IBM Redbooks

IBM Redbooks are technical content developed and published by IBM's International Technical Support Organization (ITSO).

IBM Redbooks are ITSO's core product. They typically provide positioning and value guidance, installation and implementation experiences, typical solution scenarios, and step-by-step "how-to" guides. They often include sample code and other support materials that are also available as downloads. Among the media options available are hard copy books, in IBM Redbooks CD-ROM collections, and on the Internet. IBM says that Redbooks publications are downloaded and viewed approximately 1.75M per quarter, on average[1]

Redbooks are created through the ITSO residency process and are generally published 60–90 days after residency completion.

Draft Redbooks are Redbooks under development. The objective of making the draft versions available is to speed up access to books that are not yet published. Usually they are technically complete but are less polished and have not undergone the formal review that takes place for completed IBM Redbooks.

Redpapers are shorter technical documents that are only Web-published. They can be the result of ITSO residencies and may also be contributed from other sources. They reflect working experiences on the specific topic.


When IBM initially moved into the Data Processing world, each computer was a stand-alone machine with limited stored program capability with little interaction with other devices or software. The only support documentation was a manual of operation outlining the basic capabilities of the computer. The technical specifications were restricted in their distribution and rarely available to users. With the advent of System/360 in 1964 with their connectability to various I/O components and their associated software, their installation and their very usage rapidly became a challenge. Hands-on training was no longer just for the installation and maintenance professionals (Customer Engineers) but a necessity for the IBM System Engineers who ran and coded the systems. While the system engineers in the US Company had some access to the technical skills available in the Poughkeepsie Plant where the systems were built, the World Trade Division (the 131 countries outside of the US where IBM did business) had no such fall-back capability.

To provide hands-on training in the usage of these systems, a center was established in Poughkeepsie NY – the World Trade System Center (WTSC, later changed to the International Technical Support Center – ITSO) where a few SE's from around the world could come for a short period to work on various computer systems that were “borrowed” from the assembly line for short periods before being shipped to their designated customers. In the early 1970s, as the IBM product line both expanded and specialized, under a new manager (M.Turin) the WTSC hands-on training concept was cloned, with WTSCs being set up in Endicott (mid-range systems), San Jose (storage systems), Boca Raton (System 3), Stuttgart (small systems), Raleigh (communication systems), Rochester (printers) and Palo Alto (database systems). While extremely successful, this hands-on training concept was still limited in the number of System Engineers that could be cycled through any of these locations.

In 1974, the manager of the San Jose center (G. Radmall) came up with a major improvement to the concept. Instead of merely encouraging the various countries to send individuals to the centers for a week or two at Country expense for ad hoc training by WTSC personnel, the WTSC would propose specific training projects related to newly announced systems and software and accept assignees for a 3-month “residency” period at WTSC expense. In return for absorbing the associated costs, before returning to their home country at the conclusion of their training, the WTSC required these residents to document their training and experience for publication and distribution throughout WTC (and almost immediately throughout all of IBM).. The first of these document to be written was sent back to the Poughkeepsie Center to be printed. It happened that in the Center storeroom was a pallet of red oak tag that had been previously ordered to be made into various posters to hang around the center. Without much thought, this heavier red paper was stapled on as a protective cover to the document, printed with the WTSC logo (a series of circles representing the world that one of the SE's had sketched out) and the first of the IBM Redbooks was born.

All the WTSCs used the red oak tag as covers, although sometime later when IBM-US also began producing such documents, they used a different cover color. Another distinguishing factor was that from the get-go, the WTSC, to acknowledge their contribution, printed the authoring SE's names and Home Country inside the Redbooks where they remain to this day. Shortly after the Redbooks became available, IBM-US informed the WTSC that it violated US policy to identify the author by name in any IBM publications. The WTSC responded by suspending distribution of their Redbooks in the US and the policy was rapidly changed. The value of the Redbooks was immediately apparent throughout both IBM and the customer world. Printing and distribution of the Redbooks grew exponentially and within a few months it became necessary to turn over this activity to the formal IBM printing and distribution facility in Mechanicsburg.


  1. "The ITSO Celebrates its 'Ruby Anniversary'". IBM Corporation. 7 June 2013. Retrieved 18 January 2016.
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