Cautious Optimism Pervades COMMON
May 4, 2015 Alex Woodie
It’s tough to have a bad day at Disneyland, which is officially “The Happiest Place On Earth.” But the IBM i community carries a lot of baggage, and some of it is blacker than a Maleficent curse. So when 1,000 of the community’s staunchest supporters descended upon the hallowed grounds of childhood dreams last week, unfettered joy was not a preordained outcome.
But, as it turns out, the COMMON conference that took place at the Disneyland Hotel last Sunday through Thursday came off better than expected, at least as far as the future of the platform is concerned. While nobody is declaring an end to all of the IBM i platform’s ills, the positive show gave attendees, IBMers, and independent software vendors (ISVs) a reason to think that better days just might be ahead.
IBM‘s top Power Systems salesman started things off by delivering an energy-filled keynote during the show’s opening session. Alex Gogh, the vice president of global sales for IBM server solutions, hit all the right notes in his 30-minute presentation, including the primary importance of (repeat after me) cloud, mobile, analytics, and social.
While Gogh’s speech will be remembered most for the energy he brought to the show and passion he displayed (which other IBM executives in the Power Systems division would do well to emulate), he did leave his audience with one hard figure that they could savor like a Frozen-flavored popsicle on a hot Anaheim afternoon: Double-digit revenue growth for IBM i.
Yes, dear reader, you read that right. “Power revenue grew for the first time in several years and it was led by the Power i community in double-digit growth,” Gogh said.
For IBM–which ceased providing revenue figures for the IBM i platform since The Great Power Systems Merger of 2008 resulted in IBM i (then i5/OS), AIX, and Linux sharing a common hardware platform–Gogh’s revelation was an uncharacteristically direct piece of hard data. (Hopefully it doesn’t result in bad things for Gogh, who was not allowed to speak directly to the press at the show for the lack of an onsite media handler.)
After the opening session, attendees poured into the Expo hall, where HelpSystems was serving cake and champagne in celebration of an anniversary. Numerous ISVs–whose primary motivation in attending the show is to get leads for software sales that they’ll follow up on later–said that both the volume of traffic in their booths, and the quality of their leads that they brought, was better than anticipated.
After years of belt-tightening and budget-cutting following the Great Recession, it appears that IBM i shops are finally opening up their wallets and investing in the platform again. Surely the launch of the Power8 family of servers and the need to move off i5/OS V5R4 are combining to get tens of thousands of organizations running vintage iron and soon-to-be-unsupported versions of the OS moving. (Hopefully it didn’t come too late to save the platform.)
In other news, there were several awards handed out at the show, including:
While the IBM i revenue figures were up, the attendance figures for COMMON were down a bit from previous shows, and in fact was at the lowest point since the horrible Reno, Nevada, experience in the winter of 2009. COMMON reported about 1,125 attendees at last year’s show, while this year’s show had an estimated 1,000 people (including paying attendees as well as ISVs, IBMers, and media). It wasn’t so much the quantity of the attendees at this year’s show that mattered so much as the quality.
Looking forward, COMMON is planning to have a fall show in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. And next May, COMMON will return to New Orleans, Louisiana, for the first time in over a decade. By then, we could be in the midst of a full-blown IBM i renaissance–at least, one can hope.