Angus: Step up to IBM i!

After attending and speaking at COMMON Sweden in Stockholm, Data3 approached me to answer some questions for the latest user group magazine. Their magazine is published and available here. While much of the magazine is in Swedish, some, including my Q&A, is in English.

Here is the ‘interview’..

What Would Trevor Do?

Question:
Hello Trevor,
Thank you for attending and contributing to our conference in
October. Among many things you are right now the lead of the
hashtag #ibmistepup on twitter. Could you please explain what
this is all about, and why it’s important from your point of view?

Answer:
As you know, I am an advocate for improving the perception of the platform. IBM i is a modern, integrated, scalable, robust business platform running on the best hardware from IBM. Given the rich heritage of the platform and the longevity of the people and the applications, there are many people in the community who still regard the platform as the same as it was 30 years ago. For many of these people, the platform has defined their career, and as they get older, change is difficult as they are required to move out of their (very comfortable) comfort zone of AS/400 or iSeries.

When I attended IBM Power Systems Technical University, I talked to many people about the platform. I presented a session called “Promoting IBM i and its future to your Business”, and that sparked many conversations also. I discovered three very distinct groups of attendees, and while I did not talk with everyone, this seemed to be a trend. One group was scared and complaining bitterly about the platform not being the same as they knew it. Why they were even attending a Power Systems conference was a question I never asked. The second group were confused, wondering what to do with their platform, wondering how to move forward, wondering how to convince their business that the platform was the best business platform and worthy of investment, etc. The third group were positive about the future of the platform, the future of the platform in their business, and were extremely passionate and positive about their own future.

I have concluded that each group can be described with one word – in order: Conflicted, Confused, Confident. The most intriguing part for me was that everyone in those groups used a particular name for the platform. Conflicted people called it AS/400. Confused people called it iSeries. Confident people called it IBM i. What a revelation! I donít believe that by just using a particular brand name was the cause of these three conditions, but I thought that it might be the first place to start. If the community saw the platform as modern, integrated, scalable, robust, they would call it IBM i.

So I endeavored to use this thought to convince the community that we need to come together on our perception of the platform, and the brand is a good place to start. What came to mind was for the community to step up. I decided to start the Twitter campaign to ask the community to step up. I will tweet ideas and thoughts, and point out where websites and promotions are not geared towards IBM i. I will eventually build some support for this effort into one of my websites, and will provide material to help those who wish to become engaged. This effort is simply one more piece of noise to add to the community promoting IBM i and its future.

Please join in!

Now you:
Wanna play? Twitter needs your #IBMiStepUp hashtag!

Angus: Support your platform! IBM i paraphernalia…

I was asked to create this 4 inch sticker recently.

I managed to ~borrow~ 100 of them, and will snail mail you one if you would like. Email me at angus with your address – I will mail them anywhere in the world. Send NO money!

If you don’t want a free sticker, or you want them in bulk, you can buy similar ones from the CafePress Angus store. Also listed there are the 20i3 buttons I will be getting made for the upcoming year.

Angus: IBM i rebranding – I count 4 in almost 25 years

Here is another picture that shows the rebranding of the platform.

OS rebranding
1. OS/400 -> i5/OS
2. i5/OS -> IBM i

Hardware rebranding
3. AS/400 -> iSeries
4. iSeries -> System i

Hardware replacement
1. System i + System p -> Power Systems

Angus: Challenging ignorance

Some days ignorance is quite difficult to stomach. Most days it is just sad. Unfortunately, when promoting the IBM i platform, ignorance is quite pervasive. Either someone simply does not know about IBM i on Power, or they continue to live in a past that is already going away. I struggle to understand why someone would want to do harm to the platform, yet continue to spread the same old tired myths about naming.

Take the usual forum conversation. While the IBM i brand is starting to pervade, there are some contributors who remain stuck in the AS/400 cave, and remain stubbornly lodged in using old branding, come hell or high water. Nothing, no sense, no marketing, no pleading, will convince them that they are wrong.

Today’s exchange comes from midrange-L after I was referenced in some branding discussions. In the past, I have been rebuked for encouraging the use of the current branding, so I was careful not to mock the sinners – as it were. My last response was:

“The rebranding is no longer in the equation. IBM have given us the IBM i branding to match their Power brand, and it will be with us for the long term.

Either we, as a community, promote the current and future branding, or we will be left behind in the DP department. And, with all the noise from the MS crowd (and even Unix people), and some of our own community, we need to support this incredible platform for the long term, not its glorious past. The challenge is to stop using arguments that keep us mired in the old names and stuck in old ways of doing things.”

Which elicited this excellence in sheer ignorance:

“Yeah right.  Whatever Trevor, the argument didn’t fly six years ago and it still doesn’t fly today.  Not to make it personal, but I have never seen you on here except to rant about the name, Oh and btw, I was at Micro Center tonight and without opening my mouth — not one, not two but seven people referred to their machine as either a “Mac” or “windows”.  Not Windows XP, Not windows 7 or anything else.  Just windows.

It’s a name, that’s it, nothing more and certainly nothing less.

I guess its time to add a filter to the emails again.”

I laughed at the inanity for quite some time. Even now I am still chuckling. From my last two posts here, I have discovered the name does matter. (The name matters.. and Where are you in your IBM i career?) IBM i is not just a name, but a brand that represents a platform for today and the future. But their ignorance on that is not the only thing that made me chuckle.

If the filter had previously been on, then how would this poster have seen me on midrange-L posting anything, let alone to just “rant about the name“. I guess turning on a filter simply allows the ignorance to continue. I think that is the same as covering your ears when you are a child and don’t want to hear the truth!

It is quite sad that there are people in the community who filter out the future. They do not see how their ignorance has an impact on their own career, or how it impacts those around them who listen to their ignorance. I guess you could say they truly are living in the AS/400 cave. While it is difficult to avoid them, since they troll all the popular forums, they are becoming marginalized. I once thought this was a tragedy, to lose so many talented people from our industry. But, I have come to realize that ignorance kills talent, and leaving them behind in the AS/400 cave is the only humane thing to do.

And no, I could not post this on midrange-L, it would scare the TOGs (Tired Old Grumpys) too much. Wait, they are filtering me… maybe I can!

Vergere: Everything in life is a pendulum

Just before I left to attend COMMON in Anaheim, CA a close friend told me the following: “You don’t seem happy to me – you just seem stressed or worn out as you would say. I don’t mean to offend. I’m just saying how it seems to me when I see you lately. Both you and [Wally]* seem ready to snap and there has to come a time when you ask yourself if it’s worth it.” I thought about these words and why they were true, and why they weren’t, many times on that trip and initially composed many answers, although I wrote nothing. I knew there was something important in this regarding the paths we chose for our careers.

Something about being here professionally, how we came to be here, and why we stay. Something about the times in your life where you just have to kick at the darkness until it bleeds daylight.

By the first evening at COMMON my thoughts had moved beyond my personal path and defending it; onto my opinions about the larger IBM i community. I’ve been involved in the leadership of my local user group (OMNI in Chicago) for the majority of my career and as such have attended my share of our technical conferences. In the Spring of 2012, COMMON had an energy I hadn’t felt in a long time. Not excitement yet – but a willingness to believe in the advocacy of others. Attendance was up and people, developers from the trenches, were starting to believe things are going to get better. Before you start to think I am just an IBM i cheerleader who has drank the kool-aide and am promoting the platform to further my own objectives let me introduce you to Wally. Wally isn’t just one person in my life, he is a composite of all the IBM i developers I am friends with and whose opinions will inform my writing. Significantly, this group includes my husband.

* Dilbert 2012-11-11: Pointy Haired Boss, “Why don’t any of you look inspired by my leadership?” Wally, “I died on the inside years ago. Now I’m just a fleshy container full of coffee and resentment.”

On that balmy night last May I found myself leaving the COMMON centric area of the DisneyLand Hotel and walking. Eventually I sat in a peaceful courtyard in the Grand Californian and from there I could look up to the balcony of the room we stayed at in 2008. My reaction to the energy of the conference was based on the experience we had during that family trip. We were in the happiest place on earth with our kids, lucky enough to be able to afford it, and by any measure generally successful.

However Wally couldn’t transcend a malaise and eventually a terse conversation took place. He felt marginalized, like there was no value placed on his skill set or in his abilities, he had no leverage at work because of the poor economy. Every year it seemed fewer people were expected to do more work, to constantly learn new technologies to meet the changing demands of business and to do all of this for less money. My response to him was something I would repeat many times over the next several years – it has to get better. Just hang in there, your skills are amazing and the market will rebound, be patient.

Four years later I have to say I never thought it would take this long. I have always believed everything in life is a pendulum. It is time to be honest and look at the nadir of our experience. There are things we need to acknowledge as a community in order to learn from them. Attending my first COMMON conference was a natural reminder of my first technical conference, OMNI in the late 1990s.

At the time Wally and his ilk were at the top of their games. They were known for being the talent that got things done technically and delivering solutions that became business assets. It was easy for him to say to me, you could do this, and for me to think it was a great career move. In those days if you had a pulse and could spell RPG you could get a job. At that first OMNI conference many students from a local community college attended, they were my classmates, and when I look back now I question how many of them are still in the IBM i world. I don’t know, but my best guess based on statistics is that only about 10% probably are. Even then, as we compared notes in the weeks that followed, there were different experiences.

The first was people who said the sessions didn’t really follow what they had been learning in class, they didn’t relate. A second was the opinion that no one (vendors) seemed that interested in speaking to students and there wasn’t much information about hiring but that the sessions were interesting. And a third smaller group, who were employed as RPG programmers already, who enjoyed the event and were engaged on multiple levels. A friend of mine had a chance to tell Jerome Hughes (who had delivered two excellent sessions on SQL while wearing an Armani suit no less) about SQL saving the day, albeit interestingly, when there had been an issue at his work. But, that last group had been identified as an employee the company wanted first and learned the language and system second. The two of us are still here 15 years later. I found my home for education. I started volunteering that night, have spent over 10 of the last 15 years on the board, and I have never regretted time spent for this purpose.

However I can’t ignore the changes we have seen over those years. We went from the height of Y2K with its prolific jobs and ample salary to layoffs and consulting companies falling apart in the early 2000s. Programmers being told constantly about the need to modernize, and being the geeks they are, knowing the need for GUI/web enablement. The problem was that there was no clear path – should they learn net.data, Java, cold fusion, .Net, asp.net, CGIDEV... Not to mention the ongoing frustration to this day, developers who are embracing modern RPG techniques and standards are still supporting legacy systems written archaically. Those disparate concepts are hard to switch between; one could almost make the analogy it is like telling someone who has quit smoking to have a cigarette. Then there has been the profound struggle thanks to the Great Recession. Now the IT team composites have become multi-discipline and far more complicated further challenging an overtaxed resource.

This has not been an easy decade and when I look at where the community is I see the fatigue everywhere. I think the debate over the name of the platform comes from the discontent when people felt they had made a commitment to an industry, done what was asked of them, and were not being supported in return. The iSeries’ years weren’t the best for any of us. Conversationally, many developers had the greatest success of their professional years when on the AS/400. For many it is hard to muster the enthusiasm to believe in the IBM i.

As a community we can’t afford this to continue.

Yes, things got harder than we ever thought they would. Our company politics and dynamics are more complicated than we ever anticipated. This is the world we live in. The platform is solid. IBM is behind it and supportive, and there is a User Community ready to educate us and the next generation.

We have to shake off the negativity or we won’t be able to propel the IBM i into the next iteration of business technology responsiveness.

This isn’t up to IBM. It is up to us. To find our voice in organizations and user groups. To attract new talent to the platform even when we have to extend past our comfort zone to do so. To advocate on our own behalf even when it feels like we are a lone voice. To admit how many feel this way, when none of us want to put it into words.

It is time to let go of what we had when we worked on the AS/400 and to trust the IBM i will take us further than we ever believed in. The pendulum is swinging back and we have to make what is now possible happen.

I believed in 1998 -

i believe now -

Will you join me?

Angus: Where are you in your IBM i career?

In my recent blog entry, I discussed the differences between the three types of developers in our community. Now comes the picture!

Which are you?

Angus: The name matters..

I was fortunate enough to attend the recent 2012 IBM Power Tech University. As an IBM Champion, I was invited to speak, and presented three sessions – all repeated once, for a total of six. The attendees are a mix of Power Systems professionals, largely representing AIX, with a growing population of IBM i, and a new batch of Linux people. Getting used to a Power Systems audience took a step or two, but the results were that my sessions, primarily IBM i focused, were well received. In fact, I have never been asked for my handouts for any recent events, and Power TechU attendees were eager to take something away.

I presented a new session called “Promoting IBM i and its future to your business”, and it was quite an experience. The idea behind the session is to dispel some of the myths we continue to hear in our community, then give some ideas about how to move into the future with IBM i. I started the first session having a relaxed conversation with the attendees, and that backfired a little while they continued the conversation during the actual session. It calmed down, but a couple of people stood out. They objected to many things I was presenting, prior to actually hearing what I had to say. They vehemently blamed IBM as causing the (perceived) failure with the platform, and were very very stuck in their own opinion and own importance.

Of course, that accusation can be thrown at many people in our community. We seem to think the world revolves around us, our IT department, or our company, and we don’t often consider that to IBM, our platform is just one of the many products, solutions and services they offer. Even after I pointed out this discrepancy, there were still objections. I asked if any of those people knew how to run a business like IBM or knew how to run a marketing department for a company the size of IBM. I also asked if anyone had a marketing degree. The answer to all three questions was a resounding silence.

As the week progressed, I engaged in more conversations with Power Systems customers. At one point, there were two conversations at a breakfast table. From the IBM i customers, we heard all about speeds and feeds, SSDs, TR4 and TR5, and so on. The AIX people were discussing how fast they ran their last marathon. The IBM Power Champions roundtable was a great conversation with IBM i, AIX and Linux well represented. Overall, a positive experience and Power Systems brings together a formidable group of people. Yet the name game was still being played.

During the course of the event, I discovered three distinct groups of people in the IBM i community. One group represented companies who were leading the pack in adopting technology, modernizing applications, embracing new methodologies, and being true leaders in the future of their own business. A second group spent a huge amount of time wondering what to do, confused about their choices, and representing companies who don’t know which technology to adopt. The third group, who seemed quite out of place, were complaining bitterly about many things, arguing that everything has changed to their detriment, and generally offering a negative perspective.

A little more categorization of these groups, and it was very clear who belonged to each. Those who were complaining bitterly, referred to the platform as AS/400. Those who were confused about what to do, referred to the platform as iSeries. Those who knew where they were headed, referred to the platform as IBM i.

The surprise to me was that this distinction is normally not so clearly defined. Yet, at a conference for Power Systems, the borders between the groups are starting to be obvious. I had previously postulated that our community would be split into two groups – those who steadfastly refuse to call the platform anything but AS/400 and want to live in the AS/400 cave forever, and everyone else. That seems to be changing as we move into the Power Systems world, and I expect the three groups will become more distinct over the next couple of years. And, for clarification, this is not a generalization of the entire IBM i community, as I know people who use old vernacular while adopting modern technology and methodologies. However, I expect soon enough, adopting a modern vernacular will simply become the norm.

The lesson I learned from this experience, is that the name truly does matter. It is not that just simply calling the platform by the right name, all your woes will be fixed, or the community changed overnight. It is that those who see the platform as IBM i on Power, and therefore call it by that name, are the ones who are moving forward in this industry, both in their own careers and for their companies. Using an old branding identifies you as someone who is stuck in the past, or stuck in the present not knowing which direction is best.

So, how do you see the platform? Is it moving into the future? Are you moving into the future with it? If you want to be in that group, then you will need to learn about the platform – as it is TODAY and as it will be moving forward. Instead of spending time arguing about the name being changed, or the name being bad, or the name being wrong, get over it and adopt a new attitude. So far, those who have done that are leading the way – use them as your example.

Angus: Time for tough love!

I started a recent tweet exchange with “I petition IBM to remove RPG from #IBMi SEU. Require developers to modernize with some tough love!”.

While this was a tongue in cheek comment, the responses got me thinking. IBM provides longevity in its IBM i OS by allowing developers to leverage applications and code written on previous generations of the platform. Certainly, this applies to AS/400, and at least back to System/38 and System/34. What incredible technology, what an incredible legacy.

On the other hand, this capability of the platform seems to have had another interesting effect. If a business ~can~ run the code they wrote thirty years ago, then surely this platform must be old and outdated! And this accusation is leveled often by platform detractors and competitors. Without marketing of IBM i, the I.T. industry is generally unaware of the evolution that makes IBM i significantly more modern than the predecessors, and a modern, agile, scalable, powerful, integrated business platform.

Partly, this view of the IBM i platform as being old is propagated by the same developers who have benefited from the ability to code in the same manner as they did twenty of thirty years ago. Their career has been one sweet ride, using the same principles of coding and development upon which they started their career. Unless they are forced somehow into connecting to new applications, new platforms, or new technologies such as web services, they remain in their 1988 bubble.

The community has been making an attempt to spread awareness of the IBM i platform, the branding, the capabilities, the developer tooling. Over the last 4 years, awareness of the current brand name has helped some people realize their own future. PHP has had a remarkable impact on the perspective of a modern IBM i. Industry pundits and educators have spread awareness of the Rational tooling, and as more and more companies upgrade their skills, existing applications are being modernized and developers are building new 21st century enterprise applications.

The difficult part for the community is to reach the IBM i, System i, iSeries and AS/400 customers who don’t engage in the community. IBM i vendors are able to reach more customers than are seen at conferences, or are engaged in social media and online forums. Yet there is still not universal adoption of modern technology, modern development, modern methodologies, modern applications or modern user experiences.

It is my contention that IBM could fix all of that. One PTF to remove SEU+SDA would do it. Build it in V5R4, 6.1 and 7.1, and send out an urgent PTF fix letter to every IBM i customer whose address is still known. After the PTF is applied, STRSEU simply shows a standard marketing message that informs the developer that new tools are available, and provides them with an easy method of downloading and installing them.

Tough love? Exactly. Would it piss a lot of customers off? Absolutely! And in that, the press that IBM i would receive would be global, and reach the entire I.T industry. Imagine if IBM was now lauded as the next Microsoft – requiring an update to developer skills with a new release of the OS? Sure, there will be negative press, we may lose a few customers, but the number of customers we would gain would far outweigh the losses. And, the world would – once again – be talking about our platform.

Of course, there would still be a number of companies who never apply PTFs and would not be affected. Some would see the press, and jump on the bandwagon, but the rest would stay in AS/400 bliss forever. Sure, we could make the process a little less disruptive, and provide a phone number to call to get SEU+SDA reinstated. In that phone call, there would be an opportunity to inform those customers of the evolution of the platform – something we have been unable to do as a community. They would then need to upgrade their skills or hire developers with modern RPG and RD Power skills, schools would start to offer IBM i and RPG education, and user groups would be screaming for RD Power speakers.

With one small PTF, the entire industry would be reinvigorated.
I cannot think of a better outcome!

Angus: Serious reporting!

I started with this tweet:
I petition IBM to remove RPG from #IBMi SEU. Require developers to modernize with some tough love!

First response conversation went like this:
@ibmiguy: @angustheitchap that’s a tough one! Even for me. #ibmi
me: @ibmiguy Are you still using a 5250 terminal? Because that is, literally, the ~only~ excuse that works :-)

Second conversation:
@stevencpitcher: @angustheitchap Some old “features” like that were rendered “broken” during my last round of PTF’s.
me: @stevencpitcher That’s just a nudge. I propose a smack in the face..

@stevencpitcher @angustheitchap What would you propose to smack with then? Discontinuing SEU or SDA in the next release? I’d support that.

me: @stevencpitcher Yes! SDA+SEU removed in 7.1+1 – tough #IBMi love.

And then comes the killer tweet! Trolling for reporting fodder, an intrepid journalist spots a news story, and asks for the source!
@angustheitchap @stevencpitcher Do you have any references for SDA+SEU being released in 7.1+1? Thanks #IBMi

Wait! What? This is now an official release from IBM? What?

Thus endeth this morning’s humor.

Angus: Justif-i

Why is it, that when someone in our industry is confronted with the issue of them using an out of date name for the platform, their first reaction is not “Oh? Tell me more about IBM i!”?

In promoting the promotion of IBM i to our community, I find that about 40% of those who are not using the correct branding for the platform, don’t understand that Power Systems is a new generation of servers, replacing System i and p, and running IBM i. About 10% apologize, and promise they will never use an old brand name again – which lasts about four and a half minutes.

The rest, immediately offer some excuse. They justify their ignorance with some tired, vapid, inane ‘reason’, that somehow makes them feel good about their ignorance. There is so much pushback in our industry about using the current branding, that it makes us look quite feeble as an industry. Nothing will suffice for these naysayers. Nothing IBM does will ever prove to them that the platform branding will continue for a long time (in I.T. years). Nothing the community does will ever convince them that the current branding allows us to be, once more, a community united around something wonderful.

For some people, it is a simple lack of education about our platform. Simply put, it is IBM i on Power – how difficult can that be? For some, the complaint is about too many name changes – based in truth, but is really FUD. For others, the complaint is that IBM does no, or the wrong, marketing – again, FUD. For lots, the complaint is that the name is hard to use and hard to google – maybe, but if we actually started to use it, those would not be valid complaints.

For even more, the complaint is that the name is something “I don’t like”. So? It is the name we have, and if you have already complained about the frequency of the name changes, don’t expect that IBM will change it again based on your whim and lack of marketing skills. Unfortunately, due to this ego filled excuse, we now have people using the wrong name for the platform, which only confuses the issue even more. It is sad that a few bruised egos can really have such a negative impact on the promotion of our platform.

I often wish I understood psychology, so I could understand the determined effort to avoid change amongst our community. I expect that soon, the groundswell will overtake the ignorance, and those who are currently complaining will either be laughed at for their ignorance, or get with the program.

Who will you tell today about IBM i? Who will you ask to start promoting the future of our platform? It is time to stop the negativity, reclaim our passion for the best business platform on the planet, and move forward.

Angus: Rebranding?

One of the common complaints about our platform is renaming. It seems to be the last defense of a community fighting to retain some identity to which they used to belong. Or, it could be just fear of change and desire to keep complaining.

Let’s review.

1980 – System/38 runs CPF
1988 – AS/400 replaces S/38 and S/36, runs OS/400 – which runs CPF programs
2000 – iSeries is a renaming of the hardware, runs OS/400
2006 – System i is a renaming of the hardware, OS renamed to i5/OS
2008 – Power Systems replaces System i and System p, OS renamed to IBM i

or..
1988 – AS/400 brand
2000 – eServer brand
2006 – IBM Systems brand
2008 – IBM Power Systems brand

How horrible that seems to many in the community. Yet, in 32 years, with technology busy changing shape, form, substance on an almost daily basis, we cannot get over this “atrocity” forced upon us by IBM. And, every time the complaint is made, there are the usual “justifications” offered about how other companies don’t rebrand – (refer to MS and Windows), how other companies don’t do this, don’t do that, and so on. And so on. And so on.

Certainly, branding changes can be successes or failures. Everyone cites New Coke as a branding failure. No one who is arguing about the rebranding of IBM i will ever look beyond their own complaint to see branding changes that were success. So, here is one: Starbucks!

Ok, so the name was not changed, but the logo has!
For reference, this picture was found here.
And here are some concerns about the Starbucks rebranding offered by pundits.
Will it sell more coffee?
New logo!

I love this particular whining: “Was the Starbucks corporate office asleep through all of the Gap controversy when they tried changing their logo? Leave it alone! There’s nothing wrong with it,” a fan wrote on Starbucks’ Facebook page.. The whining sounds familiar, but really, do you EVER hear about the change to the Starbucks logo any more?

IBM i on Power Systems is such a wonderful platform, yet its name is still a debate in the community. How strange.

I expect the same AS/400 programmers have this mug on their desk:

Maybe it’s time they got one of these:

Angus: RPG rises from another grave

Wait? What?

Mel Beckman asked the question “Is RPG Dead?” and now Aaron Bartell says “it is time for Mel Beckman to retire“! And Jon and Susan tell us “It seems to us that articles such as this only serve to harm the community“.

So, what should we think about this? Let’s review.

Mel says “But every technology has an end to its adaptability, and I believe RPG has reached its limit”. This is simply one man’s opinion – he even used the words “I believe”. And, having read and disagreed with Aaron’s opinion before, I know he has posted many things quite as controversial. If Mel is to retire for his opinion, shouldn’t Aaron be forced out also?

Looking at the harm value of Mel’s words, the resulting outcry to support RPG has been, on the whole, quite fabulous. Of course, as with any controversial opinion in our industry, there have been replies from the negative, the upset, the scared and the whiners. But Jon and Susan’s blog, along with other postings, have been well reasoned, well written and strongly in support of RPG and its future. Certainly, if a reader were to stop at Mel’s words, they may believe his opinion and suffer some harm. Also, if certain other industry and RPG detractors were to jump onto the same dinghy from the RPG ship, there could be additional backlash.

However, there is now a conversation in the community about RPG that did not exist yesterday. We talked about it among ourselves, in sessions at conferences, and at user group meetings. But in the bigger world of the internet and social media, the conversation that resulted from Mel’s article has shown how strong RPG is, and how Mel’s opinion is simply just one person’s opinion. I believe – that is, my opinion is that no harm has come to RPG and the resulting press will simply bolster its longevity.

I do think two things should come out of this. One, Aaron should retire – ok, that is tongue in cheek, we need his strong opinion and perspective in our community. Two, the language should be renamed to reflect its longevity. Maybe RPG-NGA for “Never Going Away”? Or Z-RPG to reflect RPG’s ability to rise from the grave one more time and live as a well functioning Zombie.

Angus: IBM i Heritage.

Another perspective!
A strong heritage for the IBM i platform


With details on the naming!
A strong heritage for the IBM i platform


Angus: Reason #221 to say IBM i

Within our community, we argue about the name. Seems like there a thousand reasons why we should keep calling the platform by a previous name. Very few people have specific reasons why we should use IBM i as the platform name when we talk about how good it is. This advertisement is just one more of those reasons.

Migrate

Put simply, this vendor is using the name ‘AS/400′ as something undesirable. They suggest that you are running ‘legacy applications’, and they ask you if you are ‘still running’ those applications on AS/400. They offer to recompile these ‘AS/400 legacy applications’ onto Windows, Unix or Linux. They also contend that these new locations are ‘open platforms’!

While we continue to use the old terminology, we will continue to have vendors telling the world that we are using old technology, and telling us we need to migrate to another platform. Breaking the habit of using terminology that fits our comfort zone is a wonderful defense against attacks such as these.

I imagine them calling an IBM i shop, and saying “Would you like to migrate your AS/400 applications to open platforms?”. What would they do when you respond with “We already migrated them to an open platform – IBM i!”?

Thanks for your call…

Angus: Do we need IBM’s help?

Having posted the IBM i community survey at ibmi2.com, the results are intriguing, to say the least. Much of the pushback about the platform and the name seems to come with pre-built tired excuses. Most of it seems to stem from resistance to change, and in that vitriol, IBM is blamed for many things, including poor marketing, ‘too many’ renames, and so on.

While the IBM blame game stems from much misinformation, myth and fairy tale, there are a couple of obvious things over which IBM does have control, which are impacting the community. First, IBM internal references to the platform. Second, IBM i OS itself. Let’s review each.

One of the common excuses is that IBM still refers to the platform as AS/400. We hear that from IBM sales people, from IBM support, and from other IBM employees who think the AS/400 is dead. During the PureSystems announcement, one of the speakers uttered these words: “IBM has been at this now for some decades. Some of you will remember AS/400. This is an application system that was an industry specialized solution, that was designed to go work. Many of these systems, by the way, are still working. I’ve happened to run into quite a few of them as I go around the world.” While we know the majority of the Power Systems team at IBM are working to promote IBM i, this is very sad.

While at the COMMON Annual Conference in Anaheim recently, the IBM Champions were able to spend a little time talking to the Power marketing team, including several IBMers with IBM i responsibility. From that, we were led to believe that there may be an opportunity for IBM Champions to talk to IBMers. Until one of us is in front of a group of IBMers, I will remain skeptical, however, it is nice to know this could be a possibility. Regardless, IBM needs to do something about this perception of IBM i inside their own organization.

Of course, that also applies to their business partners. In one hardware partner I know well, they still sell System p and iSeries to this day. While there are certifications for IBM business partners to show their skills in technical and platform sales, maybe there should be a certification required of ALL business partner employees on branding and nomenclature. Add to that a set of presentations on how to educate the customers on their chosen platform, to pitch the future of the platform and counter the competition attempting to sway those who see “AS/400″ as old and outdated.

The second point is in regard to the IBM i operating system itself. There are still many places inside and around the product that require attention. One simple example is the page related to the IBM i Access product. While the ‘Client Access’ name is sticky, the correct branding is now applied to the product. Until you look at the title, which says: “IBM System i Access for Windows Home Page”. This lack of attention to detail can be another flame in the fire that burns against the current branding.

Certainly, there are a multitude of redbooks and documents that contain outdated references, and it may be appropriate to recognize the enormity of that effort and give it some leeway. And, it is important to note that none of us know, or expect to influence, where IBM places its budget for OS enhancements. Given a choice of fixing nomenclature and providing enhancements to the OS, our preference is certainly with the latter.

The issue is not so much with the nomenclature or its use (we will get through that in a decade or so), but with IBM not publicly showing their commitment to working on either of these efforts. If we are to have the IBM i branding for the long term, and IBM has committed to that, it would be nice to see a public face on these issues.

So, if these issues matter to you, ask an IBMer next time you see them. Start with your appreciation of what they are doing for IBM i and the community, then add the request for them to tell the community how they are going to address these items. Or, tweet a request, write a post on LinkedIn, make some noise on an internet forum, spread the word at your local user group – the possibilities are endless!

Angus: Mentally deficient, old, stubborn, or …?? Discuss!

Here is a question for you. Why did you get into technology? Was it cool? Was it intriguing? Did it offer new things on a regular basis? Was it challenging to build new and better things every day? Maybe you had other reasons. However, I don’t know of anyone who got into I.T. expecting to be maintenance programmers. I don’t know anyone who decided programming was simply a means to the end of retirement. We got into I.T. for the simple reason that it was interesting.

Over the last 30(something) years, our platform has evolved from a System/38 to the most amazing operating system – IBM i, running on the world’s best business hardware – Power Systems. Had IBM released the Power Systems 20 years ago, we – yes, all of us, including YOU – would have embraced this platform with fervor.

But somehow, things have ground to a halt. We sit around talking about the good old days, how things used to be better. We reminisce about what we ~used~ to do. We seem to have lost the plot. I am concerned about all of us – we have become old, stubborn and stuck in our ways, with little to no chance of anything exciting happening in our world on any given day.

You know what makes me say that. EVERY conversation I have in this community contains something ridiculous about the platform. Either a conversation includes a bunch of references to the old and outdated platforms, or an old name is used for the current platform as a matter of course. And, when I ask, prod, nudge, cajole or plead for the speaker/writer of the outdated references to remember that IBM gave us Power Systems in 2008 (yep, FOUR years ago – a LIFETIME in I.T.), I get pushback.

In fact, I get excuses. Tons of excuses. Waaah, waaah, waaahmbulance. IBM did this. IBM didn’t do this. The name changes.. Bad name. Wrong marketing. Not what ~I~ want. Waaah, waaah, waaah. EVERY time. Excuses. Nothing else, just excuses. Not a single person has given me a valid reason to reference the platform by an OLD name – not once. Why? Because there are none. There are plenty of excuses, but not a single reason.

As I get horrible pushback, insults and complaints, I wonder why it is like this. And I can only suppose one of three things. One, for some reason, coding RPG or working in the midrange world has made us mentally deficient. Yet, most of us appear to still have our faculties. That leads me to… Two, we are old, stubborn, and out of date. We lost the plot. We lost the passion. We live in a world where it is comfortable, and we simply don’t want to budge. We cannot change, and nothing we can do will make us change.

I think that is the reason, but that saddens me. Because the only other possibility is that we are afraid. Consider this – if someone calls you out for referring to IBM i on Power as an AS/400, and you don’t say “oh yeah, that was the grandfather to IBM i”, then you will probably pull out one of the 6,749 lame excuses and use it to justify your own stubbornness and fear.

So, am I right? Or, are you a flexible modern I.T. developer who works on AS/400s? Nah, can’t be. There ARE NO EXCUSES. The platform has moved on. Why can’t you?

Angus: A morning chuckle! Or, is that giggle? Wait…

Trolling the IBM i related groups on LinkedIn (ok, to post the survey link), I caught up on some of the interesting discussions about our platform, and of course, what particular name should be used. One in particular can be found here – I will leave you to read the entire conversation.

I am mentioned frequently as the antagonist in the game – for example:
To be honest i got tired of fighting endlessly with Trevor Perry’s disciples over the topic.“,
I’m not Trevor Perry (nor his disciple)“,
his fervor sometimes borders on that of the Sharia police“.
The most interesting part was this comment: “when i actually met Trevor for the first time in London a few weeks ago, he seemed such a nice bloke, so i thought “why not?” So IBM i it is.“. Me being a “nice bloke” shouldn’t be a reason, really. Nor should my police activity. It would be nice if the community would come together on the platform – name included – for reasons that our platform will die on its past, and live on its future. Referring to the platform or the tools as though it were the same as 5, 10, 20, or 24 years old, seems to be a backward thinking philosophy, but there is always some excuse on offer.

The best comment was a perspective that needs to be spread as far as possible. I definitely plan on using it for my IBMi2 effort. Here it is, verbatim.
In fairness to the Mother Ship, IBM (along with most other marketing driven companies) has always believed that you have to change the names of lines/brands periodically. It’s not that there is anything wrong with the products. You just need to change things to keep interest in the products current.

“¨”¨Microsoft Windows has had, what, seven renames. GM has dropped dozens of brands over the years, only to resurrect them under a new name with a slightly different body style. Everything from refrigerators to PCs changes from time to time. Candy gets “lite” versions. M&Ms get almond versions. Coke gets polar bear cans (then withdraws them). And on and on. It’s the nature of product marketing. You change things to get attention and reflect improvements. It’s like talk radio – angst creates interest….

“¨”¨Is it distracting to those who want things to be the way they always were – of course. Otherwise we’d still be calling it a System/3 running SCP version 2000.1.1.

“¨”¨What we really object to, subconciously, is the complexity of dealing with everything in the computer industry. And it’s not really so much IBM’s fault. The longer I work in the I/T industry, the more I marvel at how the whole thing keeps from falling from the sky from the weight of all the details that have to be accounted for and managed.

“¨”¨IBM will change the name of the hardware and the operating systeme again. You can count on it. As followers of the technology, we just need to keep up and stay current. We need to learn new skills and blend new application technologies. And we need to call it what it is, not what we’d like it to be called.

ҬӬI used to do carpentry on the side with a hammer, a hand saw and some nails. Now I have to carry around nail guns, power saws (I wonder if those secretly run on IBM i?), compressors, and more. But do I yearn for the days of doing it all manually Рnope. I just adjust and move forward.

ҬӬFor the most part, POWER technology is sold, not bought. Very few buyers of technology that costs this much Google it and buy it on the web. IBM has failed repeatedly at trying that. IBMers and business partners have to get in front of customers and sell this stuff. Same-same with HP-UX (HP3000 is gone) systems, Sun Microsystems (OK, now Oracle) and other complex, integrated computer systems costing thousands of dollars.

“¨”¨As consumers, we Google everything. We think of YouTube as the answer. And it’s nice to be able to find information about stuff using Google.But Google is not the answer to everything. IBM does a good job of making all kinds of information available to us via the web – probably too much information. We get confused trying to find it all, so we add countless blogs and forums to make it even more difficult to find everything.

“¨”¨Our job is to soldier on and try to keep up with the madness that is I/T. It’s a hard job. But it pays OK and keeps us out of the Occupy Wall Street camps……….

Thanks Doug!

Angus: Trending survey results!

After 100 survey takers, there are some trending results – mostly in that there is a lot of different perspectives of what this platform is, and what it can do. Without doubt, every response is fabulous information, and will help build the first ibmi2.com site.

And yes, that includes the responses that are pointed at me personally. :-)

The first thought that comes to mind is simply this. Wouldn’t it be great if we, the IBM i proponents, were to spread a unified message about the platform. Including the name, the modern tooling, the integration capabilities, the business case? This is how ibmi2.com will be built – not focused on the past, but focused on a unified message, and how we can deliver that.

Thank you to everyone who has participated. Send the ibmi2.com link to everyone you know and ask them to spend a few minutes with their answers. The IBM i industry press will be mentioning the survey in the next week or so, and that will spread the word further!

20i2 – a year of unity in the IBM i community!

Angus: Take the IBM i survey!

The next stage in the IBMi2 campaign is to survey the community about their perception of the platform. You can participate – anonymously – by starting at ibmi2.com. Navigate to that site, then click the link to take the survey. The poll will be open for a few weeks…

I appreciate everyone’s feedback.

Angus: What has IBM i done for you lately?

If you are willing to give back to the IBM i community, I am building a new campaign for 20i2. The motto is:

20i2 – a year of unity in the IBM i community.

If you think you would like to contribute to building a strong unified IBM i community, email me here..

Angus: Year 2 of the 2nd decade of the 21st century!

In my usual wanderings on LinkedIn, I found a software company posting that promised free “AS/400″ software. I asked the poster if it would be available on IBM i, and one of the company leaders then asked me a question about what I meant when I said “I am hoping you will actually cater for IBM i….”.

Here is my response..

My perspective is that our platform is the best business system on the planet. Most of the community has a passion for the platform that is admirable and hard to find for most systems. However, what “platform”? Is it the AS/400? The iSeries? The System i? OS/400? i5/OS? Or, IBM i? Or Power Systems?

It is the latter. IBM ~only~ sells IBM i on Power Systems. It is the evolution of all the others, and it is the ONLY one that IBM sells. No matter which of those “platforms” you believe in, the next one you upgrade to will be IBM i on Power Systems. So, the platform we work on in 20i2 is IBM i, and it runs on Power Systems. Call it IBM i (so we can google it), speak i, talk about IBM i on Power, (or even Poweri to confuse), but don’t call it an AS/400. Not when AS/400 is 12 years old now – as long as we had an AS/400.

Many companies (you know who you are), and many community members, don’t address the platform by its current name. For some, apparently stubborn, ignorant, out of date, reasoning, everyone seems to want to view the platform as their own name – not the actual name.

And yet, it is ~not~ about the name. It is about the perspective. If we look at the platform as something modern – IBM i on Power, we may tend to use it with a more modern approach. Modern Eclipse-based development tools. Modern database. Modern user interfaces. Modern coding techniques. Modern applications, and so on…If we think our platform is an AS/400, the trap is to use it like an AS/400 – old and outdated. RPGIII using SEU. DDS based files. and so on..

On the other hand, while competitors and our own naysayers continue to wail loudly about the AS/400 being dead, we have a reputation that is tarnished. And, while we ~inside~ the community still bicker about the “name” of the platform, we are simply doing it a terrible injustice, and propagating the doom and gloom of the platform’s enemies.

Vendors, such as your company, SHOULD be the leaders in our community. While you do need to cater for SEO and marketing and mention the PAST platform names and references, it is time to stop LEADING with all the old names and platform references. Our platform is IBM i, and it runs on Power Systems. Vendors, in my opinion, should be selling for the IBM i platform and to IBM i customers, and not playing silly name games. Vendors should be educating the community about the CURRENT and MODERN platform. Vendors should, in my opinion, not be ~leading~ with AS/400, iSeries, System i, OS/400, i5/OS, i5, or any OLD variation of our glorious past. Vendors should be catering for IBM i.

Whatever excuses are given by vendors and community members for NOT referencing the platform by its current branding are simply that – excuses. It is time to stop the complaints and the noise, and come together on what an amazing platform we have – IBM i on Power.

Power is such an amazing branding exercise. IBM i on Power is an amazing business platform. We have an opportunity to blow away the competition with our amazing platform. Yet, we choose to wallow in the idiocy of the name game.

It is time to lead!!
Will you keep selling what appears to be old technology?
Or, will you step up and lead the community into the present and the future of our platform?
You are in a position to educate as you sell and market – won’t you take that opportunity?

Thanks for asking. This has been my opinion.

How about you? Are you a leader?

Angus: 20i2 – the images

The next part of the IBM i2 movement..

Get your IBM 20i2 icon here: i4everyone.com

Stay tuned for more!

Angus: 20i2

Our IBM i community has one thing in common. We love the platform. However, we are a divided community, in that we don’t consistently treat the platform as the same thing. To some people, we are still working on the same wonderful AS/400 we had in 1988. For others, we have this amazing IBM i operating system running on the best business servers on the planet – Power Systems. And some of us think we are somewhere in between. We don’t all agree on what this platform is, how to use it in a modern way, or what we should call it. Yet we all love it?

Given that our platform has detractors who wish for it to go away, this disunity is a source of material for them. There are many who claim this platform is nothing but an old AS/400, out of date, and out of place. They work to migrate from this platform to a solution that is inferior, and in the long run costs far more to own. Yet, they manage to encourage people to move away from the platform with FUD about how they must modernize and upgrade. They push companies to move with claims that the user interface is old and outdated, and to modernize they must choose another platform.

This seems ironic, given that within our platform, we can upgrade to the best hardware and run a modern version of the best business operating system, with some robust applications that can be upgraded to the most modern of user interfaces. However, until the world knows the truth about our platform, this behavior will continue. The best defense to this continued chicanery would seem to be an offense. If the community of IBM i customers, consultants and vendors would spread the word ~outside~ the community, we could have a huge impact on the future of our platform.

Yet, we still argue about the name we should use for our platform and complain about the multitude of name changes wrought upon us by IBM. We defend our use of development tools that are outdated and outmoded. We complain about a perceived lack of marketing by IBM, and blame blame blame everyone else but ourselves. It is time to stop this waste of effort, unite in our passion for the platform, and make some positive noise in the I.T. world.

Imagine what we could do if we really did unite as a community! We could spread the word about our wonderful platform, fight back against the detractors, raise the visibility and reputation of our platform in the global I.T. community and add to the recent upward momentum of Power and IBM i.

Of course, this will take an effort on everyone’s behalf. We need to be consistent, direct, purposeful and positive. It will be difficult for many of us. Here are some thoughts on steps we can take.

  • Call the platform by its current name
  • Encourage people to use the current name
  • Stop complaining about name changes
  • Write the current name everywhere on the web
  • Encourage websites to use the current name
  • Stop complaining about IBM’s marketing
  • Engage in marketing the platform ourselves
  • Stop blaming IBM for anything
  • Use the platform like it is 2012
  • Modernize your developer skills
  • Read the industry press
  • Read industry blogs and forums
  • Contribute to industry related social media
  • Stop personal attacks on forums
  • Start responding positively and in force to community efforts
  • Respond positively and in force against detractors and naysayers
  • Celebrate our strong heritage

If the platform has done anything for you or your career, it is time to pay that back. It is time for all of us to start being positive about our platform and its future. 2012 gives us the opportunity to come together as a community

My thoughts on this topic began when I was working on a new button for 2012. My 20ii button was a hit – you can find it here. However, this theme does not translate quite as well to 20i2, so something else needed to happen. On top of that, the news that Power Systems and IBM i, have had four quarters of growth in a row (read Steve’s blog), shows that we are no longer on a permanent decline. Naysayers be damned!

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be putting together my ideas for the 20i2 button, and making an attempt to start a movement that everyone can join. Our theme will be “building unity in the i community”. A website with an FAQ will be a start. Following that will be a way to get materials and you should be able to start your own small movement in your immediate community.

All ideas are welcome, and I will be posting more as it happens. Stay tuned!!

Angus: Why are you insulting the IBM team? Yes, you!

The usual shenanigans about the name of our platform continue in our insular community. Today, on a popular IBM i related mailing list, a post was praising IBM i 7.1 – something that seemed to start well. However, the last line was “Thanks to the iSeries team at IBM”.

Normally, it is my opinion that some education to the group could be made in the form of a reply – to inform the poster that there is no “iSeries team” at IBM, and, in fact, there has not been one since 2006. However, this particular group tends to ignore the content of my posts and consider every word I write there as an attack. Given the lack of comprehension skills by the members, I resort to my own blog to ponder this predicament.

It is obvious that the team at IBM who are responsible for IBM i have been working hard, not only to improve, modernize, enhance and grow the operating system to be world class, and to run on the best business hardware platform on the planet. I suggest that calling them the “iSeries team” is a HUGE insult. Their work, apparently, has gone unnoticed, and people – yes, YOU – are telling them that they still live in the past. Every time someone refers to IBM i on Power by any of the old brands, names, or nicknames, it is telling IBM – and the IBM i team in particular, that all their effort is worth nothing.

Why would you insult the IBM i team this way? Their efforts have produced the best operating system available, leveraged the past versions of the operating system and hardware, and built something quite extraordinary. And, to pay it the right amount of attention, branding and marketing, an appropriate name for a long term future was chosen. The old hardware, including iSeries, has been replaced with Power Systems, and IBM i brings business to Power with flexibility, integration, scalability, reliability, and low cost of ownership.

And still, you call it names? Old names?

This is like telling the IBM i OS, who has graduated college, that they are still in kindergarten.

Fortunately, IBMers, including the IBM i team, never offer their perspective to the community about their feelings towards your lack of respect . It is past time that we all started to respect their efforts, thank them profusely, and tell everyone about the ~current~ platform, and what it can do.

IBM i on Power!

Angus: Modernization ain’t new…

There has been a recent resurgence in the interest in modernization, mostly because a lot of IT organizations seem to have finally caught up to the last serious vendor-push of a few years back. It bodes well for our industry, especially since the majority of modernization requests seem to be related to reusing and leveraging existing IT assets – including business logic, applications, and platform. Maybe it is time to write a focused modernization blog – more on that to come.

In the meantime, ponder this. Many people have spread the myth that native GUI was not available for our platform, causing droves to escape the tyranny of GUI-less applications for lesser hardware, software and applications. To counter this complete and utter myth, I give you this front page from July 28, 1995!

Midrange Computing July 28, 1995

Relevant title: “The Final Word on GUIs”. Let the laughter subside to a reasonable level…