2019: An IBM i Year To Review
December 16, 2019 Alex Woodie
And. . . stop! Put down your pencils, class. The test is over. We have made it through another year. Well, okay, we have almost made it through most of this year. But with just two weeks left, now is the time to wrap it all up and revisit the biggest IBM i stories to make news in the year that was 2019.
It all started back in January, when…
IBM jacked up the prices on IBM Lab Services engagements by more than 10 percent. Whereas it used to cost $3,125 per day to have the benefit of an IBM expert working on your Power Systems, it now costs $3,500 per day. That’s quite a bit money to spend for one person for a day. But in light of the considerable abilities these Lab Services folks bring to the table in areas like Db2 Mirror, AI, performance optimization, and security, it could very well be worth it.
Every January for the past four years, we’ve come to look forward to the release of HelpSystems’ IBM i Marketplace Survey. Last year, IT Jungle’s inestimable editor in chief, Timothy Prickett Morgan, took to the Web to participate in a live presentation of the yearly findings. TPM will be at it again next on January 16, 2020, when the new survey is released (you can register here).
There were 12 IBM i professionals among the 2019 crop of IBM Champions that Big Blue uncorked around the beginning of the year. The dozen joined two dozen existing champions, resulting in – count ‘em – three dozen IBM i champions, ha ha ha!
We’ve grown accustomed to thinking of the IBM i market as a shrinking one, with decreasing revenues. But the Power Systems server bucked that trend in February, when IBM revealed that sales over the past 10 years or so were actually better than first reported. In fact, from 2015 to the end of 2018, the growth wasn’t half bad.
Domino has a devoted following on IBM i, but those followers wandered the business collaboration wilderness for 10 long years between major new releases. IBM and its new development partner HCL Technologies righted the Domino-on-IBM-i ship by delivering Domino and Notes version 10 early in the month. No word when the next major release will be.
The IBM i server installed base is not what it used to be. There are a lot of reasons for that, but one of the most compelling is the lack of a suitably priced entry-level box that small businesses can get going on quickly and easily, TPM writes in this essay. That’s one way that IBM could rebuild the base of its pyramid.
Maybe it was the dismal winter or a vitamin deficiency, but we just couldn’t let Bloomberg’s Businessweek story, “Cities are Running on Software From the 1980s,” go. The truth is, many cities actually are running on RPG and COBOL code from the 1970s – and they were working just fine, until those meddling technology directors messed it all up!
The IBM i server got some more mainstream publicity in March in an eWeek story titled IBM i: The Most Amazing IBM Product You’ve Never Heard Of. The story’s author, industry analyst Ron Enderle, told IT Jungle he was tired of the computer industry always chasing the “latest sparkly thing,” even if that thing turns into a giant headache. “I remember when boring was good,” he said.
The midrange community had the biggest announcement of the year on April 22, when IBM announced IBM i version 7.4. The star attraction of the release is Db2 Mirror, an active-active database mirroring technology that will eliminate the database as a single point of failure in campus settings. Also released was IBM i version 7.3 Technology Refresh 6.
IBM ceased supporting Power6 gear on April 1 (no joke), and ended support for Power7 on October 1 (also not a joke). Amazingly, a growing number of IBM i customers appear to be choosing to run old systems without hardware support from IBM. Replacing broken disk drive and power supplies is one thing, but fixing firmware is a different beast entirely.
IBM committed to supporting NVM-Express flash drives with IBM i servers in a “statement of direction” accompanied IBM’s April announcement. The new drives will go far in keeping IBM i servers on the cutting edge of hardware innovation.
The midrange community converged at Disneyland this month for COMMON’s annual conference, called POWERUp. The IT Jungle team was there too, providing coverage of the show from its temporary office at the Tiki Bar, despite the ongoing threat of volcanic eruptions.
While at POWERUp, the future of Power Systems hardware was divulged to TPM by Steve Sibley, IBM’s VP of offerings for Cognitive Systems. The roadmap is long and wide, and involves faster Power10 CPUs (expected in 2021), as you would expect, but also whole lot of other enhancements at other layers of the stack, including memory, network, and specialty processors.
The IBM i 7.4 and IBM i 7.3 TR6 announcements helped us fill several newsletters this month, as we dove into every possible angle, including this piece on Db2 Mirror, how RPG and COBOL were improved, the new Access Client Solutions and database enhancements, the security improvements with 7.4, and the arrival of R to the platform.
SQL is one of the most popular computer languages in the world, and it’s fully supported on IBM i. TPM chatted with Simon Hutchinson, the author of the popular RPGPGM.com blog, about the history of SQL in the IBM i community, and whether it’s being used to its full extent on the platform (hint: it’s not).
The IBM i community has its fair share of older folks who are nearing retirement, so it’s important to recognize that younger people are working on the platform too. To that end, IBM unveiled its latest crop of Fresh Faces, composed of eight men and women from around the world who are working on IBM i.
Think you need a four-year college degree to have a career on the IBM i server? If you’re Jim Buck, a longtime IBM i educator from the state of Wisconsin, you definitely know that a degree is not necessary. And with Buck’s new online education company, inPower Technologies, hitting its stride, the opportunity to get a quality IBM i education has never been greater.
IBM closed the $34 billion deal to buy Red Hat this month, bringing with it a host of new open source technologies. While the Red Hat deal isn’t expected to have an immediate impact on IBM i, there are some interesting possibilities when it comes to developing modern hybrid systems to replace legacy systems.
Big Blue’s Power Systems server business eked out a 1 percent gain in revenue for the second quarter (3 percent at constant currency). It wasn’t much, but as the saying goes, it sure beats a sharp stick in the i.
We’re told the future is cloud. We’re told that all the time. So it’s nice to see some IBM i software actually embracing that directive, including one vendor offer an ERP system for just $400 per month for three years.
During the dog days of summer, the news tends to slow down just a tad. Luckily, the IT Jungle team is ready to provide in-depth analysis of the computing issues of the day, including what the next decade of processing will look like (hint: things will get a little hairy).
The biggest thing to happen to IBM i security in recent years is the authority collection, which debuted with IBM i 7.3 in 2016 But is this the right approach? Some in the IBM i security have their doubts whether the authority collection is the best way.
The opening of the Power chip architecture continued this month, when IBM announced that it was open sourcing the ISA, or the instruction set architecture, for Power at the Hot Chips conference. The tact could have ramifications for IBM i shops.
The public cloud dreaming for IBM i got real in 2019, with IBM announcing support for the OS back in February, followed by revelations that IBM i and Power Systems were coming to Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure (by way of Skytap), too. The public IBM i clouds on Azure and GCP are expected to be generally available in 2020.
Who do you call when you have a super challenging IBM i project utilizing the latest technologies? Why, IBM Lab Services, of course! The Rochester, Minnesota-based organization, which is headed by longtime IBM i executive Ian Jarman, is a veritable All-Star team of Big Blue technologists.
We don’t know exactly who the Large User Group (LUG) is, since the group keeps its membership a closely guarded secret. But we’re pretty sure they’ve got the best interests of the entire IBM i community at heart. And we’re fairly certain they’re on a mission from a higher power.
The second biggest IBM i story of the year was the announcement of IBM i 7.4 TR1 and 7.3 TR7 during the first week of October. In addition to providing weeks’ worth of content for this newsletter, it also brought a number of important new capabilities to thousands of IBM i shops around the world.
The IT landscape is changing dramatically these days (although it’s still a jungle, of course). One of the most important ways it’s changing is the rise of microservices and its impact on the modernization of monolithic systems which we covered in a two part story (part 1 and part 2).
IBM rolled out the Community Badge Program this month as a way for technology professionals to showcase their talents. The IBM i community was initially given four IBM i-specific badges for contributors, influencers, advocates, and Fresh Faces.
The IBM i faithful have long railed against IBM and its perceived lack of marketing. Brandon Pederson, IBM’s new product marketing manager for IBM i, is aware of that history. But he won’t let it define what he does. So far, he’s off to a great start.
Power10 chips aren’t due for at least another 13 months, but that didn’t stop IBM from killing off some older systems, hardware options, and software offerings. The actions, which will continue through February 2020, included Power 5XX and 7XX gear, specific Fibre Channel adapters, and even IBM i version 6.1.1.
Among overhyped technologies, blockchain may take the cake. But in a weird twist of fate, there’s a blockchain on IBM i story that actually makes sense. Wijnen Van Maele, a Belgium wine retailer, is using blockchain on IBM i to track the course that wine grapes take as they move from the vine to the bottle. That’s one application we can drink to!
Don’t ditch the IBM i server or mainframe for emotional reasons, pleaded two Gartner analysts, who delivered a surprisingly sober assessment of the risks and costs associated with migrating of Big Iron platforms. Could the wider IT world be waking up to the platform differences that IBM i professionals see on a daily basis?
Server sales continued to cool off during the third quarter, with revenue dropping nearly 7 percent from where they were a year ago. The industry still shipped more than 3 million servers valued at about $22 billion, though, so it’s not like anybody’s going hungry in this business.
IBM roiled the IBM i community this fall with a decision to kill the developerWorks Connections website as of December 31, 2019. To its credit, IBM took note of the concern and promised that no developerWorks content will be lost.
That’s it! Those were the 36 most important stories of 2019 (or something close to it). If you’re planning on making news in 2020, drop us a line.