i5/OS V6R1 Compatibility an Issue for Software Vendors
February 26, 2008 Alex Woodie
IBM will ship i5/OS V6R1 next month, but System i customers may have a bit longer to wait before third-party software developers can roll out support for the new operating system. More than half of the software vendors contacted by IT Jungle for an informal poll on V6R1 readiness said they would be ready for the new operating system at general availability. But questions remain about the readiness of the other 40 percent of vendors, particularly the ERP application vendors.
When IBM ships i5/OS V6R1 next month, it will mark only the third time in the history of the platform that software vendors will have had to undergo a process called “program conversion” to enable their applications to run under the new operating system. For developers using modern programming techniques, the conversion shouldn’t pose much of a problem. However, vendors that haven’t kept up with the latest technology may find their applications no longer work on the System i.
IBM has been letting the industry know about the changes that the new operating system will bring since the first beta releases of V6R1 came out last year. The changes are being made to clean things up a bit and to ensure that everybody is using the latest programming, security, and performance advances in the operating system and underlying microcode. To enforce compliance with the latest technologies, IBM is requiring all applications to go through the program conversion process.
The program conversion process shouldn’t be a big deal for programs that are current with recent releases of the operating systems. For programs on V5R1 and later, the so-called “creation data” is automatically retained in the programs’ binaries, eliminating the need for source code or other sources of creation data to complete the conversion process. IBM is also providing the Analyze Object Conversion, or ANZOBJCVN, tool to help with program conversions and identify potential conversion difficulties with applications written for i5/OS V5R3 and V5R4. However, applications written for earlier versions have no automated tool, and for i5/OS V4R5 or earlier, application owners must pony up the source code or other creation data to complete the conversion process.
If all this sounds like a big hassle, it is. Vendors are in for a rude shock if they assume their programs will run under the new operating system like they always have. Vendors that have lagged behind operating systems will have the most work to prepare for the new operating system. But even forward-looking software vendors with the best customer support have some work to do.
To gauge the market’s readiness for i5/OS V6R1, IT Jungle conducted an informal poll of more than two dozen i5/OS software vendors to see how far along they were with program conversion, and their experience using the ANZOBJCVN tool.
Of the 26 vendors contacted, 14 said their products will be ready for i5/OS V6R1 when it ships on March 21, four vendors said their products would be ready within a couple of months of general availability, while one vendor said V6R1 is not currently a priority and could provide no timeline. Seven vendors did not respond to the questionnaire by this newsletter’s deadline.
Among the vendors that will have V6R1 product ready to go at GA, nearly all of them found they needed to make changes to their software after running the ANZOBJCVN tool. Some of the vendors had more work to do than others, but few, if any vendors were completely unscathed by the process.
“Because of the way we package our products, we had the issue of observability,” says Schadd Gray the CTO at ProData Computer Services, which sells a collection of database and programmer utilities, and tested its offerings remotely using a logical partition on a System i based at an IBM facility in San Mateo, California. “We repackaged our software [and] verified observability, as IBM requested. Everything worked well. We had one minor thing that needed to be modified in our RSP product. It was about a five-minute change.”
Tom Huntington, vice president of technical services for Help/Systems, says V6R1 required a bit of work. “We basically had to recompile everything. Not an easy task with 20 products,” he says. Help’s CTO, Tim Woodfield, says ANZOBJCVN provided a good start. “We did have to write some of our own tools to go a little deeper in our analysis,” he says.
i5/OS high availability software giant Vision Solutions says its products will be good to go at GA, although users will have to download the latest service packs to be interoperable. “We have been working with IBM for months on the release and our products are certified to go,” says Alan Arnold, CTO and executive vice president of the Irvine, California, company. “In fact, we announced last week at the partner meetings in EMEA.”
Systems management offerings from CCSS will support V6R1 at GA, says Paul Ratchford, the company’s product manager. But it was not without some work. “We have had to make some changes to the products to make them V6R1 compliant, but at present they are all running quite happily on the beta test version of V6R1 we have running here in the U.S.,” he says.
Other vendors contacted for this story who will support i5/OS V6R1 at GA include: AURA Equipments, Bug Busters Software Engineering, EMC,LANSA, Linoma Software, looksoftware, PowerTech, Profound Logic, Quadrant Software, and (with some products), and Raz-Lee. Aldon wasn’t contacted for this story, but announced day-one support for V6R1 in a press release last week.
As the responses to the survey came in, a trend emerged: Nearly all of the utility and tool vendors professed their readiness for V6R1. However, none of the ERP application vendors contacted could say the same. None of the big three i5/OS ERP vendors–Infor, Lawson, and Oracle— were able to put together a response to the question of i5/OS V6R1 readiness or ANZOBJCVN results by this newsletter’s deadline.
The silence from the big ERP vendors could mean one of two things. First, it could mean that they simply could not find the answers to the questions within the time allotted (two business days and one weekend). Or, it could mean they know their complex applications won’t be ready for i5/OS V6R1 at GA, and chose to not admit it.
Some of the tool vendors have noticed the potential pitfalls V6 poses to ERP apps. “That is one of the fears with V6R1,” says ProData’s Schadd Gray. “If the ERP company has not fully tested its software on V6R1, there’s a worry that the customer is going to go live and not be able to function. It’s a fear with any upgrade, and it is one reason why people hang back on older releases.”
While V6R1 will bring many useful enhancements, the extra testing required by ISVs and end users alike is likely to add months onto new operating system rollouts.
This article has been corrected. Alan Arnold’s correct title is chief technology officer and executive vice president, not chief operating officer and president. IT Jungle regrets the errors.