Survey Finds Year-Over-Year AS/400 Commitment Slightly Off

Prior to IBM’s recent announcement of V4R3, 1,000 surveys were mailed to general/corporate managers using AS/400s who are subscribers of MIDRANGE Systems. The results of the survey showed user commitment to the AS/400 has dropped slightly compared to 1997’s results.

In the 1998 survey, 73 percent of respondents indicated that they were "very committed" to the AS/400 as a core platform to their IS needs. A further 17 percent said they were "somewhat committed." In 1997’s survey, 81 percent indicated that they were "very committed" to the AS/400, while 14 percent said they were "somewhat committed."

Only 2 percent of survey respondents said that they are "not committed" to the AS/400, which is down two percent from last year. While 8 percent remain undecided.

Respondents center the reasons as to why commitment has fallen on emerging platforms that seem to be less costly to own and operate cited at 70 percent. Still the reasons were mixed and respondents gave various answers as to why they have had a change in commitment. Forty percent responded that their company is committed to less-proprietary technology. Another 35 percent of the respondents said that other platforms appear to be easier to operate. But only 5 percent feel that the AS/400 is beyond its useful life cycle, and only 10 percent are concerned with IBM’s long term commitment to the AS/400.

Gartner Group Research Director Tom Bittman says that the commitment is still there but AS/400 users want to see more with the AS/400 platform. He says that every year – including this one -- IBM says that it is going to increase its marketing program to build brand awareness. "IBM has the potential of having a big impact, but the question is whether or not they will do it?" Bittman points out.

Regarding the release of V4R3, he feels that it is not going to make a big impact on the market. "V4R3 is not the kind of release that’s going to make a big splash. V4R2 was a huge release, V4R3 doesn’t have nearly as big a punch," Bittman notes. He feels IBM needs to implement a marketing program and stay consistent.

Bittman feels that this lack of change is what is leading AS/400 users in search of greener pastures. Uncommitted respondents to the MIDRANGE Systems survey were asked if they plan to migrate to another platform and 44 percent responded that they were not sure. This is a good sign since it allows IBM to improve and retain these customers. A further 20 percent of respondents indicated that although they were not committed to the AS/400, they did not intend to migrate to another platform. The remaining 36 percent said that they intended to migrate to another platform. "By the year 2001 over half of AS/400 sites could switch," he says.

When asked what platform will be switched to in the migration, 88 percent responded that an Intel-based system running Windows NT will be used. According to Bittman, the road to migration is becoming more of a reality than previously thought. "What we are saying to clients is that it [NT] is a viable alternative for core business applications. Many AS/400 venders are beginning to support NT, it is growing but it is still not a complete option.

"Almost overnight clients stopped saying, ‘When are we going to be able to go to Unix?’ and now they are asking, ‘When can we switch to NT?’" Bittman notes, emphasizing that this is the result of the stronger support being given to NT.

Despite this change in commitment other findings show that AS/400 users are upgrading more often and to the most current versions of OS/400. Results showed that 36 percent of the respondents are currently using either the V4R1 or V4R2 versions. And more surprisingly this year’s results showed that there has been a drastic drop in use of lower versions such as V2R1 and pre-V2R1 versions. Proving that users have indeed upgraded to more current models.

Users have responded that they make upgrades yearly at a 32 percent response rate and that 26 percent upgrade every two years. Additionally, 33 percent upgrade every three to four years and only 5 percent have never upgraded.

The survey also found that 40 percent of respondents planned to upgrade within the next 12 months, while 33 percent plan to upgrade in the next one to two years. And 7 percent plan to upgrade in three to five years, 7 percent intend to upgrade but they aren’t sure when and only 5 percent said that they are not planning to upgrade.