i/OS Shops to Wait Another Quarter for Power7 Compilers
February 16, 2010 Alex Woodie
The excitement over the new Power7 servers announced by IBM last week was palpable. Big Blue managed, once again, to deliver huge increases in the AS/400 line’s price/performance, providing compelling evidence of the platform’s decades-old capability to protect investment in RPG development. But i/OS shops that are eager to take advantage of the four-fold increase in the number of processor threads available to them with the new Power7 chips will have to wait until next quarter–and likely the announcement of i 7.1–for IBM to make its statement regarding the availability of new i/OS compilers.
There was some confusion last week over what exactly IBM was announcing, which development tools i/OS shops would be told to use, and when compilers for the new Power7 boxes would become available to them.
Here is what’s known: Rational Developer for System i (RDi) is out, and taking its place is Rational Developer for Power Systems (RDp), a converged product that provides one development tool for writing applications for i/OS, AIX, and Linux. There will also be new RDp versions of IBM’s tool for Web 2.0 development, which was previously called RDi for SOA. The RDp products were announced at version 7.5, which is curious, as the RDi product was already at version 7.5.1, so it’s a step backwards, in naming nomenclature anyway, although users will get the new Visual Screen Designer and Visual Report Designer capabilities.
Similarly, Rational Team Concert for i (RTCi), which provides application development lifecycle and change management functionality for teams of i/OS developers, is out, and taking its place is a converged Power Systems product called Rational Team Concert for Power Systems (RTCp). The functionality is almost identical, save for the new cross-platform capability of RTCp. Customers also get new build automation capabilities, which is nice.
Then there is the touchy subject of i/OS compilers, which IBM needs to update to allow i/OS applications to take advantage of the big increase in hardware under Power7. There was some confusion on the part of an IBM Rational product manager, who–after telling this reporter in a phone interview that, “yes, we have the i compilers out there” and that new i/OS compilers are being shipped ahead of those for AIX and Linux as a reward, of sort, “for that very loyal, long-in-place IBM i customer set”–turned around and said via e-mail there “are no new IBM i compilers available with the February announcement” and “we will have to wait until the second quarter to talk about any further product (compiler) enhancements.”
The fact that IBM issued “statements of direction” for C, C++, and COBOL on AIX (see Software Announcement 210-052), and XL C, XL C++, and XL Fortran on AIX and Power Linux (see Software Announcement 210-038), but neglected to provide any information on the all-important RPG compilers for i/OS (despite the fact that an IBM spokespeople said the statements of directions covered RPG), also added to the overall sense of confusion.
i/OS shops mostly don’t care if they’re first. In fact, they’ve long grown accustomed to getting new boxes and software capabilities after its Unix brethren. All i/OS shops care about is getting something good and something that works. The four-fold increase in the number of threads per socket (from two to four threads per core, which have also doubled from four to eight cores per socket under Power7) will be a huge gain for i/OS shops, and will likely usher in a new era of server consolidation.
This huge increase in performance by IBM is a wonderful thing, and i/OS shops are patient. But they would like to have some idea of when they can take advantage of these wonderful new capabilities. It turns out, they’re going to have to wait just a little longer to unlock the full resources of the Power7 processors running RPG workloads. And that’s fine–except for the fact that it would be a whole lot easier for everyone involved if IBM got its ducks in a row and had the right information available at launch time.
The smart money has IBM making a compiler announcement at the same time it announces the next version of i/OS (which IBM officially calls just i). This certainly will come next quarter, and possibly may come before the big COMMON conference in Orlando, Florida, in early May; it almost certainly will not come after that.
Here’s why IBM can’t talk about it: While it’s general knowledge that IBM is close to announcing the next version of the i operating system, IBM i 7.1, the company has strict corporate rules governing what its employees can and can’t say. Basically, talking about products that won’t ship during that quarter is verboten, which makes it challenging–for outsiders and IBM employees alike–to decipher exactly what it is that IBM’s doing.