Maxava Opens Up Bidding For iFoundation Grants
July 11, 2016 Timothy Prickett Morgan
For the sixth year running now, high availability software maker Maxava is putting its money where its mouth is in the IBM i community and donating a big bag of cash through its Maxava iFoundation to causes that benefit the maintenance and expansion of the IBM i community.
Maxava launched its first iFoundation grants back in April 2011, promising to pay up to $50,000, in increments of up to $2,000 a pop, to organizations in the IBM i community that could use a little extra help in fulfilling their missions. Every little bit helps, in the first year $45,000 in grants were issued and some years it has gone as high as $52,000 because the number of applications and the quality of the applications was good enough to justify the overage. Maxava’s first year runs from spring to spring, which is why the opening of applications for the iFoundation grants happens in June and closes in July each year.
To our knowledge, no other organization like the iFoundation exists, although many similar organizations have been started (and failed) as a means to try to help bolster the IBM i community. While COMMON and a handful of other regional users groups dedicated to the IBM i platform do their part to build and expand the community, their purpose is more to serve the community by collecting fees from users and funds from IBM i product vendors through trade show expos to provide education and training to their respective users. They do not distribute funds, as such, but rather consume them for their own purposes. The iFoundation is designed expressly to fill in the gaps between what IBM i organizations can do by themselves and what they wish they could do if they just had a bit more funding.
“Maxava is delighted to be able to provide ongoing support to the IBM i community,” Allan Campbell, CEO of Maxava, said in a statement opening up the application process for the grants for the 2016/2017 iFoundation season. “When you get the chance to sit down with volunteers and hear how the Maxava iFoundation has assisted them in maintaining and growing a vibrant IBM i community, it is very encouraging. With IBM’s continuing enhancement of the operating system, the rapid growth of cloud computing, and the emergence of new models to support users, there is certainly plenty for IBM i professionals to get together and talk about.”
Campbell singled out Matthew Kingdon, vice president of the Utah IBM i Professionals Association (UIIPA), as an example of how the iFoundation funds should be deployed. UIIPA is a 31-year-old user group that applied for and received a grant to help get younger members of the local IBM i user base to attend its meetings and to get people to show up regularly for meetings.
UIIPA took a multi-pronged approach, as Kingdon explains: “We currently have one member who is the same age as the group while the rest of us are a bit older. Okay, some of us are a lot older. One important challenge we face is to make our user group gatherings more enjoyable and stimulating for young people to encourage their involvement. To achieve this goal, we improved the quality of educational presentations by rewarding the presenters for their time and effort. Internally, we offered a free corporate membership to the organization that attended the most number of meetings in the year, to encourage members to stay actively in touch with the user group community. Last but not least, we started to provide a modest lunch after the meetings, which helps people stay longer to continue on with the discussions, and make personal-level connections. All these became possible with the grants provided by the Maxava iFoundation.”
These seem like little things, but they worked. In 2014, UIIPA had an average of 15.5 people at its monthly meetings, and in 2015 that rose to an average of 21.6 people and through the first half of 2016 it is averaging 27.8 people.
The iFoundation grants are given specifically to support educational conferences and workshops, speaker expenses, marketing and educational collaboration with local colleges and universities, and other similar activities. The grants are given for future activities, not ones that have already been undertaken, and they have to be specific activities, not general ones such as boosting membership. Grants are given once a year per organization, and Maxava is perfectly upfront in that it will preferentially make grants for those organizations that provide an educational component for high availability and disaster recovery as part of their annual agendas. Personal expenses are not covered by grants. Organizations that are awarded a grant agree to provide a Maxava iFoundation logo on their websites. Maxava also points out that it is happy to provide speakers, free of charge, for user group meetings, and reminds us that since November 2012 it has offered a User Group Support stipend for any member of a user group whose company purchases HA software licenses from Maxava.
The iFoundation grant application process will be open until July 15, and Maxava will notify winners four weeks after this cutoff and provide a direct transfer of funds to the organizations. You can apply here.
By the way, the iFoundation is not trying to be a uber-group for collecting IBM i users together and is not, as such, a threat to the existing user groups. We have seen that movie many times before, and that is a bit much to ask of a single software vendor in the Power Systems space. Fifteen years ago, we had iSeries Nation, and after that there was iSociety, and six years ago iManifest was launched. All of these efforts have failed for various reasons, not the least of which is that their mission statements were sometimes a little more lofty and required much more money than could be reasonably raised by a user community to basically do the job that Big Blue itself does not do to promote the IBM i platform. Since 2000, when these efforts were launched, IBM has had other more pressing priorities (in its own estimation, not ours) and these days is far more focused on OpenPower and trying to expand the Power ecosystem. These things are absolutely vital to the longevity of the IBM i platform, so we wish IBM well. But it is a shame that there is not a unified user group that can help Big Blue tell the IBM i story better.
It would be interesting to see an independent iFoundation, funded by the vendor community and acting independently of it like the Linux Foundation, for instance, does. But that might take several orders of magnitude more money to do. We would argue that everyone in the IBM i community would benefit, much as the entire Linux community benefits from the efforts of the Linux Foundation.
It is something to think about. It is not the job of users to do this work, but the vendors that actually get the money that the users provide.