Making A Case For IBM i
April 2, 2012 Dan Burger
The IBM i community has never suffered from a lack of advocates. Those who know it best know it to be a highly capable platform with many attributes that make it superior in many ways to other platforms. The Smarter Computing message that IBM has built its marketing message around is IBM i computing. There are innovative businesses around the world proving this. And there are companies that have resisted change riding the old AS/400 horse for far too long with little or no attempt to move with the system into the modern world.
The overall perception of the platform is colored more by the later than the former.
To buck that trend, there are super advocates–Trevor Perry comes to mind–who are moved to take action. Perry is a band leader of sorts, and an extremely energetic one at that. During the past several months he has planned and promoted and put forth a survey that more than 850 of the IBM i faithful have completed. IT Jungle readers have been encouraged to take part. Although Perry has yet to complete his tabulations and corresponding analysis, he shared some of his early findings with me in a telephone conversation last week.
“What I see is proof that our community is in a quandary,” he says. “They love the platform, but they view it in many ways.”
One thing that depresses him is that more than 20 percent of those who completed the survey are complaining about name changes and lack of platform-specific marketing by IBM–the same rhetoric that has been going on for years. This jumps to conclusions about the platform not being able to survive and that it is on its way out. It feeds misconceptions and puts obstacles in the way of people who might otherwise become better acquainted with the system’s capabilities and modern features. And that, he says, leads to situations where the staff that supports the system is ill equipped to defend it when upper management questions the investment in hardware, software, and staffing.
On the bright side, Perry notes that more than 70 percent of the survey responders are “really happy” with their systems and 20 percent of those are willing to get involved with a program that makes a strong case for the value of the system, which can be used in presentations to executives who are by and large unaware of the benefits. In other words, backing up the Smarter Computing message with facts that overcome the misconceptions.
“Even among the advocates,” Perry says, “there are many who are unaware of how modern the platform is.”
Perry is well known for his “slap your knuckles with a ruler” insistence on dropping references to the AS/400, the iSeries, and the System i, which he believes perpetuates the idea this system is old fashioned and masks the truth that the system is modern and vital. However, he did acknowledge that “although I want everyone to call it the same thing, in the end it’s not about the name. It’s about what we do with the box.” The distinction, he says, is really whether a person uses, for example, the modern development tools, the modern languages, and builds a graphical user interface.
“There are companies that call it the AS/400 and use it like an IBM i with all the modern stuff. There are people in that boat,” he admits, “but it is my experience that that is a really small boat.”
The survey also indicated that approximately 75 percent of the sampling thought they were doing technically innovative projects, and that brightened Perry’s day. He says more analysis may clarify how the term innovative is being applied.
“The respondents may be skewed a little high because these are people who went out on the Web and did a survey. This may not be representative of the community as a whole. And it’s possible that it could be more representative of the part of the community that is finding fault,” he says.
As Perry digs deeper into the analysis of his survey, he promises to post his conclusions on the www.ibmi2.com site he recently launched to promote the IBM platform.
Perry is also one of the guest speakers at the iBelieve event that is scheduled for Friday, May 4, at the Hyatt Regency Orange County in Garden Grove, California, which is just ahead of the COMMON 2012 Annual Meeting and Exposition taking place in nearby Anaheim. Other speakers on the iBelieve agenda include Frank Soltis, Allison Butterill, Susan Gantner, and Jon Paris. The iBelieve event is hosted by looksoftware.
The iBelieve event has been set up by looksoftware to give people an opportunity to hear a positive message about IBM i. According to Paul Hodgkinson, looksoftware’s marketing manager, the focus will be on getting involved with spreading a positive message, connecting with IBM, and with others who share the enthusiasm. There will be an emphasis on why the IBM i has a strong future. Giving people the tools they lack in order to convince others in their organizations that the IBM i has a bright future.