Reader Feedback on Still Wanted: A Cheap–or Free–IBM i Development Workstation
June 13, 2011 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Could IBM not offer this as a cloud solution? I’m thinking that they have some huge server farms, stick a few System i boxes online, have some sort of registration process, and then allow programmers to play with RPG and etcetera online? Doesn’t take a lot and there is the cheap development environment carried over the Internet???
I did suggest that a cloudy option might be a possibility for a cheap development workstation at the end of my story. It is a question of economics.
The problem is that a Power6 or Power7 chip is an expensive piece of electronics, and the IBM i operating system is very pricey. Even if IBM’s Software Group decided to take one for the Power Systems team and give the Power Systems division free licenses of IBM i and the compiler stack to set up a cloud, those systems are not free. Even running junky Power4 and aging Power5 machines is not free–space, power, and cooling is certainly very costly. So I don’t think an IBM that is hell-bent on selling customers development machines, or development partitions on existing machines, is going to sacrifice revenue by adding Power Systems-IBM i slices to its SmartCloud development clouds.
As I said in the story, the thing that the IBM i platform needs is not to train RPG developers, but to give them cheap tools to let them train themselves. Whether we like it or not, the IBM i stack is competing against free Linux or pirated Windows tools among newbie programmers. And programmers train themselves on these stacks without any encouragement.
That’s why I was suggesting we needed an IBM i emulation environment that runs on PCs and laptops, to at least get a clone of the environment onto the machines that these newbie programmers have in their hands.
But in thinking about a response to your question, it occurred to me that IBM could split the difference. IBM could easily create an emulated IBM i environment and, instead of distributing it to student and newbie coders working on their own PCs, could instead enable it on tiny slices of its own SmartCloud based on more cost-effective X64-based machinery and provide it for free using unused capacity on the SmartCloud. If the cloud got busy, coders would be kicked off.
That would kill two birds and get stoned, I think.
This part of the article is very surprising:
“IBM would, of course, need to control distribution of an emulated, free IBM i environment and application development toolset. Otherwise, people would be using them to run production workloads and they would never buy Power Systems machinery.”
Because if it is true, then that means that we are spending lot of dollars to run the programs on a machine that is useless as it can be emulated on a “old laptop” as you say. Or perhaps it is true and these Power Systems machinery are just a pump for money?
My point was that the QuickTransit emulator could be used to implement a compiler and runtime environment on a laptop, but IBM would have to be careful to make sure that it somehow controlled the distribution. Anything that runs on Windows or Linux on a laptop could be moved (perhaps in a virtual machine) to another machine that had more processor, memory, disk, and I/O capacity and therefore be used to run production workloads.
I think the limited memory and I/O of a laptop is sufficient to keep it from being anything other than a personal IBM i box, but because of this, the theoretical IBM i emulated environment would need some sort of governor. Once the cat is out of the bag on this emulated environment, it will be hard to put it back in. So it requires some thinking ahead of time to prevent Fast400-style governor-busting.
The best answer might be, as I said above, run this emulated IBM i environment on IBM’s SmartCloud using whatever excess capacity IBM has unsold.