IBM i Support Through 2025? Hold On Just a Second
December 4, 2012 Alex Woodie
Steve Will, IBM‘s chief architect for the IBM i platform, raised a few eyebrows during his presentation to close the COMMON Americas Advisory Council (CAAC) meeting in Rochester, Minnesota, last Friday. After Will put up a slide that showed a future release of the IBM i OS being supported through the end of 2025, several audience members posted Twitter messages about it. However, in his blog yesterday, Will said to not take the slide at face value.
While it’s abundantly used in the IBM i marketplace, Twitter hasn’t been an especially fruitful avenue for dispensing actual news that affects users of the server. That is, until last Friday, when word started to leak out of Rochester that IBM had actually committed to supporting the IBM i OS for the next 13 years.
Pete Massiello, the Immediate Past President for COMMON and president of iTech Solutions Group, was the first to Tweet the news. “#ibmi chart displayed going out to 2026 holy cow that is GREAT news !! Retweet this to everyone,” wrote Massiello, whose Twitter handle is Petem59. For anybody who wasn’t at the CAAC meeting, the news sounded all good.
But Will threw a little cold water and a splash of reality on the excitement yesterday with a post on his blog, “You and i” clarifying the slide and his intention in showing it. It’s probably worth reading the blog post, which has a timeline graph that shows a future release of IBM i being supported at least through the year 2025 into what appears to be 2026 (the edge of the slide appears to have been eaten by a dog).
“So, there it is: A chart that shows IBM i out past 2025,” Will writes. “That’s certainly worth tweeting about. As I’ve said quite a bit recently, though, ‘it’s just math.’… The point I like to make right away is that any line on the chart that has an arrowhead on it represents a rough timeframe.”
Here’s another important point: Yes, Will is on the record as saying IBM is currently working on two releases of IBM i beyond version 7.1 (we’re not talking Technical Refreshes here, but full versions and releases), dubbed i Next and i Next +1. They will be supported, as all versions and releases of IBM i are, for a period of time, after which they will stop being supported, as all releases are.
And here’s where the enthusiasm hits the rubber that hits the road: IBM hasn’t even said yet how long it will support IBM i 6.1 and IBM i 7.1, let alone how long it will support i Next, i Next +1, and i Next ++ (the one that appears to be “supported” out through 2025 on the dog-eared timeline).
The length of the arrows (i.e. the amount of time the OS releases are supported) for the current (6.1 and 7.1) and future (i Next et al.) in Will’s timeline are the same as they are for i5/OS V5R4, which was launched on April 10, 2007 and will reach end of life (EOS) on September 13, 2013.
“V5R4 is the longest-lived release ever for this platform,” Will writes. “Customers keep asking us to keep releases in market longer, so there’s no reason to believe we’d support 6.1 and 7.1 any less time than we did V5R4, but we have not made any announcements.”
Similarly, Will says, one shouldn’t read too much into the beginnings of the arrows, which one could infer correspond with a launch date for a future release of the OS. If one were to put a ruler to the screen, one would see that the arrow for i Next starts in 2014 (and goes through 2021), the arrow for iNext +1 starts in 2016 (and goes into 2024), and the arrow for i Next ++ starts in 2019 (and goes into 2026). But in fact, IBM is not committed to delivering (nor supporting) these OSes on any such schedule.
(For what it’s worth, the timing of the release of iNext, which IBM has been talking about for over a year, appears to be pushed out further than it was when Will shared details on the IBM i OS release schedule last year. At that time, the IBM i OS support timeline/rough draft had support going out through at least 2020.)
Will is in a tough spot. His customers and press outfits like IT Jungle clamor for details for what the future will hold for the IBM i platform. We rarely ever get solid commitments in response, but instead get vague commitments and feel-good declarations that IBM supports its customers. We know the great technologists in Rochester would love to cut loose and lay out the real deal to customers, but it’s simply not in IBM’s corporate makeup to support those inclinations.
What we do know is that IBM Rochester is currently working on two additional releases of the IBM i OS–not technical refreshes but bigger releases. We don’t know exactly when IBM will announce them, or exactly how long IBM will support them, because IBM hasn’t even made those decisions yet, let alone gone through the internal machinations necessary to prepare information for public consumption.
IBM doesn’t know exactly when it will bring new IBM i releases into and out of this world, but that in no way diminishes the future of the platform. “Given how frequently IBM i major releases are produced, and how long they are likely to be supported, it’s pretty easy to build a timeline that carries those releases out into the middle of the next decade,” Will writes.