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06/12/2014

SUGA, SunGard and Excited Customers


SUGA.jpgOne of the most exhilarating experiences in my job is watching a long-time user as they first see what their system can do Today!

Recently, I was able to witness this many times, when I attended the SUGA conference, which was held at the Disneyland Hotel and Convention Center in Anaheim. SUGA is a user group run by users of SunGard’s Public Sector products. SunGard, of course, is a major ISV with many products on many platforms, but one of their lines in the Public Sector is NaviLine, and a key part of that suite runs on IBM i. If you’ve watched the i marketplace for a long time, this product set was once called HTE.


Sungardps-stackedEarlier this year, I had been invited to present to a group of SunGard Public Sector employees at their annual education event. I delivered the “IBM i Trends & Directions” presentation, and the reactions were quite positive. While I was visiting SunGard, though, I was also able to see some exciting transformations they were making in their product line. They were updating a part of their product set to create brand new graphical interfaces, with significant functional enhancements for their customers who use the IBM i-based solutions. They had just gotten started, but their progress was impressive.

Shortly after my visit to their development site, I was invited to give my “Trends” presentation for the users at the SUGA conference. I showed up a day early, because I wanted to talk to the SunGard development team again. The first one I ran into was Kevin Mooney, Director of NaviLine Public Administration Support, and he was smiling.

 “We’ve been giving demos, previewing that new interface and the new function, and we are getting great reactions. Customers are very excited,” Kevin told me.

We discussed it for a while, and soon it became clear that I had to see this for myself. So I attended a session where the SunGard team was demonstrating the new look and new capabilities. The reaction? The room was full of happy customers, anxious to get the new system.

You see, to many IBM i clients – perhaps to most IBM i clients – the application they use is what they see as “the system.” They don’t see any more of IBM i or Power Systems than what shows up through the interface to the software they use to do their jobs – software such as the application I was watching, which is devoted to helping utilities (such as power companies or water companies) run their businesses.

When the application interface is the decades-old 5250 green screen, customers can get their jobs done – of course. But the customers also assume that this interface is the only interface available; they think of the platform as “old.”

But when an ISV uses the latest technology to provide interfaces that are powerful, intuitive and obvious, then customers have an entirely new view of the platform. It seems like a new “system!” And when, like SunGard, they also take advantage of some redesigning to give clients even more capabilities, the reactions are extremely positive.

These NaviLine customers really love their existing systems – most of them still think of them as the “iSeries” – for all the same reasons most clients do: it’s reliable, it’s easy, it runs the business. They don’t want to consider another system or operating system. But they also want the power that comes from using modern tools, and they want to see their solution providers investing in those tools.

That’s what these customers saw at SUGA, and I was very happy to share that experience. Nothing demonstrates the power of the platform better than a user who is taking advantage of the innovative technology we have built: “We” being IBM and our software partners.

 

 

 

05/20/2014

COMMON, the SAP on IBM i Summit and More

IBM i Logo
Ever since the announcement of IBM i 7.2, many of us on the IBM team have been very busy talking about the release and the new Power systems with customers and partners. In fact, for me personally, this activity began several weeks before the announcement, with previews for various groups. I’ll touch on a couple of these events today.

The biggest event, in terms of raw numbers, related to the IBM i 7.2 release, was the annual COMMON conference in Orlando. The tone of the conference was extremely positive, from everything I saw. Oh, certainly, I received many requests from customers for new enhancements – this happens whenever I have the chance to talk with our users – but even these requirements were typically framed by words similar to “I love this system and what you are doing with it. But what I want to see ….”

Another big event, which was timed to occur after the 7.2 release, had more to do with gathering a segment of users who have more in common than simply the “Power + IBM i” system: the SAP on IBM i Summit. This event drew about 100 people from many parts of the world, representing more than 50 companies – many from the US, but also participants from Germany, Denmark, Brazil and even Indonesia. The participants were treated to a few general sessions on IBM i, such as the combined Trends and 7.2 presentation I delivered, but most of the sessions dealt specifically with using SAP on IBM i, including several sessions that described specific functions delivered to SAP customers who use our platform. The whole event was hosted by the SAP on IBM i Center of Excellence within our Lab Services organization, and could not have taken place without the joint development teams from SAP and IBM. Like COMMON, it was a great success.

But in addition to these larger events, there have been multiple other opportunities for us to share the message. As I type this, Tim Rowe is participating (with many other members of the IBM i community at large) in a series of modernization events in Europe, and I am on my way to Toledo, Ohio, to talk to a group of customers who are served by local partner DMC. I have also recorded some shorter presentations for COMMON, and will be recording a longer version of my IBM i 7.2 Overview soon, for their Web event in June.

I’ve also been preparing a series of blog entries on how our ISVs are driving new business and reinvestment. Recently, I have heard several great stories during my travels, and I decided the community at large needs to hear about how the technology we’re investing in is being used by our partners. So, you can expect to start seeing those stories appear here in the near future.

In the meanwhile, keep learning something new about IBM i and Power every day, from our IBM bloggers, from other bloggers in the industry, from the many articles written in the press, from developerWorks or on Knowledge Center. There’s a lot to learn!

 

 

04/28/2014

Announcing IBM i 7.2

IBM i LogoToday is the day! Announcement Day for IBM i 7.2!

I have the privilege of highlighting the themes for the release, but you are going to want to read about more than highlights, so I am also going to point you to other sources of great information.

In fact, let me start there. In a blog I wrote in February, I talked about the new IBM Knowledge Center. That repository for all IBM products is now available and has been receiving excellent reviews from users. Well, as you might expect, the 7.2 release documentation has a home in Knowledge Center. The URL is http://www.ibm.com/support/knowledgecenter/ssw_ibm_i_72/

From that page you can easily get to what you want, but if you are interested in the overview of 7.2, that link is http://www.ibm.com/support/knowledgecenter/ssw_ibm_i_72/

Now let’s get to the 7.2 themes and some of the technology behind them. I’ll open with the chart we’re using to introduce the release.

IBM i 7.2 Themes.jpg

Our themes are grouped into two major focus areas. First, we have a list of themes that related to delivering a great platform for today’s solutions. Mobile devices, cloud delivery models, advanced middleware – IBM i 7.2 delivers function that enables all of these. And, in conjunction with the rest of Power Systems, we announce support for the first POWER8-based systems. You’ll be able to find a lot of information about new Power Systems, and we will have more information about how IBM i takes advantage of the new architecture in the future, but that’s not the focus of our IBM i bloggers today.

Our blogs for announcement day focus on Integrating Advanced Technology, the second focus area on the chart.

One of the concepts we’re focused on, and we’ve invested heavily in with recent releases, including 7.2, is enabling data-centric design. Mike Cain talks about that in his blog (http://db2fori.blogspot.com/) and in particular how the new DB2 Row & Column Access Control security functions fit into that approach. Giving DB2 the responsibility of enforcing security, which is part of data-centric design, allows you to remove complexity from your applications and administration, while helping to ensure that you don’t miss anything as you enforce security policy for your organization.

IBM i 7.2 also has a theme of managing your system more easily. As you might expect, these topics fall into the areas covered by Dawn May in her blog (http://ibmsystemsmag.blogs.com/i_can/).

Additionally, Tim Rowe will describe how that management is implemented in Navigator, but he’s also talking about the tech preview of IBM i Mobile Access – a management tool you can run on your smartphone and other mobile devices. Tim starts at its new home for this announcement: blogs.systemideveloper.com

As I said above, in one single week, we can’t cover everything in a major release. If your favorite topic is not covered by one of us in IBM, I encourage you to look at blogs and articles written by others who have dug into the details, or go to Knowledge Center or developerWorks and look around. If you have a chance, you can also join us at the COMMON Annual Conference in Orlando in just a few days, because several of us will be at the conference teaching people more about 7.2.

But if you can’t do any of those things, well, just wait a few weeks. We are certain to have more blogs about this major release for the next several months.

Happy Announce Day, IBM i community!

 

 

04/08/2014

Announcing IBM i 7.1 TR8

Ibm i smallerToday, April 8, is announcement day for IBM i 7.1 Technology Refresh (TR) 8. That’s right, we are now the proud parents of eight semi-annual collections of new functions which have been added to the most powerful release we’ve ever shipped. When we shipped 7.1 four years ago, launching our new strategy of focusing on mid-release delivery of new function, we certainly expected it would provide a useful, non-disruptive means for our clients to adopt new technology. It has done that. What’s been particularly satisfying is to see the rate at which TRs are adopted.

 When the first TRs came out, of course, fewer people had moved to the IBM 7.1 release. So we knew they would be adopted by fewer people than later TRs. This was expected. What we didn’t know how to predict, though, was how fast people would adopt them. In those first couple of TRs, the adoption rate was steady, but low–well under 1,000 per month. For the more recent TRs, within the first couple of days after GA, we have thousands who have downloaded the TRs. And the rate from there is very steep.

The high rate of download demonstrates a few things:

  • There are a great many clients on 7.1, and that number is still growing steadily. We know this from other sources, of course, but TR adoption data is actually the fastest and easiest way for me to see the rate. We still have to extrapolate a bit—not every 7.1 customer adopts TRs, and among those who do, they don’t all adopt every one of them.
  • The community, as a whole, trusts the quality of the TRs. If they didn’t, I would expect to see a slow ramp-up to adoption of each new TR. Instead, the rate of adoption is increasing.
  • The word about TRs has reached a “critical mass” of customers and business partners. When we first introduce TRs, we realized we were going to need to spread the word about them. Our customer set had been conditioned for decades to think of PTFs as almost exclusively a “defect fix” mechanism. For this reason, many of them had rules about PTF application which slowed down adoption of TRs, which are delivered as a PTF Group together with a Cumulative PTF package. But now it is clear that most clients recognize the difference between PTFs which are “just fixes” and the TR deliveries.

So, what’s in the latest TR8 announcement? Several things, actually. There are new native attachment options (“native” meaning they do not require VIOS) related to 16 GB Fibre Channel and some SAS drawers. (That’s as much “hardware” as you’re ever likely to get from this blog author!) The WebSphere Liberty profile is now the base for the IBM i Integrated Application Server. And of course, DB2 continues to satisfy requests from users and ISVs, particularly in the areas of performance analysis and database engineering. One quick note, though – the actual GA for TR8 content is June 6, and the GA date for the other functions announced with the TR (such as the DB2 functions) is listed in the information for those functions. Check out the details on developerWorks, and in the several blogs and articles our IBM i team writes or helps produce.

The success of our Technology Refresh strategy has been quite satisfying, and the strategy will continue. But, as I have said before, we definitely still need major releases. So watch this space as April continues. There just might be more news before the month is over.

03/13/2014

IBM i 7.1 Knowledge Center, Redbooks and developerWorks

Three big items in the world of IBM i information are now available for public consumption, so it’s worth telling you about them. I’ll give you quick notes and links for each.

The IBM Knowledge Center I talked about last month is now live.

The link is http://www-01.ibm.com/support/knowledgecenter/ssw_ibm_i/welcome

This site is the replacement for the Information Center. It has all the information about our supported releases, and when 7.2 gets announced, you will find the technical reference material there.

Knowledge Center Live

Redbook CoverThe updated IBM i 7.1 Redbooks publication has been released in draft form. This document has been updated to contain technical information about content through IBM i 7.1 Technology Refresh 7. This will be the final update for this Redbooks publication, because we’ll start planning for a 7.2 Redbooks publication when the first of the TRs for that release becomes available. 

The link is http://www.redbooks.ibm.com/Redbooks.nsf/RedpieceAbstracts/sg247858.html?Open

Last, but not least, the IBM i zone in developerWorks has a new look. The entire developerWorks library is being relaunched using the IBM Connections product.

The link is https://www.ibm.com/developerworks/ibmi/

DeveloperWorks Connections

You’ll note that the link to the Technology Updates link, which takes you to TR information, is now a nice graphic of an arrow, on the right side of the page.

Things are getting exciting this late winter as we move toward the IBM i 7.2 announce, and it’s great to get these three things out ahead of that event, so they don’t get lost among all the other hype. The teams responsible for these hope you find them useful.