Round Three of IBM i Predictions for 2016
January 20, 2016 Alex Woodie
The one constant in this universe is change, and the IBM i business is no different. The server platform is now in its fourth decade of service, counting go back to the System/3 days, and the pace of technological change in the business IT sector demands agility at many levels. In our third and final installment of our annual IBM i predictions, we have predictions from five IBM i pros about the changes we can expect this year.
Bob Langieri director of IT recruiting at Excel Technical Services
“I continue to see a slow but demeaning departure of some longtime IBM iSeries-AS400 shops drifting to other platforms like Windows, AIX, Oracle, and SAP. While there are thousands of IBM i RPG shops, it seems like a letdown when I hear of another shop leaving the platform. I have not seen or heard of a single new installation (first time IBM i) in Southern California in the last five years and possibly 10 years. In the 1970s and 1980s, I would find four to five new sites per month. I grew my database from about 40 sites in 1975-76 to over 4,000 by the late 1990s.
“I advise RPG programmers to learn PHP, VB.Net, HTML, JQuery along with other open source tools. They need to convince their C-level execs why they need to update all–not just some–of the old legacy code to ILE and free. IBM needs to gear more advertising about the advantages of the best platform they have for SMBs to grow with.”
“Mobile and cloud will continue to dominate the spectrum. But I see more companies leveraging the Internet than ever before. We were watching a trend in 2015 that appears to be growing where more companies are adopting open source solutions like PHP into mission critical roles. Not just writing or porting applications, but actually implementing open source software like Mediawiki for online documentation and Joomla or Drupal for managing the company intranet. There will always be the IBM i customer who will max out their box, but more and more we are seeing folks at the lower end of the processor-demand scale realizing that they can add workload to the best machine in their shop and consolidate out those pesky Intel boxes. The newest Linux on Power initiatives will finally start taking root and growing in the typical IBM i installation. Again, those customers who do not head to the cloud will seriously explore the consolidation model as price pressure on systems management continues to accelerate. Also, we are seeing more interest in virtualization. IBM’s initiatives in this space are making the process easier and more cost effective.
“Obviously a major change to the PHP language will be seen on IBM i in the first quarter as the world begins moving toward PHP7. We expect many shops to explore the upgrade path and seriously look at their applications. We’ve already seen some installations, who thought they had ancillary applications, discover after an upgrade that their applications really were mission critical. While the numbers of RPG developers out there ebbs and flows ambiguously, we continue to see IT management teams curious about the IBM i. Now is the best time for IBM i loyalists to start marketing IBM i within their shops–primarily ’cause no one else is gonna do it. IMHO, management ignorance poses the biggest risk to the platform. Many of today’s first-time CIO’s were never exposed to a text interface and may not have an appreciation. Showing off applications using open source technologies like PHP, Python and Node.js gives the shops a chance increasing their already great relevance!”
Alex Roytman, CEO of Profound Logic
“The one thing I can add. . . is that I foresee larger enterprise modernization efforts becoming more popular. What I mean by enterprise modernization is going beyond modernizing the interface only. It involves modernizing all aspects of an IBM i system: the code (going to completely free format RPG and modularizing), the database (DDS to DDL), new UI for existing applications, and providing mobile access.
“It will especially be important to have these modern technologies and practices in place as organizations start hiring new, younger IT talent.”
Marinus van Sandwyk, CEO and founder of TEMBO Tech Lab
“Modernization: We expect a marked increase in the number of companies and customers in the IBM i space that will embark on modernization projects. Competitive pressures will force companies to work a lot smarter with their available data, applications and other resources. There will be a major increase in the awareness of the value of the business data generated (combined with 20 to 30 years of production history) by our heritage applications and how this can be leveraged by cognitive computing/analytics to massive potential value to the business. There will be growing recognition of how structured data can be combined with unstructured (big) data, to provide unparalleled insight into trends, user and customer behavior and early identification of opportunities. This recognition will certainly have an impact on data quality and data governance, an issue neglected by many installations in the IBM i space. The fundamental capabilities of the RPG language on IBM i, will trigger a resurgent interest in RPG. As a high volume commercial OLTP language, combined with its exceptionally tight integration with DB2 (SQL) and the operating system, and the massive investment (read intellectual property) in our heritage application code base, RPG remains a massive untapped asset. The potential ROI is dramatic. Data centricity will (again) become a major consideration. All of this is triggered by the big data/cognitive computing/analytics/Watson awareness/marketing.
“Consolidation in the modernization vendor space: The current modernization space has too many small players with individual, single-dimension solutions and that substantial opportunity exists for consolidation and cooperation, providing full-spectrum modernization solutions. The focus on the user interface is detrimental to long term viability of our heritage applications, as the technical debt is rapidly overtaking the immense value that remains in our heritage applications. As a result, there will be significant announcements in the UI/UX, design recovery/refactoring, documentation tools, software change and configuration and reporting tools (spooled/printed output conversion to PDF/HTML/XML) space, as these disciplines have to work together in order to provide a comprehensive, long term modernization solution. The days for small, single-dimension discrete solutions are numbered. Two companies to watch in this space are Rocket Software and HelpSystems. The early, easy acquisitions/consolidation have already occurred–the more significant, strategic ones are now in the cards. There will be significant activity in this space by the big institutional investors. Both Help and Rocket are exceptionally well positioned. A new coat of paint (UI) simply won’t provide a long term, viable solution.
“Big data: Too much is currently being made of big (unstructured) data, simply due to the immense value we already have in our structured data. The trends and opportunities many companies are trying to exploit in big data, are already there (in our structured data) for the taking at relatively little cost and effort. Augmenting the findings from our structured data with analyzing trends and “hidden pointers” from unstructured data will certainly increase the value and ROI. Having said that, the principle of big data will change the landscape of commercial OLTP forever, especially as cognitive computing matures. Unfortunately, as with any game changing technology, there is too much noise and people jumping on the bandwagon.
“Analytics and cognitive computing: It is here we will see the biggest and most dramatic announcements, with the combination of structured and unstructured data with predictive, real-time based analytics and cognitive suggestions by software. The concept of cognitive computing (that has existed in principle for many years), combined with the power of the processors and storage available today, will certainly change our global computing landscape. IBM i can compete and set the pace globally in high volume commercial OLTP, due to many of the underlying architectural concepts (such as virtualization, single-level storage, imbedded relational database engine, imbedded Watson Content Analytics engine, exceptionally advanced work-management constructs) and capabilities of the platform.
“Recognition of commercial value of production data: There is growing recognition in the entire industry that the value of our heritage application data is immense. There is a lot of debate and grappling of how to quantify the value, but the verdict is almost universal that it is an immense asset. There will be fairly dramatic shifts, especially in the C-suite, of how to leverage and value this asset. It is still very early in the maturity cycle. This recognition will certainly have a significant impact on data quality and data governance, a discipline largely ignored prior to the acknowledgement that was triggered by big data. Significant value is hidden in our production (structured) data and can be more easily and cost efficiently be exploited than big data. Existing data can gradually be augmented with unstructured data, as our users and technical staff come to terms with what can be achieved.
“SaaS and cloud: With all the high profile security breaches, combined with the exceptional capabilities of IBM i/DB2, there will be growing recognition of how well IBM i competes in this space. It is significantly more competitive from a ROI/availability/reliability/TCO perspective. Combined with genuine modernization of the significant software portfolio that remains, the platform can make a dramatic comeback. IBM i/DB2/RPG remains one of the best kept secrets of the industry. The inherent capabilities of the platform positions itself exceptionally well to be a major force in the SaaS space for commercial OLTP applications.”
Ira Chandler, CTO of Curbstone Software
“In the payment space, Curbstone is hearing from our clients that the banks are taking advantage of the card-present (retail) EMV [Europay, MasterCard, and Visa) liability shift to reject the defenses against chargebacks from merchants. This means that the banks are unfairly siding with cardholders who refuse to pay valid charges on their cards. Once the cardholder objects to a charge from his bank, the merchant’s bank (acquirer) gives the merchant the opportunity to present evidence that the charge is valid. What we are hearing more and more is that the banks/acquirers are rejecting the merchants’ evidence of valid charges, and refunding the money to the cardholders out of the merchants’ pockets.
“This is a reversal of the historical defense that the banks/acquirers presented on behalf of the merchants against unscrupulous buyers who fraudulently refuse valid charges. This disturbing trend (and we hear enough instances to call it a trend) seems to have been the result of the transfer of liability to the merchant for use of counterfeit cards, those that have stolen card data written to the mag stripe of an otherwise invalid (or expired) card. The industry, as of October 1, 2015, had refused to honor the payment to merchants for transactions using counterfeit cards, claiming that employing EMV (chip and pin) technology would eliminate that risk. This was a move (proven unsuccessful) to force retailers to deploy expensive new EMV chip and pin gear and software.
“To add insult to injury, huge banks like Capital One, one of the largest card issuers in the US, have de-clawed the EMV chip and PIN technology by refusing to issue chip and PIN cards, and are only issuing chip and signature cards. This has gutted the inherent security of the entire chip and PIN technology that has proven to virtually eliminate card-present fraud in Europe. Chip and PIN is essentially two-factor-authentication, a very powerful security tool. Chip and signature, since signatures are not validated, is a one-factor-authentication, actually less secure than the old debit with PIN cards. Capital One claims it does not want to burden their cardholders with the requirement of remembering a four-digit PIN. Thanks to Capital One and others, we have taken a huge step backwards.
“We are expecting a unification of merchants who are being forced to make technology changes in abbreviated timeframes, and are not being defended by their own banks/acquirers. We see card present fraud reducing due to the slightly more secure chip cards, and we expect online e-commerce fraud to increase, as the purchasers of stolen, readily available card data seek other venues.”