Big Blue Changes Gears Slightly With IBM i TR Plan
April 6, 2020 Alex Woodie
The coronavirus has infected over a million people around the globe and forced hundreds of millions of employees to work from home. But it won’t stop IBM from announcing the next batch of Technology Refreshes, ostensibly IBM i version 7.4 TR2 and IBM i version 7.3 TR8, sometime in the next couple of weeks. Its plans for sharing the information, however, have changed.
IBM has essentially shuttered its lab in Rochester, Minnesota, which falls under that state’s social distancing orders to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. More than 80 percent of the United States is under such an order, which has shut down large components of the American economy for the time being. Most the folks on the IBM i team who would normally work in giant Rochester building are now working from home (although the company is still hosting some meetings there).
These are trying times, and IBM is coping with the new COVID-19 work requirements along with everybody else. While IBM i chief architect Steve Will says he likes working from home, he laments that it is not the same as meeting and talking with people face to face. As the global face of IBM i, Will maintains an extensive travel schedule, which has been curtailed due to the virus.
But what COVID-19 won’t do is significantly alter the delivery of the next batch of TRs, Will says in his March 24 You and i column that appears in IBM Systems Magazine, which is IBM’s in-house magazine. “…[W]e are still marching towards delivering our spring Technology Refresh (TR) in mid-April,” he writes.
The cancelation of numerous events this spring – including COMMON’s POWERUp 2020 conference, which was intended to be a showcase for the new TRs – has forced IBM to change plans slightly, Will says.
“…[E]ven though the events have been cancelled, the IBM i team continues to march toward delivering new Technology Refreshes (we do one each spring and one each fall),” Will writes in his column. “We still want to get that information out to the IBM i community.”
In addition to the cancellation of the POWERUp 2020 conference that was scheduled for April 19-23 in Atlanta, Georgia, IBM Technical University, the RPG & DB2 Summit, COMMON Europe Congress, and IBM Think conferences were also cancelled or switched to online-only events.
With the spring conference season upended due to the COVID-19 travel ban and stay-at-home order, IBM was forced to switch gears around the unveiling of the next batch of TRs, which IBM has not publicly announced. Will says IBM will likely use webcasts to spread the word of the next TRs, which will most likely be called IBM i 7.4 TR2 and IBM i 7.3 TR8 (although IBM hasn’t officially announced this).
“We’re working right now with a multilayer plan for doing webcasts,” Will writes in his column. “We will have a schedule, soon to bring you a short series of webcasts (Five? Six? Eight?), which will cover topics we would have highlighted at the events.” There will also be recorded webcasts that users can watch offline, he says.
IBM has not yet announced the day and time of the webcasts, besides a commitment for announcing the TRs in “mid-April.” Nor has it said what venues they will be using to make them. “We are still on track to deliver our next technical refresh for IBM i on the same cadence as we have in the past,” an IBM spokesperson told IT Jungle. “The IBM i team is putting together several tools to make sure that the information is disseminated and you’ll be seeing those when the TR goes live.”
If history is any guide, it’s likely that IBM would have planned to unveil IBM i version 7.4 TR2 and IBM i version 7.3 TR8 next week. IBM likes to make announcements on Tuesdays, which would have made April 14 the likeliest day. For comparison’s sake, it announced IBM i version 7.4 and IBM i version 7.3 TR6 last year on April 23, and in 2018, it announced IBM i 7.2 TR8 and 7.3 TR4 on February 13.
COMMON still figures to play prominently in the dissemination of the TR content. While the user group canceled the POWERUp event that was to take place in Atlanta in two weeks, it has scrambled to put together a “Virtual Summit” that will take place in early May.
According to COMMON president Larry Bolhuis, the virtual conference would hold approximately 150 sessions, including discussions and even a vendor Expo component. “Our virtual event pipeline is pretty full, and we keep adding more to it so that we continue to deliver even greater value to our membership,” Bolhuis tells IT Jungle.
As soon as we hear any news about the announcement of 7.4 TR2 and 7.3 TR8 – and more importantly, what enhancements they bring to IBM i shops – we will let you know.