Angus: But, it ~IS~ an AS/400…

I spend a lot of time evangelizing IBM i on Power Systems. Once someone listens to an impassioned speech – ok, a story about the evolution of the AS/400 through iSeries through System i to the new Power Systems – the result is the listener says something like “oh, I see how it is no longer an AS/400”. I have seen people, after some transition period, stop using any old name for our platform. And, it is nice to see many industry experts, pundits and commentators begin using the correct branding.

Of course, there are the usual holdouts. Stubborn, stuck in their ways, never evolving, screaming and whining to some bitter end – most likely their career. There are those who use nomenclature that does not exist – I see IBM ‘i’ regularly. I see complaints about how IBM will change the name again soon. I even read where Power Systems is going out of business, because they could not get the name straight. Even with conversations related to iManifest, there are still people whining, using the old name, and generally just being negative.

I always chalk this negativity and pessimism up to ignorance. If someone were to spend a little time talking to each of these people, explaining the significance of Power Systems, explaining how to write, speak and google IBM i, explaining the world that IBM lives in (the one that is different than most customers), and clarifying our future, I think it would go a long way. Unfortunately, those who do speak/write this information are not read by the entire community. Small pockets of holdouts gang together to commiserate the loss of their favorite name.

I even pleaded with a local user group recently, to have them conspire with me to only speak the correct platform name, to help drag those holdouts into the present, and with us to the future. As usual, the response from the audience was lackluster, bordering on “what is a power system, anyway?”. Ironically, the moniker i has now been in the name almost 11 years, while AS/400 was only sold by IBM for 12 years.

So, with all my evangelizing, it has taken a long long time for me to discover the true root cause of the AS/400 name being so popular. It was during one of my stories, I was told by a customer – who had a Power6 server in their computer room – that it did not matter what IBM named it, they would always call it an AS/400. When I asked why, they responded that it was because they would only ever USE it like an AS/400.

When I delved, I discovered he was talking about using SEU, SDA, RPGIII style coding, DDS built databases, Query reports, green screen applications, and so on. Even though we were building a refaced and repurposed solution using their green screen application, they were still relying on it being green. I asked about web applications, PHP, web services, ILE, modularization, n-tier applications, and their response was that none of these would ever be built on their “AS/400”.

The light went off for me. It is not the name of the platform that is the problem, but the way the platform is used. People whining about the name change are certainly afraid of change, and the name is certainly something they can cling to for safety. However, it is the new STUFF that is available that seems to be the most fear inducing.

IBM has not forced any customer into moving forward and using new development tools or techniques. Even though they have provided world class development tools, powerful scalable SQL databases, service enablement, etc etc etc, customers continue to use this platform in the same way they have for 10 or 20 (or 30?) years. It is extremely difficult to ding IBM for this, since it has produced a very, and I repeat, VERY loyal customer base.

So, the next step, IMO, is to educate the customer base about what IBM i on Power Systems can do for them. Their next server will be a Power Systems server, their next OS will be IBM i. Why are they still using it like an AS/400? What can we do to encourage them to use RD Power, SQL DDL, PHP, etc? I believe ~this~ is the conspiracy in which we need to engage. Spread the word about the new STUFF that can be done while retaining their AS/400 skills, and bring them into the 21st century.

I have started. This is the next step. What is yours???

7 Comments

BuckDecember 21st, 2010 at 11:49 am

The business here refers to the platform as ‘the AS/400’ and we certainly use it in green screen mode. It’s something to think about. I never paid much attention to the names myself (except for the eminently unsearchable ‘i’). When I hear AS/400 or iSeries, I hear ‘our machine’ as opposed to one of the various Windows SQL Server machines in the server room. I strongly suspect I’ll hear ‘AS/400’ when people ask me to update my ‘new’ customer search. ‘New’ is funny, because it’s been deployed for almost 2 years. On the web. Using SQL. Written with WDSC.

I completely agree that we need to not only spread the word about the new things that IBM i can do, but we need to actually go out and do it. I have Perl 5.8.7 and Zend Server CE loaded on my machine. I’m trialling TWiki and WikiMedia for internal use. It’s new. It’s different. It’s not the least bit scary, although it’s not as simple as matching record… Just kidding!

angustheitchapDecember 21st, 2010 at 11:55 am

@Buck, and here is one of those things that requires education. There is no reason to search for ‘i’, the name of the OS is IBM i – search for that!!

I always chuckle when that argument is used to complain about the name. It is really quite silly to think anyone on the planet would search for the letter i. Not saying you did, but I think it is just an excuse, rather than a valid argument about why not to use the correct OS name 🙂

When this was first mentioned at the announcement of Power Systems and IBM i, Ross Mauri responded with “use IBM i to search”. And, it DOES return search results. Of course, as more and more people write the correct name, google will become our friend again.

Bob MooreDecember 22nd, 2010 at 7:22 am

If only the search argument were exclusive it is not. On first results page for suggested;

Institute for Biological and Medical Imaging
Independent Baptist Ministries of India
International Business Management, Inc.

More AdSense $s required!

angustheitchapDecember 22nd, 2010 at 10:21 am

@Bob: You would get that if you searched for ‘IBMi’. If you searched for ‘IBM i’, your results would be much different and very IBM i focused. A little space makes a lot of difference.

BuckDecember 22nd, 2010 at 3:59 pm

IBM i is unsearchable for a variety of reasons. Search engines tend to downplay pronouns and conjunctions, of course but worse than that: much of the available information has a different name. Searching the web for Perl information with some combination of IBM i will not get you nearly as far as searching for AS/400 (the CPAN) or iSeries.

I personally try very, very hard to use the current name; it’s foolish to continue to propagate multiple unofficial names. In general, I agree with you that people think of the platform as obsolete because that’s how it’s (mostly) used.

angustheitchapDecember 22nd, 2010 at 4:11 pm

@Buck I googled ‘IBM i’ (no quotes) and got a ton of links. Seems to me that is searchable??

The ~main~ reason for lack of ability to search is that the industry is inconsistent in its usage of the platform name – there is just not enough of it out there. Why are any of us still writing AS/400 or even iSeries in an IBM i world? If we solve that issue, we solve your search ‘problem’.

And, if we got over that hurdle, we may get over the ‘obsolete’ slam from competitors and naysayers. They are truly confused by IBM i on Power Systems, and it is my opinion we need to take advantage of their ignorance!

angustheitchapDecember 22nd, 2010 at 5:36 pm

@David: What is really wacky is that internal to IBM, the moniker “IBMi” is used to define IBM Interactive. I really wonder if parts of IBM actually care about other parts! Lucky IBM i is now mainstream under Power Systems and seems to be getting a fraction more attention these days!

Leave a comment

Your comment