2012: An IBM i Year To Remember
January 7, 2013 Alex Woodie
Welcome to 2013. Before we get too far into the year that will be, let’s take a look back at the year that was. 2012 was an eventful year for the IBM i ecosystem, and brought IT Jungle several big stories to report, including major IBM product launches, mega disasters, a raft of new public IBM i clouds, an untold number of tools for mobile and big data, and enough acquisitions and lawsuits to keep lawyers out of trouble–for about 12 months anyway.
In January, Rocket Software announced that it bought the iCluster HA software from IBM, and followed that up with its purchase of Zephyr and its terminal emulation business in February. In March, third-party support provider Spinnaker nabbed its competitor Versytec. In June, Softlanding Systems owner UNICOM bought GTSI and Network Engines. In September, Liasion Technologies bought HubSpan, Quadrant Software merged with Softbase, and Wynne Systems was bought by one of Constellation Software‘s (many) subsidiaries.
In October, RedPrairie announced its intent to acquire JDA Software. GPS solutions provider Trimble bought truck dispatch software developer TMW Systems in August. RJS Software Systems bought a fellow Minnesota development firm. IBM acquired Butterfly Software, Texas Memory Systems, Kenexa, Tealeaf Technology, Varicent Software, Vivisimo, Worklight, Green Hat, and StoredIQ throughout the year, and sold its point of sale (POS) business to Toshiba.
IBM i utility maker Help/Systems has been very active in the M&A market. First, the private equity firm Summit Partners doubled its investment in the company. This investment funded two acquisitions, including its purchase of security software firm Safestone in June and its purchase of systems management vendor CCSS in October. IBM i ERP giant Infor, which is also backed by private equity, also had a big year, in the acquisition department and otherwise.
Big Data —
The hype surrounding so-called “big data” technologies continued to grow in 2012. Software vendors that play in the IBM i arena and who made acquisitions or announcements related to big data last year include: Attunity, AquaFold, HiT Software, Information Builders, Jaspersoft, Lavastorm, QlikTech , and Tableau Software. The big data craze will continue in 2013, as the pace of information creation and consumption continues. To put this in perspective, IBM estimates that 2.5 exabytes, or 1,000 petabytes, of data is generated every day. By comparison, the sum of human-produced information totaled about 12 exabytes at the end of 1999, according a UC Berkeley study. Those data points plot one very imposing geometric curve, which has data management vendors salivating.
Clouds seemed to pop up everywhere in 2012, which was a pivotal year for the adoption of infrastructure as a service (IaaS) cloud computing in the IBM i ecosystem. Vendors making major IBM i cloud announcements (including new clouds and improved clouds) last year include: Abacus Solutions, which launched a new IBM i cloud in May; Connectria Hosting, which launched a new IBM i cloud in April; Sirius Computer Solutions, which launched a new cloud in September; and Xerox, which launched its Power Systems cloud in January.
These announcements were made on top of major 2011 cloud unveils in the IBM i space, which included Logicalis and Symmetry. Other IBM i cloud vendors to watch include Datanational, First National Technology Solutions, Mainline Information Systems, mindSHIFT Technologies, NSPI, and Aegis Technology Solutions, which you can read about in tomorrow’s issue of Four Hundred Stuff.
It is hard to get excited about licensing. It just is, especially when dealing with the convoluted and esoteric terms and conditions drawn up by enterprise software vendors. But IBM i licensees let out a collective cheer last February when IBM dropped the fees for Rational Open Access: RPG Edition. The announcement, which was made in February, eliminated a major hurdle in the adoption of RPG OA, which will play a big role in the Web-cloud-mobile future of the IBM i platform.
IBM i developers let out a collective yawn when IBM released a free and open source version of EGL, called Eclipse EGL Web Developer Tools (EWDT), in late 2011. IBM followed up the first .7 release with a .8 release in April, which added the capability to call IBM i applications.
Oracle and SAP continued their ongoing, multi-year lawsuit over the now defunct TomorrowNow third-party support business. Meanwhile, HA software rivals Vision Solutions and Maxava continued to keep their lawyers gainfully employed; a jury trial has been scheduled for April.
In July, used software scored a legal victory when an EU court ruled against Oracle in its case against a company that resells software licenses for business software. Fiserv sued its rival in the IBM i banking software market Fidelity National Information Services (FIS). And in November, IBM was sued by its customer Avantor Performance Materials over a botched SAP implementation.
Just about everybody and his mother has an app they are trying to sell these days, so it is no surprise that mobile apps are very hot on the IBM i server, too. Most vendors peddling Web modernization tools also have a mobile story to tell, and even the big ERP vendors are moving quickly to satisfy the demand for mobile interface.
Among the most promising IBM i mobile products to be launched in 2012 include: LANSA‘s LongRange, a development tool that uses RPG and DDS skills to build native iOS and Android apps, which launched in May; ASNA‘s Mobile RPG, a tool that uses RPG Open Access to write Web-based mobile apps, and which launched in November; and CNX‘s Nitro iAdmin, which allows administrators to monitor major IBM i server metrics from a mobile phone, and which also launched in November.
Natural Disasters —
Tornados once again pummeled the country’s midsection in the spring, providing a potent reminder of Mother Nature’s fury. Superstorm Sandy’s landfall in New Jersey in the fall, however, was a much bigger deal, and threatens to rewrite the rules of disaster recovery. The mother of all disasters–the end of the world according to the Mayan calendar–thankfully didn’t happen.
2012 was the year of the number. Remember how we were also supposed to perish on 12-21-12, the day the last chocolate popped out of the Mayan long calendar? Well, that Friday came and went, and nary a gamma ray burst, magnetic pole shift, or asteroid could be found (although a previously undetected asteroid did almost get us the week before).
IBM’s Rochester brass also raised a few eyebrows in 2012 with two numbers: 150,000, and 2026. 150,000 comes from Power Systems general manager Collin Parris, who declared in a July 2012 IBM i roadmap that the IBM i server is currently used by more than 150,000 customers around the world. That number was bigger than some independent observers (like us) had expected.
Then in November, IBM i chief architect Steve Will shared a presentation that appeared to show IBM committing to support the IBM i platform until the year 2026, with three major releases of the OS over that span. Several audience members at the COMMON Americas Advisory Council (CAAC) in Rochester where Will was speaking tweeted about the supposed revelation, causing a minor stir. Will eventually backtracked a bit and said no specifics should be taken from the presentation. But Will reiterated the fact that IBM i is in IBM’s long-term plans.
2012 was a year of technological leaps and bounds in the broader IT world, as well as in the IBM i world. Macro trends such as cloud computing and mobility are reshaping business IT as we know it, and these trends are impacting the IBM i ecosystem as well.
The biggest announcement to come out of IBM in 2012 was its new Flex System platform. IBM launched the new platform, which combines Power and X86 processors, networking, and storage into one integrated unit, to great fanfare in April. Part and parcel of the Flex System is system software that dramatically shortens the installation, configuration, and roll-out of new applications, which are dubbed “patterns” in Flex-ese.
But 2012 wasn’t all Flex System, as the plain Jane Power System lineup also saw some news. In October, IBM launched the first Power Systems servers to use the new Power7+ processors, the Power 770+ and Power 780+. The Power7+ chips, which has 10 MB per core of L3 memory instead of 4 MB with the Power7, give customers a considerable performance boost where cache counts.
PowerVM Live Partition Mobility (LPM) came to us in IBM i 7.1 TR4, which IBM announced in April and shipped in May. LPM basically makes IBM i instances portable, allowing you to move your running LPARs from one physical server to another and back again. LPM brings the PowerVM hypervisor up to par with the mobility capabilities of VMware‘s ESX Server, and will help keep the IBM i platform and IBM i applications viable into the future.
The IBM i platform and the IBM i ecosystem moved forward perceptibly in 2012. Here’s hoping similar progress in made in 2013.