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Promoting IBM i—Buzzwords & Hot Buttons

June 19, 2017

In my last blog, I started a series to help you prepare yourself, if your organization is going to evaluate the future of your IBM i on Power infrastructure. I want to help people avoid panic, and instead move into “promotion” mode—explaining the value of IBM i to your company. Last time, I wrote about Triggering Events—things that can happen in your company which often result in re-evaluation. But in addition to those events, organizations can initiate a platform evaluation when certain hot button issues or buzzwords become big in a company. Let’s think about each of those.


Hot Buttons
Each organization, and in fact each executive within an organization, typically has some specific issues which concern them more than others. I call these “hot buttons” and when something happens which hits one of those hot buttons, a platform review might happen. Here are several of the most common.

Staffing: I’m smiling as I write this. The very first comment I got on last week’s blog suggested that another “triggering event” is the retirement of an organization’s lead RPG programmer. Yes, that’s true. However, for most organizations, this event is not so much a surprise as it is an inevitability that can be planned for.

If your organization has recognized future staffing as an issue, whether because of the impending departure of software developers, infrastructure planners or operators, then someone is responsible for thinking about it. And, as the commenter said, this can drive a platform re-evaluation.

Regulations & Auditing: Certainly businesses in the financial and medical industries are used to regulations factoring into many of their IT decisions, and many of those regulations relate to the ability to prove to auditors that they are doing business according to those regulations. But it seems as if more businesses in a wide cross-section of industries are facing this. And, when they do, a platform evaluation often happens.

IBM’s Commitment: Some executives, even those who know the value of their IBM i environment, may initiate a platform comparison effort if something occurs to cause them to believe IBM might not be committed to IBM i or Power Systems. Again, while you cannot necessarily prevent these concerns from arising—though I will try to help you try, in future blog entries, as I have in the past—if you hear that your bosses are talking about this topic, get ready with answers.

Perception: This is a “chicken and egg” issue. Many times, executives perceive IBM i as being an old platform. Why? Well, sure, because it’s been around a long time. But so has Windows Server, Unix was invented in 1969, and even Linux started just three years after the AS/400 was first released. So age is not the only thing. (Though few people know the ages of various OS architectures.)

No, the typical perception that our platform is old is often driven by the kind of user interfaces that are implemented in a customer’s shop. If an executive sees a green screen, or even a screen-scraped GUI, they think “old.”  And when they see a shiny new interface on some other platform, even if the platform is just as old as IBM i (or older) they think they need to take a look at that other platform.

And yet, of course, IBM i could have the shiny interface, too, if the business is willing to invest in it. But now I am straying into the topics for the subsequent blogs—what can you tell your executives to address their concerns.


Our industry is full of buzzwords, and it seems these buzzwords can consume the attention of huge segments of the community. Some of these buzzwords, when given enough attention, cause people to re-evaluate their situations.

Capex vs. Opex: For many IT organizations, there has been a strong emphasis in recent years to reduce the amount of capital expenses, which tend to be large and occur at widely separate intervals, with an emphasis instead on moving more to consistent operational expenses. Because IBM i-related expenses are often capital expenditures for new Power Systems, if a CFO or CIO is trying to move to a model more dependent on operational expenses, they might want to re-evaluate and understand their options. Oh, and by the way, people who are interested in this are also typically interested in our next buzzword.

Cloud: If you have not already had your business executives ask you if they could run their entire business in the cloud, consider yourself lucky. Either your executives are behind the times and have not heard the overblown promises of “cloud,” or they recognize that the question is too broad for a reasonable answer. However, even informed executives have very good reasons for evaluating the potential for how cloud technologies can augment their IT capabilities, whether it’s something as simple as using cloud storage for backups, or something more complicated like using public clouds for a portion of your processing and leaving your unique business-critical workloads on your own equipment. Some businesses, of course, are also looking to get a managed service provider to take care of all of their IT needs, and this is one form of what people call cloud computing. Whatever the case, if your executives are looking at cloud, your organization is going to do a platform evaluation.

Mobile: The world has gone mobile—that’s undisputed. Most traditional IBM i shops will soon be asked (if they haven’t already) whether mobile devices can be used to access existing IBM i applications, to look at data stored in DB2 for i, or to manage the platform. If the immediate answer isn’t “of course IBM i can do that,” (which is what the answer should be!) a platform evaluation is certain. Even if the IT staff assures the powers that be that mobile interfaces exist or can be added, this one topic can be the starting point of a platform comparison.

Open Source: This is another topic most CTOs and CIOs have heard about, and from my recent experience, while open source has been a topic in the larger IT industry for many years, it’s only recently being considered by traditional IBM i executives. In this regard, many IBM i shops are already ahead of their executives, at least in becoming aware of the IBM i open source capabilities, which are extensive, as I mentioned in a recent blog. However, since open source is often equated with Linux, the executives might assume their iSeries or AS/400 can’t handle open source. It’s not all about the name, of course, but as I mentioned in the “Perception” section, assumptions can be made if the capabilities of the platform have not been clearly communicated.

Competitive Preference: I’ve put this topic at the end, because it ties very well to the last blog, specifically when new leadership comes into power in your company. Often, in this instance, a new leader has a specific history with a competing operating system environment, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes, the executives hire a consulting firm that has a tendency to recommend another platform. (Astoundingly, this other platform just happens to be a specialty of the consultant’s implementation team. What a coincidence!) In any case, if you start hearing that your bosses have a preference for some other system, you had better be primed with information about IBM i and Power Systems.

OK, the past two blogs have now given you an idea of a number of things you should watch for—things which should make you think, “I had better get prepared to tell my bosses about IBM i on Power.”    They might be triggering events; they might be hot buttons that concern your bosses; they might be buzzwords which are gaining momentum in the discussions you are hearing. In any case, it’s time to get prepared.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you already have some material to make your case. Use it! But I will be continuing this series with pointers to material you can use to address the topics I’ve raised in the past two blogs. I might insert another topic or two before this series continues—we have some other cool things going on in the IBM i world, and I want to make sure you hear about them—but I will definitely get back to this topic. Now that you’re keeping your eyes open for the warning signs, I want to arm you with information you can use to educate your leadership on the value and capabilities of IBM i, while dispelling the common myths about the platform.

And, again, if you need something sooner, remember that I’ve been giving a presentation on this topic—“Promoting IBM i – Business & Technology”—at various conferences, and will be giving it at user group meetings and partner events if I’m asked to do so. If you are a member of COMMON, you can download a PDF of the presentation I gave in Orlando, and if you are a member of COMMON Europe, I will be doing the presentation on Tuesday, June 20 in Brussels. If you work for a Large User Group company, someone on your team probably saw me give some of the presentation at the weeklong meeting we finished less than two weeks ago.

I hope this helps! After all, we’re in this together, and part of what we IBMers want to do is get you the information you need. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Posted June 19, 2017| Permalink