Six IBM i Predictions for 2014
January 14, 2014 Alex Woodie
Hello, and welcome to 2014! The new year began for the IBM i community in just about the same place it began 2013: With a slightly smaller customer base running systems that are just a little bit older. But do not despair! If owning the world’s most stable and predictable business computer doesn’t send you into a fit of rapturous joy, then perhaps these predictions on IBM i products and technologies for the coming year will.
Prediction No. 1: IBM Delivers ‘Power’ Boost, World Shrugs
It’s not like we had to go out on a limb for this, seeing as how IBM has been telegraphing this one since last summer. The new Power8 processors are expected to start appearing in IBM servers this year, although the timing of the actual announcement is not known. The new 12-core chips designed with the 22 nanometer SOI technology will be 2.5 times as powerful as the Power7+ chips at 4 GHz (although IBM hasn’t said how fast they will run yet). That’s a whole lot of power–probably too much, in fact. The typical midrange IBM i customer running a newer box already has a plethora of juice, and its Power Systems-related spending is increasingly dictated and controlled by software and business-model cycles, not hardware cycles. The new chips are undoubtedly awesome feats of design and engineering and represent everything we love about IBM’s technical prowess. But it’s doubtful it will lead to many new customers outside the Fortune 500.
Prediction No. 2: An RPG Renaissance
IBM will finally stop trying to replace RPG, which will be turning 55 years old in 2014, as the main programming language on the IBM i server and embrace it as the defacto standard. Despite the presence of alternatives, such as COBOL, Java, PHP, EGL and now Ruby on Rails, developers will look to good old RPG for business logic on the IBM i platform. The free format enhancements that IBM introduced last year with IBM i 7.1 TR7 will go far in helping to attract a younger class of programmer–especially after context-checking debuts next month with an update to Rational Developer for IBM i (RDi). Meanwhile, the XML-based goodness of Rational Open Access: RPG Edition (RPG Open Access) will begin to get traction for developing graphical interfaces with RPG. That will help propel RPG’s place on the TIOBE Index to number 15, from number 34 today.
Prediction No. 3: Cloud MSP Business Model Steps Up
2014 will be the year when managed services providers (MSP) selling access to IBM i instances in the cloud must prove their business models, or fold up their tents and move on to something else. It’s been four or five years since a handful of IBM’s big server resellers trotted out IBM i clouds, and while there has been a smattering of success stories, we haven’t seen the mass movement to the cloud that many in the industry predicted. IBM’s multiple and convoluted licensing schemes do not help the situation with the MSPs, who are forced to stock their data centers with lots of smaller boxes (instead of fewer larger boxes) in order to keep their customer’s in lower tier-groups. Look for more partnerships between MSPs and ISVs hawking all-in-one converged solutions for IBM i workloads. If that doesn’t speed up the slow walk to the cloud, then the MSP consolidation will begin.
Prediction No. 4: Mobile Continues to Take Over the World
Prediction No. 5: Big Data and Social Media Creeps In
In 2014, IBM i professionals will begin hearing CEOs and presidents ask how they can adopt and benefit from the new generation of social media and “big data” technologies that are making so many headlines these days in the mainstream IT rags. And for good reason: There is a lot of money to be made (or saved) by harnessing and taking advantage of all the information being generated on social media–much of it coming from smartphones and mobile apps. It’s not an easy task, to be sure, and it’s doubtful that any “big data” program would run on the IBM i server itself (many of these apps run on Hadoop and NoSQL databases). But increasingly, organizations will be tasked with figuring out how to mix the structured data in IBM i with the big unstructured social data, for lots of fun and profit.
Prediction No. 6: Security, Security, Security
If Target’s revelation last week that it lost the personally identifiable information (PII) of more than 70 million customers didn’t send shivers down your neck, then you’re not paying attention. The cybercriminals who hit Target will likely sell those records on the Dark Internet (which was created, and is protected, by our spook-loving friends in the US Government), giving other criminals the data they need to actually carry out identify theft. Yes, the cybercriminal industry is flourishing at the moment, and the lowly state of IBM i security at most organizations is a real concern. Cyber gangs have good technical knowledge of IBM i, so you cannot rely on “security through obscurity” in the least. The only recourse is to build multiple, redundant layers of security around your most valuable source of information–your IBM i server–and monitor the heck out of it. But care must also be paid to properly secure all the other components surrounding your IBM i server (PCs, smartphones, Web servers, routers), since any crack in the shield could give hackers a way in.