POWERUp Delivers Shot In The Arm To IBM i
June 3, 2019 Alex Woodie
The IBM i platform has shown some growth in recent quarters, but it nonetheless faces a plethora of headwinds when it comes to surviving, much less growing, in the coming years. It’s not X86-based, and you can’t find it in the public cloud (at least not yet). It’s definitely not new, and it’s certainly not sexy. (Maybe no server really is at this point.) But coming on the heels of the IBM i 7.4 unveiling in April, the recent POWERUp conference delivered another greatly needed boost to the IBM i community.
You can be forgiven for thinking the worst of the IBM i ecosystem if you went by appearances alone. In lieu of official numbers, the turnout for POWERUp 2019 certainly seemed down, despite being located in the eternally happy confines of Disneyland. The opening session, which featured a long and spirited talk from IBM exec Steve Sibley, attracted perhaps 400 people. There were enough empty seats that you could really stretch out if you wanted.
The expo hall, which had perhaps 50 exhibitors, never seemed full, even when free food and drink were flowing. You can’t blame Disney’s wonderful parks for siphoning off attendees because the weather was cold and rainy for a good part of the time. For the first time in this reporter’s two-decade run of attending these shows across the United States and Canada, COMMON did not schedule a single press conference, due to lack of demand (and paltry press attendance).
So there was a certain lull to the latest edition of COMMON’s annual conference, now called POWERUp. And yet, despite having the cards stacked three-deep against it, there were real signs of good things happening with the platform and the companies and the people who make it go.
For starters, the IBM i business is growing – something we have detailed in recent months. Although he did not talk about actual numbers, or even percentages, Sibley, who is IBM‘s vice president for Power Systems offering management, said that IBM i revenues have been in the black since the fourth quarter of 2017. “We’ve actually seen six straight quarters of growth on the IBM i platform itself,” he said.
With the Power9 rollout complete and IBM i 7.4 due to ship in late June – and barring any unexpected hits to the economy over the last month of the quarter – the chances are quite good that IBM i will stretch that to seven straight quarters of revenue growth. At some point, even the most pessimistic person among us will be forced to recognize that something positive actually is occurring with the platform. It’s yet to be seen whether it’s the beginning of the long-awaited awakening of a sizable and dormant IBM i installed base, but you also can’t rule it out entirely.
The good news extended to the ISVs that IT Jungle‘s editorial team met with during the show. One of the biggest ISVs in the market reported that new software license revenue grew 40 percent for the year, while another smaller vendor reported that the entire company’s revenues were up 50 percent.
To be sure, that sort of success is not being experienced across the board, and several vendors said their revenues were basically flat. You could argue that vendors experiencing a dip in revenues probably wouldn’t attend POWERUp, and instead would shore up their businesses, so there’s a selection bias to the sample. Despite the limited data, it’s still a sign that the latent demand for software in the IBM i marketplace is beginning to emerge and spending is accelerating.
By the time the next POWERUp conference takes place – April 19 through 22 in Atlanta, Georgia – IBM i could be in the midst of two-and-a-half year run of consistent revenue growth, a feat the platform hasn’t enjoyed in some time.
The youth were also front-and-center last week in Anaheim, which is another positive aspect. Liam Allen, who recently joined Seiden Group as a consultant, won the Innovation Award for his work on barryCl, an open source project focused on the continuous integration and deployment for IBM i C/C++, RPG, and COBOL applications. The runner up was Ryder Systems, which used Profound Logic‘s software to modernize its IBM i system.
The youth movement was evident with two other awards given at POWERUp, including the Student Innovation Award, which was given to Calvin Buckley, a student at New Brunswick Community College, for his work on porting the Mono .NET runtime to IBM i. Finally, Josh Hall, an IBM i fresh face and IBM Champion, was awarded the John Earl Speaker Scholarship. Debbie Saguen, the backup and recovery expert who recently left HelpSystems, was the recipient of the Al Barsa Memorial Award.