Angus: Ze name! Ze name!

IBM iDuring the hiatus of Angus, a major event occurred. IBM announced the Power Systems line of servers, running AIX, IBM i and Linux. Major, because this was as large as the AS/400 being announced as the merger of the S/38 and S/36. The separation of hardware and operating system supports the future of systems as a commodity, and provides IBM i a future of being able to run on the mainstream server that IBM delivers.

Yet, a large proportion of the IBM i community remains unbelieving, skeptical and negative. All they see is that IBM has saddled us with another name to call this platform that we love. And of course, the name confusion simply clouds one of the most important IBM announcements in this century.

Last month, I spoke at two modernization events in South Africa. The midrange community there has been decimated in the last 4 or 5 years, and only about a tenth of the servers remain. New Power Systems may be sold there, but the IBM i operating system seems to be making no headway.

This week, I spoke with a customer who has an iSeries – referred to as “the AS/400” – with a solid homegrown business application. While the 5250 programmers have been ‘encouraged’ to modernize and use the new Eclipse based IDE toolset, they still code with an approach that smacks of 1980. This leads the IT director to consider one of two courses – outsourcing the i team, or replacing the application with a Java based solution. The first is difficult to find, which leads him to believe IBM i has no future. The second does not require IBM i, since all his Java programmers understand AIX better and do not want to learn IBM i.

IBM also promised us that there would be marketing of Power Systems with all three OSs mentioned – AIX, IBM i and Linux. This promise remains unfulfilled on the outside of IBM, with no apparent marketing to support the premise that IBM i is the OS “for business”. Even the Power Systems home page at IBM does not show the three logos together.

It is no wonder that IBM i continues to be pushed out the door. Most people consider the AS/400 to be old and worthy of replacing with non-IBM i systems. Our community indulges themselves in the safety net of calling it an AS/400, only to find themselves without a job, and without a future.

Do we still have time to restore IBM i to the glory of the legacy it has left? Probably not… But we ~can~ turn around the impression that we work on an OLD system, with OLD tools, building OLD applications.

We must do at least these things:

  1. Stop calling it an AS/400, iSeries, i5 or System i – in fact, just stop mentioning that the name was changed. Why pay attention to that? Talk about the strong heritage we have in AS/400 and System i, then brag about IBM i.
  2. Stop coding like it is 1999. You know who you are.
  3. Expand our skillset to include modern development paradigms – integrated development environments, new languages…
  4. Use the right tool for the right job – not just the one you know.
  5. Spread the word – positively, enthusiastically.

What can IBM do? Two things:

  1. Live up to the marketing promise. Show IBM i in ALL the family portraits with the other children. Show the photo album to the world.
  2. Require customers to move forward by dropping support for all the legacy compilers. Provide tools to migrate, and encourage upgrades with server discounts. Consider all the consulting work and server activity, and while it will cost customers an immediate investment, their ROI will be realized within a few years with highly reduced maintenance costs, and modernized applications.

And here is the solution to the name conundrum…

Write: IBM i on Power Systems

Speak: i


Get to it….

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