LUG Talks About IBM i Priorities
January 29, 2018 Alex Woodie
The Large User Group (LUG) held its first meeting of the year last week at the IBM lab in Rochester, Minnesota. While LUG members use the IBM i platform differently than your average mid-sized company, their experiences, concerns, and vision for the future of the platform are relevant to the community as a whole. We caught up with two LUG members last week to get the low down on the i tech.
The LUG is a private organization that keeps the identities of its members confidential. Because the overall IBM i ecosystem is relatively small, the LUG requested that IT Jungle not use the last names of the two representatives that it made available last week. Accordingly, we’ll refer to the LUG-ites as “Dutch” and “Dave” for the remainder of this story.
LUG members meet three times a year, and each meeting is held in Rochester. The first meeting of the year is dedicated to high-level strategic discussions of the platform, while the other two meetings are used to explore one specific topic in great depth.
For last week’s meeting, the LUG got a preview from the leaders of the IBM i platform of Big Blue’s upcoming announcements, including the roll-out of Power9-based servers and a new operating system technology refresh that’s expected to take place in the coming months.
The LUG also used last week’s meeting to identify five major IBM i-related topics that it wanted to explore more deeply with IBM, including making specific recommendations to IBM about the direction it thinks IBM should take. According to Dutch, the top five topics that it engaged IBM leadership on during last week’s meeting included: application development; system management; security; availability and recoverability; and platform awareness.
Because much of the discussions at the LUG meeting were covered under a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), Dutch and Dave could not share specifics about the discussion. However, they were able to talk at a high-level about the general concerns they have in each area.
Discussions on application development often went hand in hand with discussions about application modernization. The LUG talked about “the importance we felt modernization represents and how that can affect the longevity of the platform,” Dutch said.
Not all LUG members are equally active on the application development front (although, somewhat surprisingly, in an informal survey, more than half indicated they’re using Java to write apps on the platform). But for those that do a fair amount of their own development, discussions on the future of application development and the significance of modernization were important, Dave said.
“At what point do we modernize? Where’s the benefit,” Dave said. “To hear about the tooling that IBM has been pushing from an application development and modernization perspective, it’s well received within the member companies to help them plan their development cycles.”
Discussions around systems management centered on automation, with a particular emphasis on meshing existing systems management tools and techniques with emerging requirements around DevOps.
“Within my organization, there’s a bigger and bigger push for agile development and DevOps moving forward,” Dutch said. “We see that as important on the platform.”
(While the DevOps story may resonate more strongly with larger organizations that have bigger budgets and a need to align complex and multi-platform IT strategies, it’s a trend appears to be gaining steam across the entire IT industry. That means it’s probably just a matter of time before the DevOps lessons of early adopters trickle out to the IBM i masses and becomes mainstream.)
In regards to security, much of the LUG’s focus was on encryption and keeping the platform compliant with emerging regulations, Dutch said.
There was also a strong focus on the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the new law that goes into effect May 25 that requires companies to have strict controls in place to protect the private data of European citizens.
“GDPR right now is very hot among a lot of the LUG customers,” Dave said. “We’re trying to figure out how we, as members, embrace GDPR, what it means to us, and how we’re going to react.”
Availability and Recoverability
The LUG has historically been a big driver of new availability and recoverability capabilities on the IBM i platform, and there’s no sign that it’s letting up now.
“We focused on the fact that our downtime windows are shrinking, that we’re expected to do more with less time,” Dave said. “We need IBM to follow that general theme of less downtime with more enhancements…We’ve been pushing IBM pretty hard on that.”
The LUG is also active on the platform awareness front, which will probably bring a smile to the face of any IBM i professional who’s been perplexed by the platform’s perpetual low-profile.
“If we see something that we think IBM needs to address to help the platform continue to be seen in positive light,” Dutch said, “we have a couple of recommendations in that area.”
It wasn’t given its own sub-head, but there’s one more topic that’s always on the minds of the biggest IBM i shops: storage. While the LUG members couldn’t talk about what kind of new storage gear IBM has planned, it’s clear they spent a decent amount of time spent talking with IBM about the future of storage on IBM i, particularly as it relates to the high-end DS8000 line, as well as the SVC and Storwize gear.
“We talked about the all-flash arrays and we talked about a couple other offerings in the pipelines,” Dutch said. “We talked about general industry trends, of ‘Here’s where we see the industry moving on flash technology’ and ‘Here’s how we intend to use them in this environment.'”
Asked if IBM communicated plans to the LUG that it’s planning to stop including spinning disks in its systems as solid-state flash drives get bigger and cheaper, as IBM’s business line executive for storage told IT Jungle about a year ago, Dave indicated that nobody from Rochester told the LUG that spinning disk is going away.
“That’s a great question,” Dave said. “I will honestly say we did not get into that from strategic perspective. But it was not mentioned that they’re getting rid of it.”
Dutch said spinning disk is key technology for his organization. “If IBM were to announce or to say that spinning disk was coming to an end,” he said, “it would be something that I would have to adjust my business on. So it’s something we absolutely want to hear.”
The LUG meets next in June, when the topic will be systems management. The September meeting will focus on application development. For more information about the LUG, check out its website at http://www.the-lug.com.