Soltis Picks Trends for Future IBM i On Power
October 6, 2014 Dan Burger
You can’t look to the past to predict the future. But most forecasts take into account a portion of historical data. At least those that do would have a higher degree of probability. I kept that in the back of my mind as I listened to Frank Soltis on a webcast last week. Soltis played a starring role in the development of the AS/400; he retired as IBM‘s chief scientist and is not shy about forecasting the future of the platform.
“First of all, this system is not going away.” Soltis got that off his chest at the top of the webcast, which was titled The Evolution of IBM i in the Data Center and hosted by the systems management software company HelpSystems. “It’s a proven system. It was designed for business.”
It certainly has withstood the test of time. And it’s been falsely rumored to be mothballed more than a couple of times in its 25-plus years.
Soltis shared stories about the past, but he was more often focused on the future–especially how the platform is well equipped for what’s ahead because of a combination of business-first architecture and technological enhancements.
Soltis and his co-host Tom Huntington, vice president of technical services at HelpSystems, kept the conversation pointed forward by hitting on trends and forecasts with some challenges for the platform thrown in for good measure. The conversation was a combination of observations past and present mixed in with thought about what the future will bring.
Analytics, Linux, consolidation, skills, modernization, the cloud and managed service providers were some of the talking points that garnered the most attention.
Soltis chose big data as a launching point for trends to pay attention to.
“I think analytics will be a huge opportunity for systems going forward. The potential of analytics is a bigger revolution than when business intelligence first came along,” he ventured while citing industries such as medical, banking, and legal for being early adopters and establishing the potential.
“Linux will become a greater influence,” he promised. One reason for that insight is that Linux is important in applications used for managing and processing big data. The analytics programs for IBM Watson were written in Linux. And as part of the consolidation trend that Soltis believes will continue to pick up steam, Linux can run in a partition next to IBM i on Power Systems. “We are seeing more migration to Linux, particularly in the Unix field,” he notes. “Linux will be a strong player in data centers of the future.”
While IBM i shops have traditionally operated on their own IT island, the future will bring a different landscape marked with multiple platforms and the need to manage all that comes with it.
“Companies today have all flavors of operating systems and managing all that is bringing change,” Soltis says. Automation of multiple systems will be a future goal. We not there yet, Soltis admits.
IT staff who once managed a single operating system are now responsible for managing multiple operating systems in the data center.
“Companies like IBM and others have tried to put together interfaces to the various systems that allow for similar kinds of management capabilities, but mostly they continue to be managed as individual systems,” he says.
The consolidation that has increased during the past 10 years is a return to the centralized computing environments that Soltis was a part of in the days of the System/34, System/36, and the AS/400. The interest in the cloud, Soltis says, is a move toward centralized computing.
Also on the topic of cloud computing, Soltis sees security issues growing in importance.
“Companies looking for more secure cloud environments may look for an MSP (managed service provider) using IBM i or mainframes or they may pull back from using the cloud,” he says.
On the topic of challenges that lie ahead, the world-traveling IBM i advocate picks skills depreciation and application and database modernization as obstacles that need to be overcome. Staff reduction has led to an inability to keep up with technology and a subsequent growth in managed services. Packaged software is replacing home grown applications so that development demands are not as pressing.
“I see a lot of companies giving up a competitive advantage by going to generic third-party software,” Soltis says. “The challenges are not hardware or software. They are really a skills shortage and application modernization.”
On the positive side, Soltis notes that the system is supporting more languages than ever and development environments like PowerRuby, for instance, will entice younger developers to be interested in the platform.
“We need to make sure that people can expand their skill sets,” Soltis says.
For those who missed the original webcast, it has been archived and is available at this link.