James Governor's Monkchips

Danny Sabbah’s first challenge

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Ryan says IBM is articulating the value of LAMP wrong, only with more choice language (see my title). He makes some good points and its worth reading his post in full. As he points out, James Robertson jumps in too.

I have to say, for all the great respect I have for Danny Sabbah, Rational’s new head honcho [how hard can it be to make an easy search for corporate bios IBM, jeepers, i need webFountain for that?], his comments at the Rational show, reported in ZD Net, appear suboptimal. The offending article?

“If you look at the history of LAMP development, they’re really primative [sic] tools … the so-called good enough model. The type of businesses being created around those particular business models are essentially going to have to grow up at some point.

“I believe that in the same way that some of those simple solutions are good enough to start with, eventually, they are going to have to come up against scalability,” Sabbah said during a press conference at the IBM Rational User Conference in Las Vegas.

Interesting that InformationWeek touts Danny as “open source promoter“, before his first public statements in the role create some community ire in that regard. Note that Danny is not a marketer by trade, but a coder. 

That aside, its important to understand when IBM talks about scale, it really means something different from the rest of us. Danny, when he thinks about scale, thinks about the requirements of the biggest IT shops in the world. The top 20, say. When IBM bought Informix it initially classified Sears as a medium-sized customer… When IBM thinks of scale it thinks of problems nobody else can solve, where TPF and IMS-like models come in.

Stephen was kind enough to call out this quote from me recently, in a piece that parses “good enough”:

Not every organization is a Charles Schwab or an eBay, but BEA and IBM tended to compete as if that were the norm, not the exception.

That’s Danny’s World. Stephen certainly wasn’t unduly worried by any of Danny’s pronouncements. On the contrary he was reasonably positive about the keynote.

My favourite Sabbah quote of all time (its just so right on) is “There is nothing new in IT”

And he is right. IBM has made the same mistake a few times. Ah we’re too busy worrying about real scale to do something about Windows, or SQLServer, or Google. The problem is, by the time IBM has solved the problems of the top .005%, everyone else is happy with what Danny refers to as “good enough”. What is “low end” becomes “high end”. Take Sybase’s low end database, which is now the core of SQLServer… In other words Danny is right. He is just a little bit ahead of the curve. The fact is IBM customers want to see scripting, fully supported by IBM, which is when these technologies become “enterprise ready.”

Luckily in this case, its just the marketing and messaging that need tweaking. IBM is seemingly making all the right moves in Zend and PHP and J2EE. So don’t shoot the messenger, folks.


  1. I whole heartedly agree with your last paragraph, James. Like you said a few weeks ago, if there’s an opinion, it’s represented at IBM. Unfortunately, opinions like Sam Ruby’s don’t get into the mainstream tech press as often as needed and instead you see the same old year 2000 way of thinking even though it’s obvious that those guys get it.

  2. I think a more fundamental problem is that IBM’s real technical leaders aren’t often quoted in the mainstream press, period. The mainstream press likes to interview heads of groups (e.g. Nick Donofrio, Steve Mills) or heads of brands (e.g. Danny Sabbah as head of Rational) but technical leaders just don’t tend to get interviewed.

    Just as you think Sam Ruby’s opinion isn’t represented in the mainstream press, when was the last time you saw a quote from more conservative IBM development leaders like Don Ferguson (head of the IBM Software Group architecture board) or Rob High (WebSphere chief architect)? Do a Google news search and you’ll get the same results as for Sam: zero.

    Now when you look at the blogging space, Sam is a celebrated blogger and gets tons of hits. Don has a blog but rarely posts. Rob doesn’t even have a blog.

    So I’d argue that Sam’s views are better represented than either Don’s or Rob’s in the broader media.

    PS – There is an exception to this: Grady Booch. He is well aware of the value of LAMP as you can see in his recent Infoworld interview.

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