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Steve Will on the IBM i 30th Anniversary, POWER9 Supercomputers and More

Steve will

Paul Tuohy: Hi everybody and welcome to another iTalk with Tuohy. So it is very rare that I actually get to do interviews in person with people. It is even rarer that I get to do an interview with somebody in my home studio―aka, AKA my kitchen here in Dublin, Ireland. So Steve Will, welcome back to iTalk and more importantly, welcome to Ireland.

Steve Will: Well thank you very much. It's been great and I'm happy to be in your house.

Paul: Yup. So don't be happy. You haven't gotten the invoice yet [laughs]. So Steve, there are a couple of things I would like to take the opportunity to talk you about. So just this week, the two of us were speaking at the iPower conference in the U.K. We're on our way to COMMON Europe in Warsaw―-

Steve: Yup.

Paul: Which I think we're both looking forward to. Ando and one of the things that I've seen a bit of but I've got a funny feeling you've seen a lot more of this year has of course been the 30th anniversary celebrations that have been going on. Okay, so excuse my long lead-in to this.

Steve: No problem.

Paul: But the thing that I have noticed is that for people like myself, we have a tendency to have been looking back at the last 30 years and celebrating how great they've been and the great things that have happened on the platform, but of course a lot of the emphasis that IBM really has on this celebration is asit is a looking- forward one to kind of the next 30 years.

Steve: Exactly. That's exactly what we're doing. You know we couldn't be where we are without where we've been, and so it is nice to look at what the old machines were and how the architecture has gotten us here. What we really want to celebrate with people is how prepared we are to move forward. So many of our clients are doing amazing things with this platform that show that we're as ready as anyone to carry businesses into the future on this technology front, on the way they work with other people and how they're using data that's is out there in the world. So so that's what our whole celebration theme has been is we're just getting started and we have clients who are showing the way.

Paul: So and I know this was part of your keynote, and of course there has been a lot of stuff on the IBM website where there are examples of all of this and this great innovation. But but for most of us who have been working on the platform, I mean it's been payroll, ; it's been ERP,; it's been the accounting packages and a lot of the homegrown stuff and things like that. So so for these―-so some examples of the innovation.

Steve: Okay. Well first of all there are so many things going on in computing and open-source today that people need to understand you can easily expand what your applications are doing. And and because we've had such a focus in IBM i in making open-source technology work easily on the platform, you can do things you might not have expected. Some of the stories that we have, for example, center on this one particular business partner, a small development firm in Belgium, CD Invest, who haswas helped several customers incorporate open-source technology. Many might think open-source: "everybody. Everybody does open-source. What are we talking about there? Why is that new?" Well for example for one of their customers, CD Invest wanted to be able to bring in 3-D modeling, 3-D simulation and run it directly on the i―, not on a platform that was connected to the i, but actually run it on the i to be able to give their customers, Euro-east customers, the ability to see what a piece of furniture would look like before it was ever even manufactured. And and so to do that, they knew that there were open-source technologies to be able to pull in 3-D modeling operations. So what did they do? They went out and hired a game programmer, a programmer who didn't ever know i, didn't ever know RPG or didn't even think he was going to work for a business, but he knew how to use this open-source software to do 3-D modeling. And and now this developer is helping business― and by the way, getting a more stable paycheck than he would have trying to do games― using this open-source technology. This particular business partner is using it now for several customers because he was so easily able to bring in this open-source technology― again, doing technology things like 3-D modeling you wouldn't have expected you could do an i but you can easily do onan i now that you've got open-source and you've got a Power processor underneath it.

Paul: Okay, so I'm sputtering because of course people can't see you when you're talking of this, right? But but the smile that you gave when you talked about―-because knowing our puncheon for gaming-

Steve: Yeah.

Paul: So when you talk about a gamer now working on the IBM i.

Steve: It's great.

Paul: That's it, Steve. Your job is done [laughs].

Steve: No, in fact this story and several of the stories show sort of the multifaceted nature of this celebration. I mean this particular story talks about how the open-source strategy for the platform really benefits clients. It shows how it helps bring young talent into your organization innovation. This particular company was looking at other platforms to try to do this. They wanted to be able to do it and they didn't think i could do it. So the business partner, the partnership aspect of our strategy, ends up winning the business for the IBM i platform, so it's a win for the platform as well. So there's lots of different aspects to this one particular story. Now there are other stories that our customers are telling. HT Bendix is one of our sort of long time customer references whose has been doing amazing things with the platform. They're doing things with robotics that, again, most of our clients probably don't recognize. You know we have lots and lots of our clients who are in manufacturing, distribution and so on who are looking forward and saying "we've got to bring robotics into what we do in our plant" or "we've already done that. How can I integrate that with the i?" Well HT Bendix and a couple of other stories that you can read on the site show how IBM i is driving robotics in those organizations. So it'sIt's important to understand that these stories are multifaceted. It's not just about any one thing. It's about showing how the whole nature of this platform and its community are bringing value into the future.

Paul: Yeah, it has become the thing that― I mean for many years I've been saying this. When when people have ever asked me sort of saying "oh, can you do X on IBM i?" My answer has always been yes. No matter what I'm asked, I will always yes. When they say "how?", I may have to answer "I don't know. You know I have to go and find out." But but the answer is yes.

Steve: Exactly.

Paul: I have yet to be proven wrong. I've yet to come up with -"no." I have come up with things that I was sort of saying, "well you can do them on i but you might be better doing them somewhere else." One was I'm talking about email servers.

Steve: Okay.

Paul: Okay you know that kind of thing. I am not talking about anything that is really good―-

Steve: Yeah.

Paul: And complicated and that as well. So part of the thing, Steve, and I mean if we're looking into this thing and we're talking about, well here's to the next 30 years. So as chief architect for the platform, like how far into the future do you look?

Steve: Well at any given time we're planning for the next 2-5two to five years, and then we're trying to anticipate what might a decade from now that will be transformative that might be going on in research. So so just from a from a near term, it's more like 2-5two to five years. We conceptually think more like outn a decade. We have to prepare the operating system for farther than that but that's―-that's sort of nebulous most of the time. Many of our customers will have been involved in the Y2K thing, for example, and of course everybody had to look at that there are dates within the IBM i operating system around the 2030's, something strange is going to happen inside the operating system. We've got to look ahead at that far, but right now for detailed plans, it's more like 2-5two to five years with a strategic outlook of about ten.

Paul: Good, because―-and again just in case people don't know this― of course on the roadmap that's there, so like IBM i on the roadmap is out to 2028―-

Steve: Yup.

Paul: Is it or 2026?

Steve: Yeah, somewhere in there. If you add the ten years since we released―-add ten years to when we released the 7.3 release, that takes us out to 2026. And and we've told people that there are of course new releases coming in the next few years. So so now we're out past the 2030's in our roadmaps that we're showing.

Paul: Yeah and when you think about it, I mean how many other platforms? I mean I love this as the fact that the number of times the people talk about, "oh the IBM i. It's a dying platform. It's going to go." Yup and I don't know of any other platform that sort of says, well here we are. Like, like we're giving you a date that we're going to be here until, that we have to be just following our―-the way we do business.

Steve: That's right.

Paul: Yup.

Steve: And we've been trying to make it clear over the past several years that this is a consistent delivery on the same kind of roadmap that we've had in place for more than ten years. If you looked us ten years ago, we were showing you a roadmap that said we've going to be out for at least ten years beyond that, and here we are. We're showing the same thing. So so there's no real reason for us to believe that anything will change in regards to that. It's just a matter of what technology will be out there ten years from now that we'll be integrating.

Paul: Now so speaking of technologies out there, of course one of the other big things that was announced in the last week, not directly with IBM i but does touch on it. I'm sorry. Really what I want to ask is does this touch on it? So IBM announced their new supercomputer, and this supercomputer has or is about to become the new biggest, fastest supercomputer in the world and taking that mantle back from China where it has been for the last, I don't know, 5-10five or ten years or whatever, whatever it's been. Right? And right and that this new supercomputer is primarily based on the POWER9 processor, which of course IBM i is as well.

Steve: Yes, indeed.

Paul: Okay so is there some cross over here? I mean I know that whole supercomputer is another part of IBM and all of that, and I'm really annoyed because when I was down in Austin last year―-

Steve: Uh-huh.

Paul: And we were seeing all this stuff about the POWER9, nobody mentioned the fact there was a supercomputer in the works.

Steve: Even for you [IBM] Champions champions, we have to keep some things secret.

Paul: Yes [laughs] so―-so does all of this sort of rub off on you, like being part of that whole POWER9, you know the whole Power family and everything and the fact that it is there.? Is there reflection? Is there something we should be maybe patting ourselves on the back a little bit that we're part of this or―-?

Steve: Well yeah. I think the community should really be understanding that when IBM puts its mind to designing a business computer, it’s thinking about lots of different workloads that need to be optimized on top of that. POWER9 can be optimized to do the kind of workloads we do― as you mentioned we do so well plus this open-source stuff that we do― but it can also be implemented, accelerated, and optimized for things like the supercomputing workloads so it can run in super parallel environments. It's good for us as an operating system that IBM wants to continue to invest in the advancement of the processors that we depend upon. This is not the way it would have had to have gone, right?. IBM could have decided that "oh for doing accounting and so on, we've going to have a limited processor and we're going to do other things." No. There's one processor with the assumption that we're all going to find interesting, innovative ways to use the capabilities that are initially created for something else. That's what we're excited about looking at for the future. How can we take advantage of these new enhancements that are being created specifically for supercomputing and cognitive, and apply those to the future strategy of IBM i workloads.

Paul: So just share with people what the name of the supercomputer is?

Steve: Oh, you mean the Summit? Does that mean something to you, Paul?

Paul: I'm just―-I mean some people might just see it as coincidence. Other people may say its, "well IBM picked that name based on the RPG and DB2 Summit and what a great conference it is." I mean you could go either way I suppose on that [laughs]. Okay so, Steve:. You've been here in Ireland for a couple of days visiting. So, so any impressions?

Steve: Oh. Oh my goodness. If you who are listening have never been to Ireland, it is in many ways exactly what people say and more. It's a beautiful place to be. I have enjoyed every place that you have been able to take me. We've seen some amazing things that I've only seen here in Ireland, and people have been super friendly and of course you are. So yeah, so-yeah. I've loved it. The amount of history that is here together with the amount of nature that is so easily seen close by. I just have loved my time. I hope I get to come back for longer the next time.

Paul: Ohh yeah. Okay. I'm now applying the discount of the invoice here as you speak. The other thing is that one of the things I've enjoyed putting up with you for the last couple days is since yesterday is that grin you've had on our face―-

Steve: Oh yes.

Paul: With the arrival of your fourth grandson.

Steve: Yes.

Paul: Or your fourth grandchild. Excuse me. Your third grandson and fourth grandchild. So I think a good note to finish on as on behalf of myself and I think everybody listening, congrats on becoming a granddad again.

Steve: Thank you very much. It's one of my favorite parts of life. It's great to have yet another one to love.

Paul: Okay and I think that's a good note, everybody, to finish this iTalk on. So so bye for now and tune in again for the next one.

Paul Tuohy has specialized in application development and training on IBM midrange systems for more than 20 years.

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