Three IBM i Trends To Watch This Year
January 10, 2018 Alex Woodie
Happy New Year! As we roll out of bed and shake off the cobwebs of 2017, it’s worth taking some time to think about what 2018 will bring to the IBM i ecosystem, and what it could mean to IBM i professionals, in hopes of getting off to a hot (or maybe just less cold) start to the new year.
Here are three big trends to keep an eye on as the months gradually turn into a year. It starts off with everybody’s favorite topic, security.
1. Focus on Security
When the calendar flipped to 2017, there was a palpable shift in the IBM i community towards a defensive posture marked by heavier investments in protective technologies and processes, notably IT security and high availability. This trend was confirmed by surveys conducted early in the year by HelpSystems and Vision Solutions.
That shift turned out to be somewhat prescient, as we continued to watch security breach after security breach made public, capped by the extraordinary Equifax data breach in late summer. Mother Nature dealt back-to-back blows in the fall by landing multiple major hurricanes on Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico.
2017 was a year for IT living dangerously, and the trend lines show no signs of letting up for 2018. In fact, we could see even more focus on information security this year, thanks to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) officially going into full effect this May. The recently disclosed “Spectre” and “Meltdown” security flaws that impact nearly all of the world’s computer chips – including all Power-based systems going back to Power7 – only exacerbates a looming sense that nothing is safe and that the black hats are outpacing the good guys.
2. Modernization Stems Migrations
As we mentioned, 2017 was marked by a defensive pivot, and one of the IT endeavors that took a hit was application modernization. In fact, according to Help Systems’ helpful survey, application modernization dropped from first place to third place on IBM i shops’ list of IT priorities, behind security and HA. What’s more, the number of IBM i pros saying modernizing applications was a high priority dropped by nearly 10 percentage points; mobile access suffered a setback, too.
While we’re unlikely to see a slowdown in efforts to shore up security and HA protection, there needs to be a renewed effort to modernize old applications if the IBM i ecosystem is going to maintain what’s left of its size and stability. IBM has demonstrated a remarkable capability to adapt the IBM i server and its predecessors to new technologies, and now it’s time for the IBM i community to adopt them.
The IBM i server already offers a sizable total cost of ownership (TCO) advantage compared to Windows- and Linux-based systems, if IBM’s recent TCO study is to be believed. Now the platform needs to prove that it can run the modern applications that businesses demand if it’s going to continue its remarkable run of relevancy and shore up losses to those shiny new Windows and Linux systems that less-informed CIOs secretly covet.
3. Power9 Rollout and Adoption
Here’s a piece of good news for an otherwise dismal forecast: IBM i shops will get their hands on new systems running the new Power9 chip this year. (Can we get a “whoopee”?)
IBM rolled out its Power9-based system, the AC922 “Witherspoon” hybrid server that’s chock full of GPUs and aimed at high-end HPC and AI workloads, late last year. While that server is overkill for IBM i workloads (and doesn’t run IBM i, anyway), it demonstrated that IBM is serious about delivering an affordable high-performance hybrid server.
As IBM rolls out general purpose Power9 machines for running IBM i workloads later this year, it will inevitably kick start higher spending levels across the IBM i ecosystem. The entire Power9 server rollout will jumpstart spending across the spectrum: from the small and medium size business that’s finally moving off that old Power5 machine, to the Large User Group (LUG) account looking for a performance edge, and across all the resellers, business partners, and service providers who cater to these accounts.
With any luck, the application modernization push and the Power9-driven IT spending uptick will come together to create a solid base upon which the IBM i community can gain its footing, address legacy concerns, and continue to deliver solid business results for the foreseeable future.