The much anticipated announcements of the future of our favorite platform took place this morning at the Town Hall meeting at COMMON in Nashville, Tenn. And--surprise, surprise--we have another new name! But before you rush off and carve your wrists into the shape of the words "NO--NOT AGAIN!" let us calm you a little and say that (for the first time in many, many renamings) we think this is really a good thing. Honestly. The new name is simply Power Systems. There are no longer separate System i and System p brands. And on that platform you run your operating system of choice, be it Linux, AIX or (wait for it) "i". Yup, the operating system name has changed too.
This we think is a great choice because it never made any sense to be running something called i5/OS on a POWER6 platform, after all what on earth did the "5" signify in that context? By moving to the simple moniker "i" we retain continuity with the the past and free ourselves to move forward to future POWER releases.
For those of you who weren't there, we'll try to give you a little of the feel of the meeting.
To a (literally) standing-room only crowd, Mark (still here after four years) Shearer opened the session by stating that he believed that this was the most significant IBM midrange announcement in the past 20 years, matched only by that of the original AS/400 announcement.
Mark talked about how important the community was to the platform's success and said he clearly understood that the community viewed the operating system as the “magic of the System i." He noted that in preparing for the next generation,IBM wanted to be sure it got it right. IBM met with COMMON Advisory Councils, business partners, ISVs, and many customers in more than 35 country visits in the last few years. The one point came up repeatedly during these meetings and that Mark took to heart was that in designing the new system, IBM had to move to parity in pricing between the UNIX and System i systems. To applause from the crowd Mark told us that before we left the room, Ross Mauri would settle that once and for all. He then went on to point out that solutions were still key to the system's success and how excited the ISVs were when briefed on the possibility of being able to offer blended solutions on one integrated platform.
We all knew that the "naming issue" was going to come up and Mark was clearly prepared. He broached the subject to laughter from the audience and went on to say that this time IBM had done significant market research on the naming issue using focus groups and meetings with user groups, customers, ISVs and business partners to thoroughly study the issue. One of the messages that came in loud and clear was that people were fed up with naming changes, but also concerned that i5/OS running on POWER6 systems just sounded silly. As a result when asked "Should IBM change the name of the OS for POWER6?" 83 percent of those questioned said "Yes!" Mark was applauded when he commented that clearly a naming change was needed and that "Now's the time to get it right."
You may have read rumors that IBM was in fact considering reverting to the name OS/400 on the new platform. Luckily more than 90 percent of the survey respondents took the position that this was a bad idea and that we should be talking about the future, not the past. It was also clear that any new name should be short, memorable and capture the meaning that i = integration, community and business.
To prolonged applause, Mark announced that the new name was simply i. Along with the new name comes a cute--and memorable--new logo (has the OS even had its own logo before?).
It's circular, featuring a large white (non-italic) "i" underlined by a white line somewhat reminiscent of the Nike swoosh and with the words "for Business" underneath. Along with the new i logo we were also introduced to the corresponding Linux and AIX logos that we are assured will be featured alongside the i logo in future Power advertising.
At this point Mark introduce Ross Mauri to give us the good news on the hardware front. As you know normally we don't really care that much for hardware, it's the software that consumes our waking (and sometimes sleeping) hours! This time we'll make a slight exception, although if you want any real detail you should take a look here. From our perspective the highlight was Ross' statement that from now on i and p will share not just a common hardware platform, but also common pricing for processors, disk and memory. This simple statement was greeted with overwhelming enthusiasm by the crowd.
One of the interesting points that Ross made, will be welcomed by those who like us have had concerns over the number of customers who remain on old versions of the OS and are therefore locked out of many of the modern facilities. The new 520 class blade systems come with a three-year warranty. As a result, customers on back-level 520 type systems will find that they can upgrade to the "latest and greatest" for less than their current costs for hardware maintenance!
Since many of these "old" boxes become easy prey for the "You should move off that 'old' platform and onto a 'modern system' " crowd, this is perhaps the kind of incentive that they need to move forward.
We were then introduced to the new Power equation "Power = p + i", which will feature prominently in advertising aimed at the i community over the next few months. This was followed by a promotional video very different from the usual IBM fare. If this modern upbeat look is typical of what we can expect in future advertising programs for Power Systems then bring it on.
Ross wrapped up by asking the crowd "What's your Power equation?" another phrase destined to appear widely in Power advertising we would guess.
The meeting concluded with a brief Q and A for which Dr. Frank appeared to a standing ovation from the crowd. Frank was wearing the new Power equation T-shirts that all audience members received on leaving the meeting.
Questions/issues raised in this part of the session included concerns that this was another "feel-good COMMON announcement" and that before long the i operating system would be back in its underdog role. Mark and Ross stressed that this move had the full support of all of the IBM execs and they were determined to make it work.
Our own feeling is that this approach certainly has better legs that many of the other recent initiatives, and we're hopeful that the presence of the new logo in the Power advertising will help raise awareness in the business community. One thing is for sure, if we start seeing Power ads without the i logo we should all start screaming at IBM long and loud!
Another point that was raised was that it was critical to involve colleges and universities in using the new systems. In his response, Mark emphasized that the Academic Initiative is very high profile within IBM and that significant actions will be taken in the arena. We hope so. There were certainly more youngsters at COMMON this time than previous conferences, but we need a lot more young blood.
That's all from us for now. As the news (and reaction to it) unfolds over the next few days we'll try to add some more comments to the blog. Meanwhile, we're off to run an ILE Lab!