IBM i Slow to Catch On, But What Does It Mean?
October 11, 2017 Alex Woodie
It’s been nine-and-a-half years since IBM rebranded the name of the platform from System i to IBM i on Power Systems. However, many people in the IBM midrange community call the platform by something other than its official name, according to anecdotal evidence and Web search data. Is this evidence of continued name confusion, or is there something else at play?
IBM has been running from the iSeries name since its 2006 rebranding exercise, which replaced iSeries with System i. That name went by the wayside in April 2008, when IBM announced the Power Systems platform and the merger of the System i and System p lines, which replaced i5/OS with IBM i. From that day forward, IBM i became the official name of the platform.
Data from Google Trends shows an upward trend in usage of the IBM i name. While there were some spotty references to IBM i before the 2008 Power Systems rebranding, for some odd reason, there has been a clear increase in usage since that time, according to Google Trends, which allows people to compare what words people are typing into its Internet search engine. It’s not the sort of hockey-stick shaped curve that IBM marketers were probably hoping for, but it’s clear that the name is on people’s brains, at least in some circles.
But old habits are hard to break. Despite the valiant efforts of many in the IBM midrange community to call it by its proper name, many still call it by its older names. Anecdotal evidence suggests that iSeries remains the most popular alternative to IBM i, even though it’s been more than 11 years since IBM sold anything called the iSeries. IT Jungle talks to many vendors who commonly call it iSeries, too. It’s a hard fact to refute.
Data from Google Trends backs that up, although there are some caveats to consider. Google Trends shows that searches were conducted for iSeries three times as often as searches for IBM i over the past week. When you look back over the past nine years, the name iSeries was even more popular than IBM i.
However, the data is not as clean as one would hope, namely because iSeries is a fairly common name used by other manufacturers. When you drill down further into the Google Trends data, it’s clear that many people are looking for information about Serta’s line of iSeries mattresses. While mattress-related queries were popular, the most popular iSeries searches were clearly related to IBM’s server, however.
When you look at the same three terms over the entirety of the data set – in this case, stretching back 13 years to 2004, when IBM struggled to get people to use the new iSeries name and stop using the old AS/400 name – you can clearly see the amount of traction the name iSeries received, at least in terms of the words people use to find stuff on the Web.
You may be asking, why bring this up now, in mid-October 2017, nearly 10 years since the last name change? It’s true that IBM has stopped changing the name every couple of years, as it did in the early part of the century. But IBM hasn’t changed the name in quite a while, so shouldn’t we give them a break?
Maybe so. Maybe we shouldn’t be worrying so much about a name, and concentrate more on the thing itself. After all, last week was the second biggest IBM i related event of the year, the Fall COMMON conference in St. Louis, and IBM delivered to the community two brand-spanking-new Technology Refreshes, replete with new functionality to explore.
What’s a bit concerning, however, was how silent the rest of the community was last week. In particular, the vendor community was almost completely silent across the regular news channels. The only company announcing anything of import across the most popular press release distribution networks – BusinessWire, PRNewswire, MarketWired, and PRWeb – was Profound Logic, which announced that it’s joined the Node.js foundation. No news was received directly by us from vendors. Twitter was relatively quiet.
When a major event happens in the IBM i community, and IBM itself makes a sizable announcement, and the vendor community responds with a collective yawn, it’s a sign that something is wrong.