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Fast400 friend or foe? Users speak out

Users comment on the controversial Fast400 and its marketers.

Last week Storage Solutions Group announced the availability of version 4.1 of Fast400. The developers -- it seems -- have found a way for the green-screen governor buster to work around the PTFs IBM released to stop the product.

With that in mind, we asked you what you thought was driving the developers of Fast400 in this battle against Big Blue. Are the people behind Fast400 just taunting IBM or are they providing you with a solid offering that will improve your productivity? Here's what some of you said.

Good move by SSG I think it's great and very bold on SSG's part. Whenever I purchase a product -- whether it's a car or a blender -- I don't expect, want or desire the product to only work at 70% capacity. There are hundreds of aftermarket products, for example, you can purchase to increase the horsepower and fuel economy of vehicles. These OEM products do not void the maintenance contracts either. Keep up the good work SSG.

Keith A. Kerlin
Systems administrator
Broadwing Communications

Loyal iSeries users pay the price
I don't imagine a time when I would ever employ Fast400 or any other interactive penalty buster that might come along. Although I wouldn't use such software, I applaud the developers who have created it. The "interactive buster" soap opera seems to have a Robin Hood quality to it. Here a group of upstarts develops a way to capitalize on a large corporation that is using its existing customer base as a cash cow, offering the customer base a huge savings as a benefit.

The user community has long lamented to IBM and been ignored over the ridiculous fees that seem to be targeted to rake cash out of an extremely loyal customer base. Long time AS/400 or iSeries customers feel taken advantage of. What makes it worse is that it is by someone who we have looked up to for years. After all, it was IBM Rochester that developed such a wonderfully unique platform, garnering such fierce product loyalty that we have tolerated the penalty up until now. IBM seems unwilling to market and sell more boxes for revenue; they seem to prefer to rape their existing dwindling customer base instead.

IBM has successfully gambled that it is so expensive to shift platforms, that customers will pay the penalties for a number of years before migrating to a different system to eliminate the fees. Make no mistake: Customers are migrating to another system. They are not developing a non-penalized version of software that will run on the iSeries.

If dragging the interactive penalty back into the press and rubbing our dissatisfaction with it into IBM's face was the developers only goal, it is a goal worthy of pursuit.

Jeff Importico

Wait until the dust settles
I like to stay back from the bleeding-edge of technology just far enough to wait for the bandages to take affect. I certainly wouldn't want to get in the middle of an obvious war.

Kendall Hudson

Loyal IBM customers should be rewarded, not penalized
A loyal Big Blue customer doesn't like to have IBM unhappy with them. There is certainly a fear factor in using Fast400 when IBM says, "No, don't use it".

IBM would have done much better just to leave us poor, uneducated customers in the dark about their governor and Interactive pricing. They claim they have done this for years with other models (hid things under the covers). But now we know that a little chip the size of PC DIMM module is controlling how much of a great system we can use. And when the little chip is upgraded, UP goes the cost of support and maintenance as it often puts the customer in another P class. That is where their Interactive pricing rubs me the wrong way. Does it really cost more to maintain the system now that a different chip is in the system? Should software subscriptions cost SO much more? Also, what if you only need the extra interactive for part of the year or part of the day? It is hard to justify the little chip for only part of a year's work.

There is a hard, blunt reality customers have to face: Can I afford to upgrade the Interactive chip? If yes, can I come work for you!?

If not, what are the alternatives? 1. Quit and take up golf. 2. Switch platforms. (Give me a break!) 3. Convert well-designed, fast-executing green screen programs to some sort of GUI front end where the processing can be done in batch. (That will take considerable money and time, especially retesting of the applications in a different environment.) 4. Make a business case to IBM why Interactive pricing is wrong and loyal IBM customers should be rewarded for staying with the platform, not penalized. (YES!)

Jef Sutherland
Vice president, Information Services
KOA Inc.

Fast400 isn't the solution; IBM needs to act on user dissatisfaction
My problem with this discussion is that everyone has a valid point to complain about pricing at any given point of time. Every pricing mechanism seems to be first greeted with acceptance and then over time it becomes a point of unhappiness. Flat price, tiered pricing, user-based pricing, server/interactive pricing. etc. -- there is a flaw in every one of them if they hang around long enough and you look at them from every angle.

I would never in good conscious use a product like Fast400. I'd like the interactive feature to be less, but I also know that its price is reduced on an ongoing basis. I've never thought of it as an interactive tax but from a certain perspective, it can be considered that. But keep in mind that it's only a tax when it is compared to certain application designs and systems. Price the system against a mainframe or Unix TP type of system, and the pricing isn't out of line.

IBM needs to look at the amount of dissatisfaction that this is creating and act accordingly. I'm guessing that beyond lack of marketing that the pricing for certain features (interactive feature and to some degree disk and memory) is the greatest cause for customer dissatisfaction. This will lead to customers purchasing other systems. And contrary to what IBM thinks, most of them are probably not IBM platforms.

My guess is that the interactive feature charge will effectively go away or be modified to a much more acceptable level. It's a question of when. Until then you won't see me leading the charge with Fast400. I don't see the benefit of purposely abusing something that a vendor has designed. Fast400 is not something I'd stake my reputation on.

Michael Crump
Saint-Gobain Containers

Consider the moral issues
For those of you who feel your use of Fast 400 is morally justifiable I have the following questions:

1. Did IBM lie to you or withhold or obscure information about the interactive capacity of the server you bought/leased from them or neglect to educate you about the importance of interactive capacity? Did they refuse to correct this?

2. Did they do the same regarding the cost of increasing that interactive capacity (assuming it came up)? Did they refuse to correct this?

3. Did they force a limitation of interactive capacity on you after you purchased/leased your machine, then refuse to remove it?

Answer yes to 1, 2, or 3? OK, you've got a point. You're probably frustrated, and Fast400 seems like an appropriate way to thumb your nose at IBM. It still doesn't make it right. It just means you'll stoop to their level.

Didn't answer yes to any of those? OK, try these:

4. Did you make an honest effort to understand what you were buying/leasing? No? Who's your problem really with?

5. Do you think this is fair? Say someone hires your company to do a job you would normally charge $100 for, but because they don't need the work done until 30 days from now you agree to do it for $50. Then the person who hired you figures out a way to force you to use your "un-utilized capacity for production" to get their job done in 5 days without paying you more for the early completion?

Did you say no? Then why are you doing the same thing to IBM?

If you said yes, you probably also wonder why no one trusts you.

Dave Jorgensen
Quintrex Data Systems Corp.

IBM encouraging users to move forward
Regarding the Fast400 moral issue, everyone seems to be missing the point of IBM's vision for the iSeries. IBM's vision is WebSphere on the iSeries, not the traditional green-screen application. Keeping this in mind along with the fact Websphere is primarily batch processing, is IBM really trying to "rape" us loyal customers or just encourage us to move forward? I can say that WebSphere on the iSeries is my future.

Chris DePace
Director, Technology Services
The Seibels Bruce Group Inc

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