In the Wheelhouse: Setting Fire to the Rumor Mill

Analysis of News Events
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Lots to get straight this week: IBM Connections 4 Beta has been released in the IBM Greenhouse, there are rumors of IBM's interest in buying a part of RIM, and most intriguing, IBM gives an indication of its IBM i install base.

IBM Announces IBM i Install Base...Or Did They?

In the latest IBM i roadmap, Power Systems General Manager Dr. Colin Parris stated the following: "IBM i is the integrated operating environment for IBM Power Systems, which is used by over 150,000 businesses around the world."


Is this really that important? Absolutely.


For years, the customer install base has been a bit hard to quantify. I've heard many IBMers speculate on total customers and total machines, both of which I won't comment on.


While I appreciate Dr. Parris coming forth with this number, I think that I'm one of the first to ask the question: is this number lacking clarity? That depends on your perspective. Perhaps the answer is right in front of us.


A couple of questions are raised by this number and the wording around it.


1. Does this IBM i install base include customers running Power Systems and System i and iSeries as well?


Since IBM i (and to be technically correct, we're only including valid IBM i releases as 5.4, 6.1, and 7.1) runs on Power Systems, System i, and iSeries hardware, there is nothing in the roadmap that gives any clarity to this. There is also no mention of OS/400 on AS/400 or iSeries. This is key.


IBM i 5.4 (which was also marketed as V5R4 and i5/OS) can run on both iSeries and System i hardware until September 2013. So what are we talking about here? Just Power Systems?


This statement does not specifically include IBM i on System i and iSeries.


2. Does this number include only IBM i customers currently paying maintenance to IBM?


I would say that IBM can come up with a true number of IBM i customers only by adding up those who are paying for support. I would imagine that IBM can estimate, based on past sales numbers and information from distributers and the Business Partner channel, that there are customers running older systems and are not on any type of maintenance. I personally know of a few shops running older AS/400 Model 170s on OS/400 V5R2, and they'll continue running them until the machines eventually die. Once that happens, they'll hobble for a few weeks and then get a new entry-level Power Systems server. IBM may or may not know the status of accounts like this anymore, but I would lean toward assuming that these shops are not included in this number.


Overall what does "150,000 businesses" mean? Based strictly on the language of Dr. Parris' statement, I would say that it's customers with active maintenance contracts with IBM and running IBM i 6.1 and 7.1 on Power Systems only.


Some others have taken Dr. Parris' number and emphasized that it's much smaller than what it was many years ago, while not taking into consideration what these current 150,000 customers are comprised of.  


Here's the deal: based on publicly available information from IBM, 150,000 IBM i on Power Systems customers are where we are today. Common sense dictates that these customers are on relatively new hardware and active maintenance contracts. Making comparisons and drawing conclusions from past numbers isn't fair or accurate, pure and simple. It's apples and oranges.


An independent study from 2011 states that only 4 percent of current IBM i customers are planning to migrate off the platform. We all know how those plans work too: it seems easy to move off the platform until somebody does the math and finds out it would be much more expensive to do so. This potential 4 percent is hardly a mass exodus. It's actually not even a blip on the radar. I could take a positive spin on that statistic and say that 96 percent of IBM i customers have committed to the platform and its future.


That same study states some facts about customers running older (AS/400, iSeries, and System i) hardware:


  • 37 percent plan on maintaining status quo.
  • 50 percent plan on upgrading within one year or after one year.


These customers are not running IBM i 6.1 and 7.1, which takes them out of the equation, and that means Dr. Parris' 150,000 number may increase substantially in 2013 when IBM i 5.4 is no longer supported. I've requested clarification from Dr. Parris on this number and will update you on the response I get.


I want to emphasize the continued growth and development of Power Systems and IBM i. IBM has committed to IBM i to at least 2020. IBM PureSystems is also a future path for IBM i. Contrary to what some may say, IBM i is not going anywhere, and its customer base is certainly not bleeding to death.

IBM Is Set to Take a Bite Out of RIM...Or Are They?

While many companies could benefit in various ways from purchasing a piece of Research in Motion (RIM), it seems the rumor mill has decided to throw IBM's name into the mix. While IBM could benefit from this deal, Bloomberg, citing "unnamed sources," has reported IBM has had "informal discussions" with RIM about purchasing its services division.


It's worth mentioning only to tell you that it isn't. Rumors are just rumors. All this rumor has done is raise RIM's stock a little bit and give us a little water cooler fodder. Any positive press, even about potential offers that neither IBM or RIM will comment on, is good for RIM because it shows that there may be a light at the end of the tunnel rather than a continual drain circle. With all the negative press in the last couple of years, anything in the media about RIM that isn't negative coverage is a positive for RIM, regardless if it has an inkling of truth. That's it.


If any deal comes about with IBM or any other company, then we'll dissect it at that time. I've been saying for many months that IBM has an opportunity to take advantage of the RIM situation, but like everyone else, it's just talk. So for the time being, move along. There's nothing to see here.

IBM Connections 4 Beta Is in the Greenhouse

Last week, IBM Connections 4 Beta went live in the Greenhouse. If you're not familiar with the Greenhouse, you really need to get acquainted with it. The Greenhouse is a Web site that features many IBM technologies that you can take for a test drive. All kinds of solutions are there, such as Lotus iNotes, IBM Quickr, IBM Sametime, IBM Forms, and of course, IBM Connections. You just need to register with a user ID and a password. Making Connections 4 Beta available is great for existing or potential customers who want to check out what the next iteration of Connections has to offer.


The best way to start is to sign up, join a Connections Community, and get involved. For example, IBM Champions for IBM Collaboration Solutions use a Greenhouse-based Connections Community as the foundation for all of our communications with each other.

Lenovo Announces ThinkPad 2 Tablet...Even with the "Red Dot"

The red dot is actually on top of the accompanying stylus, but it's still a nice touch. On August 8, Lenovo announced that the ThinkPad 2 will be available at the end of October 2012. The 10.1-inch ThinkPad 2, armed with an Intel Atom processor and running Microsoft Windows 8, is Lenovo's answer to the Microsoft Surface tablet.


While the Surface appears geared toward the consumer market, the ThinkPad 2 is aimed strategically toward business customers. That's good news if you're looking to expand your business into the tablet world.


There will be good few Windows 8 tablets this fall, but a key feature of the ThinkPad 2 worth mentioning is that the Intel Atom processor will allow existing Windows applications to run on it, as opposed to other Windows 8 tablets using ARM processors.