Should We Just Call It Power i Now?
June 8, 2015 Alex Woodie
“What’s in a name?” Shakespeare wrote so eloquently hundreds of years ago. “That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” Words may be imperfect representations for the things we encounter in real life, but even the Bard realized that words nonetheless carry a certain power and have a certain life of their own. And when it comes to the midrange server platform that we all know and love, what we call it is a discussion all its own.
The platform’s official name, per IBM, is “IBM i on IBM Power Systems.” This name is interesting for several reasons, not the least of which is that nobody actually calls it that. With six words (two of them IBM!) and 21 characters (26 if you’re counting spaces!), it’s just way too long to say, to search against (at least without quotes on Google) or even remember for that matter. Most Twitter messages are shorter than that. It’s just a non-starter.
Further linguistic investigation of the name reveals a weird internal contradiction. Now, everybody knows what the lowercase “i” in “IBM i” stands for, right? It stands for “integration,” one of the hallmarks of this powerful machine that comes with everything a business wants and needs in a server–a database, a hypervisor, a security and authentication model, development tools, etc. It’s all there, pre-packaged and pre-integrated by IBM engineers at the IBM factory, so that you don’t have to worry about it. Just plug it in, load it up, and away you go. It’s been that easy and self-contained since the System/3X days, and it’s one of the top reasons businesses continue to run this system decade after decade.
And yet, even in the name, we’re forced to acknowledge the separation of the operating system from the hardware it runs on. In the old days, when you had an AS/400, you knew it was running the OS/400 operating system, but at the end of the day you knew what to call it. “What is that thing over there, Joe?” “Oh, that’s an AS/400, Mike.” It was simple and straightforward.
Now, when Mike asks what that thing in the corner is, Joe tells him, “Oh, that’s an IBM i running on Power Systems server.” It doesn’t sound simple or straightforward at all to Mike, who’s not going to remember all those words and will be helpless to explain if somebody asks. This is why so many people in the community hang onto the old self-contained names, like AS/400 (replaced in 2000), iSeries (replaced in 2006), and System i (replaced in 2008), because they were simple and all-in-one. Just like the real-life boxes they represented.
Nobody uses the Christian name “IBM i on IBM Power Systems” because it’s such a bizarre, awkward, and painful thing to do. And once you strip out all that generic clutter, you’re left with just “i,” which, damn it, looks lot like a candle in the wind (queue the Elton John music here).
This untenable naming situation leads everybody in the community to pick his or her own name, for better or for worse. Some frustrated souls choose to continue calling modern Power-based systems that are running the IBM i OS by the old names, because it’s simple and everybody understands what they mean. But these people risk the wrath of people like Trevor Perry, an IBM i Champion and midrange evangelical who is very much aware of the power of words in how we think and interact.
Most in the community have settled on “IBM i” as the shorthand for this server platform. That seems to work. And yet it’s less than satisfactory because it forces us into grammatically dangerous territory. You can’t “have” an IBM i any more than you can “have” a Windows. When Mike asks Joe what that machine is over there, and Joe says “That’s an IBM i,” technically he’s just referring to the operating itself, and not the machine as a whole.
You can get around this by calling it an “IBM i server,” which is the preferred method that IT Jungle and many others use to refer to this machine. (TPM tends to say the IBM i platform, but he has a thing about that word, platform.) It may seem like a moot, pointless distinction, but it goes to the heart over the naming crises that this platform seems to perpetually find itself in. (Let’s not even get into the fact that IBM asks us to call a singular server a “Power Systems,” which implies multiple servers. Argh!)
The ongoing search for a simple and elegant solution to the naming dilemma is now leading us to a new name: “Power i.” Now, it’s not an official name by any means, but it does seem to be catching on in certain parts of the community.
The name “Power i” was used extensively by Alex Gogh, the vice president of global sales for IBM server solutions, during his well-received keynote address at the COMMON conference just over a month ago. If such a senior executive as Gogh can call it Power i, then why can’t you?
Momentum is building behind Power i. From a practical viewpoint, Power i just works. For starters, it’s short and sweet. It’s also relatively searchable and “taggable” without advanced social media skills, critical for our 140-characer attention spans. And best of all, it combines the two essential elements of the platform–the Power hardware and the IBM i software–into one memorable phrase. The integration has been re-established, the tear has been healed!
Not so fast, says Perry. While he sounded amenable to Power i after Gogh’s speech at COMMON, he’s having second thoughts about it now. “I am in two minds on this name,” Perry tells IT Jungle via email. “One is that it definitely works for describing what an ‘AS/400’ used to be. Two is that we don’t say Power AIX, so why are we saying Power i?”
(TPM would point out that IBM does indeed say “Power Linux” when referring to its Linux-only Power systems, and has for years.)
In the end, adding Power i to the mix may do more harm than good, Perry says. “I really think that ‘Power i’ just adds one more (unnecessary) search term in a community that is fighting for consistency in brand usage,” he says. “I am becoming less enamored of the term, and feel like it is Alex Gogh who is adding to the confusion. I understand he also used it recently at some other event, and I am working a plan to simply have him step up to IBM i.”
While Gogh is using Power i, the rest of IBM may not be so agreeable to the name. (The fact that Gogh was not allowed to talk to the press at COMMON without media handlers at his side, ostensibly to apply electric shocks every time he uttered the unsanctioned “Power i” name, may indicate the ultimate disapproval of the IBM brass.)
Perry adds that our friends in Europe have been using the term Power i for several years, which he has been campaigning against. “It has not been used at any (other) IBM i user groups that I have attended recently, so I think it is really just Alex not paying attention,” he says.
What do you think of the name Power i? Do you have plans to call the platform by that name, or are you still calling it e(logo)Series iServer? Have your voice heard by sending us a note using IT Jungle‘s contact form.