Industry Speaks: IBM i Predictions For 2020, Part 2
January 22, 2020 Alex Woodie
What will happen in the IBM i community in 2020? It’s a question that’s worth some speculation, particularly from members of the IBM i community who have given it some thought. Here is our second (and final) batch of community predictions for 2020.
The IBM i platform has been chugging along for 32 years (or 40 if you count the S/38). Do you really think this will be the year that it goes kaput? Trevor Perry certainly doesn’t think so, and you probably shouldn’t, either.
“There will be continued predictions of the demise of IBM i throughout 2020,” the IBM i rabble rouser writes. “It is key, however, to determine what those naysayers have to gain–by migrating a company off the platform. This has been the case for more than a decade and 2020 will see these (un)supporters continue to attempt to sway companies to pay them money to replace IBM i. They’ll continue to bluster and make little headway.”
IBM i turns 12 as a platform this year, which is longer than any of its predecessors, Perry notes. “If we look at the IBMi25 and IBMi30 efforts, I expect more attention to be paid to IBM i by IBM and its POWER marketing team,” he predicts. “This in turn will have the same effect as the last major milestones and we’ll see an increase in the adoption of IBM i, in upgrades to the most recent IBM i versions, and with more hardware upgrades.”
Profound Logic CEO Alex Roytman expects business in 2020 to continue as it was in 2019, which is reportedly quite well. Additionally, he sees open source software, and in particular, Node.js and Git, gaining traction in the marketplace.
“[We’ll see] an expansion of the scope of modernization strategies beyond the user interface, with a focus on modernizing their code base and architectures to enable more integration,” Roytman says. “The IBM i will continue to be the backbone of their operations, but businesses will see new opportunities to integrate with other systems and data sources. Companies continuing to embrace the cloud, often in hybrid architecture with workloads both on premises and in the cloud. The options for moving portions of the IBM i workload to the cloud will continue to grow, increasing the opportunity for application flexibility and portability.”
You may have a good handle on what systems constitute “core” transactions of record. But new customer touchpoints have proliferated as part of digital transformation, and you may want to reconsider your data protection strategies for those systems of engagement, warns IBM i resiliency expert Richard Dolewski, who is CTO at Denovo.
“Systems of record that previously functioned in the background, now include self-service, real-time connections, with endless application touch points spanning across numerous hybrid clouds,” Dolewski says. “In our ‘always-connected world, the flow of information and commerce means around the clock access to data.’ Consumer appetite for self-service and business systems availability means IT must deliver the benefits of a highly secured, highly available Power System deployment.”
The shift away from monolithic architectures will provide grist for the modernization mill at Fresche Solutions. It’s all part of a concerted effort to be smart about modernization.
“There will be a large number of companies transitioning parts of their IBM i workloads from monolithic applications to business-centric service processes,” a Fresche spokesperson says. “This will be due in most part to companies taking advantage of subscription-based licensing and moving to both platforms as a service and applications as a service. There will be a wave of investment at these companies to grow APIs and integration to support these services.”
When it comes to maintaining skilled employees, IBM i shops will be under the gun. “The average age of retirement around the world is 62, and the average age of the baby boom generation is approximately 64, so a large percentage of IBM i developers will be eligible for retirement in 2020,” Fresche says. “Statistics show that five years at one company is now considered a lengthy tenure whereas in the past, IBM i shops benefitted from employees who remained for 35 to 40 years. In addition to skillset shortages, you can no longer count on tribal knowledge. Application knowledge capture, onboarding, training and outsourced management will be top priorities for IBM i shops in 2020.”
Expect the cloud to make big inroads into IBM i accounts, predicts Bob Losey. “IBM i hosting continues to have strong appeal with IBM i users that have 1) uncertain future (not sure when new ERP will be online) and 2) users that need IBM i technical continuity (generally, IBM i talent is retiring). IBMs recent 8202-E4D End of Service Announcements will cause more ‘new’ IBM i hosting prospects to look.”
With the rise of cloud environments, managing application deployments just go tougher. That’s an area of need, says Michel Mouchon, CTO of ARCAD Software.
“The benefits of cloud technology on IBM i will be felt first in the area of test automation,” Mouchon says. “It will become commonplace to spin up temporary test environments in the cloud and provision them automatically. We see this as a game-changer for IBM i. The benefits in terms of scalability and ease of deployment will be dramatic. At ARCAD, we are embracing these changes and already rolling out our DevTestOps solutions for IBM i in the Cloud.
Along with cloud convergence, standard enterprise tools such as Git and Jenkins will grow in importance on IBM i, as will OpenShift as open source “platform-as-a-service” combining DevOps, containers, microservices and Kubernetes on the cloud.”
Capacity planning will see a rebound in 2020, thanks to cloud migrations. And robotic process automation (RPA) will also grow. But don’t take your eye off the security ball in 2020, predicts Tom Huntington, vice president of technical services at HelpSystems.
“Companies are realizing more and more that security is not just about getting breached, but about protecting the reliability of their IBM server,” Huntington says. “So we predict greater emphasis on business resiliency when looking at shoring up security and high availability. And customers are evaluating HA because of the recent release of IBM i 7.4 and DB2 Mirror for IBM i. Driving factors are costs and complications of existing solutions.”
Data is the lifeblood of business in the 21st century. In 2020, IBM i shops will get better database tools for working with data on IBM i, says Birgitta Hauser, an IBM i database expert, Fresche employee, and recently named IBM Champion.
“For the future, I expect much more cool features and new techniques, may be better methods for searching unstructured data or [better] performance optimization,” Hauser says. “I also expect the [combination] of open source programming languages already available on the i and SQL . . . [will deliver] more artificial intelligence (AI) functionality on the i.”
Hauser is a big backer of modernizing legacy applications, which she says is less risky than deploying new applications. One person sharing her sentiment on modernization is Eamon Musallam, who heads up IBM i transformation at Fresche.
“I am seeing firsthand IBM i customers successfully transform their older applications into a modern architecture, and I predict this will become far more prevalent in 2020,” Musallam says. “Transformation truly bridges the gap between modernization, which is generally a fairly cosmetic enhancement, and a full manual re-write, which is extremely risky and expensive.”
That doesn’t mean that IBM i shops are tackling full-blown, Digital Transformation (DT/DX), which only a handful of IBM i customers are doing. Rather, Musallam is talking about the interim step “of updating an older code-base into a modern, MVC [model-view-controller] architecture with a modern normalized DDL database that takes advantage of agile methodologies and modern DevOps technology stacks. Also, IBM i transformation doesn’t necessarily mean replacing RPG with something like Java or PHP, I have been involved in several transformation projects where customers are choosing to transform to RPG Free Format.”
Expect 2020 to bring new disaster recovery options, particularly for smaller companies moving to the cloud, says Simon O’Sullivan, a vice president with Maxava.
“The arrival of IBM i cloud offerings in 2019 is a real game changer and I believe this will gain momentum in 2020,” O’Sullivan says. “Maxava has already migrated live customer workloads to the Skytap Cloud offering. This means that customers can now replicate their data to the cloud and maintain a hot backup to the very latest transaction – without the cost of duplicate infrastructure and a second datacentre. Maxava will be working hard in 2020 to launch this new Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) offering into the mainstream at a price-point that makes it attractive to all IBM i businesses.”
In 2019, cloud and open source were big news. Don’t expect those two ingredients to be left out of the 2020 pie, predicts Dan Magid, who recently founded a new venture called Eradani.
“A few early adopters will make great leaps forward with their applications and with their infrastructure as they take advantage of these powerful new offerings,” Magid says. “Unfortunately, I fear the general IBM i user base will lag in adopting the new options, preferring to stay with the tried and true. Consequently, many of the leading-edge projects that should be built around the IBM i will go to other platforms.”
Magid is more optimistic about one aspect of the IBM i business: the need for a new licensing schemes. “As applications are integrated across the enterprise, pressure will increase on IBM i developers to adopt the same tooling and techniques as their open source colleagues,” he says. “In addition, the new cloud, HA/DR and operations options (like Live Partition Mobility) will push IBM and third party vendors to come up with an alternative to CPU serial/model-based licensing models. This could open up new and better value-based licensing models.”
There’s clear consensus that cloud and open source will be headliners in 2020. But according to Midrange Dynamics’ Stuart Milligan, there’s a clear and present opportunity to focus on the “i” part of IBM i again.
“The most obvious trends that can be predicted with reasonable confidence in 2020 will include IBM i in the cloud, AI, digital transformation, and open source software,” Milligan predicted. “What’s interesting is, without exception, all these publicly debated trends spawn two common requirements: Integration being the first. Ninety percent of all modern integration uses REST. It’s a fairly safe prediction that REST skills and technologies will be a significant un-hyped, unintended-consequence trend in IBM i shops globally.”