Reader Feedback On OpenVMS Spinout A Possible Prelude To An IBM i Future?
August 25, 2014 Hey, TPM
Nice article, well written and factual. I myself still work on OpenVMS because it “just works.” I too thought it would be a good idea to port OpenVMS to X86, ARM, and others–most of the knowledge in porting from VAX to Alpha made it easier to go from Alpha to Itanium.
Your article is one the only I’ve seen that mentions ARM and others or any reference to a comment about not limiting OpenVMS just to X86. I am assuming you are the only one who read everything that VMS Software said, then well done!
Hello there. I did this old-fashioned thing that many journalists these days do not do anymore: I picked up the phone and actually spoke to the people at VMS Software and asked them the smartest questions I can think of. And, in fact, none of the documents they put out about their OpenVMS porting plans say anything about platforms other than X86. So, this thing is always worth the effort. And is, in fact, the job.
In your article OpenVMS Spinout A Possible Prelude To An IBM i Future? published in the The Four Hundred on August 11, 2014, you said:
“There are about 150,000 unique IBM i shops, and about a fifth of them are on Software Maintenance support and keep their iron relatively up to date.”
How did you arrive at that number? Last fall I tried to perform a business case for a personal business as a contract programmer. (I have 17 years working experience on the ‘400.) I was unable to get any sort of numbers through LUGs or IBM itself (at, least IBM Canada). Knowing this information and possible distribution would have been key for my business case.
Any information you provide would be greatly appreciated; especially for Canada! Thanks in advance for all your time and help. I am looking forward to your prompt reply.
Hey there, Christopher:
The data that is concrete about the IBM i business is a little thin, that is for sure. But that 150,000 number is right from IBM, and specifically, what Big Blue has said is that there are more than 150,000 unique customers in the world running the IBM i platform and its predecessors.
That figure of around 30,000 active accounts–meaning people that stay relatively current on hardware and software releases and who pay for Software Maintenance–is something myself and a couple of ISVs have surmised over the past few years. And I saw some internal IBM numbers that were given to business partners last year that also indicated that this was the size of the customer base on Software Maintenance. I do like being right when I guess something. . . .
Now, for your larger question about the size of the IBM i market in Canada. I have not seen good demographic data by country for the OS/400 and IBM i installed base for many years–good data I have is nearly 20 years old, which is hard to believe. But historically, the size of the revenue stream in North America was roughly the same as the revenue stream in Europe. Europe had more customers, but North America had larger customers with bigger machines, all what you would expect given the relative sizes of the countries. Back then, the Asian and Central/South American parts of the AS/400 business was relatively small, but not non-existent. It was probably on the order of 40 percent North America, 45 percent Europe, and 15 percent for the remainder of the world if you are looking at it by revenue. If I had to guess–and I do have to guess–I would say that IBM i platform revenues and installed bases are still probably roughly the same across a geographic distribution. Today, it might be something like 30 percent North America, 30 percent Europe, 25 percent Asia, 15 percent Central/South America. That gives you something on the order of 45,000 customers in North America, 45,000 in Europe, 37,500 in Asia, and 22,500 in Latin America.
That leaves us to try to figure out how many customers are using the progeny of AS/400s in Canada. Our friends in the Great White North did not have any greater tendency to adopt or abandon AS/400s than in the United States, so I think it would scale more or less by the prevalence of manufacturing, distribution, retail, banking, and education, which are the core markets for the IBM i platform today and were back in the day. Which is another way of saying that gross domestic product (GDP) is probably a good place to try to do a scale to estimate. In 2013, Canada had a GDP of $1.825 trillion and the United States had a GDP of $16.8 trillion. That means Canada is about 10 percent of the North American GDP–10.21 percent if you want to be super-precise. If the installed base of IBM i customers scales with GDP, then there are about 4,600 unique IBM i shops in Canada. Now let’s scale it by relative population just for fun. The United States has 318.6 million people and Canada has 35.4 million. That is a combined 354 million people, and once again, Canada is about 10 percent of the total so that gives you 4,500 IBM i customers in Canada if population is an appropriate scaling factor to estimate the base.
Of course, IBM has a sense of how many companies are running IBM i by country, certainly for those that are on Software Maintenance. It would be interesting to get feedback on this and see a distribution of customers by country, by industry, by revenue, and by employee count. That sort of data used to be available from the big IT database builders.