Thursday, September 20, 2012

PLEASE, Let your "Top Concerns" be heard!!!

The folks at COMMON in Europe created an interesting survey that asks IBM i folks about what "concerns" them about IBM i.  (By the way, the survey is written in PHP using an open source content management system called Joomla and guess what OS it is running on?)  While I absolutely love this machine there are many things that concern me so I jumped at the chance the let my voice be heard and here's why.

Years ago I became a charter member of the COMMON Americas Advisory Counsel.  This group was created to, essentially, resurrect the old requirements process and provide direct feedback to IBM Rochester to make improvements to IBM i.  This came about as the result of a blanket email that went to all members of COMMON in North America.  In the application the email asked for a charter requirement.  In other words, what would you want IBM to do to IBM i to make it better.  Well, it is probably no big secret that my charter requirement was to ask IBM to either enhance Net.Data or bring a scripting solution like PHP to the platform.  Not only was my application accepted, but so was my requirement. I was thrilled to become part of an influential community within the IBM i community.

Over the next several years as I watched my PHP requirement evolve into the partnership with Zend and THOUSANDS of IBM i people around the world enjoying PHP running natively on IBM i, I also had the chance to provide input and requirements on many other aspects of IBM i.  Some of them include Blades, simplified interfaces, and even a confirmation screen for potentially dangerous commands like PWRDWNSYS and ENDTCP.   As you might have guessed, some requirements were accepted and some were not for various reasons.  However, while sitting in a keynote presentation by Steve Will at the recent OMNI Technical Conference I was commenting to someone sitting next to me about some of the many things IBM has brought to IBM i that were the result of mine and other peoples requirements.  This made me quite proud that our contributions were perceived as valuable and that proved that IBM was listening!

A couple of years ago I left the advisory counsel for a number of reasons, most notable was that my role had evolved from customer to ISV and that I found myself focused on other initiatives.  But this survey gave me what I was looking for in a fast and easy way to communicate some of my recent requirements.  You can always create a requirement at COMMON or by going online.  But when something is easy I just love it! 

It took me a whopping 5 minutes to fill out the Top Concerns survey and I encourage you to do the same.  The designers of the survey are also awarding a prize which you can choose to decline.  All responses are anonymous, unless you would prefer to include your name in the description field.  

This is a great opportunity for a great platform.  Please find some time to cast your opinion.  Even if it is just to say thanks for a wonderful operating system!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

PHP Growing Up on IBM i

The PHP community around IBM i is growing up and I couldn’t be more impressed.

As I get ready for the fall conference season I see plenty of travel in my future.  This is always a good thing as that means there is demand and sincere interest in PHP on IBM i.  What also seems to be chewing up my free time is our training programs.  Zend has two major IBM i centric initiatives.  First is the PHP I Foundation for IBM i.  This is the class where most IBM i customers begin their journey down the PHP road.  The class is taught online for 2 hours a day, every other day for three weeks by John Valance and occasionally by me.  There was so much demand for the course in the 2nd half of this year and now we are sold out for the rest of 2012. 

Building on the success of the foundations 1 course is our SmartStart which combines the system setup, Foundations I training, and a “Proof-of-Concept” type project for one low price.  One major advantage is that we let the customer decide the project!  These have ranged from iPad applications on a shop floor to Web services to Executive dashboards.  The concept is to compress the head pounding that many IBM i folks endure when learning a new technology from 6 months down to 2 weeks.  At the end of the engagement most customers have a solution they can show off and support!  In today’s “results oriented” society, this provides a big advantage for most IBM i shops.   A CIO can show REAL value for the investment and also make a VERY informed decision about the strategic value of PHP without risking the entire budget.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I would love to say the SmartStart has been a smashing success and in many ways they have all been successful.  But we have learned a lot about the delivery and services around IBM i and are in the prime execution mode of SmartStart.  In addition to delivering training a local company I walk away with new perspectives on businesses using PHP and the day to day issues developers struggle with when working with IBM i.  Some of these issues are self-inflicted like working with RPG II & III skills and code bases while others are still struggling with three environments on a single IBM i.  We at Zend ARE listening and in the next few months you will be hearing about the fruits of our labors.  The R&D group is hard at work on MANY new initiatives and we are working to address a number of the customer concerns raised over the years as we move toward the next major release.  I think that teases it nicely without committing to any details ;-)