Industry Speaks: IBM i Predictions for 2020, Part 1
January 20, 2020 Alex Woodie
We are three weeks into 2020, and that New Year smell hasn’t worn off yet. As time rolls on, the IBM i community will certainly get down to business. In the meantime, here are industry predictions from nine community members to read.
For Alan Seiden, the CEO of Seiden Group and an IBM Champion for Power, risk management will be a common theme for how they approach IT staffing in 2020.
“IBM i shops have traditionally operated in a lean manner, relying on key individuals who knew their systems intimately,” Seiden says. “Now, with IT staff managing more projects than ever, new technology entering, and senior staff retiring, companies are looking for reliable partner organizations to supplement internal continuity and support. In the same vein, I see DevOps automation and disaster recovery solutions on the minds of CIOs.”
Charles Guarino, an IBM Power Champion and president of Central Park Data Systems, sees bright days ahead for application development, both with SQL and IBM i’s “native” language, RPG.
“With all the recent enhancements to SQL for non-database programming, its rise will be obvious, and long overdue,” he writes “What has taken many lines of code in the past can now be accomplished using new native SQL functions. With ACS’ Run SQL scripts providing lots of examples, adopting these new techniques has never been easier.
“RPG will remain as the dominant core programming language, particularly since it continues to be enhanced by IBM,” he continues. “However, the availability of native wizards and open source tooling have proven their worth as complimentary and strategic. For example, more demands than ever are on applications to communicate with the outside world. Delivery of information is no longer in the form of a printout, but more often as a spreadsheet, email, JSON, HTTP POST, etc. Open source tooling gives applications a quicker on-ramp to achieve these requirements. The user community is far less forgiving that it has been in the past, and expectations are high, and will be higher still in 2020. Continuous incremental delivery is the order of the day. Ignoring existing and newer tools in favor of manual coding increases time to test and deploy.”
Guarino says we have passed the tipping point when it comes to modifying legacy code instead of truly modernizing it. “Even the rewrite of a few frequently used but poorly written sections of code will provide deeper understanding and quicker function turnaround, all of which have significant ROI,” he says. “That SEU has not been syntax upgraded in over a dozen years, and given the numerous enhancements to RPG, SEU has long taken its last gasp as a modern editor. RDi, with its recent refactoring enhancements will help in the effort to deliver better code more quickly. And I fully expect this to continue throughout the year.”
Torbjörn Appehl, an IBM Champion for Power and the owner of a new business, Built on Power Europe, is optimistic on what 2020 will bring.
“Prediction number one. I will be very successful with my newly started company, Built on Power Europe, where I will work with IBM Europe in the new ISV Ecosystem Revitalization initiative they have launched both in the US and Europe,” he says.
Appehl’s next prediction regarding storage sounds more like a desire, although it could come to pass, with a little luck. “Storage is a mix of already-available technology that I think will grow a lot this year,” he says. “NVMe, for example, you can buy today. As I am from Sweden and early in February, there will be a big worldwide announcement done from here. I have high hopes about it.”
Appehl sees the availability of open source on IBM i as the key to spurring investment in the platform, particularly when it comes to front-end frameworks. But open source will also impact backend tech. “Docker technologies such as Openshift from RedHat will hopefully be available on IBM i during 2020 making the platform even more mainstream,” he says. “The use of Git will grow even further. WebQuery will be used in all IBM i installations when people start understanding how powerful the tool is even with the simplest version that they can install within minutes. There will for sure be new technology refresh versions distributed with many magic things included. That one is for sure not a wish list but a true prediction.”
The future of IBM i is not as bright in the eyes of Bob Cancilla, who runs a consulting firm in Southern California.
“I’m seeing major companies continuing to migrate away from their IBM i technology with a major focus on cloud based alternatives based on Amazon and Microsoft Azure based systems,” Cancilla writes. “The install base is shrinking rapidly. Additionally the pool of IBM i developers is shrinking due to retirement and some moving away from legacy technologies.”
We have seen large numbers of companies move to the cloud in recent years. But don’t be fooled into thinking that one must go all the way to the cloud – you can keep one foot on-prem and the other in the cloud, says Romi Stein of OpenLegacy.
“In 2020 more enterprises will realize that hybrid IT is here to stay and that it should be treated as a goal rather than a transitional state,” Stein says. “This realization would lead to an increased interest in hybrid architectures and tools and would drive a need to simplify environments, in order not to manage both complex on-prem and cloud at the same time. Tools like serverless function clouds would gain traction as a way to simplify IT and seamless integration between cloud and on-prem would be a growing need.”
For Marinus van Sandwyk, CEO of TEMBO Technology Lab, the time to truly modernize existing applications and to make the shift to advanced and data-centric application architectures will have a big advantage, particular as data becomes the lifeblood of companies.
“There will be growing recognition for the value caught up in the heritage (legacy) databases and applications, and that the heritage applications on the IBM i platform provides substantial competitive advantage to their users,” he writes.
“The impact of 4IR [fourth industrial revolution] will start to disrupt older business models in greater numbers and much higher (severe) impact, for those companies that do not seek to remove the constraints in their heritage applications,” van Sandwyk continues. “Authentically modernized heritage applications will provide dramatic ROI to their users/businesses, with more instant predictions and fulfilment choices.”
The small and midsize market (SMB) has been relatively quiet lately. But 2020 could be a year that shakes that, according to van Sandwyk and Matt Henderson, the CEO of e-PFR Technologies.
“In 2020, we see the IBM i market, especially the SMB portion, greatly accelerating its embrace of the global economy and digital interaction through web services and microservices,” Henderson says. “This will have a tremendous impact on their B2B and B2C relationships – and open up a host of new opportunities. Although late to the web world party, the IBM i community is poised for a major breakout in this arena.”
With so much data being generated practically everywhere, keeping tabs on it getting harder and harder. That trend is impacting consumers as well as businesses, says Jim Kandrac, president of UCG Technologies.
“Security continues to be number one on our clients’ agendas,” Kandrac says. “Insurance companies are no longer suggesting,’ but rather mandating clients protect, educate themselves, and prove they are taking proper steps to ensure protection. More vertical-specific SaaS solutions are needed to serve specific niches and while larger organizations will look to COLO or cloud operations for IBM i, the SMB space will lean toward staying with IBM i on prem vs. public cloud.”
Cynthia Fortlage, formerly the CIO of a large IBM i shop in Winnipeg, Canada, sees AI usage growing in the installed base. “We will see greater integration and leverage of AI within applications and system operations through 2020 and beyond,” she says.
Bob Cozzi, a longtime IBM i professional and an IT Jungle contributor, ponders the 40-year run that the IBM i platform (in its original System/38 form) has enjoyed so far, and wonders aloud where it might go from here.
“It is now 40 years since IBM i (in its original form) shipped to customers,” he says. “Back in 1980, System/38 CPF release 1.0 was available. Followed closely by 1.1 and then the first good version, release 2.0. Loading Screen Design Aid back then took five to 20 minutes and the original DFU-based SEU gave way to EDTSRC, which we know today as the long since abandoned Edit Source which most still call SEU.”
“In 2020, I predict that most companies are looking to data analysis through the use of query tools, such as SQL to perform in-house data mining,” he continues. “They’ll be looking at how best to query their own data and how to use those results effectively. The days of sending out gigabytes of CSV files with IBM i Db2 tables didn’t materialize a real-world benefit in many cases. Companies today, want to utilize the power of their Power9 servers and all the performance that it brings to the table.”
In some cases, IBM i shops will look to RPG IV to accomplish data mining, but they may want to reconsider. “I predict most of those shops will find the project ultimately outsourced when they fail to deliver good results in a timely manner,” Cozzi says. “The shops that embrace SQL as not just an OPNQRYF replacement but as a real programming language and utilize it as such, will be able to deliver more promising and long-lasting results.”
Sure you can ship gigabytes of data to some firm to generate an expensive report for you. “But won’t that report will be virtually out of date by the time it gets delivered?” he asks. “IBM i shops need to utilize tools that embrace SQL in 2020 in order to provide the kind of environment that allows them to get the job done right.”
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our IBM i predictions roundup in a future issue of The Four Hundred.