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Re: Promoting IBM i



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On 12/14/2012 8:32 AM, Trevor Perry wrote:
Seems like we are a bunch of grumpy old farts who hate hate hate
everything. Bad name, bad logo, bad motto, bad IBM, bad bad bad. Seems
like many of us don't actually care much for our platform, rather an old,
out-of-date, live-in-the-past, my-life-is-waiting-for-retirement version.
Sad. Where did all the passion go that we once had for our jobs, our
careers, IT, and computing in general?

Not really. If nobody cared (a la microsoft users), then no one would get visibly upset by the whole thing. Most people laugh at MS missteps. The grumping means people care. They are passionate about something that is clearly better if not the best. Here is the issue as I see it.

People think IBM i is old. Period. This is the downfall of the system ENTIRELY. No other thing matters more than the old perception.

Why?
* Mostly only old people understand it
* The primary interface looks old. Even navigator isn't exactly modern feeling compared to say SQL Server Management Studio
* Flailing attempts to warp the system into something that "appears" modern
* Crap marketing

Let's address these one by one:

So as late as 15 years ago when you wanted to learn computers it was pretty well expected you go to school for it. Nobody ever got canned for buying IBM, big PC's were kind of a joke (unisys anyone?). IBM i does well in an environment like this. This is all still true in various ways but the world has changed. PC servers are now taken very seriously and people are kind of spreading their wings and learning stuff at home. It's how I (30 yo) learned everything. The materials out there to learn Linux, Windows, Unix and everything in between are out there, free for hobbyist use more or less and plentiful. You can install any of these in a VM and learn through trial and error. You want to learn IP tables, VPN, even Cisco IOS there is seriously inexpensive hardware or VM solutions to do so. This simply isn't the case with IBM i. There is no IBM i laptop, or virtual machine. It's a seriously expensive system with IBM locking down even super old systems like 800 series or older just to keep systems moving out of the warehouse. But it's like cutting off your arm to spite your face. By keeping systems out of hands to keep customer X from upgrading, you're excluding how many younger new faces from the system entirely? I'm sure part of the reason they do it is to keep it obscure and hence more secure but security through obscurity isn't smart.

So I mean I got LUCKY. I found a 350 pound 820 on ebay for less than $100. I had the super geekdom(tm) interest to troll ebay for months to buy it. I had the sheer willpower to lug the 350 pound monster home. I had the sheer willpower to get a console to it (again this should be an easier process, what is so wrong with a DB9 serial port!?!?!?!?!). I got LUCKY that the previous owner didn't wipe anything. But this process excludes 99% of other hobbyists and the threads show this. You got old guys in control of systems in big corporations but that's it. Very little new blood.

So it looks old, it's hard to find talent who understands it. Only old people seem to be using it and so people start shying away from it. PHB's see this, and even if they are marketed well they are "forced" to use it for their ERP or line of business app instead of happy about it. The situation becomes like a lot of companies. Tons and tons of pc servers, a whole support team for them and one IBM i guy who doesn't have to do very much. The problem perpetuates itself and it becomes a serious downward spiral.

So in response to this rather than come up with ways to bring fresh blood in, IBM makes half-hearted attempts to modernize. Presumably they do this to get the old guys to rope the younger guys in and do the marketing for them? They do this by allowing you to run Java, PHP, etc etc etc on the system. Well that's just silly, it really is. Do you really want to hook up your core business database to the internet... directly!? Really? To me this is just a serious waste of time. You have very expensive cpu cycles dedicated to something cheap commodity hardware could do more effectively and have better "community google support" to fix problems that crop up. So IBM "improves" RPG by adding free format and this and that and the language becomes horridly confusing to new entrants to the platform. IBM decides 5250 is old so no method is provided to allow java or c++ apps to use SDA screen files. So modern programmers have no way to "work themselves into" the IBM i way that exists whether they like it or not. IBM doesn't want 5250 so IBM i simply becomes a stupid database. But IBM i isn't a particularly great relational database so the whole platform just looks extremely confused with no direction and LOTS of complication.

Things aren't improved by applications and frameworks that have ugly icons, early 1990's design and such that have fallen out of step with modern interfaces. This is all very irrelevant to the core of the system, but this is all marketing and every little thing matters to the overall perception. Every little stupid 16 color clipart icon used is just one more nail in the coffin. Before recently I didn't know what AS/400 was and I've been exposed to it in some way or another since 1999. Why did I have to buy "Inside the AS/400" before I finally understood just how good the platform is? Really terrible marketing, that's why. I'm not a marketer, I can't quantify what they should do differently but at the same time, I'm not an idiot. Something is wrong there.

This is OS/2 all over again. So you have a great system, if not the best, that has a mixed to poor marketing message and does little to interest new people who understand the platform. This worked in the old days but there are WAY too many alternatives now and WAY too many people who understand them for this approach to work. OS/2 died when windows just became easier and better even if it wasn't technically. You can disagree with me, and I'm sure some will but this is a dead platform. It just doesn't know it yet. And since IBM clearly has learned nothing from OS/2 and is unable to adapt to a changing market, there you go.

Sorry this is the wrong list for this, I'm just responding to the person who also posted it on the wrong list.

None of us should have to do *anything* to "promote" IBM i. Nor should we. We should however consider diversifying our skills if we're not 50+.

Thanks,
Mark






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