The Common user group for System i and other IBM Power-based systems has joined the Web 2.0 fray. In addition to having a Common Facebook group page — which had 200 members as of this morning — it also now has a Common Twitter account.
The Twitter page is empty of updates right now, but the user group plans to Twitter live from the Common annual user group conference in Reno, Nev. later this month. So for those who won’t be able to make it to the show, you can feel like you’re actually there, in 140 characters or less.
The System i user group Common, which is rebranding itself as a Power Systems user group in light of IBM changes to that effect, will be holding elections soon for its board of directors. There are five candidates vying for three open spots: Bruce “Hoss” Collins, Richard Dolewski, Léo Lefebvre, Pete Massiello and Trevor Perry. More information on all the candidates is available at the Common website. Good luck to all the candidates.
Common is also building up funds for a scholarship in honor of Al Barsa, the System i and Common legend who died last year. The award — a free conference registration and plaque — will go to someone that shows the sort of dedication to the System i community that Barsa did for decades. Common is looking for donations to the scholarship through the Al Barsa scholarship application form.
According to multiple reports, IBM has laid off thousands of workers in the past few weeks, including in Rochester, but has been able to circumvent federal laws about reporting those layoffs by scattering them throughout its various locations over a period of time.
Alliance@IBM, an IBM employee organization that doesn’t have official union status because it can’t get enough members, has speculated that IBM will fire 4,000 workers today, mostly in the services department. But System i developers are seeing the hit as well, with reported layoffs ranging from 400 to more than 800 in Rochester, Minn., the long-time stronghold location for System i development. Many of them are older software engineers who will have a tough time finding another job, especially in that area.
At the same time IBM is firing U.S. workers, it is hiring in China and India, a fact that rankles the laid-off employees. The New York Times reported that IBM has fired about 4,600 North American workers in the past few weeks. IBM calls this the normal course of doing business, and has often managed to keep these layoffs quiet by circumventing the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. By keeping the layoff numbers relatively small compared to its total workforce, and scattering them across multiple sites, IBM can avoid having to notify local and state officials of the firings.
The Young i Professionals have teamed up with System i Developer to offer a $200 discount to the RPG & DB2 Summit next month. With the discount, the cost of the show will be about $1,100, or $900 if you’ve been to a previous RPG & DB2 Summit.
With Common holding its annual meeting in Reno next month, now is as good a time to examine the world of conferences, and how the economy has affected attendance.
Over the past two weeks I have been at two conferences. Though they were both unrelated to the IBM System i (one was for the Share mainframe user group and the other for AFCOM data center managers), it was a good indication that conference attendance is low. Expect the same at Common in Reno.
The Young i Professionals conducted a survey from its users on educational budgets this year, and the effect is clear. Though the sample size is very small (only about 70 users at this time), it’s still a decent indicator. According to the survey, almost 40% of people said that the current economy has caused all education spending within companies to come to halt. Another 26% said education spending has been cut. The rest of the numbers: about 16% said no change, 16% said it’s too soon to tell, and 3% said it’s increasing.
This is not a good sign, said the folks over at iDevelop, who said that stopping educational spending was “downright stupid.”
Admittedly when the economic climate is bad expenses have to be cut, but as we have noted before, this always strikes us as not only short-sighted, but frankly just downright stupid! Particularly when you take into account the fact that job satisfaction, loyalty and productivity is invariably higher among staff who are given adequate training opportunities.
In an attempt to convince AS/400, iSeries and old System i users to upgrade, IBM is pushing an incentive program that it has internally dubbed iLoyalty Blitz.
The goal of the program is to be able to sell a new Power Systems machine to an end user in two phone calls. The first one is an introductory call to sell the general benefits of a new server over maintaining and old one, and is also in place for the sales rep to get info on the end user’s environment. The second one is a follow-up with a more detailed pitch that also includes discounts and more benefits to help close the deal.
The main crux of the sales strategy is to prove that the cost of buying a new Power Systems server is actually less than maintaining an old System i, iSeries or AS/400. From the story: “If you don’t have the cash and you are using an older box, then IBM wants you to look at your maintenance bills.”
Some internal IBM documents then spell out different examples of how users can presumably save more money in maintenance costs than they’re paying in capital costs to buy a new Power Systems server. One example compares the maintenance costs of an old AS/400 or iSeries 270 with a new Power Systems server, saying a user could save more than $600 a month in maintenance savings, which amounts to more than the approximate monthly lease cost of about $500 a month.
The Young i Professionals will hold a conference call tomorrow to update the group’s work in open source applications and so-called sandbox applications it has made available to IBM System i users on its site, such as SugarCRM.
The conference call will take place at 2pm Eastern, 1pm Central. For more details on how to dial-in (anyone can dial-in), visit the YiPs post on the event.
Hat tip to David Vasta, who pointed me to the site of the COMMON 5k charity walk/run, which will take place during COMMON’s annual meeting in Reno in April.
Proceeds from the COMMON Cares charity run will go toward the COMMON Education Foundation and a local Reno charity to be named later. Here’s a good summary of the event:
This run/walk is for everyone – whether you’re a seasoned runner, an early-riser, trying to get back into shape, or attending COMMON for the first time and just want to make new friends, consider taking part in this first-ever 5K charity race.
With the numerous sessions, Exposition activities, and networking events on the agenda, finding the time to exercise will be challenging. In addition to starting out the conference feeling energized, you will be supporting two wonderful charities.
It’s always good to try to get some exercise in, even if you’re traveling. Just ask these mainframers who went for a jog at SHARE.
And if you’re just not into exercising, maybe you could just donate during COMMON Cares’ blood drive at the Reno show.
IBM has announced an expansion of its Power Rewards program, which hands out “points” to customers who migrate from other server vendor platforms.
The expansion, which includes migrations to IBM System i, now allows customers to migrate from x86 server platforms. Previously you could only do it from comparable server-processor platforms such as Sun Microsystems’ Sparc and Intel’s Itanium. The reward is slightly less, however: 500 “points” per x86 core compared to up to 4,000 per core when moving off Sparc or Itanium. That makes sense, obviously, because Sparc and Itanium are more powerful chips than their x86 counterparts, or presumably so.
This might be a good opportunity for IBM System i shops to migrate whatever x86 workloads they can onto the System i.
How does the point system work? Essentially the points are equal to one dollar each, and can be used to buy software licenses, IBM services, or other products from IBM. When I asked Scott Handy, a marketing vice president in the IBM Power group, why they didn’t just give cash back, he gave a dodgy answer about how customers might want to use points for a wide range of things. I would imaging that IBM just wants customers to spend points through its own rewards system rather than spending cash elsewhere.
Handy said they saw 570 migrations to Power from other platforms last year. He expects more this year, saying that IBM has “customers coming to us worried about the roadmap at Sun, HP and Intel.”
There have been some processor delays, with Intel’s quad-core Itanium, codenamed Tukwila, having been delayed, as well as Sun’s newest UltraSparc chip, a potentially 16-core processor codenamed Rock, having seen delays also. Both are expected out this year, so IBM is making its aggressive move now.
Migrations from other vendors’ x86 to IBM Power aren’t brand new, according to Handy. He said that over the 570 migrations to Power last year, about 30 came from x86.
It turns out that the secret to retaining good RPG programmers is simple: pay them above average, and train them well.
Is this different from any other profession? Probably not, but in the System i world, holding onto good RPG talent and keeping them happy is not an easy task. During a surprise birthday bash in California, the folks at iDevelop chatted it up with another attendee who manages a team of RPG developers. Here’s their story:
It seems that she must be doing something very right because her team returned a 96+ percent job-satisfaction rating on a recent company-wide survey. The goal the company had set was less than 75 percent so the high rating among the developers was evidence of the great job the management team was doing to keep them happy and productive.
What’s her secret? She attributes it to two major factors. First, they pay attention to salary levels in the industry and make sure they are paying a bit above the average. Secondly, and we personally believe at least as importantly, they make sure all their developers are consistently and regularly trained in the latest features and technologies related to their RPG development. She feels this investment in training not only has the obvious positive benefit of making their applications as good as they can be and the developers as productive as they can be, but it also helps tremendously in staff retention.
Sometimes doing one of the most difficult things — like getting and retaining good RPG developers — takes simple solutions.