Big Blue To Sunset IBM i 6.1 A Year From Now
September 15, 2014 Timothy Prickett Morgan
The world turns, time marches on, and versions and releases of operating systems come and go. Big Blue put out the IBM i 7.2 software release concurrent with the Power8 “scale-out” systems launch at the end of April, an update to the integrated software stack that was tuned to take advantage of the new hardware. In with the new, out with the old, and that means IBM i 6.1 customers better get prepared to do an upgrade or find budget to pay for extended support contracts for the software.
In announcement letter 914-181, IBM is warning customers that it is beginning the process of sunsetting the IBM i 6.1 release of the operating system family that began with OS/400 V1R1 back in June 1988.
IBM i 6.1 made its debut in January 29, 2008, and first started shipping on March 21 of that year. The software was more or less concurrent with the Power6 generation of Power Systems machines, which sported two cores per socket. This is the first generation of the OS/400 family of operating systems to bear the IBM i brand, here at IT Jungle we called it i5/OS V6R1 for a while because we objected to the IBM i name. (It is still a silly name for an operating system in that it is inconsistent with the name for other IBM operating systems, but we can’t keep IBM’s marketeers from doing what they will do.) The IBM i 6.1 release included the Virtual I/O Server (VIOS) compliments of AIX to virtualize connections to peripherals and IBM i logical partitions, and importantly included a substantial change in the Technology-Independent Machine Interface (TIMI) that underpins OS/400 and its follow-ons and that allowed for IBM to change out hardware and still maintain application compatibility across many hardware generations. This substantial change required the kind of recompilation that the base had not had to do since the introduction of the AS/400 in June 1988 from the System/38, which dated from a nearly decade earlier. The program conversion process could be annoying, particularly for customers who did not have their source code, and it kept many customers on OS/400 V5R4.
Eventually, IBM put out an IBM 6.1.1 update in October 2009. It was not clear if both of these releases–IBM i 6.1 and IBM i 6.1.1–were included in the winding down of support, and you might suspect that they are both being sunsetted since, for all intents and purposes, 6.1 and 6.1.1 are the same animal with some relatively minor tweaks. If you drill around the IBM sales manual, however, only IBM i 6.1 is being withdrawn from marketing on December 9, 2014 and only IBM i 6.1 is having its standard service discontinued on September 30, 2015. IBM i 6.1.1 is still an unknown, and if history is any guide, it will live for approximately a year longer.
In any event, program number 5761-SS1, which is labeled i5/OS in the withdrawal letter ironically enough, is not going to be supported through normal Software Maintenance after September 30, 2015. That is 2,749 days of support in total for the IBM i 6.1 version, which is considerably longer than for most releases and about as long as Big Blue gave for extended support services for OS/400 V4 and early V5 releases a decade ago. If you want to compare the timelines for OS/400, i5/OS, and IBM i releases over time, I have built a table showing the dates for the announcement, general availability, end of marketing, end of standard support, and end of extended support for all operating systems for IBM midrange platforms since 1988.
You can see this table at this link here.
In addition to closing down normal Software Maintenance for IBM i 6.1 about a year from now, a bunch of systems software associated with this software is also getting its support services removed–things like WebSphere, WebSphere Studio, DB2 Web Query, Query Tools, DB2 Query Manager and SQL Development Kit, BRMS, CICS, Performance Tools, and such.
As it has always done, at least in recent years, IBM plans to offer a fee-based extended support contract for customers who need more time to move off of IBM i 6.1. You can infer for yourself when extended support might end for IBM i 6.1 from the data in the table. Extended support was announced for i5/OS V5R4 back in May 2013, and IBM said three years extended support, out to September 30, 2016. Period. A little more than a year before this was done, IBM was telling customers to expect a three-year term for extended support for V5R4 and that it would cost about 70 percent more than normal Software Maintenance on a per-core basis. The actual price came in at a 60 percent premium, ranging from $2,080 per core on P05 machines to $11,200 on P30 and higher machines. Extended support does not include cumulative PTF updates because IBM does not generate new bug fixes. Extended service covers the IBM i operating system release as well as the 45 or so other licensed program products (LPPs in IBMese) that are under the SWMA umbrella through the Power Systems division. Usage support–meaning you try to do something and it is not working right, or you need help figuring it out–is part of the service extension, and IBM agrees to do patches as bugs are found in the code. IBM will not do new feature development on IBM i 6.1.
It is not clear how many customers are running IBM i 6.1 or 6.1.1, but only about 40,000 of the 160,000 unique machines in the OS/400, i5/OS, and IBM i installed base are on modern releases, so it can’t be too many. Call it half between IBM i 6.1 and 6.1.1 versus IBM i 7.1 and 7.2, or about 20,000 machines.