IBMi25: Celebrating the Past, Pushing into the Future
IBM announced the AS/400 back on June 21, 1988. On April 8, 2013, IBM officially launched the IBMi25 25th anniversary campaign (although IBM i Chief Architect Steve Will let out some teasers a few days in advance). Check out the IBMi25 Facebook page set up for the celebration, and also view the first three of many videos in which key IBM i community members talk about the launch. It's all part of the promotion leading up to the 25th anniversary.
I've kept quiet on the blogging front because I was only in the 4th grade in 1988. I came into the business world around the time the iSeries was announced about 12-13 years ago. The first video, featuring stories by Dr. Frank Soltis, Steve Will, Alison Butterill, Ian Jarman, and more, really gives some great insight into why the AS/400 was designed, essentially a merge of the System/36 and System/38 platforms. According to Dr. Soltis, "It started as a simple idea." The rest is history. You can feel the passion in these videos, and most certainly could hear it from the stage as Dr. Parris spoke about it. Dr. Parris is an exceptional speaker, and both the video and Dr. Parris' speech had many in attendance, myself included, in goose bumps.
Many people were videoed at COMMON to discuss the platform's historical significance and, more importantly, the fact that IBM i on Power Systems is the right fit for our businesses of today and tomorrow. The community involvement is a great way for the PHP and Java programmers, the IT managers, the administrators to promote the platform to each other but also be able to report back to their companies with a renewed and refreshed sense of pride in the IBM i operating system and Power Systems platform. Ideally, this scuttlebutt will rub off on non-customers as well to further grow the platform footprint into new areas and new markets.
This is IBM doing some targeted marketing toward advocates of the platform. Good stuff. The IBM i community certainly appreciates it.
Up and Comers
I also want to mention some very important people I met in the COMMON trenches: young developers.
The developers I met, and I made an effort to shake as many hands as possible, expressed some of the most passionate viewpoints regarding IBM i. Many specifically were people who were younger (under 25) who had no experience with IBM i before being hired into their current positions. Many had recent two-year diplomas in programming, so they know modern languages and frameworks...then they got hired into an IBM i shop. More than a few of them were taught the in-house staple (RPG/COBOL), but it seemed only as a reference point. The screens they're creating are graphical; they just use the underlying business logic. And they're passionate about the platform for the same reasons we all are. It was so refreshing to see the new generation of IBM i developers, not just the new generation of RPG programmers. There is a difference. Of course we need standards in our shops, but we also need our developers to be flexible with a wide tool set. And maybe a longer leash. They can teach us things we desperately need to know.
And guess what? Very few of them even referenced "the 400" unless we were talking about in a historical sense. These kids take so much pride in what they have in IBM i. They're not seeing it with green-tinted glasses. This is where we need to go.
Just What Is the CAAC Anyway?
I showed up in Austin on April 4 for two days of COMMON Americas Advisory Council (CAAC) meetings. If you're not familiar with the CAAC, it's a small group of COMMON members who meet twice a year with key IBMers to discuss and give feedback on IBM's short- and long-term plans regarding IBM i, Power Systems, and related technologies. All of it is under non-disclosure agreement of course, and I've got my duct tape firmly in place across my yapper. The CAAC brings community concerns to IBM in the form of requirements and represents a voice for the community. For example, the CAAC will get an "IBM should include <insert feature here> in the next release or as a PTF" request in the form of a "blue sheet" at COMMON or through simply talking to other community members. It then presents ideas to IBM and works with them to see if it's something that IBM wants to work on, given cost of the effort involved and overall impact on the platform. Sometimes it's an easy solution with a high impact; sometimes it's a hard solution with very low impact. The discussions are there to validate and prioritize the requirements.
Why am I telling you this? For one thing, I'm not sure how many people know what the CAAC is or have even heard of it. The second reason is that over 60% of requirements the CAAC brought to IBM were implemented in IBM i 6.1 and 7.1. This is significant. Not only do customers have a voice and a willing dance partner for open dialogue in IBM, but that 60% statistic shows that IBM is willing to take community ideas seriously. And that's just 60% so far! IBM continues to deliver tremendous value in the form of Technology Refreshes on a regular basis.
What is one of the key benefits of social business? It's the opportunity for a company to interact with customers and business partners. Whether a company does or not is their decision. IBM does. How many other vendors do that? The open dialogue between the CAAC and IBM is incredibly valuable, and both parties do a tremendous amount of it on behalf of making the platform better.