Angus: Asleep at the wheel

asleepI am enjoying my latest conference and user group presentations, usually titled along the lines of “How to be an IT Survivor” or “When I Grow Up, I Want to be an i Programmer”. Given there is a lot of apathy and lethargy in our community, it is a chance to stir a little passion. Remember that buzz you got in your first coding jobs? Tap into that for a moment, and see if you can find it again.

It certainly has been well received, but there does seem to be one thing I missed. I discovered that hole during a panel session I was moderating this week at an i conference. There were a lot of questions about what should and could be done about the shrinking numbers of i developers. The answer from the panel, as is usual, covered the IBM Academic Initiative. There seemed to be a lot of interest from the audience, and, as is usual, everyone thought it would be a great idea to have their local college, or local community college, be engaged in teaching RPG, IBM i, etc.

And the conversation went around and around. And the complaints continued. While we all love love love the platform, there are not enough people who know about IBM i, not enough new programmers working on IBM i, not enough, not enough, not enough… So, I asked everyone in the room – about 40 or so, some questions I have used with the i community in the past. I had just not paid attention to the answer.

The questions were:

  • “How many of you have talked to your local college or school and encouraged them to teach IBM i and RPG?”
  • “How many of you have hired interns from local colleges to work with your IT department with IBM i and RPG?”
  • “How many of you have told someone outside this community about this amazing platform?”
  • “How many of you have posted something on the web about how this amazing platform?”

And the answer?

A deafening silence….

What commentary can be made here? Are we, as a community, really missing the point by THAT much?

What is obvious is that a majority of the i community are complaining bitterly about many things – name changes, lack of IBM marketing, shrinking market, smaller numbers of resources, greying of the i population, and so on and on and on. What is now obvious is that the same complainers are simply not DOing anything about it.

Are they willing? I am not sure…. I do know that when I asked those questions, everyone was very uncomfortable, which made the deafening silence become very cold. Does this mean they will now go out and DO something? We hope for that result. Does this mean they will complain less? Most likely not. Does this mean they will remain uncomfortable, mired in their own insecurities and talk about how they were pissed off at this event? Closer to the truth, maybe..

How about you? Are you a complainer, who can reform and become a doer? Are you sleeping at the wheel, and watching the IBM i platform swim right past you into the drain? Are you willing to DO something? Are you willing to ask questions, offer your teaching services for free, preach the i gospel? Every change starts with a small step. Make YOURS today. Make a difference….

i i i i…


uberVU - social commentsOctober 28th, 2009 at 2:37 am

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This post was mentioned on Twitter by angustheitchap: Asleep at the wheel?

[…] Perry writes this week about a recent System i conference he went to, and a panel session he moderated. Anyone who knows Perry knows that he complains about the complainers. That is, he criticizes those […]

Don ROctober 30th, 2009 at 10:28 am

We work at selling the i everyday. But IBM is telling me I need to sell more or I cannot sell any. We work with an experienced group of programmers SAP, JD Edwards, BPCS, etc. I find it amazing that they do not know what is happening with the i. And for the most part they do not care. The advanced ability of the i does not concern them. They are programmers working on specific apps. If they want to run PHP or a web server they feel they should run it on a Linux box. In years past, going back to 1994, I would partner with them. I provided hardware, software and education. This helped keep them informed and was good for them, the customer, me and IBM. But then IBM started charging me for keeping current on the latest release of the Program Products. Suddenly it was not possible to provide these services to them. So they have moved to platforms they perceive as less expensive. And it may be for there development. But then it gets implemented that was as well. Perception is reality. I simply do not have the financial resources to continue as I have in the past, not to mention the time require by IBM today. If IBM would allow us to upgrade development boxes to V6R1, we could better promote the i as well as related software.
We built relationships with customer and in 1994 moved many accounts from the S/36 to the Advanced System 36, (this when they were ready to move to PCs), then to 170s, 720s, 820s, etc. As the boxes got bigger, IBM made it harder for us to be the ones selling the boxes. They would send bigger business partners in to compete with us. Our margins went down. Sales dropped. And now IBM says “you are not selling enough, we do not want you as a partner”.
Software must drive the hardware and business partners must develop and maintain the software. But IBM has forgotten this and I cannot afford to play in their market for the SMb marketplace.
I respect your question/challenge. But when I look back over the last 15 years, I think we have done a lot. But I will agree, today, not so much. I feel bled out.

angustheitchapOctober 30th, 2009 at 10:55 am

Don, the post really refers to the i developer who complains bitterly about the perceived problems with IBM i, and is not willing to DO anything about it. For the business partner who is the silent champion of the platform, there are many ways in which IBM can place obstacles. To them, unfortunately, it seems that ~where~ the revenue comes from is not important. And, of course, the smaller business partners are the ones who can invade spaces and business where the larger partners cannot. I agree wholeheartedly that IBM needs to get their act together and facilitate a smooth path to sales for the champion business partners.

In the meantime, I am working to kick some developer butt so they will call you and buy more Power Systems servers running IBM i!

[…] the i Trevor Perry’s recent blog post Asleep at the wheel asks “How many of you have told someone outside this community about this amazing […]

Chris VollstadtNovember 12th, 2009 at 12:04 am

I was one of those in attendance, and I will have to admit, the silence was not only deafening, but embarrassing as well. Talking to the community college and hiring interns is a great idea and in fact, I got my start with the i through just such an initiative undertaken by the business community. However, not all the people in that room are in a position to hire and fire, and so have probably never thought about approaching the college asking where the RPG programmers are. Also, could it be that there is dwindling demand for RPG programmers, and therefore no need for the businesses to be approaching the colleges? And if so, why? It is up to the programmers to demonstrate that the i can do more than green screen.

Now, your second two questions are about evangelizing the i and all of us have a responsibility to do just that. (Remember Guy Kawasaki, when he was at Apple in the late 90’s? His job was to evangelize the brand, because at the time Apple was supposed to be dying). Trevor’s ‘call to arms’ inspired me to not look so sheepish whenever someone asks me what platform I program on (IBM i) or what programming language I use primarily (RPG). I was at a social event this past weekend and it turned out that the gentleman sitting next to me was a CIO at some company. We started talking and it turned out that they run their POS apps on Linux using PHP and Oracle. I said we use the i and it’s great because we don’t need all these servers or database administrators to keep everything running, it runs PHP, AND it NEVER goes down. He seemed genuinely impressed. At least I changed the perception of the i being an old platform.

Sorry, but there are some ‘deadbeat’ RPGers out there who don’t want to learn anything new and are just trying to make it through the next 5 or 10 years to retirement. Hopefully, it’s not too late to bring some young (and young at heart) developers into the fold who are (dare I say) passionate about developing software in general and specifically on the i. I honestly believe that the i solves some major problems in software development today (proliferation of servers, over-engineered frameworks, etc) , and could quite possibly enjoy a renaissance. Trevor’s questions inspired me to start work on some tutorials, and generally become more active, both at work and outside of work.

It’s not that hard to do. You can start by not looking down at the ground when someone asks you what platform you work on.

D.RimaJanuary 27th, 2010 at 12:43 pm


I am curious as to what the implementation plans of IBM were after the panel discussion. Clearly education and marketing are big items and we’re seeing “i” visibility in both areas almost totally disappear.

I’ve had many discussions with community colleges regarding ‘i’ in their offerings over the past years and it all comes down to a demand issue from them. They need to make sure the class will make if they’re going to offer it…and many have had major issues with the uber unacceptable constraints that IBM placed on the boxes put in community colleges. Can we get those constraints removed in the future and give CC’s much more flexibility on how the systems are used?

What were the conclusions of the panel of how to increase ‘i’ awareness and demand for both product and education on a local level?

Also, what were the conclusions in terms of increasing the software solutions for ‘i’? The vendor space for manufacturing, accounting, process control, education/school mgmt, POS, etc., software solutions is decreasing drastically. Clearly the applications drive the purchasing decision and hardware, o/s, are almost tertiary considerations. What were their conclusions on bolstering the applications suite space?

Don Rima (different than respondent “Don R”)

D.RimaJanuary 27th, 2010 at 12:49 pm


Another question that has to be asked: When you look at IBM’s adverts for Power like the one recently in WSJ where there’s an object attempting to eclipse the sun (draw your own conclusions), if you read the text with the advert it SPECIFICALLY refers to the Power line as being THE server to run Unix (AIX in IBM’s case) on.

Well, we all know that the “Power family” is supposed to run multiple o/s’s…so, why is IBM so negative about adding i/os to these ads??

When I read comments like Ross’s in the IBM Systems Mag then see the reality in the marketplace of ads like this, I have to wonder just what is the real picture and goal direction from IBM’s perspective…and how can that be changed to include ‘i’….

Jerry KernFebruary 10th, 2010 at 1:35 pm

I sent the following to Information Week at the request of a writer who was doing a “Server Survey”. I followed that with a link to the Power7 announcement from two days ago.

If you are looking at architectural innovations you seriously need to check the IBM Power systems (System i). This line of hardware went 64 bit in 1995 and is already 128 bit enabled.

Virtualization – putting a bigger engine in a volkswagen (ie pc architecture) doesn’t make it a ferrari. – see below.

Power and cooling – IBM Blade centers. See below.

Consolidation – IBM’s been doing logical partitioning for decades. See below.

Processor Architecture – LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM – 21 May 2007: IBM (NYSE: IBM) today simultaneously launched the fastest microprocessor ever built and an ultra-powerful new computer server that leverages the chip’s many breakthroughs in energy conservation and virtualization technology. The new server is the first ever to hold all four major benchmark speed records for business and technical performance (1).
At 4.7 GHz, the dual-core POWER6â„¢ processor doubles the speed of the previous generation POWER5â„¢ while using nearly the same amount of electricity to run and cool it. This means customers can use the new processor to either increase their performance by 100 percent or cut their power consumption virtually in half.
IBM’s new 2- to 16-core server also offers three times the performance per core of the HP Superdome machine, based on the key TPC-C benchmark (2). The processor speed of the POWER6 chip is nearly three times faster than the latest Itanium processor that runs H-P’s server line. Even more impressive, the processor bandwidth of the POWER6 chip – 300 gigabytes per second — could download the entire iTunes catalog in about 60 seconds – 30 times faster than the Itanium processor in H-P’s servers.
But the new server offers more than just raw performance – it is the world’s most powerful midrange consolidation machine, containing special hardware and software that allows it to create many “virtual” servers on a single box.

Management software features – autoconfig has been available since the 80’s, dynamic allocation of memory is done by the OS. Manage resources? Again done by the OS.

Any survey would be an injustice if you did not include IBM’s midrange products.

And finally what server (all in one box) can run HTTP servers, has never had a virus, can support up to 10,000 Lotus Domino/Notes email users in one partition with subsecond response time, while running OLTP, UNIX apps, and legacy Cobol & RPG applications, and host windows servers, simultaneously, all using the same disk and can be backed up with one command ?

[…] in October 2009, I wrote a blog entry titled “Asleep at the wheel“. I posted a link to the blog entry on the IBM i Professionals LinkedIn group discussion […]

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