2021: An IBM i Year in Review, Part One
December 13, 2021 Alex Woodie
It’s mid-December. and since nothing much else is going on, let’s take a quick waltz through the IT Jungle archives to see what kind of year it was. It all started back in January, when…
Our esteemed founding editor tried to convince IBM what is plainly obvious: That the IBM i installed base is “still its very largest enterprise computing customer base” (emphasis added). Yes, there are more Red Hat licenses, but when it comes to unique companies, IBM i, with around 120,000 customers around the world, is still tops. Will IBM do the hard work to find a (virtualized) way to bring the long tail of customers still running IBM i 6.1, i5/OS V5R4, and older releases forward? It’s technically possible, TPM writes. But there’s, as yet, no indication form IBM that it will actually do it.
HelpSystems started out 2021 just as it ended 2020: by buying software companies, including a security company and one that develops file transfer software. The Eden Prairie, Minnesota, company would go on to make a number of acquisitions during the year, with a particular (though not exclusive) focus on data security. Can’t say that’s a bad move, even if it doesn’t necessarily address the IBM i-related needs of its IBM i installed base. The company clearly is growing and expanding.
Alan Seiden added “PHP distributor” to his list of professional interests in January when he launched CommunityPlus+, a new PHP runtime for the IBM i. Seiden and his company, Seiden Group, had been doing a lot of work maintaining database connectors for the open source PHP distribution for IBM i, so why not enter into the ballgame itself?
IBM announced the new Champions for Power for 2021 in January. This year’s list featured 13 newly named Champions who had a link to the IBM i platform, to go along with dozens of existing folks who had already been honored by Big Blue for their contribution to the midrange community.
Through the years, the midrange community has grown accustomed to periodic renaming exercises of the platform by IBM. So when IBM unveiled a new IBM i logo in January, there was a sigh of relief that the platform wasn’t getting a new name again. But how long would the new logo last?
HelpSystems debuted its seventh annual IBM i Marketplace Study early in the month. As he is wont to do, TPM joined executives from IBM and HelpSystems to share the results of the survey in a call. The study has become a go-to resource for basic facts about the installed base, and we’re looking forward to what the 2022 study will bring.
Many of us drive used vehicles and live in used houses. So why shouldn’t we run used servers? In February, TPM began his exploration of the used server and storage market – and in particular a little known division of IBM called IBM Global Asset Recovery Services – and he continues this line of inquiry today.
Open source is free, but what about the hidden costs associated with technical support? To put a number on the figure, Big Blue tapped IDC to write a report about it in February, and the answer turns out to be $2.08 million per shop.
Faced with the prospect of a large group of IBM i shops refusing to get the vaccine – er, upgrade – to a new release of the operating system, IBM relented and elected to extend support for IBM i 7.1 through 2024. Let us hope that they make good use of the time.
IBM has invested significant resources in bringing open source technology to IBM i. Moving forward, open source technology will be critical in helping IBM i shops to digitally transform themselves, IBM’s Business Architect for Open Source Jesse Gorzinski told IT Jungle back in March.
“Steady as she goes.” That old nautical phrase works just as well for servers as it does for sea-going ships, as TPM displayed in a March article on the incredible stability of the IBM i platform and installed base. As the data from the IBM i Marketplace Study shows, from year to year, more IBM i shops plan to keep IBM i workloads the same or grow them compared to the number who plan to shrink them or migrate entirely to another ship – er, server.
TPM may no longer navigate using the compass and sextant (rumor has it he uses a vehicle-mounted GPS to find his way around). But a ruler and a magnifying lens sure came in handy for, ah, “interpreting” the latest server reports from IDC.
What does quantum computing have to do with IBM i? Maybe not much now, but the intersection of the two technologies was within the realm of possibilities at COMMON’s IBM i Futures Conference, which was held this month.
The first big IBM i release came this month in the form of Technology Refreshes for IBM i 7.3 and 7.4. With 7.3 TR10 and 7.4 TR4, IBM delivered a range of new enhancements, including a new Query Supervisor, which was arguably the headliner of the spring show. Other enhancements targeted IBM i and DB2 for i services, Rational Development Studio, BRMS and Save/Restore, Db2 Mirror and PowerHA, and IBM delivered new hardware options, too.
After using the same logo for two months, IBM decided to move on, and introduced another new logo this month along with the April 13 TR announcement. There are no indications that IBM plans to change the logo again as of this writing.
For years, IBM i users looked to the IBM Knowledge Center for technical information on the platform. This month, Big Blue finally completed the migration of the Knowledge Center content to the new IBM Documentation site.
For 17 years, PowerTech delivered mostly bad news about the state of IBM i security in its annual State of IBM i Security report. From too many powerful use profiles and weak passwords to wide open exit points and a lack of auditing capabilities, the state of security has been mostly depressing. What did the 18th year bring? You can find out here.
IBM had a decent first quarter, with overall sales up nearly 1 percent to $17.8 billion. A healthy mainframe business led the Systems Group to a 4.3 percent rise, but sales of Power Systems systems was down a bit in anticipation of the new Power10 line.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on business, in more than one way. From work-from-home and the shift to digital interactions to chaos in the consumer goods supply chain, the coronavirus has given the old business a jar hearty shake. What are the long-term consequences? It’s tough to say, but Macro4 sought answers with a survey released this month.
IBM reported a major bug in IBM i Access Client Solutions in May, leading users of ACS 184.108.40.206 to have difficulty connecting to servers. In lieu of a new release of ACS, IT Jungle shared a workaround that appeared to work.
The concept of “zero trust security” has been building, thanks to the ransomware epidemic that started around this time in 2020. In May, one of the purveyors of this approach to locking down all internal resources (or “micro segmentation”) and requiring explicit authority for access, Guardicore, announced it was extending support to IBM i. Guardicore was subsequently acquired by Akamai in September.
Recessions don’t cause technology transitions – they accelerate them. With that in mind, it’s not surprising to see investments in machine learning and AI booming during COVID-19. How will IBM i shops react to the phenomena? That has yet to be seen.
With COVID-19 infections waning thanks to the availability of vaccines, COMMON decided to host a hybrid conference this month. NAViGATE brought short 20-minute sessions to in-person and online attendees, and was conducted live.
The IBM i is denigrated by detractors as an old, archaic system that doesn’t take advantage of new technologies. But those who are actually familiar with the platform know that’s not true. During a May webinar, IBMers Tim Rowe, Kris Whitey, and Brad Bentley provided the proof of IBM i’s modernity.
COVID-19 certainly disrupted business, but it wasn’t all bad news for IBM i shops, according to IBM i Chief Architect Steve Will, who noted that many IBM i shops enjoyed increased revenue. That in turn helped IBM sell more servers, Will said during a NAViGATE session.
As IBM and its new foundry partner, Samsung Electronics, ramped up production of Power10 chips, the world found out just how much trouble IBM had with its Power9 foundry partner, GlobalFoundries, thanks in part to a lawsuit that IBM filed against Globalfoundries in June.
IBM contracted with Forrester Consulting to put some numbers behind IBM i characteristics that we all take for granted: low total-cost-of-ownership, its integrated nature, and self-management. Over a three-year period, a hypothetical IBM i shop saved close to $1 million compared to other platforms, the study found.
The stay relevant in the future, IBM i shops will need to make the move to “next gen applications,” according to IBM’s Will. Marked by code segmented into microservices, external REST communications, and the ability to run in the cloud, next gen apps be the future of modern IBM i apps, he said.
The IBM i platform turned 33 years old this month, putting it into rarified air among technology products in today’s hyperactive age. Like TPM’s favored LPs, there’s just something about record-level access.
So you want to do containerized microservices in the cloud? Great! So does every other business executive, according to IBM’s modernization expert Amy Anderson. How does the IBM i square that peg? You might be surprised.
Stay tuned for the second half of this retrospective in the Wednesday issue of The Four Hundred.