Everyone remembers Cheers, the 1980s television sitcom that included the well-dressed, but slightly funny looking Norm who always entered the bar as everyone called out "Norm!" I suspect that most of us can remember several lines from the theme song, "...Where everybody knows your name, And they're always glad you came..." But, If you can't remember the them, I know that ALL of us who watched the show want to be Norm and have our name called out as we enter the room.
Enterprise 2013 was my "time". As IBM has focused the Power Brand on Linux, I felt like Norm from Cheers as I walked the hallways of the Bonnett Creek Convention Center in Orlando, Florida this week.
EVERYONE knew my name! I have never been good at remembering people's names, but I could at least remember their faces. But, this conference had people I did not recognize stopping me as I walked down the hallway. "Jeff! I've got a question for you..." "Hi, Jeff, when is your next session?" Even more surprising was the person who stood up at the Ask the Experts session where I was sitting in crowd and said, "I see Jeff sitting over here..." I have never been so humbled by the shear number of people who showed interest in PowerLinux. Both PowerLinux Trends and Direction sessions were completely full, totalling over 150 people. While it is tough to know precisely why this increase of interest occurred, I can speculate that our loyal Power customers were simply waiting for us to acknowledge that it is ok to embrace Linux. For years, we have told them that Linux is inferior to AIX, leaving them to quietly do Linux in their enterprise, while we ignored what they either tried to tell us. Most of these customers were thrilled to hear about the new Enterprise POWER feature of Integrated Facilities for Linux (IFLs) -- the competitively priced bundles of 4 cores, 32 GB of memory and PowerVM licenses. A common theme was that our customers have dark cores in their 770 and larger systems and believe that this allows them to utilize them for Linux without being chastized for "doing Linux on an expensive system".
The Power customers and partners were VERY GLAD that I came to the conference. In fact, one of our Linux distribution partners had a technical sales member specifically ask to attend the conference so that he could understand more about PowerLinux and more effectively answer the questions he has been getting from clients. After a couple hours, we both left feeling positive about the discussion and promising to work together to help our customers. Perhaps my favorite story was from the reseller with whom I had spend time before the conference and saw multiple times throughout the week. During one of our first chats, I asked if progress had been made following our meeting several weeks ago. While he indicated it had, he clearly did not describe it as a "game changing discussion". But, the last evening of the conference, he stopped me in the hotel lobby to ask me to help build a workshop for a number of their customers who had reached out during the event and wanted to start using PowerLinux. While conferences always have their success stories, in the past 5 years I have never had so many of such depth. Like Norm, I felt loved at the event (Cheers): they needed me and were glad I came.
So, what's the lesson? For me, it's that just like the bar patrons need Norm in Cheers, Power System clients need Linux. They are following the message, looking for opportunities to learn more, and want to help us succeed.