Is That What You Think Modernization Means?
January 16, 2023 Timothy Prickett Morgan
When most IBM i shops think about “modernization,” what they are talking about is taking legacy applications and in some fashion – and quite possible with many different methods – making those applications work better on newer kinds of clients and/or using newer front-end technologies to make them function better or look better. The researchers at IDC have a more expansive definition of modernization, at least according to a whitepaper that the market researcher recently did on behalf of the Power Systems line at IBM.
That whitepaper, entitled The Key Requirements of Modernization and the Role of IBM Power10, was written by analysts Peter Rutten and Mary Johnston Turner in November 2022 and is available now on the Power Systems area on Big Blue’s website. And according to this whitepaper, the top three modernization initiatives that businesses are pursuing for their enterprise platforms are:
- The ability to connect with edge platforms and devices
- Performing advanced analytics on the platform
- Transitioning to a hybrid cloud
If there were any other legacy Unix or proprietary platforms based on either RISC or Itanium operating systems that were still being regularly upgraded and updated, then this whitepaper could be used in any conversation about them, too. But as it turns out, IBM’s Power Systems and System z platforms are pretty much the only Unix/proprietary platforms left in the world. And in that regard, both are special given their longevity and continuing relevance.
Still, none of these sounds like modernization projects, per se. At least not as we talk about them, although we would concede that all three are important and the second is at least a kind of application integration, and so is the first to a lesser degree. The third is simply an IT consumption choice.
This whitepaper also has an interesting chart – or what seems at first to be an interesting chart – that talks about “progress with a modernization initiative,” and it looks like this:
That is a perfectly reasonable bell curve, and it seems to say something but there is zero context. And it really doesn’t convey any useful information beyond “different modernization projects at different companies are at different stages of completion.” You don’t say! Who’dathunkit?
That reminds me of an old joke about IBM from the dawn of time, told to me by my mentor, Hesh Wiener, when I was a cub reporter to illustrate the necessity to be precise in my questions and watch the precision of the answers I got when I was trying to do my job talking to people at Big Blue. Here’s the joke:
A relatively new pilot is flying in a Cessna 172 from Teterboro Airport in New Jersey to Westchester County Airport on a training run. It is very cloudy day, and the fog is also covering the ground in most places. The measly radar in the plane is out, too, and the pilot is not sure what to do. But at he does see a man in a blue suit standing at the top of a nearby mountain, just standing there looking around. So the pilot flies really low and shouts down: “Where am I?” And the man shouts back: “You’re in an airplane.” At which point the pilot looks at a map, makes a hard banking turn to the left to turn the Cessna due south, and lands without effort on runway 16/34 at Westchester County Airport. Air traffic control is a bit baffled as to how the pilot could know precisely what to do, and asked for an explanation. To which the pilot replied. “It was easy. I am an IBM AS/400 reseller and I asked someone a question and got an answer that was perfectly accurate and that was also perfectly useless. So I knew I was above IBM’s Armonk headquarters and had to do a 180 to go back to the airport.”
This chart in the whitepaper was actually quite useful, but was in no way restricted just to IBM Power Systems shops but was rather culled from a larger pool of IT shops with all manner of platforms:
The question that this chart answered, which was responded to by 1,058 people, was: “What criteria are most important when it comes to determining where to deploy workloads across on-premises datacenter, edge, or public cloud infrastructure?”
This seems to be a very reasonable set of priorities, but I think that cost is probably more of a factor than this chart shows. I mean, cost is always a factor. There are great technologies that some IT shops can never afford to acquire or support on an ongoing basis. We are all limited by our budgets for hardware, software, and personnel to a certain extent. The important thing that this whitepaper does do is give a third party, independent verification of the multi-pronged, hybrid strategy that Big Blue has created for Power Systems sales and capacity. Customers can buy gear like they always have, they can buy utility-priced gear that has variable capacity and install it onsite or in a co-location facility, or they can rent capacity on the IBM Cloud. They can do all three if they want, and it is getting easier to move licenses between these various deployment models.
This is certainly modern, even if it is not precisely modernization as we know it. And in this regard, this IDC whitepaper is useful. Which is why we brought it up at all, because we know full well that IBM i shops need as many arrows in their quivers as they can get when the platform comes under attack at their companies.