Recently, Search400 reported on IBM's efforts to revitalize the iSeries. What do users have to say about Big Blue's investment? Apparently, quite a bit, since we couldn't fit all of the responses onto the initial post. Here is a continuation of the responses.
iSeries: an IBM cash cow?
It's going to be a tough road to turn the iSeries slide around. Here are a few reasons why:
1) The industry-wide belief is that the iSeries is a dying, legacy platform.
2) What used to be a strength - the number and quality of applications written for the AS400/iSeries/i5 - has turned into a weakness due to IBM's malign neglect of the platform for the last many years.
3) The loss of JD Edwards to Oracle means the eventual disappearance of the major ERP vendor in the iSeries world.
4) The ease-of-development advantage the iSeries used to hold has been mitigated due to the industry's move to web development. The back-end server hardware is almost a commodity these days, and on the surface, the iSeries is way too expensive. That leads to...
5) The iSeries is still way too expensive. IBM can talk all they want about total cost of ownership, etc. What most customers get is sticker shock. Plus, what IBM charges for memory and disk upgrades is simply outrageous.
6) Most of IBM itself still doesn't push the iSeries. It's not a corporate priority and hasn't been since just after the successful initial introduction of the platform as the AS/400 in 1988.
My belief is that IBM is sinking a little money into the iSeries now in the hope of keeping it alive for a few more years so it can continue to milk it as a cash cow. I don't believe IBM will ever market the platform properly, and at this point, it may be too late.
RMJ Consulting Corp.
Cut the gloom and doom
Can IBM keep the iSeries alive?
Most people (especially non-IBM-ers who pick up your article on a Google search) are simply going to read the title and think... mmm sounds like there is trouble with the iSeries.
What would you think if IBM put an article on their website which had a title of..."Is Search400 able to survive 2005"..
Then the article may continue to say how wonderful Search400 is and that there is no question about it not surviving for many years... but people will read the title and conclude that Search400 is in trouble.
All the time, the iSeries and AS400 have people writing positive articles with doom and gloom titles. Stop now.
Betting on the iSeries
I read your editorial about the future of the iSeries. As managing director of a technology marketing company, I'm betting on the future of the iSeries. Several of my clients are spending money promoting their software on i5, and the new Chiphopper and iSeries Innnovation Initiative are proof that IBM is committed to the iSeries for now and the future.
The iSeries metaphor you quoted -- "mainframe of the SMB" -- is certainly appropriate. As we heard at PartnerWorld, the SMB is IBM's primary focus for the channel this year (along with Linux). These initiatives plus the PartnerWorld Industry Networks push is going to help rejuvenate the iSeries market and reinforce its position in the midmarket.
iSeries die? They have been saying this for years, with NO marketing, that the iSeries is dead. There are so many strong iSeries products on the market already, I for one, don't believe this platform can or will ever die.
From the iSeries war-horse's mouth
I attended the announcement of the AS400 in 1988 at 590 Madison Ave, NY.
As a long-time midrange consultant on S32,S34,S36, I remember thinking at the time that this is the BEST machine ever introduced by any computer vendor. IBM and the AS400 have not disappointed me and my clients. In particular, my client base is small and entrepreneurial business, which the S3X series addressed fantastically.
The testament to the 3X line and follow-on AS400 is that I have a client that is still running a M36 on his iSeries 9406-170. The company has grown to $100 million in sales and refuses to move off of the midrange line for its custom RPG coded main processing applications.
I believe that IBM can address any market it desires with the iSeries. The machine and operating system are chameleon-like in that whenever a competitor says " but the IBM iSeries cannot do XYZ," 4-6 months later IBM announces that it can.
It is still a system that the office manager (non-technical) can startup and shutdown without high priced technical support.
I have been programming since 1968 and have never worked on a more reliable piece of hardware in my professional life...the damn thing just runs and runs and runs and runs...
So to wrap up we have a solid piece of hardware, running an extremely flexible operating system, supported by a company that has taken on all comers as far as application and facilities....you tell me what is wrong with this picture.
Perhaps IBM will re-release a 9406-150 for SOHO based businesses that competes with a Dell Poweredge 500sc and runs windows based software at a competitive price point with the iSeries reliability...watch out Microsoft/Intel..
Oh, one more thing....there are ZERO documented virus infections of OS400, to my knowledge.
Retiring on iSeries
I have every intention of retiring at age 67 by being a programmer on the I5. I started on S/38 and I do not want to do anything else.
I am 37 now and I am putting my faith in the box. It is also why I fight tooth and nail against offshoring. We need jobs here, not out there supporting other countries. They can support themselves.
Group Benefit Services, Inc
Why can't they figure it out?
This is the wrong question: can IBM help get the software out there that's needed to keep the iSeries alive?
My answer is a definite no, not with this approach. It is not a question of software because eventually any software could be adapted and/or ported to the iSeries.
The correct question is: why would a potential new SMB customer choose an xyz-application-software on Oracle on Unix or xyz-application-software on SQL Server on Wintel over xyz-application-software on free-integrated-with-the-os-no-need-for-dbas-DB2/400 UDB on preserve-your-software-investment-forever-only-need-one-sysadin-iSeries?
This is where they are losing the battle. Fixating on getting out more xyz-application-software on the iSeries by itself will not solve IBM's problem of increasing SMB market share.
Over the years I have watched IBM marketing and technical strategists never figure this out and that is why, after 11 years and attaining guru status, I no long work with iSeries. This is not something for IBM marketing alone. Their technical strategists need to partner with them more effectively. And they must be sure to avoid preaching to the AS/400-iSeries choir (old/existing customer base). I know it is their bread and butter, but man cannot survive on bread alone, and butter, well, we know what too much of that will do to you.
IS Business Analyst - Sr.
San Francisco, CA