Steve Will Shares how to Make the Case for IBM i

Defending IBM i

Steve Will Shares how to Make the Case for IBM i

Paul Tuohy: So hello everyone and welcome to another iTalk with Tuohy. One of the great things to being at―to speaking at conferences is that I get to meet face to face my friends and colleagues. So delighted today to be joined by chief architect for the system, Steve Will.

Steve Will: Nice to be with you, Paul.

Paul: So strange. When we were talking last night, over a year since we did the last iTalk.

Steve: It's a little hard to believe.

Paul: Yeah, not a good thing. [Laughs]

Steve: No.

Paul: We've got to do more.

Steve: Yes.

Paul: So Steve, one of the things I notice here and like in―I know you've been blogging about this recently as well that you're talking about promoting IBM i.

Steve: Indeed and we're not talking marketing. We're talking about being prepared to talk about the value of IBM i and the reasons that IBM i is important in your business to your business. So that's―when I talk about promoting, I'm really talking about what we as a community can do to explain to other people, particularly in our own businesses, what the value of the platform is.

Paul: Okay so―well before we start talking about it though, sort of like, why now?

Steve: Why now? Yeah. [Laughs] Well certainly in our community we've always had situations come up where a business's executives will get concerned about whether they are on the right platform or not. Well it seems to be me that during this time when POWER8 is out there for sale and people are talking about POWER9, there are a lot of executives who are in the process of looking at their platform choices and that's meant that there has been an increased volume of emails and calls to me saying, "oh Steve, my executives are looking at moving off the platform. What do I do?" So since I've been so much of that kind of request, I thought it would a good idea to gather up a bunch of information that might help a lot of people because I know that even though I'm getting a lot of requests, not even 1 percent of the people who need to hear the things that I have to say are probably getting them. So there has been an emphasis.

Paul: Okay so―Okay so I want to clarify first of all because I know this is a topic we've talked about many times over the years―

Steve: Yes.

Paul: And as I was telling you, we've run sessions at the Summit. We did our advocate things. We talk about all of this of what system. Interesting that I find is that we think it's a unique thing where we say "oh, people move off this." So people move off every system. I mean, that's it, companies chop and change. Executives make these decisions. It's a normal process.

Steve: Exactly. In fact, that's one of the things that I try to get across right away to anybody I talk to. If you're an executive for a company, you owe it to your company to evaluate whether you're doing the right thing in all areas of your business, but certainly in IT because it is so important to it. And so just hearing that your executives are looking at whether they should go to another platform is not necessarily an indicator they're going to leave. So you need to approach it with the idea that you need to provide the necessary information to be able to help those executives make the right decision. And we think, almost always, the right decision is to stay on i, but you can't just say well you should stay on i. That doesn't help. You need a bunch of material that will help those business leaders make the right decision.

Paul: Okay so for people to stay on i then I mean―oh sorry. What are you telling people they should be doing?

Steve: Well the first thing they should be doing is to watch for some key signs within the conversations that are going around in their businesses. If you get a new executive, that new executive is probably going to want to have a platform review just to know that they're doing the right thing or maybe they even have a history that says "oh, I want to use a different platform because that's what I know." If you get that in organization, start preparing yourself, get ready. Or if all of a sudden, everybody is talking about cloud or everybody is talking about SAP or something, it means that they are going to look at: can their platform do one of these things. So you start hearing that stuff, you need to start getting yourself prepared. So that's the first message is notice that this might happen so you're not surprised by it. And then, gather the most recent material. When you were talking about well why now, well partially it's because every couple of years all of the material gets stale, but new versions of it come out and so I want to point people to this new information so that they know they don't have to go back to stuff from 2004 to justify IBM i. There's stuff from the last two or three years that can really be helpful.

Paul: Yeah. It's―I find it a strange thing though that when I'm talking to people about this and I sort of say, "well okay, so you want to promote your IBM i." They sort go, "well what do I tell my executives?" I mean what exactly is promoted? I mean, am I going to tell my executive no, it's good? We've been using it for 15 years. It's really good and that's it.

Steve: Well there are some things that you can get from IBM and the community that can help you but then there's also data that you can get from your business, so let me talk a bit about both of those things. Every couple of years, we ask independent consultants to compare IBM i running on Power against the other competition that your CTO might thinking of. And so there's data out there that describes the total cost of ownership as being much less on IBM i than on another platform. Now of course that's a good business justification, more than just "oh, this is great technology" or "we've been using for 15 years." Every executive is going to want to have a low operational cost and so to show them data that says in the industry IBM i on Power is a low total cost of ownership machine, that's a good piece of data. But you can supplement that with data that only you can get within your organization. How many people does it take to run your IBM i workloads? Usually that number is very small, especially when compared to how many people it takes to run, for example, your Window's network. Usually it's pretty easy to say there are very few people compared to how many people run other platforms. Then you supplement that with how much of your business is actually running through IBM i. You know Db2 is usually being used to run everybody's financial transactions and so if 75 percent of your business runs through IBM i, there are only two of you doing that, that’s a good total cost of ownership story that is specific to your business, and you can show your executives that. And between the two, what happens in general in business plus what is happening in your business that can be very powerful to talk to your executives about.

Paul: Yeah. I think one of the key ones here is what's happening in your business.

Steve: Yes, exactly.

Paul: Yeah and I think sometimes that's the difficulty. Much as I hate to say this and I think only twice in my whole career, I have come across instances where I think my recommendation to the company would have been to move off the platform. It had totally to do with what their applications were and what they were doing, you know. But what I would have said like when you are looking at a new solution, maybe you should look at it on this platform. Okay again, given that mix where the CTO came from, I knew that wasn't going to happen.

Steve: Sure.

Paul: But as you say, the key thing is it is business decision―

Steve: Yes.

Paul: Is the key thing with that and you have to make it for your business, not just "good box."

Steve: Exactly and sometimes depending on how technical your executives are, you might be able to explain why. Why is the total cost of ownership better on this platform? Why should I believe that? Then you can tell them things about how much we've integrated into the operating system for example, and how they don't have to buy a database and a security package and all these things. That might make a difference to someone who comes from say, a Windows background or a UNIX background. But if they are just an executive who only knows dollars and cents, then look at those kinds of things more than the technology.

Paul: Yeah. I'm sorry. One of the key rules of business always to start follow the money.

Steve: Yes, follow the money. Exactly. Indeed.

Paul: That's why you start with it. So have you found in talking to people that there's maybe any one sort of area that has stood above the others? Is it this thing of the total cost of ownership? Is it the dependability and reliability of the hardware and the operating system? Is it the integration of the software? Is it―?

Steve: So there are three major areas that in the last few years people have been most concerned about and we need to address. So the first is the cost of the machine. We need to show the cost has a total cost of ownership story. We've discussed that already. The next thing is: Is IBM committed to this platform for the future? If I as a business owner am going to sign another contract to buy another Power system for the next five years, I want to know IBM is going to be behind it. And so then, showing our roadmap, showing our strategy paper can help to allay the fears of this executive who thinks he might be about to spend a lot of money and then IBM is going to walk away. IBM is not going to walk away. This is too good of a business. We are too important to IBM to have them walk away from IBM i, but how do you show that to them? Well you should them the published roadmaps that we have. You show them the strategy paper and it makes it easier for them to believe. Then the third thing that bothers people the most is worrying about whether they can get staff in the future to replace the people that they know are going to retire. So we talk to them about―if you are, for example, worried about your programming staff. We've been doing many things within our languages, the new RPG being so easy to teach to young people for example or the adoption of many open-source languages that are being taught in schools these days and how they can supplement what you're doing on the platform already pretty easily. Those kinds of messages, those kinds of examples of young people coming onto the platform, help to again allay those fears. So those are three basic areas that everybody needs to know. Is IBM committed? What are my costs? Can I get staffing into the future?

Paul: Yeah. It's one of the things I'm kind of enjoying at the moment is seeing this generation shift that is starting on the platform.

Steve: Isn't that great?

Paul: Yeah. It is absolutely fantastic.

Steve: At this conference―and Common Europe is no different from most conferences we go to―at this conference for many years, it has seemed like we see the same people. We all age together. Now we're seeing this next generation down and even the generation lower than that, right? (Laughs)

Paul: No. No, no.

Steve: It's really quite exciting and because I think we've been doing the right thing in the community by trying to make sure that the right technology is there, the right education is there, and there are places for people to get that education. It maybe shouldn't be surprising, but it certainly is refreshing.

Paul: Yeah, definitely. Well actually, this brings it onto a good note to finish on. We're talking about―well for the last couple of days we've been talking―we've been sharing the granddad stories.

Steve: Oh, yes. Yup. Indeed. I am a grandfather to three wonderful grandkids now and you've got one. Yeah.

Paul: Yeah. Suddenly I think said this to you last year when we bumped into each other just after my granddaughter had been born, I think I just sort of said, "now I understand."

Steve: Yeah. I loved having kids. I still love being the father to grown up children and my fourth child is getting married so I will have them all married, and it's great. But grandchildren, boy, they are a special thing. They make you feel special.

Paul: Oh yeah. I think just to finish on just share what you said to me just before we started, you were saying about your kids.

Steve: Oh sure. So these days when my kids bring my grandchildren over, they will often say the grandkids were so excited. "Oh, we're going to grandma and grandpa's house!" And this is so different from having children. You know children never say, "Oh I'm so excited I'm going home!" [Laughs] But now we have people who are treating us like we're an attraction, like "I get to go see Mickey Mouse!" "I get to go see Grandpa!" There is just nothing like that.

Paul: I think you've just summarized grandparenting perfectly. So Steve, thanks very much for taking the time to talk to us.

Steve: Happy to talk to you, Paul. Always.

Paul: Okay so that's it for this iTalk everybody. Tune in again for the next one. Bye for now.

Paul Tuohy has specialized in application development and training on IBM midrange systems for more than 20 years.

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