IBM i Top Concerns: Build Skills, Add High Availability, Serve Users
November 5, 2012 Timothy Prickett Morgan
As this newsletter so aptly demonstrates, you don’t have to be an IBM i shop to be intimately interconnected with the IBM i community and therefore have your own concerns about the health and wealth of the platform. The community is dominated by users, of course, but software developers, consultants, resellers, IBMers, and wiseguys like reporters and analysts all have skin in the game, and they voiced their opinions in the latest Top Concerns survey performed by COMMON Europe.
First of all, for all of you who participated in this year’s Top Concerns survey, the seventh of which closed in October, I personally thank you and so does Ranga Deshpande, Top Concerns Project Leader for COMMON Europe. The Top Concerns survey is open to everyone in the community and is done on behalf of all of the national COMMON organizations to give IBM a To-Do list that at least counterbalances some of the heavy leaning that the hundred or so largest IBM i shops do individually and collectively through the non-profit Large User Group. And for the record, I never take the Top Concerns survey, and not because I am not interested in such things or unhelpful, but because the last 23 years of The Four Hundred have been a kind of top concerns ramble. For one thing, I don’t want to skew the results of the survey. And for another, my job is not to be part of the data, but to express your desires clearly and do my own kind of leaning on IBM from the bully pulpit.
So it is somewhat paradoxical that I am going to now tell you that more of you should take the Top Concerns survey every year when it is open. It is for your own good, after all. That said, the number of survey respondents is higher than some of the surveys I see performed by Gartner and IDC and then extrapolated to the global IT market. I am not a statistician, but I feel that the Top Concerns survey is more representative based on the sheer numbers, but I can’t say that there has been a statistically random sampling.
The survey had 679 responses that were qualified as valid, and of these, 448 were from customers, 214 were from business partners, software developers, and consultants, and 17 were from IBM. About 35 percent of those who took the survey were in management roles, 40 percent were in software development, 14 percent dealt with IT infrastructure in some fashion or the other, and the remainder were in other areas. About 44 percent of those who took the Top Concerns 2012 survey were members of at least one IBM i user group. As you might expect given the source of the survey, it had a high representation in Europe, at 57 percent of total respondents, 30 percent from the Americas, 10 percent from Africa, and 3 percent from Australasia. You Yanks and Canucks are not pulling your weight.
Without further ado, here are the 15 Top Concerns, ranked in ascending order by the average of the ranking they received across all respondents. Survey takers could rank the issues on a scale from one to 10, so as you can see, with a range of 7.00 to 8.25, respondents felt pretty strongly about all of them. This gives you a sense of intensity as well as ranking by order.
It is interesting to me, and I think a healthy sign, that keeping skills current, ensuring high availability, and keeping users (which means the literal users as well as line of business managers) happy ranked high on the list. As did attracting new talent to the IBM i base. The most popular golden concern–write-ins where users can ask for anything they want if the list doesn’t match it well–in one form or another was marketing the IBM i platform.
We all know that IBM is not marketing platforms anymore, so complaining about that won’t change much. More young and old people would join the IBM i market if it was growing and flush with cash and jobs. At this point, I think that if IBM gives the software vendors in the IBM i ecosystem co-marketing dollars and sales leads and gives business partners enough margin so they can eat, we are supposed to call this a win. It is not ideal, but given the state of the server racket in general and IBM’s obsession with Smarter Planet and big data and other things that could be important to IBM i shops, Big Blue might want to consider starting to scale back its talk and maybe make some deals with Smarter Tri-State Region and Midrange Data. But what do I know? I just run a small business and live in the midrange all week long, every week of the year, for decades.
The other thing that the Top Concerns survey looks at it every year is IT budget trends and upgrade plans among IBM i shops. The customer data is what really matters, but this table has the full set of data from the 679 respondents, as well as for the 448 user shops surveyed.
As you can see, slightly more of those surveyed said they were decreasing operating expenses than were increasing them, and more companies were increasing capital expenses on new projects and upgrades than cutting. But not by a huge margin. Considering how late it is in the year, you would think most shops would know where they are going to end up for 2012.
The good news is that a third of the base has moved to Power7 iron and a little more than a quarter are on IBM i 7.1. Another quarter or so are planning to move to IBM i 7.1, and 30 percent of respondents said they were considering or planning a move up to Power7 iron. The bad news from IBM is that the natural integrated system doesn’t understand the value of PureSystems and are not planning to move to it. I have said it before and I will say it again. The PureSystems machines are too big and too expensive for most IBM shops. Build a smaller machine suitable for the modest IBM i and Windows workloads most midrange customers have, and then they will come.
This machine should have been part of the original plan. No excuses, no ifs, no ands, no buts.