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Meet the new boss

CHICAGO -- Since taking over as iSeries general manager at the beginning of the year, Mark Shearer has been in his office a total of three days. But he hasn't been on vacation. Shearer has been traveling the world, promoting the iSeries -- which includes the town hall meeting at the opening of COMMON. During the meeting, IBM illustrated exactly how they would invest in iSeries promotion dollars. Full page reprints of the new ad campaign in the Wall Street Journal were placed on every seat. A new TV ad showed executives laughing at a sleazy Wintel salesman trying to get them to switch to a commodity environment over the iSeries. And the crowd loved it.

In the past, COMMON attendees have addressed the panel at the town hall meeting and said, "It's the marketing, stupid." This year, it seems somebody listened.

Mark Shearer sat down with Search400.com to discuss the iSeries' new momentum.

What does iSeries growth do for existing iSeries users?
For our clients in general, getting a vibrant ecosystem of solutions benefits them by having more solutions available. Users will benefit from breadth of portfolio on their current platform. A lot of current iSeries clients really like the idea of integrating some of their HP UX or Solaris applications onto their iSeries box.

If you look at iSeries applications in its broadest sense, you have the i5 OS base, the AIX base, the Linux base. Chiphopper is inspiring Lintel apps over to the Power platform. Does promoting the superiority of the iSeries marginalize the other IBM technology?
The IT systems marketplace is just huge. It can be segmented into different wants and needs, and different buyer behavior. I think the iSeries is very relevant in a specific segment of the market where clients want more tightly integrated systems that are easier to manage -- where people are focused on business solutions rather than commodity technology or product pieces.

I think using a mix of media is a great idea. Blogging for the iSeries community is a natural.
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I don't think promoting iSeries for its intended segment diminishes the other products at all. In my last job, I worked across the whole family of products, and I think it's more about clearly articulating where the iSeries fits in.

I believe there is a place for Unix servers, Intel servers, mainframes and storage devices. I view them as complementary. I think that it's an IBM advantage that we're able to provide offerings across the spectrum. A lot of iSeries clients buy xSeries or pSeries products. One of the things I noticed about the marketing is a shift in audience from developers and users to C-level executives. Do you have a breakdown on who is the decision maker when it comes to platform decisions?
There are different constituencies we must speak to, including the developers. That continues to be a very important audience. But developers have told us that they needed a way to explain to their CEO or CIO why continued investment in the iSeries makes sense. Even the more technical people have asked for help in articulating the business value to C-level executives.

One of my personal objectives is to attract new clients to the platform in SMBs [small to medium-sized businesses] where integrated solutions are fundamental. To do that, I have to speak in business terms, because the iSeries' greatest strengths are business based. The tone of a lot of articles across the media is that the iSeries is in trouble with revenue, but it's a great product. Does that affect the market?
I am personally focused on the marketplace, versus what people say about the market.

The reason you're seeing positive buzz about the iSeries has more to do with shifts in the industry than what we might do or say one day. Trends in the industry are making the iSeries more relevant.

The first trend is IT infrastructure simplification. Over the past decade -- even in our loyal iSeries clients -- there has been a proliferation of servers and storage around the core systems. It's gotten too complex to manage. Clients are spending three times as much on management than they are on infrastructure. So the industry has gotten to the point where lowering that cost of management is fundamental; and the iSeries is really good at that.

The second trend is our clients' obsession on business solutions, rather than technologies. That is the sweet spot of the iSeries. At the town hall meeting, you mentioned getting the word out through blogging. Could you comment on that?
I've been in the marketing function for eight years, and I think using a mix of media is a great idea. Blogging for the iSeries community is a natural. Frank Soltis is a cult figurehead. Several people came up to me after the town hall meeting, asking

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for the URL of the blog so they can get started. It will be good for some people, not everyone, but I like the idea of it. The young iSeries professionals will be one of the segments of the market that would turn to that. Peter Bingaman mentioned redistributing funds to use in the ad campaign. Where are these funds coming from?
We are funding a lot of this through our business growth, so as business grows we're able to invest in advertising, marketing and ISV [independent software vendor] support. The emphasis on the iSeries, is this coming from the top?
I tell people that the "i" in iSeries is really for IBM. A lot of our clients see the entire company through their iSeries window. Every part of IBM participates in the iSeries: global financing, software group, business consulting -- there isn't a part of IBM that doesn't participate in the business. It is very closely aligned with our SMB sales team. Can you address any of the missteps of the past? Were there missteps or was it just a market trend?
I'd rather not reconstruct the past. I'm focused on the future. When do you think revenue will turn around?
As I've spoken to business partners and ISVs, I think they are very good indicators of the health of the ecosystem. This year, a lot of our business partners are reinvesting in iSeries skills. There has been extraordinary response to the iSeries innovation initiative, and I see a bounce in the step of the iSeries ecosystem.

There is always a strategic element. What I want to do with the iSeries will take years to do. I can't comment on short-term results.

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