Pitcher’s Lotus-on-IBM-i Campaign Pays Dividends
January 24, 2012 Alex Woodie
Steve Pitcher has a major beef with IBM. No, it’s not about the confusing naming schemes that Big Blue has cooked up for his beloved IBM i platform (that’s just a minor beef). The big one has to do with the fact that some key IBM Lotus Notes and Domino software doesn’t run on the IBM i platform. But instead of quietly stewing about it, Pitcher has set out to change things, and judging from his experience at last week’s Lotusphere conference, he’s having success.
In his day job, Pitcher is the enterprise systems manager for Scotsburn Dairy Group in Nova Scotia, Canada, where he takes care of the company’s IBM i systems. The young IT professional has developed an appreciation for IBM technology in his 33 years, including the renowned IBM i platform, which he is a big fan of, but also the Lotus Notes/Domino platform.
But Pitcher says IBM has not done IBM i any favors by its failure to enable the platform to run some of the latest Lotus technology, specifically IBM Connections, the Sametime Media Manager, and Lotus Notes Traveler. These three products bring some pretty cutting edge capabilities in the areas of social networking, IP telephony, and mobile computing, and as such they have become strategic products for IBM.
In late 2011, Pitcher embarked upon a public campaign to drive awareness of the gaping hole in IBM’s Notes strategy, and the lack of support for running these key Lotus products on IBM i. As part of this campaign, Pitcher used social media to circulate a petition to show how many IBM i-Lotus customers are out there. He initially set a goal of 200,000 Notes user licenses, but it quickly surpassed that number, and Pitcher set a new goal of showing 500,000 licenses before last week’s Lotusphere. Half a million would definitely send a big message, he thought.
Ultimately he fell a little short, gathering 410,000 before boarding the plane to Orlando. But that didn’t stop Pitcher from making a big splash at his first Lotusphere and drawing attention to his cause. “We’re rocking the boat and making people notice,” he tells IT Jungle. “I had a quick little chat with Alistair Rennie, the general manager of Lotus. They seemed receptive. They said, ‘show us the business case for this.'”
Pitcher has no problem laying out the business case for having these key apps running natively on the IBM i server, and points to a session by IBM’s vice president of social computing Jeff Schick to help make his case for bringing IBM i support to IBM Connections, which he views as his top priority.
“Data in motion is the key,” Pitcher paraphrases Schick as saying during the session. “Data that’s just sitting there is dead data. There’s a requirement to have archival data. But stuff moving that’s flowing in motion and being approved and moving from person to person, which is what IBM Connections gets you–it makes your data alive and turns your business into a more flexible entity in being able to process information and get the value out of the 1s and 0s that are running thorough the organization. If it’s just sitting there in a file server somewhere, nobody’s looking at it, nobody’s checking it out. IBM Connections brings that data to a more fluid ecosystem.”
But if Pitcher wanted to use IBM Connections at his company, he would have to install a Windows or Linux server, because it doesn’t run on the IBM i OS. “By putting an IBM Connections server on i, I cut down hardware, I cut down on cabling, I cut down on points of failure, I cut down on routers and switches and all kinds of crap that’s in the mix,” he says. “If I put it in a separate subsystem [on IBM i], then it manages itself and it gets backed up with nightly backup on one tape, and it goes to the high availability box as well. It’s simplicity at its finest to have as many of these products as possible on the one platform.”
IBM Connections runs on Linux, Windows, AIX, and even Linux on z/OS. But there’s no IBM i support. It could run on IBM i under PASE, but it would require some work from IBM, as well as the commitment to provide support, which so far IBM has not made.
Getting Sametime Media Manager running on IBM i is Pitcher’s second priority. “There’s a big reason to have Media Manager on i as well,” he says. “If you’re just using Sametime for meetings and sharing screens, that’s all well and good. But if you want to go to Sametime Unified Telephony Lite–which allows you to flick on a little switch in your Sametime system console and use Lotus Notes Sametime client as a soft phone–then it opens the door to telephony in your environment pretty easily. If you’re looking for that, you have to go to X86, period. Personally, I’d rather have all that communication running on the system bus then have to go out through a switch and then through a cable somewhere and then to a Windows server somewhere. It’s a royal pain in the ass.”
Getting Lotus Notes Traveler running natively on IBM i is Pitcher’s third priority. Currently, this software only runs on Windows and X86 Linux; there’s not even an AIX version. “Traveler is your gateway for managing iPad and Android and all that stuff,” Pitcher says. “It’s similar technology to Blackberry Enterprise server.”
A big part of the “business case” pitch involves making Lotus executives and product managers understand how many other passionate Lotus-on-IBM i customers are out there. Why is that IBM i–which is the most widely used platform among the core IBM OSes–gets short shrift when it comes to running key applications?
The answer may be as simple as a lack of awareness. Pitcher says that Lotus executives told him that they received very few requests to support some of the newer technology on the IBM i platform.
Thanks to Pitcher’s campaign, that lack of awareness is changing, and a newfound demand for running the latest technology on IBM i is emerging. “A lot of people went to Lotusphere with the goal to speak to somebody in an executive position. In talking to some of the IBMers, they had a ton of people come up and say, ‘Why aren’t you doing this?’ and ‘I want this.’ I know the message is getting heard.”
Lotusphere is over, but that won’t stop Pitcher from spreading the word. “I’m going to keep kicking and screaming. That’s the only thing I can really do, just talk to the community and–I hate the word evangelize–but get out there and tout the strengths of IBM i as a platform for this stuff.”
Pitcher has allies in Rochester, but the Lotus group could still use some convincing, he says. Both the Lotus and IBM i products have changed tremendously over the years, and getting the two systems to work together again would be beneficial to both camps.
It can take a lot of time and effort to change somebody’s perceptions, but Pitcher is adamant that it’s worth doing. “People think Lotus, they think Lotus 123. The Lotus Notes and Domino from 1996 is not the Lotus Notes of today,” Pitcher says. “Maybe the Lotus guys think the AS/400 is old. It is. It’s not an AS/400 anymore. The technology has been evolved. It’s just bloody fantastic, and I think the Lotus guys are going to understand sooner or later that we’ve got a hell of a community.”
Pitcher is still accepting signatures on his petition, which is hosted online at spitcher.wufoo.com/forms/make-ibm-i-your-social-collaboration-platform.