Exploring ALL400s In Tableau
April 8, 2020 Alex Woodie
Those who love maps and the IBM i platform will get a kick out John Rockwell’s latest trick: an aerial view of the IBM i installed base through the lens of Tableau’s interactive BI software. And even if you have no particular predilection for geography, the ability to drill down into details and statistics of the IBM i populace is worth a look anyway.
Rockwell, of course, is the steward of ALL400s, the list of IBM i shops that Rockwell started assembling back in 2005. The list contains the names of nearly 48,700 organizations that currently run or previously ran the IBM i server or its predecessors, as well as the city the organization is based in and the industry it operates in. The list, which is originates from at least 12 different sources that Rockwell obtained, contains some data about the products and programming languages the IBM i shop uses, and what year it was confirmed.
Rockwell decided to take the list, which is freely available as an 8.8MB Excel download, and load the data into a free version of Tableau’s popular business intelligence (BI) software. He then exposed the dashboard created from that data on the Web, and put a link to it on the ALL400’s homepage.
Those who are already familiar with Tableau’s software will quickly recognize the dashboard and be able to navigate. For the primary user interface component, Rockwell chose a map that shows the density of IBM i shops by state, as well as the exact number of IBM i shops per state (California leads the way, naturally, with 3,230 recorded IBM i shops, followed by New York with 2,386 and Texas with 2,279.)
Users can drill down into each state and see the exact locations of IBM i shops, down to the level of counties and major cities. The software even returns the name of the IBM i shop that was recorded in the ALL400s list.
Displaying the ALL400s information in a map makes it easier to the clusters of IBM i shops, Rockwell says. “It’s easier for me to visualize concentrations of companies that way,” he tells IT Jungle. “A bar graph might have 1,000 companies in one city and 50 in another town just [down] the road. The two locations would be far apart on a graph, but they overlap on a map. It’s a good thing to know if you’re looking for a job and picking . . . places to relocate, or going to run a regional advertising campaign and need to pick a region.”
In addition to digging into the locations of IBM i shops, Rockwell’s Tableau dashboard includes a second major data point: organizations by industry. The healthcare and pharmaceuticals category dominates the ALL400s rankings, followed by government, manufacturing, finance, and education.
The Tableau software lets users slice and dice the ALL400s data by state, by industry, and by year going back to 1997. Users can see, for example, the different industries that IBM i shops represented in North Dakota in 2019, for example. Rockwell also tracks migrations off the platform for recent years, and he exposes this data in the Tableau dashboard, which shows migrations for 2019 and 2020. Companies in bankruptcies are another way to sort the data (if you’re into that kind of thing).
The ALL400s list (and the Tableau dashboard created from it) are separate from the ongoing IBM i survey that Rockwell started in early 2018 to obtain a more detailed view of the IBM i installed base. In that survey, Rockwell asks about 20 questions, such as what products and programming languages IBM i shops use, plans to migrate off the platform, and where the survey-taker’s organization is based.
Answers to the survey questions are completely confidential and none of the data appears in the ALL400s list, and therefore aren’t reflected in the Tableau dashboard. Rockwell does use the survey data to confirm data in the ALL400s list, but that’s the extent of the information overlap between the two sources.
You can view the Tableau dashboard by going to the ALL400’s website, https://all400s.com/, and clicking on the “IBM i on Power Systems Company Locations” link.
Inside The Latest ALL400s Report
I always believe in giving credit where credit is due. This Tableau wouldn’t exist if it hadn’t been for all of the work Jerry Ponnoth put into it.
This is a good article and further highlights great work by John and his colleagues. I was prompted by this article to see how I could present the data similarly using Db2 Web Query for i, a Business Intelligence offering that runs directly on the IBM i system. I ended up with something similar to the Tableau presentation. IBM i users should realize that IBM gave most Query/400 (Query for i) users a license of Web Query Express for FREE to get them started doing BI reporting.