Top 10 IBM i Tech Trends for 2013
January 8, 2013 Alex Woodie
This is a great time to be an IBM i shop. Whether your shop is hands-on with the latest technology or prefers to “set it and forget it,” there’s an abundance of new products and services available that will help your organization run smarter and with more efficiency. Check out Four Hundred Stuff‘s take on the top 10 IBM i technology trends for the new year.
1. Cloud Computing
The number one IBM i trend for 2013 is cloud computing. IBM may have been late to the cloud party with its midrange platform, but Big Blue is now coming on strong, with new cloud-enabling technology, like Live Partition Mobility (LPM), as well as new marketing plans aimed at attracting managed service providers (MSPs) to the platform, and giving them the tools to be successful.
A couple of years ago, just a handful of companies had positioned themselves as MSPs to sell access to IBM i resources using the public cloud, or infrastructure as a service (IaaS), model, a la Amazon Web Services (AWS). This doesn’t count the many datacenter firms offering hosting services, a rudimentary form of cloud computing, or software as a service (SaaS) firms, of which there are just a few in the IBM i world.
Today, there are nearly two dozen MSPs offering public IBM i cloud services, and new MSPs are opening shop every week offering public cloud IaaS, which, on the whole, was a $12 billion industry in 2012 and was growing at an annual clip of 45 percent, according to Gartner. Many of the MSPs in the IBM i world started out as AS/400 and iSeries server resellers, and while selling boxes and services accounts for the bulk of their businesses, they foresee a day when the MSP side of their business becomes predominant.
This new cloud model is a radical departure from basic server babysitting, and is a critical element in the shift to utility computing. Thanks to high-speed Internet that’s nearly ubiquitous across the country, and advanced IBM i virtualization offerings like PowerVM, LPM, and Virtual I/O Server, organizations can get access to the same IBM i platform they know and love–indeed, they can access their own IBM i environments, and move it wherever they like–without incorporating the financial burden of physically possessing the hardware.
IT Jungle predicts that 2013 will mark the first year when it will be common for small and midsize IBM i shops to consider an IBM i public cloud as a legitimate option as part of their upgrade considerations. The advantages in cost and processing flexibility with renting a slice of IBM i in the cloud versus taking physical ownership of the hardware are becoming too great to ignore, and are beginning to outweigh the risks of cloud computing, which mostly has to do with security of data.
Analysts predict that, in 2013, mobile devices (including smartphones and tablets) will surpass PCs to become the most common way to access the Web. In some businesses, mobile devices have already overtaken PCs. Tablets, in particular, appear to be favored in white collar and factory environments, while smartphones are the mobile device of choice for road warriors.
The big challenge facing developers this year will be figuring out how to best utilize mobile devices to accomplish particular tasks at hand. It’s kind of dumb to try to squeeze a full 5250 screen onto an iPhone. It can be done, but with all the precise finger movements required to navigate the app on a 3.5-inch screen, it might be easier to teach a pig to use chopsticks.
Instead of repurposing existing IBM i interfaces to fit on mobile devices, a better approach will be to develop new IBM i interfaces that are tailor-made for tablets and smartphones. This allows the developer to rethink application workflow, and to highlight essential data and actions while hiding or eliminating superfluous screen elements. The old adage “keep it simple stupid,” or KISS, retains its significance here.
3. Power7+ and PureSystems
IBM gave us new toys to play with in 2012, and 2013 will prove to be the year that many of us get to put them into action. The new Power7+ servers give us more of a good thing, and will be the go-to boxes for many small and midsize IBM i shops with modest computing needs. But the new PureSystems platform is something different altogether, and demands some extra thought and consideration.
IBM sold more than 1,000 of the PureSystems servers in 2012, a number that will be dwarfed in 2013. In particular, the PureSystems platform will be adopted by a good number of MSP cloud providers, who will value its capability to run Windows and provide Windows environments alongside the three Power Systems amigos–IBM i, AIX, and Linux.
The software side of PureSystems has a ways to go. IBM has a vision whereby enterprise applications are treated much the same as apps on an iPhone–where apps can be selected from a menu, downloaded, installed, and configured in a very short amount of time. Currently, the PureSystems Centre (sic) serves more as a marketing tool for vendors who have certified their wares to run on the PureSystems platforms, rather than the actual embodiment of the “point, click, go” future that IBM visionaries have envisioned for us. Enterprise software is still complicated. Getting it to work efficiently in customer sites still requires a good bit of customization. It’s not cookie-cutter, and attempts to make us believe that it is are disingenuous.
Business analytics continues to grow faster than the IT industry as a whole is growing. According to IDC, business analytics will grow at a 9.8 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through 2016, when it will be a $50.7 billion business. The IBM i component of this is extremely small, largely due to the fact that the IBM i ecosystem is extremely small compared to the IT world as a whole. But among IBM i shops, there seems to be a preference for using Windows or Unix servers to run data warehouses instead of keeping it on the IBM i server. There’s no reason this trend will change in 2013, to the chagrin of vendors providing data warehousing and BI tools on the IBM i platform.
But thankfully, data moves quickly in the enterprise and opportunities for analyzing data originating on the IBM i will continue to grow and expand in 2013. Big data and in-memory processing platforms will continue to eat up market and mindshare among the largest enterprises. Smaller shops will benefit from the continued commodiziation of BI and analytics capabilities, and hop on the raft of new BI and analytics as a service (BIaaaaS?) offerings that are making their way to the market.
5. Social media
Social media has become ubiquitous in our lives, but its place and use in the enterprise hasn’t been adequately defined yet. On the one hand, some ERP and BI vendors have started incorporating social media feeds into their sales and marketing apps. This is basically treating one’s Facebook or LinkedIn connections as another email list to be mined.
IBM is taking another approach with its Notes/Domino (formerly Lotus) platform: helping enterprises to set up their own social media communities, and to use social media tools like forums, easy file sharing, “like” buttons, following friends, and mobile support to bolster collaboration. This will be a winning play, to the extent that IBM makes this platform extensible and available for integration into other enterprise apps. IBM still has some work to do to support IBM i with this platform, but it’s off to a decent start with the recent decision to support Traveler. Here’s hoping it will also support IBM Connections and Sametime Mobile Manager on IBM i in 2013.
6. ERP Wars
There was a lot going on in the enterprise software market last year, and there’s no reason it will end in 2013. Traditional ERP vendors are coming under growing pressure from software as a service (SaaS) ERP vendors, like NetSuite, Salesforce.com, and Workday. While the SaaS vendors can’t yet offer the same combination of functionality and customizability that the traditional ERP vendors can, there’s no reason to think they can’t or won’t in the future, which means traditional ERP vendors are living on borrowed time. Expect to see the old ERP guard make some kind of movement–or at least pay lip service–to ERP’s cloud and subscription future.
The ERP market as a whole grew at about a 4.5 percent rate in 2012, according to Gartner. But if you’re Oracle and SAP, you’ve got to be worried about keeping your share of any increase in spending in 2013. In addition to attacks by the SaaS ERP vendors, they face pressure from smaller best-of-breed ERP vendors, like Infor, and those companies who question whether they even need ERP, according to Panorama Consulting. And of course, there are the third-party maintenance firms, like Rimini Street and Spinnaker Support, which grew tremendously in 2012 and will continue to poach disaffected customers away from SAP and Oracle in 2013.
7. DR and HA as a service
While 2013 will be the year that IBM i shops seriously start to consider running their production apps on public clouds, there will undoubtedly be even more growth in using clouds to provide disaster recovery (DR) protection, or DR as a service (DRaaS), and high availability (HA) as a service, or HAaaS.
At many of the public IBM i cloud providers, sales and marketing efforts lead with DRaaS or HAaaS, and occasionally turn into opportunities to sell the customer on moving production to the cloud as well. Major disasters like Superstorm Sandy highlighted the benefits of having a team of professionals at the ready for the worst day in the life of your business.
Costs are also coming down as more managed service providers (MSPs) offer DRaaS and HAaaS. And as the implementations increase, they become more “cookie cutter” and repeatable, which benefits customers even more.
7. Big Data
There was a lot of hype surrounding “big data” in 2012, and it will likely continue into 2013. The large system and ERP vendors are freely spending and making better tools for handling the continued explosion of data, which is commonly defined by the four Vs: volume, variety, velocity, and veracity.
IBM i shops, just like all businesses, are struggling to adapt to big data, and use it to expand their businesses. One hot area to watch in 2013 is the intersection of three trends, including big data, social media, and analytics. IT vendors that can help their customers use analytics to make sense of the big data generated by social media will make a lot of friends and money in 2013.
8. Data integration
As the volume and type of data continues to increase and change, so will customers’ needs for data integration. Year after year, IT architects bemoan the “silos of data” approach, yet these silos have become a fact of life, as businesses continue to chase hot technology trends that may or may not integrate well with what they already have.
As a result of this patchwork approach, there will still be high demand for integration tools that can move and transform data at the database level–particularly at speeds above plain Jane ODBC and ODBC. Tools that make DB2/400 … er, DB2 for i (prediction number 0: old habits will continue to die hard in 2013) … play nicely with other databases will see more interest.
And despite its perception as a “legacy” technology, EDI is not going away anytime soon, and is a critical element of the back office IT infrastructure that handles the day-to-day task of making, moving, and maintaining physical things that we buy (you know, the real economy, which doesn’t get a lot of attention in the cloud/social media/big data-obsessed press these days).
Managed file transfer (MFT) software will continue to be a hot product area in 2013. The combination of MFT’s capability to automate bulk transfers as well as provide a managed interface for ad hoc transfers is truly a sweet spot that can’t be matched by other approaches.
9. Open source and consumer software
Open source technologies and products are more widely used on the IBM i platform than ever before. Whether IBM i professionals know it or not, they’re using open source products on a daily basis, notably the Apache Web server. Open source is becoming a suitable choice in other areas of IBM i computing too, including CRM, database, ETL and business intelligence, programming languages, and Web publishing tools. (Open source ERP, alas, failed to materialize yet, at least on this platform.)
10. IT Security
IT Security is a perennial concern of businesses, and accounted for $60 billion in spending in 2012, a number that will increase to $86 billion by 2016, according to Gartner. The threat of data breaches falling into the wrong hands continues to drive big spending on security compliance initiatives, including services and IT security tools such as anti-malware, breach detection, encryption, and powerful user account controls.
In the IBM i world, businesses hopefully will strive to bolster their security, which is woefully poor according to surveys. While the IBM i platform can be one of the most secure on the planet, improper IBM i configurations–including default passwords and users with too much authority–pose a very real weakness in many organizations.