Now that we’ve had a few months since IBM’s announcement that the System i would be grouped with System p under the moniker and umbrella of Power, I took the opportunity to talk with an experienced AS/400 vendor, Vision Solutions CEO Nicolaas Vlok, to find out how this turn of events has affected his business. We also discussed Vision’s broader business strategy, which provided me some insight into the overall use of their products around the globe.
Vlok shared his reaction to the movement to consolidate the i and p platforms, which was generally enthusiastic.
“We were excited about the opportunity that it brought,” said Vlok. “We had been investing in solutions that would run on AIX, and the fact that they came together under one hardware brand is great. It effectively moved us into a new marketplace with an upper-hand due to our position as leaders on i. It has helped us lift our revenues and assisted us in expanding into the bigger power marketplace.”
When asked about any direct business impact the name-change caused to the vendor company, such as marketing campaign and branding change costs, Vlok shared that the change didn’t cause any significant expenditures. However, in the long term he posited that there may be a cost savings because all marketing will be done under the umbrella of “Power.”
Many Search400 readers shared their opinions on the name change, and expressed a stubbornness to call it anything besides “AS/400”, so I had to ask Vlok what the people at Vision call it in the hallways and in meeting rooms.
“That terminology moved on in our organization,” said Vlok, referring to AS/400. “But in the hallways sometimes we call it System i.”
It’s probably a good time to clarify common terminology, as the recent Vision acquisitions and mergers and resulting varied product offerings are demanding partners and resellers get firm on the marketing terminology. Getting these partners on board was the focus of the company’s worldwide partner conferences in March 2008.
“Historically Vision was focused on the enterprise,” explained Vlok. “We wanted the historical Vision partners to address the SMB solution – a market that is not tapped. With the hardware and software price points coming down we’re seeing quite a bit of affordability in the marketplace. We wanted our over 400 partners to segment the market to the right customer base. We then were preparing our partners for Power; an area where the i community is presented with a great opportunity to expand into AIX.”
When asked for his opinion as to why small and medium-sized businesses had not embraced high availability (HA) and business continuity solutions at this point, Vlok didn’t have a lot of firm answers. (If you have an opinion on why this may be, please share it here in the comments.) He did however explain that as the costs have come down, HA solutions become more attractive for this market segment.
“Historically speaking, prices have come down on the hardware side,” said Vlok. “Hardware was the most expensive for a high availability solution. But the cost to value equation is much better for today’s customers. Also, midmarket customers are facing stricter regulations than five years ago. Medical patient data needs to be digitized and available for 10 years. For sectors like transportation, gaming, and manufacturing the lower prices are just in time.” In addition to lower costs, big news stories of disaster has helped spread awareness and educational efforts are opening up the SMB market. Vlok also explained that some of the growth in sales has come from bundling Vision’s products with other applications that are sold to these businesses. This trend means that a lot of companies aren’t going out looking specifically for HA solutions for their system, but that they are expecting the applications to have a HA component to protect their data and business continuity.
Vlok shared a positive attitude about the business growth for the i market, and I wanted to know where this was being seen geographically.
“I would say that Asia has historically been a very big growth market for us,” shared Vlok. “However, we’ve really seen strength across the board. We’ve had a strong year in North America; due in part to regulation and awareness. In markets like Latin America and Asia it’s catching on right now and we’re seeing strong demand out of those markets. India is one of the markets that is on our focus list for 2009.”
Overall, Vlok is optimistic about the market for Power. I asked him what he thought about the recent acquisition of PowerTech by Help/Systems.
“I think it’s a pretty good business decision,” shared Vlok. “I still believe from a software perspective that it’s a market worth investing in and expanding with specifically infrastructure-related software. In the i marketplace, most people looking in the 3-5 years can see an expanded opportunity with i and p.”
So there you have it – one CEO’s perspective on the future of the i. What do you think? Do you have a HA solution, and if not, why not? Share your comments.