2014: The IBM i Year That Was
December 8, 2014 Alex Woodie
My, what a year it has been. Seems like only yesterday we were chatting up what 2014 would bring, and now before we know it, it’s already passed by. From IBM‘s new chips and its old chip business to security hacks and vendor consolidation, it was a fairly eventful year. Here’s a look at the IBM i news highlights from 2014.
Arguably, the highlight of the year from an IBM i news perspective was IBM’s launch of the Power8 processor. It’s always exciting seeing what IBM’s chip experts do with the next generation of the Power architecture, and they didn’t disappointment with Power8.
The 12-core chip is delivered in a 22 nanometer copper and silicon-on insulator (SOI) processes, and features 96 MB of L3 cache and integrated PCI-Express and NUMA controllers. Those integrated controllers allow up to 16 processors to be linked together in a single system image, and make Power8 a complete I/O monster, with 951 GB per second sec of aggregate bandwidth to the motherboard, 1.7 times more than Power7. The chips started rolling out in lower end machines this spring, and were followed by the launch of bigger iron this fall.
Industry consolidation continued in our little niche of the IT market characterized by the little letter “i.” In February Quadrant Software bought BCD Software, uniting a company focused on Web development and application modernization (BCD) with another offering document and content management (Quadrant). In April, the IBM i press lost a long-standing member of the contingent when Penton announced it was ceasing publication of its IBM i website. In July, IBM i tool juggernaut HelpSystems announced a pair of acquisitions of local firms in the Minneapolis area, including RJS Software Systems, which developed reporting and document management tools, and Coglin Mill, which developed an IBM i-based ETL tool. And we had a pair of acquisitions in September, when Fresche Legacy bought looksoftware, combining two vendors that have positioned themselves in the modernization space, and Micro Focus bought Attachmate, combining two giants in the emulation field.
One would be remiss not to mention a pair of IBM divestitures, starting with IBM’s selloff of the System x business in January for $2.3 billion to Lenovo, the Chinese firm that happily absorbed IBM’s PC business years prior. IBM followed that up in October by selling off its entire chip business to GlobalFoundaries–only instead of receiving money for the chip confabs, IBM actually paid GlobalFoundaries $1.5 billion to take them off its hands. (You can say a lot of things about IBM, but never say it doesn’t know how to structure a deal.)
2014 was somewhat tame from a legal point of view, and saw the end of several long-running courtroom battles. In April we reported the 4.5-year battle between Maxava and Vision was winding down after both sides signed a settlement agreement. That same month Oracle decided that JD Edwards users should not have free reign to see the entirety of its JD Edwards database tables when it threatened the JDEREF website with legal action and succeeded in forcing it to shutdown. In August, Oracle won a legal fight against Rimini Street when a judge agreed that Rimini had encroached on Oracle copyrights. Oracle won again (are you detecting a pattern here?) in November, when SAP agreed to pay $359 million to Oracle to settle the TomorrowNow lawsuit, which was starting to lose its luster after seven years.
Rochester gave the IBM i world four releases of the IBM i operating system to work and play with this year. It started in April with pair of announcements, including IBM i 7.1 Technology Refresh 8, which brought a number of SQL database enhancements, and IBM i 7.2, which ships with the new Power 8 servers and features a new database security function called row column access control (RCAC), among others.
2014 was also marked by big security problems and massive data breaches. Retail giant Target set the tone for the new year when it revealed that cybercriminals had stolen data from upwards of 70 million customers. It turns out malware installed on the point of sale (POS) system by a cybercriminal hired by an outside consultant was to blame. Later in the year, Home Depot, JP Morgan, and Staples were hit with data breaches of their own, some of which used malware on the POS. This occurred against the backdrop of the CyberVors, a sophisticated Russian cybercriminal ring that stole 1.2 billion user name and password combinations from nearly half a million poorly protected websites.
Meanwhile, vulnerabilities in security software made big news in 2014, starting with the revelation of the Heartbleed vulnerability in OpenSSL in April, and IBM’s decision to patch the Power Systems firmware that same month. Security experts warned that Heartbleed could have exposed billions of passwords and credit card numbers used on the Internet as far back as 2011. Not to be outdone, the so-called POODLE vulnerability in SSL 3.0 was discovered by Google researchers in September, prompting system and application vendors to undergo another massive round of patches and updates to fix the flaw–and more POODLE patches are on the way, IBM warns.
The OpenPower Foundation continued to gain steam after its founding in 2013. OpenPower member Google in April revealed a Power8-based motherboard while in October Taiwanese motherboard and system maker Tyan announced the delivery of its first Power8-based reference server, codenamed Palmetto, which retails for about $2,800. Unfortunately, neither Google’s motherboard nor Tyan’s reference server will run IBM i.
The IBM i job market, meanwhile, had its ups and downs. While IT workers in general can expect to see a seeing a healthy 3 percent average raise in 2015, IBM i workers in some parts of the country, like Southern California, are struggling to find permanent positions. The trend has its roots in several factors, including the intra-generational shift to a temporary workforce, the fact that different areas of the U.S. are expanding at different rates, and the glut of IBM i pros stuck with legacy skills. Groups like IBM’s Power Systems Academic Initiative, the Global Skills Initiative, and COMMON continued to emphasize the need for Power Systems pros to re-tool with modern skills such as SQL, PHP, and free-format RPG.