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March 16, 2012

IBM's legacy platform grapples with future

20i2IBM has risen on the radar of the companies supplying expertise to legacy tech users. While "legacy" has a distinct sound of a sneer coming from a pop-tech provider, these legacy systems like HP 3000s, AS/400s and mainframes drive a lot of business in our modern day. When you drive even deeper into legacy to consider COBOL, the population using it swells to a majority.

The situation in IBM's legacy world bears a close look, so you can see how a vendor the size of Big Blue is handling less-trendy tech customers. IBM has continued to update the server system that's viewed as a close cousin to the HP 3000. However, a lot of the customers who use what's now called "System i" haven't updated anything since the servers were called AS/400s. As it turns out, the term AS/400 is considered a sneering epithet, according to a report at the System i Network. Trevor Perry, a consultant in that market, explains.

The debate is not about the name, but how we perceive the platform. If we see it as an AS/400, we will use it like it is 20 or 30 years old. If we see it as IBM i on Power, we will use it like it is a modern platform. IBM i can do so much that AS/400 could not, yet much of the community is still using old technology, old techniques, old standards, and writing outdated applications. If the community were more aware of IBM i, and what it could do, our platform would have an improved reputation out in the community and in the industry at large. What a fabulous thing that would be.

The definition of legacy extends to whatever technology can be out-featured by a more popular solution. Unix trumped by Linux. IBM z mainframes trumped by Unix big iron, the kind that HP yearns to sell to find new HP-UX customers. Legacy is stable technology and cost-effective. But even a vendor of legacy tech like IBM wants those customers to advance their abilities by installing newer System i "legacy" releases.

ChrisawardsmThis kind of advocacy is called championing at IBM. The vendor devotes a webpage to System i Champions, culled from the customer and consultant community. HP used to do this for 3000 users with its annual e3000 Contributor of the Year award (2006 winner Chris Koppe of Speedware, shown above), whose final recipient in 2008 was the entire customer community. But every one of those winners mounted the stage past 40 years of age. The System i user group COMMON sees a need to try to connect with younger IT pros -- but there's not much online evidence that it's finding the target.

IBM calls its younger turks the Young i Professionals. At a webpage dedicated to this mashup of recent IT graduates and younger-than-usual legacy managers, the youth movement is described.

The Young i Professionals are an international group of technology professionals that represent all “young” entrants into the job market or “young” users of IBM i, iSeries, System i, and AS/400. While already simple due to the nature of the system, we want to help make the process of learning the both basic and advanced topics of IBM i administration, development and management a little more accessible.

The lack of a youth movement in legacy systems is one of the biggest springboards for renovation and replacement of computers like the HP 3000 and the System i. Somehow, at a vendor just as serious as HP about serving the enteprise, IBM is at least paying webpage-service to the concept of grooming a new generation. Reading lips for IBM's System i, however, has become a practice as common as handicapping MPE system improvements during the late '90s and early Oughts -- a period when HP was still awarding prizes for 3000 system advocacy.

10:33 AM in Migration, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink

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