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Back home pondering IBM’s latest challenge

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Landed back in Sydney Thursday evening. I was originally booked on the 4pm flight which would have got me back home at around midnight. Having to work on Friday I chose the 12pm flight.

Asia Pacific events are always interesting and IBM’s iSeries strategic planning conference was no different. I met quite a few people from all parts of the region, including Hong Kong, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea, Taiwan, Thailand, New Zealand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and China! And, of course, a fair few IBMers from the US.

Talking to customers at the event they really do take pride in being able to bet their businesses on the iSeries. An Indonesian bank has 30 million customers being served off one box, for example.

The way I see it the iSeries has all but left behind its “proprietary” stigma. Built on the Power architecture which will run i5/OS, AIX, and Linux, the iSeries seems as open as relying on proprietary clustering software for improving the RAS of commodity x86-based systems. Don’t get me wrong, the scale-out architecture has its merits but there is certainly a real trade-off between the low barrier to entry of x86 machines and the impending management (read, human) costs associated with server sprawl. And TCO-aware end-users will ultimately make that decision – well said John!

From IBM’s perspective, it’s good to be able to offer a box like the iSeries for that reason (among others). At the conference it was refreshing to see IBM put its iSeries marketing cards on the table. Michael Sumner from Coca-Cola Amatil once said to me that the iSeries is IBM’s “best kept secret”. Today, with the impressive performance of Power, and the iSeries and pSeries essentially the same bare metal, IBM looks like it intends to aggressively go after the mid to high-end server market.

To achieve this IBM has crafted an international advertising campaign centred on the iSeries’ value proposition against commodity systems. Apparently the campaign will also include end-user success stories – I wait with eager anticipation.

Interestingly, IBM is also ramping up its PR efforts with the iSeries to the extent of ‘planning’ a certain amount of media coverage. Although I was inclined to shake my head in bemusement [BTW, the Computerworld Australia logo appeared on the marketing VP’s presentation making me wonder who prepared it] at least I got the feeling a ‘we can see the forest for the trees’ mentality attempting to be conveyed. I’ll blog why this is important later, for now, don’t try to control the media or KPI media relations, let alone coverage – there are much better things to waste your time on.

Perhaps the iSeries campaign will go a long way to dispelling its “proprietary, legacy” brand. And since it seemed like a long-term, multi-faceted campaign, it should. I think end-user communication will be the crucial factor. The barrier to entry for x86 systems is ridiculously low these days and whether a customer is prepared to drop anywhere between $20,000 and $6m for an iSeries is the marketing challenge IBM has to overcome.

In any event, it’s a big thumbs up to IBM for not only sticking by the iSeries platform – and covertly morphing its once-proprietary underpinnings into an open system, which was executed brilliantly – but also for realizing the market opportunity it offers and going after that market with gusto.

Rodney

7 Comments

  1. Pity these comments are in a blog (that I found while trying to work out what blogs are) and not a ComputerWorld artical, where people with purchasing power might read it. 🙂

    20 year System38/AS400/iSeries man.

  2. Hi Tom,

    Thanks for the positive feedback.

    Hey, you never know, it may well appear in Computerworld. My editor already has her eyes on it.

    Regards

    Rodney

  3. I sure do have my eyes on it Rodders. It looks like the makings of a good opinion piece to run in a future Computerworld topic centre. Editor says instead of blogging you could be filing more copy for Computerworld! The lash is out…crack, crack!

  4. Ouch! Ouch!

    Rodney

  5. Jesus, Paul Zucker never did that to me on PC Week…!

  6. Some of us are still leery about a the proprietary nature of the iSeries.
    We have a saying: “It is a brave man that gets into the hands of IBM”.
    The pSeries is great. It is just so open. We bought a used F50 for “a song”, then a brace of new SCSI Seagate drives for $309 each, set up two mirrored and four in Raid-5, and presto! a great system. We have done this twice recently.

    I know that they share the same hardware, but the iSeries is just so much closer to IBM. I can recount too many unpleasant experiences and the FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) promoted by Big Bue in the past. “Arms length” is safest.

  7. Good point Malcolm.

    My motto is “keep all vendors at arm’s length”. 🙂

    Any thoughts on how OpenPower servers will go?

    Rodney

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