of, all at the same time.
Since 2000, several groups have tried to organize the platform’s faithful to coalesce their energy and to apply their excitement in a useful way. (In other words, to do the brand-specific marketing activities that IBM has steadily refused to do.) In the early part of the decade, there was iSeries Nation, which started out strong then fizzled. A few years later, iSociety was another attempt to bring together the flock. In 2009, a loose association of groups called iManifest gained some traction in calls for promoting the platform. There have been several other organizations that have sought to grab the IBM i reins, and COMMON and the larger local user groups have done their share of IBM i-specific evangelizing.
Maxava is not trying to recreate any of these groups’ goals with its Maxava iFoundation. Instead, as Maxava CEO Allan Campbell explains it, the foundation’s focus is on providing financial assistance to worthy IBM i user groups and organizations that are already in existence. If these groups could use some assistance to continue to do their job of providing IBM i-related education and promoting the platform in general, then the iFoundation is willing to help.
Campbell says that he and others at Maxava are fully focused on promoting what he calls the “‘400 bloodline” by helping people and groups in the IBM i community who are already working on the front line. “While there is certainly room for new initiatives, we shouldn’t overlook the organizations that are already in place and have been working away diligently for years,” he tells IT Jungle via e-mail. “It seems to us that they might be able to do an even better job of changing perceptions at the grass roots level if they had a few more resources.”
To that end, Campbell and his colleagues, via a new division of Maxava, are putting up $50,000 in grant money. The plan is to distribute 25 grants of $2,000 each, although the amount could go down if more than 25 worthy grant proposals are received. Maxava is committed to responding to every grant proposal within four weeks of the deadline, which is June 30, 2011.
The iFoundation aims to help a range of IBM i activities, including ISVs, local and national user groups, and schools. COMMON, iManifest, groups on Linked-In or Facebook, and community colleges with IBM i classes are all eligible–just as long as they promote the IBM i platform. Owing to Maxava’s focus on IBM i disaster recovery and high availability software, the Maxava iFoundation will give preference in approving the grants to organizations that include HA or DR education as part of their activities.
The grants can be used for IBM i-related activities, as long as they go to pay for things like: education; administration costs; group meetings; conferences; membership growth initiatives; events; and speaker support. The grants cannot go to cover personal expenses or any expenses that have already been incurred, Maxava says. In return, the recipient of the grant is asked to place the Maxava iFoundation Logo on their website.
Campbell says he got the idea for iFoundation while vacationing at the beach New Year’s Day, which is the beginning of summer in New Zealand. He noticed many fundraising activities for local surf lifesaving clubs, which are akin to American beach lifeguards (think David Hasselhoff, not Kelly Slater). Without funding from the public and sponsors, these groups could not provide vital safety services to beach-goers. “It made me think that all the IBM i interest groups have been getting on quietly with doing the important grass roots work for years and they could probably do much more if they had some help,” Campbell says.
Something needs to be done to bolster the IBM i community before it withers away, Campbell says. “I am fed up of the first question I get asked when I tell people we work in the IBM i market being ‘Do some people still use that?'” he says. “If we are not careful we will reach a point where the current generation is retiring on mass and younger people are not stepping in because it is ‘not cool’ or they do not see a future in i. If we get to that tipping point, I think we will see a sudden decline of i as companies fail to replace departing skilled staff and lose confidence in their ability to manage the platform.”
If that happens it will be hard, if not impossible, to come back from, he says. “This does not have to happen–but unless we change the perception that i is dying, perception is likely to become reality,” Campbell continues. “That’s the urgency. We need to turn a ‘super tanker’ of perception and it takes time. Obviously a broad plan is needed, but we don’t think there can be any doubt that a vibrant user community is an important component of any successful strategy. We think can help with that right now, so are making a start.”
For more information on Maxava iFoundation or to apply for a grant, see the group’s website at www.maxavaifoundation.com.