Admin Alert: Will i5/OS V5R4M
October 13, 2010 Timothy Prickett Morgan
x Support Run Out on April 7, 2015?
I recently performed a best guess analysis on when IBM i5/OS V5R4Mx support will actually run out. My client wanted to estimate how long they could theoretically get IBM support for running on V5R4Mx without having to upgrade. I came up with a possible final end of software support date for i5/OS V5R4Mx of April 7, 2015. Sound crazy? Check my logic and tell me where I’m wrong.
Sadly, this client was considering phasing out their i5/OS ERP environment in favor of an Intel-based platform. However foolish that choice may be, they were realistic enough to understand that the transition may take a year or two. So they needed to maintain their current i5/OS ERP environment “as is” while they readied their new machine. They asked me for a best guess estimate of how long they could retain i5/OS V5R4Mx support before IBM closed it down.
First off, if you own the hardware and operating system, you can run your machine forever as long as your equipment holds out. There are still shops out there that are running OS/400 V5R3 and below on several different flavors of System i, iSeries, and (dare I say it) AS/400 hardware. The only problem is getting support if your hardware or software breaks down. So if you’re willing to have your machine “run naked” through the i5/OS bit stream, you can run the machine as long as you want. Just don’t expect IBM to fix it.
But since we’re interested in how long IBM theoretically could support V5R4Mx, let’s start doing the math by looking at the following factors that add up to my calculated final end of software support date of April 7, 2015.
One caution before we go any further. This article represents my speculation on if, when, and how IBM could extend V5R4Mx based on past history. It represents my opinion on what could happen and it is in no way, shape, or form official information from IBM. So think twice before basing any meaningful decisions on it. It’s not official. End of warning.
Just What Was That EOM Date, Again?
V5R4Mx was supposed to be a dead possum by now, but in 2009 IBM extended its lifespan and it’s still kicking.
V5R4Mx first became generally available (GA) on February 14, 2006. In a January 27, 2009, Software Withdrawal Announcement, IBM announced that it was withdrawing i5/OS V5R4 from marketing on January 5, 2010 (its effective End of Marketing Date, EOM). However, in a Revised Availability Announcement letter dated November 10, 2009, IBM extended that EOM date to January 7, 2011. So as of this writing, you can still buy a copy of i5/OS V5R4Mx from IBM through early January of 2011.
But that’s only the first step in getting to my educated guess that IBM would extend End of Program Support through April 7, 2015.
The End of Marketing To End of Support Spread
Before we go any further, it’s important to distinguish between an operating system’s End of Marketing date and its End of Program Support date. The End of Marketing date represents when IBM will stop selling a product to its customers. The End of Program Support (EPS) date represents when IBM will stop supporting the product. In both historical precedent and through IBM announcements, the EPS date usually follows the EOM date by at least 12 months. For the other V5Rx operating systems (V5R1, V5R2, and V5R3), their EOM-EPS timeframe has ranged from 15 months all the way up to 22 months.
So conservatively speaking, it’s a safe bet to assume that the V5R4Mx EPS date will be at least 15 months from its EOM date. If I add 15 months to IBM’s stated EOM of January 7, 2011, I roughly get to April 7, 2012, for IBM’s EPS date when it will officially stop supporting V5R4Mx. To see all the EOM and EPS dates for i5/OS and OS/400 operating systems going back almost 20 years, go to IBM’s Upgrade Planning, Operating System Release Information Web page.
But hold on a minute. We still need to get to April 7, 2015, which I speculate will be the absolute last date you’ll be able to get V5R4Mx support. How do we do that?
The V5R3 Effect and All Those People on V5R4
Another item bolstering my case for V5R4 support through April, 2015, is the fact that TODAY you can still get paid support for the V5R3 operating system through April 30, 2012 (three years past its EPS date of April 30, 2009). What’s even more interesting is that IBM just stopped supporting i5/OS V5R2 customers on April 30, 2010 (also three years past its EPS date of April 30, 2007). That’s right. On May 30, 2008, IBM offered a service extension for customers running V5R2 and V5R3 (which must have been on top of another service extension for V5R2 because its original EPS date was in 2007). For a fee, IBM still offers support for V5R3 for the following items:
The downside of extended V5R3 support is that you’re out of luck if you hit upon a new system defect that hasn’t already been patched. If that happens and you need a V5R3 fix, you can submit a special services bid and pay IBM to fix the problem for you. For details on V5R3 and V5R2 Service Extension support, see IBM’s Usage and known defect Service Extension for i5/OS Web page.
If you’re still not convinced support will go past 2012, consider that up until last year (June 30, 2009) customers could still receive extended support for V4R5 and V5R1, two other operating system versions that hit their EPS dates in 2002 and 2005, respectively. These support extensions were also noted on the Usage and known defect Service Extension for i5/OS Web page.
So here’s the question. If 1) IBM is going to offer extended service support for V5R3 through April 20, 2012 and the V5R4Mx EPS date is April 7, 2012, and 2) if IBM has a history of offering extended paid operating system support for years after the EPS date comes and goes, does it make sense to you that IBM will totally kill V5R4Mx support in 2012 before they stop supporting V5R3? I don’t see that, either.
Then there’s the matter of the major conversion between i5/OS V5R4Mx and i 6R1, which is reportedly the toughest AS/400-class upgrade since the CISC-to-RISC conversions that occurred when shops migrated to OS/400 V3R6 in the 1990s. Since there are a HUGE number of shops still on V5R4Mx who may not be able to or may not be willing to migrate to i 6R1 right now, IBM is going to have to offer something to support these people.
So I think it’s pretty obvious (but not guaranteed) that IBM probably will offer an extended support program for i5/OS V5R4. I would be shocked if they didn’t.
Onward to April 7, 2015
Once you start looking at IBM precedents, it becomes pretty obvious what they could do. As I explained before, i5/OS V5R4 will probably reach EPS around April 7, 2012. Then since IBM previously offered extended support for V5R2 and V5R3 for another three years past their EPS dates, it’s reasonable to assume IBM will offer paid extended V5R4Mx support through at least April 7, 2015 (three years). This means that you can probably run V5R4Mx for another four and a half years, if you really needed to. And given IBM’s prior history for supporting OS versions that are getting long in the tooth, you may even be able to get paid support after that.
Past Performance Is No Guarantee of Future Results
Things look pretty good for i5/OS V5R4Mx support when you look at IBM’s past behavior. Remember however that all of this is still speculation. Just because IBM extended OS support in the past doesn’t necessarily mean they will do it again in the future. But given the precedents I looked at here, it’s a strong possibility.