i5/OS V5R3 Support Ends in April 2009
February 4, 2008 Timothy Prickett Morgan
The other shoe has dropped, like most of us expected it would, for OS/400 V5R3. With the announcement last week of i5/OS V6R1, which begins shipping on March 21, IBM getting customers on the older V5R3 release of the operating system ready for the day when support will no longer be available for that platform. That day, we learned last week, is April 30, 2009.
Just about a year ago, IBM announced that it would stop selling OS/400 V5R3 and related systems programs as of January 8, 2008. And with i5/OS V6R1 looming large since July of last year, it was only a matter of time before IBM made the announcement that V5R3 support would be wound down.
Of the currently shipping System i machinery in the IBM server catalog, iSeries 520, 550, 570, and 595 servers using Power5 processors and System i 520, 550, 570, and 595 servers using Power5+ processors can all run OS/400 V5R3. So can AS/400 270, 820, 830, and 840 machines and iSeries 800, 810, 825, 870, and 890 boxes. The Power6-based System i 570 announced last summer (known by the name 9406-MMA as well) can run i5/OS V5R4M5, a tweaked version of that operating system that supplies some support for the Power6 chip (but not complete support for decimal and vector math units, among other features). The new Power6-based JS22 blade server cannot even run this tweaked V5R4M5 operating system, but requires i5/OS V6R1. And really, so should every Power6 machine. The point is, V5R3 does not run on newer Power6 iron, even though I am convinced that IBM could do it if it really wanted to. There just is not that much difference between V5R3 and V5R4. But, concurrent with the move to Power6 chips, IBM is gutting the microcode underneath i5/OS V6R1 to make improvements inside its highly sophisticated virtualized computing architecture, which I believe is being done to make better use of Power6 and future Power7 features but which IBM says unofficially to me has very little to do with the hardware changes.
The interesting thing to ponder today is what V5R3 shops will do. Some could just sit tight and let their maintenance lapse–plenty of V4RX, V5R1, and V5R2 shops have done that, even though this is not necessarily a wise course of action. Customers have the option of upgrading to V5R4, of course, which was announced in April 2007 and which is still for sale and certainly still supported. IBM will probably sell V5R4 at least until V6R2 comes out (whenever that is, but I would guess 2010), and will cut off support about a year later or so. Then again, moving to V6R1 today (if your iron supports it) and a new set of Power6 iron later might make the most sense. Moving to V6R1 does require some program conversions, which might make customers bunch up on V5R4. We won’t be able to tell what customers do until a bunch of shops make the jump to V6R1 and report back how easy or difficult the application conversion process is. It is also likely that V5R3 shops will wait until they see the new entry and midrange Power6 boxes from IBM, due later this spring perhaps, before they make any decisions. If IBM offers aggressively priced Power6 entry servers and the V6R1 jump is not too bad, then customers might just do it all in one fell swoop.
You can sure bet that this is what IBM and its System i channel partners are hoping.
Just a reminder: V6R1 runs the JS22 blade, the Power6-based 570, the Power5+ based and user-priced i5 515 and 525 servers, the Power5 and Power5+ machines with the 520, 550, 570, and 595 model numbers, and the second-generation iSeries 800, 810, 825, 870, and 890 servers. (These latter iSeries 8XX machines were built using Power4 chips at the high end and earlier 64-bit PowerPC chips at the low end.)
In addition to warning about support being withdrawn for i5/OS V5R3, Big Blue killed off two tools relating to logical partitioning management on the System i platform. IBM Director for Virtualization Engine Console for i5/OS (5733-DR1) has been killed off and replaced by IBM Director for i5/OS V5.2 (5722-DR1). Virtualization Engine Workload Manager V2.1 (5733-EWM) has been killed, and there is no replacement product. But IBM says that its Systems and Technology Group has a Lab Services offering it is cooking up for customers (and to contact IBM about that) as well as a family of Tivoli workload management programs that can do some of the functions of the System i tool.