Investment And Integration Indicators For IBM i
January 22, 2018 Dan Burger
Steve Will can talk a blue streak. IBM, sometimes referred to as Big Blue, pays Will to do that. As chief architect of the IBM i operating system, he has a lot of other responsibilities, too. One of them is to listen. He travels around the world talking with and listening to IBM i customers.
Last week, Will stopped by Southern California to attend the OCEAN user group meeting in Orange County. In his keynote session, he talked about IBM i strategy (that’s a bigger part of his job than listening), investments, and commitment to the future of the platform. The audience seemed to appreciate the reassurance he provided.
The chief architect and number one evangelist for IBM i would be pleased if that was true. He spends a lot of time reassuring the flock. Investments and integrations, he hopes, will calm some jittery nerves and provide evidence that this platform is as modern as the next one. If he could erase the platform’s association with being old-school IT, he would, no doubt, experience great joy. And please don’t call this computer system by its original name: the AS/400. Will took a moment to note the IBM i name has been around for 10 years. The AS/400 brand lasted 12 years. In two years, when the IBM i brand passes the AS/400 brand in longevity, Will joked that any references to the modern system as an AS/400 should disappear.
Within a few months, the Power9 servers for IBM i, AIX, and Linux will be introduced. Will remained purposely vague on a precise announcement date, but I’d bet on March. It sounds like it’s pretty much buttoned up already. When the day arrives, it will also be time to announce the latest Technology Refreshes – TR4 for i 7.3 and TR8 for 7.2. Details on the TRs remained in Will’s pocket, as expected.
Will provided a hint of a timeline on the next release of the operating system. If you keep track of such things, OS releases used to be on a four-year cycle. But then came the separation between 7.2 and 7.3, which was only two years. “Personally, I like the number three,” Will said, indicating that iNext will arrive in 2019.
“Because we are no longer tied to hardware releases, I can bring out a major OS release when it makes sense. Our customers tell us two years is too short. They can’t consume a new release that quickly. Our ISV base told us four years between OSes is way too long. Plus, the new functions we have decided for the next couple of releases are big enough that it will take more than two years to complete.”
If you want to know more about Power9, IT Jungle has published many stories already and there will be more stories to come as the launch date draws near. It remains a safe bet, based on past Technology Refreshes, that we will once again see data and the database taking a leading role. Organizations are looking for new insights and more value from their data. The TRs have, for the most part, been showing how to get more out of the database and the data. Will says he hears this often during his discussions with end users and independent software vendors (ISVs). IBM i is a single-level storage, relational database system. Will says it will continue enhancing that system, while also focusing on the next thing you can do with your data.
“We continue to be a database platform,” Will said, while also making a point that investing in the core technology that runs businesses is the top priority.
There is remarkable growth in enterprise data, Will says while emphasizing the word enterprise. That point is often lost when the discussion moves to unstructured data and the new ways of collecting and analyzing it. IBM i is a transactional data work horse and businesses continue to get value from that. Will’s message is that shops still need to collect transactional data and IBM i is being enhanced to keep up with an increasingly rapid flow of enterprise data. Technologies such as temporal support and OLAP Aggregation move DB2 for i forward in terms of analytic capabilities and are indicators that IBM is investing in i.
Much of what Will had to say during his presentation was in support of IBM still investing in i.
In the future, Will envisions IBM i shops continuing to run transactional workloads as before and enhancing the data with the new, unstructured stuff. Although the unstructured data will not be housed on IBM i because unstructured data doesn’t fit well in a record-structured database. So, you have two databases feeding Watson, which is designed to analyze both structured and unstructured data.
Will suggests IBM i shops are on the verge of transitioning from an era of big data to the cognitive computing era, and that a data bridge is being built to get cognitive computing into the strategies of IBM i customers preparing for the future of IT. Advancements in OLAP is one example he provides to illustrate how users can do analytics on the box rather than buying another box. Row and column access and authority selection were additional TR enhancements that demonstrate investment in i.
Integrating cognitive computing with IBM i was emphasized in Will’s presentation. Creating a business value and avoiding a migration to another platform was also prominent.
The HelpSystems 2018 IBM i Marketplace Survey, released last week, popped up in Will’s presentation. It showed more than 92 percent of IBM i shops believe IBM i offers the best return on investment compared to other platforms. Part of the credit, the chief architect says, goes to the continual integration of new technology that benefits business outcomes.
“We give value on this platform,” Will said. “We look at the things you will need soon. We don’t have open source integration because so many people are saying they need it now, but we believe that a majority will need open source in the future. If you leave i to go to another platform, thinking there is little or no value in i, you will spend about twice as much money on an ongoing basis to get the same capabilities. And that doesn’t take into consideration the investment in moving the data to the non-IBM i platform,” he says while referencing an IBM white paper comparison of ROI involving IBM i, Windows and Linux.