The iSeries Blog

Jul 18 2007   11:15AM GMT

What’s in a name: Is it the AS/400, iSeries or System i?



Posted by: Mark Fontecchio
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This is really funny. I’m sure you’re all following it already, but there is something of a flame war going on regarding what to call a particular midrange server that IBM sells. You all know what I’m talking about — is it the AS/400, iSeries, or System i?

It all started when Trevor Perry, a System i consultant (I wouldn’t dare call him an AS/400 or iSeries consultant), decided to go on a “self-appointed campaign” to promote the use of the System i name. He came across many Web sites that still use AS/400 and iSeries to refer to the platform, and so he commented on their sites. We were one of them — read the comments from this post comparing an AS/400 to a cluster of Dell servers. Trevor’s alter ego is Angus, as in Angus the IT chap. His comment, in part:

What you are talking about is an i5 – a System i branded server. We need to get the word out that the server is modern, and the most powerful system on the planet. No one will believe an AS/400 can do any of those things – since it is so OLD.

Please use the correct names for the server (i5), the OS (i5/OS) and the brand (System i).

Perry also tried to comment on another site, the iSeries Cobol Blog. The author there, who remains anonymous because he doesn’t want his employer to know he’s writing the blog, wasn’t too keen on Perry’s comment, and so he refused to post it and blocked Perry from commenting further on the site. That ban has since been lifted, but in the meantime some back-and-forth posts went live on each of their blogs. Here’s a rundown:

Behind all of this is the debate about the name of the server platform, which rears its ugly head at every single COMMON conference. Mark Shearer and other executives get up in front of the audience to answer questions about the platform, and people complain about the name change.

Here’s a quick history. The platform was AS/400 until 2000, when it changed to iSeries, which then changed to System i in 2006. Got it? Good. Now Perry thinks an important part of moving the server platform toward the future is making sure we refer to the brand by its current name, the System i. I think he makes a solid point there.

But as I’m sure he knows, there are plenty of people out there who bought servers when the platform was called iSeries and AS/400, and so that’s what they call it.

Although calling the platform by its most recent name is good practice, I don’t believe that is the main way for the System i to thrive. There needs to be less focus on the name change and more on what the gosh darn platform needs to do, like attracting recent college grads and offering more flexible cost options for the hardware and software. The thing is, it seems like IBM is trying to do that. It has introduced VoIP to System i and now offers user-based System i servers and System i boxes integrated with third-party software. Whether those moves bring in more customers has yet to be seen, but I think the next couple years will definitely be an important indicator of the health of System i.

27  Comments on this Post

 
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  • Mark Fontecchio
    Mark, I've been following this also. I love the passion of this community!! You said: "Although calling the platform by its most recent name is good practice, I don’t believe that is the main way for the System i to thrive. There needs to be less focus on the name change and more on what the gosh darn platform needs to do, like attracting recent college grads and offering more flexible cost options for the hardware and software. " Regarding that statement....yes, BUT...what people, i.e., Customers and Prospects (there are some of those!) call "it" often reflects their opinion of it being old vs new technology. So...absolutely! let's chatter about all the great new things this product does for business (built for business) but call it the right thing. ....I slip and call it iSeries, but am trying!! My 2 cents.....Anne Lucas
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  • Mark Fontecchio
    It does not matter what the machine is called. IBM does so little marketing outsite the midrange trade journals that few outside the user community are aware the it even exists. It might as well be called Computer for Reading and Accessing Cards. Does anyone really care what it is called as long as we get to work on the best box in the world?
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  • W
    Forget attracting recent college grads... IBM needs to take a page from the AppleBook (no pun intended) and get the platform (AS/400 iSeries etc...) INTO the colleges and universities. GIVE them to the colleges and universities! THAT is the way to insure the platform lives on!
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  • Mark Fontecchio
    I've been selling hardware and providing solutions to the IBM midrange user environment since 1977. I don't know any knowledgeable user that has a problem with the term AS/400. The only people that say it's "old" are those networking people that have recently gotten involved, or those small users that are using an AS/400 i5 for the first time. What I'm confused about is, If it's an i5, why is it a System i, or is it System-i, or is it SystemI, or....... Why not just the i5?? Whatever model you have, it's still an i5. An example of how I have addressed this naming issue in certain letters I have written is to use the following: "how it can fit in with your i5, iSeries and AS/400 TCP/IP communication plans. The term iSeries will be used throughout this letter but will apply to all three." System i does not roll off the tongue like AS/400, or even iSeries. Rebranding a product to say it's "new and better" can result in problems. Look what happened at Ford with them killing the Taurus name when they introduced the Ford 500. What did they do when they realized they lost all the previous Taurus good will and sales to boot.... they rebadged the 500 with the Taurus name because of the reputation and history. Who knows what some marketing types base their decisions on. It's their products, and their decision.
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  • Mark Fontecchio
    ...and this is all being posted at The iSeries blog. The irony of it all. My personal observation is that if you are searcing on google for something, you probably will have a hard time if you search for System i. You might want to just go ahead and put in as400. So if there is already such great and established branding with as400, why change? Why apologize for making a system right the first time (and giving it a catchy name). The system has constantly evolved and remained stable and slightly ahead of the curve. Everyone I know still just calls it an as400. Or we add "well really system i, i5?, used to be iseries?, you know... a midrange computer? No? Kind of like a mainframe then I guess." And of course everyone knows what a mainframe is. So by calling it System i, you eventually just end up calling it a mainframe, which seems light years backwards and seriously incorrect in at least a million ways. Let's all just call it what it is... what it has always been... what we based our careers on. Just call it an as400. Keep it simple. At least some people know what you are talking about. Besides, I hate having to search google with... as400, as/400, os400, os/400, iseries, i-series, system i, i5, i5os, i5/os. I can't wait until the next name upgrade in 2 years. I'm hoping for something a little retro. ...it's back...as400. PS. The addition of a - or / makes the name harder to search for as well. ...and besides...a search for as400 on www.ibm.com comes up with 181,263 results. "system i" comes back with only 39,815. os400 comes back with 127,476 results. "i5/OS" comes back with only 37,968. So I'll let IBM finish changing first.
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  • David Vasta
    I don't know if I would call it a flame war but hey, I have had more evil titles on my blog so.... I agree with Trevor on most of his points. I think the COBOL guy is just being hard to deal with on some points and is not making much sense, but I also see his point as valid in ways. COBOL like the AS/400 and iSeries are things from yester-year and are not as hip as the System i, JAVA, and C. -David
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  • Mark Fontecchio
    [...] FLAME WAR Blog Post [...]
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  • Mark Fontecchio
    "..attracting recent college grads.." __A big part of attracting college grads, geeks, and business deciders is in the name. In computer trade reports, say "AS/400" and you get a big ho-hum yawn. The "System i" is new. The NAME "AS/400" has strengths and weaknesses. Among those who know the strengths of the "AS/400", adapting to the new name quickly will keep the strengths BUT shed the weaknesses in the market that come from the name. This is a market-recognition issue. Everyone who has done any complaining at all about IBM's marketing of its best computer system, or about what lacks, should care. Everyone interested in leveraging their experience on the AS/400 should care about its future. It's a hard habit to break, and it's somewhat offensive to hear that we're calling the System i by the "wrong" name, but we can help our futures by calling it what it is. So let's call it what it is! --Alan
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  • Rpm
    The name really does not matter in a market place where the Sys38/AS400/iSeries/... architecture is an unwanted stepchild of the marketing executives. While it was (in its pure form - before LINUX and other wantabes) a lean clean and sweet system, IBM marketing let it become known as a "legacy" system. Legacy is another word for archaic (aka backwards). At one time we interfaced PCs with 38's and 400's to deliver user interfaces in windows. I started with the S/38 in 1983. In order to continue to be marketable I have had to rebrand my skills to be expert in .NET, SQL-Server, Oracle and web development -- all on Wintel based systems. I have not had occasion to do iSeries/400 work for several years -- it just is not there.
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  • Mark Fontecchio
    Hello Everyone, I'm the COBOL dude that has started all of this. Sheesh, about 6 months ago I had this idea of starting an iSeries (opps, hope Trevor doesn't read this) COBOL blog. I had barely written 30 articles, and now I'm the talk of the iSeries (opps again) community. I am completely amazed by all of this. Most of the time I'm ROTFLMAO over Trevor. First, David, thank you for your article. I'm getting hits out the wazzu today, with one very noteable person posting a comment. I was truly honored to have this man post to my lil' old blog, and correct me on ILE activation groups. So, David thank you very much. Second, Trevor and I are discussing different things. Trevor wants to talk about the System i brand name. I'm talking about Trevor's behavior. Just to set the record straight, I did not refuse to post Trevor's comments because he was snide. I said this on my blog, "I did not approve his comments because of the condescending attitude of his remarks." Trevor was condescending, so I refused to approve his comments. Third, I confronted Trevor on what I perceived as his bad behavior. Since it was my website, I got to decide on whether it was truly bad behavior. I took his comments as condescending, and inappropriate for the article he posted to. My article was about how COBOL programmers view themselves and how they market themselves. Companies are looking for AS/400 COBOL or iSeries COBOL programmers. They are not yet looking for System i COBOL programmers. The issue of the System i brand name was completely irrelevant to that article. All I did was compare his behavior to real life. Would we tolerate this type of behavior in our house? Would you tolerate a stranger criticizing you in your house because you choose to call your Bose home theater system a "HiFi?" Not only does he criticize you, he does it in a condescending manner. Civility would dictate a different approach. Some may disagree with me that Trevor was acting inappropriately. We all have different standards of appropriate behavior in our house. However, one thing most of us were taught by our parents, that we are always on our best behavior when we are a guest in someone's house. Thanks, iSeriesProgrammers
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  • Mark Fontecchio
    Sorry, I gave David credit for this article, when it fact it was Mark. My humblest apologies to Mark. iSeriesProgrammer
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  • Mark Fontecchio
    Wow, what is in a name? Who really cares anyway? It is in fact the evolution of the AS/400 and it is a very solid and secure platform. iSeries, Series i, rather a moot point, it is indeed still the AS/400 with some great enhancements. It sounds to me like there are too many folk with too much free time on their hands to be completely honest. IBM is rather notorious for calling things one thing and having their product literature call it something else. You could say that Personal Communications, Host Access Client Package and or if you prefer, Communications Manager for OS/2, or CM/2. And since we are talking about the AS/400, what about the Personal Communications Brand's Client Access for AS/400. Client Access was nothing special except it only allowed you to connect to the AS/400 and printers via TCP/IP and that was it. Enjoy the flack
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  • Mark Fontecchio
    Now that i5 & p5 are the same hardware, what's next? "PIServer"? "PI6"?! And when the zSeries merges, what's that to be? PIZServer? "PIZ6"?! It's all very confusing! Wish IBM would make up their minds, or at least have strategy. "System-PIZ"?!
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  • Angus
    I think this sums it all up "I’ll let IBM finish changing first". I wrote another blog entry to answer all the incorrect assumptions made here and in several other places. It is posted here: http://angustheitchap.com/Angus/Blog/6A485267-DE72-4C65-9107-998FC2ACABCB.html My summary in that entry is: While we transition to our new world, and whatever lies ahead for us, there will be a lot of people who will say AS/400 and/or iSeries. There is a lot of AS/400 and iSeries information on the web. These names will be part of our vernacular for some time. With some diligence, and a modicum of effort, we can connect all those people and places with the brand name we have been given. It is one, and only one, of the many things we must do to ensure a future for us, and our i5/OS. It cannot be done in isolation, but it is definitely one of the most visible means we have. And it requires only a little effort. For such a small thing, there is a lot of resistance... I really do appreciate the PR that the System i brand is getting from your reporting. Thanks for the fuel! Trevor
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  • Mark Fontecchio
    No employee at my company, management or otherwise, will know what you're talking about if you call it something other than the AS400 (or is it AS/400)! It's been here for a long time and that's what it's been called, and will be, internally, forever.
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  • Angus
    Don says: "No employee at my company, management or otherwise, will know what you’re talking about if you call it something other than the AS400 (or is it AS/400)! It’s been here for a long time and that’s what it’s been called, and will be, internally, forever." First, why do the users even know what the system name is? Should they not be familiar with the name/s of the application/s? Second, is it really ~that~ difficult to start a marketing campaign internally to sell the fact that the AS/400 has grown up, become modern, is open and integrated, and is now called System i? Or are you just lazy? I challenge you to change the world!! Or, you could just sit on your arse and watch the platform get thrown out when the Windows guy comes in to replace the "old" stuff.
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  • Mark Fontecchio
    Why not call it the iSystem? Apple seems to marketing there stuff well. Altough iRack is struggling. People need to grow up.
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  • Mark Fontecchio
    I've actually thought long and hard about renaming my website to keep up with the brand naming. So I thought I'd have a look on Overture and see what people are actually searching for on the Internet. Last month there were 21478 searches using the term AS400 and many more for AS400 jobs/odbc or security/backup AS400. For iSeries there were 1643 for i5 there were 2548. The problem with i5 is that the searches could bring up Ping golf irons, cameras or indeed sat nav systems - so what are people actually searching for when they enter i5. The figures say it all. I would suggest (IBM) that the name i5 has muddied the waters a little - especially if your tend to research products using search engines - but who does that anyway..
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  • Mark Fontecchio
    What is 'it' called? Maybe go back to the roots and call it the System/38 or S/38 and leave it at that. Wasn't that the origin of the Application System/400, AS/400, iSeries, i5, System i way back when it was born from the Small Systems Group? Somehow IBM had eServer rolled in there at one time as well did they not? Maybe it should have a more appealing name; how about Silverlake? The processors had neat names; Cobra, Muske and so forth. Some comments make mention of the inability to perform valid searches; some engines, if given AS/400 ask if you don't mean AS400; sometimes system i and i5 refer to things that are anything but a computer. Some of the comments refer to real issues: lack of marketing, misinformed perception and a lack of talent, especially young talent. Yes, the AS/400 is old technology, proprietary, green screen and legacy. Is that not the bulk of the perception? And what marketing is there to change that? The old subjective things like 'reliability, stability, never had a virus' don't have any impact. Any system, given the right conditions and environment, can match that. Are there any objective numbers? If its secure; is not something about a C2 rating mean anything; or does C2 even exist. Are there not some specifications about SQL and Openness standards, database comparisons, TCO that prove factually that the platform is a competitor. But of what value is a platform without a wealth of applications? Ah, but it does because you can run (in partitions) applications that run on: Linux, Windows, php, PASE, WAS. Then there's the plain old RPGIV and Cobol applications. Too bad there wasn't a simple gui/browser replacement without getting into HATS and WAS. Now might be the biggest concern, IBM is shuffling the deck again.
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  • Dan
    We call it AS400
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  • Mark Fontecchio
    What a mess to search the net for I-nformation about System I or should I search for I series or for AS/400 ???? It seems that no one has realized that a neat search name on the net will be better for many perpouses ? Try to look for "I" on google !
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  • Mark Fontecchio
    It'll always be an AS/400 to me - it's been that since it came out. Nothing else sounds the same.
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  • Mike
    Give it time. After a substantial upgrade, IBM will call it the System ii. One more upgrade after that, they'll call it the System iii. That's right, we'll be back to calling it the System/3! The cycle will be complete. I'll be centered. Ooommmmmmhhhhh!
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  • Mark Fontecchio
    I wish they could do a Goldilocks type commercial. This PC server was toooooo small... this mainframe was tooooo big... Then she tried the System i, and it was just right. Oh well, won't survive long in IBM marketing knocking mainframes. My boss and all the company's senior staff still call it the AS400. I search the web using iSeries (because System i just doesn't get me where I need to be). Except for the web searching, I can't get that excited either way. Although if I were to get a vote, I'd do what Ford did redesigning the Mustang, GM with the GTO and Chrysler with the Charger. Call it the System34. Retro, gets the old geezers to talk about "back in the day...". While the younguns' get to learn what a cool box it now is. More horse power, more options, turbo charged, fuel injected... or maybe someone should just write an MP3 player in RPG for it.
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  • Mark Fontecchio
    Coz said: Now that i5 & p5 are the same hardware, what’s next? “PIServer”? “PI6″... Why not IPv6? Everyone already knows it's the next big thing...
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  • Mark Fontecchio
    Hi Guys, I am from Lima - Peru an this blog gets my attention, I an a fan of AS/400 and in all companys in Lima Peru that uses it they call AS/400 !!! that' s all . No one or almost no one knows what an ISeries, System I, I5/OS mean, all my friends (RPG/Cobol Analyst Programmers)and users too call by its proper name the AS/400 !!! God bless the AS/400 live forever !!!
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  • BhargavSushant
    it's not a "programming thing" , it's Branding, they must want to project the new picture, and probably dont want to fade out the new features of I - Series systems by Classic AS400 systems. just my opinion, could be other reason too.
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