IBM i Community Predictions For 2022, Part 1
January 10, 2022 Alex Woodie
While the month and year ostensibly are just values in the date field, when the calendar flips over from December to January, things feel different. There’s a greater sense of hope and optimism for what the new year will bring. Coming off another calamitous year filled with COVID-19, perhaps it’s we need that even more so this year.
It has become an IT Jungle tradition to ask members of the IBM i community at the start of the year for their predictions. This year is no different, and so we’ll kick off the first part of our (most likely) two-part series of IBM i predictions for 2022.
VS Code has been in the IBM i news lately, and that trend will continue this year, says Susan Ganter, an IBM i educator.
“I predict that recent activity related to VS Code plug-ins targeting RPGers will become a driving force behind a trend to push RPG developers still using green-screen to update their toolset,” Ganter tells IT Jungle. “I don’t think that everyone moving away from green screen development will choose VS Code, but I do think the availability of additional options in the marketplace will open the eyes of more green-screeners to investigate better options.”
RDi has been the only major green-screen alternative for a long time. “It’s my own personal tool of choice,” Ganter writes, “but it’s not the right tool for everyone. I believe that increasing buzz surrounding offerings such as Liam Allan’s open-source VS Code plug-in, Code for IBM i will cause RPGers to reconsider sticking to the outdated green screen tools. They have not only RDi and Code for IBM i to look at. Remain Software has recently made enhancements to MiWorkplace, bringing it up to date as another option to add to the list. Perhaps more options will emerge as well.
“Regardless of which tool they choose, I support the move away from SEU/PDM tools,” she continues. “Other tools will support modern RPG language enhancements and can dramatically increase productivity.”
Stuart Milligan, a solutions architect with Midrange Dynamics, a provider of DevOps and change management systems (CMS) for IBM i, sees more REST integration happening in the midrange. Keeping a handle on all those moving parts will be tough for the roll-your-own crowd, he says.
“Companies with an investment in their IBM i applications are using REST APIs to expose existing logic to open-source technology UIs or for partner integration. Real-time integration using REST APIs has proven globally to be a rapid, and cost-effective strategy for organizations to leverage existing applications and data, while still growing functionality that keeps them competitive. This trend will continue in 2022.”
“Software development requirements are being driven more granularly, and directly, by business stakeholders than ever before,” Milligan continues. “Combined with distributed architecture, there is real pressure from the business to synchronize, continuously integrate, and deploy changes by different teams without errors, while providing real-time project and task updates to stakeholders. Some brave souls have attempted to solve this complex problem using a DIY DevOps approach. However, the constantly evolving landscape of DevOps and developing business applications, forces most IBM i shops to follow the growing trend to replace legacy CMS, and home-grown disconnected parts with modern, purpose-built IBM i DevOps solutions.”
Chris Wey, president of the Power Systems Business at Rocket Software, sees the cloud looming large for IBM i shops in the new year.
“In 2022, hybrid cloud becomes an integral part of the modernization strategy for companies large and small,” Wey writes. “As IBM i owners learn more about their application workflows and usage patterns, they better understand which applications and workloads are better suited for the cloud, thus expanding their modernization projects to embrace those operational efficiencies.”
The cloud is also on the mind of Tom Huntington, the executive vice president of technical solutions at HelpSystems, particularly as IBM prepares to deliver another souped-up server to the IBM i installed base.
“Organizations on IBM i will start to rethink their move to the cloud as they realize their company is now dependent on technology they have no control over,” Huntington writes. “This realization energizes the roll-out of Power10 as it becomes the fastest adopted new server by the IBM i marketplace.”
IBM i shops will recognize that a mix of cloud and on-prem is more acceptable, he continues. “Organizations want to get current for security reasons and on-premise for IBM i is the right choice for reliability and control,” Huntington says. “So I believe we will see a surge in upgrading the IBM i operating systems and Power hardware in 2022 as a result. Leading organizations will also focus on integrating their IBM i applications with the cloud for modernization (APIs) as the adopted model.”
Open source has been a major factor in the IBM i equation, and undoubtedly will continue to be one, according to Jon Paris, an IBM i educator. But where does that leave traditional languages like RPG and COBOL?
“Personally, I’m hoping to see IBM make it a lot simpler to integrate open source apps with conventional RPG and COBOL,” Paris writes. “Many people have provided tooling to try and simplify the process but in some ways that just makes it harder for integration novices to choose. Since IBM have been placing so much emphasis on integration via SQL perhaps that is a vehicle that they could explore. Or perhaps RPG will provide the much-needed OS bridgework?
“Regardless, RPG will continue to grow,” Paris tells IT Jungle. “I am constantly impressed by the work the Toronto team have done in recent years to keep the language relevant and am sure trend that will continue but while I have no knowledge of what is to come, I do know that RFEs have a major impact on the direction that the RPG team takes. How do I know? Because a couple of my own RFEs have been accepted and implemented in the past couple of years! If you haven’t kept up to date with recent changes in RPG you should really check out IBM’s RPG Cafe where you will also find information on how to submit your own RFEs.”
Christopher Burns, a senior consultant with Tri-Delta Resources Corp, sees an old talking point reemerging from the shadows – only this time, with more muscle.
“Mom and Pop IBM i shops found even entry level Power7 servers to be far more horsepower than they ever needed,” Burns tells IT Jungle. “Imagine when Power10s hit the store shelves. And while cloud hosting has become readily available, it doesn’t always make sense for smaller, budget conscious customers, or those whose local Internet service may be unpredictable. Plus, they may have Windows server based applications in house that exchange data with their IBM i based applications through a simple ODBC connection or IFS share. Splitting these two siblings up could get complicated . . . and expensive. Hence, I predict that chatter will once again call for an abstraction layer, perhaps open source, that would allow Windows Server to run reliably on Power hardware in a guest partition. Such a move would make Power the most flexible server line on the planet, simplify IT for small businesses everywhere and consolidate workloads like never before. Might just be chatter, but it’ll be loud chatter.”
Power10 is waiting in the wings – and so is the next release of IBM i, says Pete Massiello, president of iTech Solutions Group, the Connecticut-based IBM i reseller, consultancy, and cloud services provider.
“2022 will be an exciting year for the IBM i community,” Massiello writes. “We know that iNext will be released, and IBM executives have publicly called this release 7.5. In addition, we know the low-end Power10 servers will be coming, so with those two items alone it will be a great year. IBM i 7.5 is filled with lots of great new enhancements.”
“In other areas, I see people continuing their move from spinning and SSD drives to NVMe,” the Champion for Power continues. “Much faster, and at about the same cost as spinning disks, this is a no-brainer. We have also seen many more people moving to external storage from internal storage, and with the added functionality that external storage brings, I see that trend continuing. I have yet to see any traction with Db2 Mirror for i, and perhaps now with 7.5 out this year, we will see people finally start to implement this great technology.”
In 2022, modernization and transformation of IBM i systems shifts from a “nice to have” to a “mandatory requirement,” according to Michael Killian, the vice president of sales for Profound Logic, which develops Web and mobile modernization tools for IBM i.
“Depletion of RPG resources is no longer on the horizon; it is happening and has happened,” Killian writes. “Certainly, organizations with plans to grow and thrive in the upcoming decade must capitalize on legacy assets to move them forward and position themselves for success now, especially because genuine transformations take multiple years, and our community has a ticking time-bomb as we get closer to 2030 (the year in which most RPG programmers will have already retired).
“The key to garnering transformation success is to partner with experts that offer a flexible combination of transformation automation, integration (systems, application, and data), and proven yet state-of-the-art new development solutions,” he continues. Profound is ready to help, he adds.
The pending demise of RPG has been greatly exaggerated, according to Roger Pence, the longtime product evangelist for IBM i development tool provider ASNA. But that doesn’t mean we (or i) is out of the woods. Far from it, in fact.
“For decades, midrange pundits have been predicting the impending death of RPG,” Pence pens. “History has shown them wrong. Like COBOL, RPG isn’t going to die. But they were close. It’s not the language that’s going to fade away, it’s the RPG programmers.
“By 2030, most RPG programmers will be, or rapidly approaching, 80 years old,” he continues. “Without their cadre of RPG programmers to maintain their system of record RPG applications, the business in is peril. The business can’t persist without those RPG applications.”
But wait! The bad news gets even worse, Pence says. “Not only is this generation of RPG programmers on the cusp of retirement, young programmers haven’t, and won’t, enter the RPG pipeline,” he continues. “Programming/IT college graduates today are highly unlikely to have encountered either the IBM i or RPG in any of their academic studies. The IBM i and its RPG programming language simply aren’t on any young programmer’s radar today. The reality is that most IBM i shops with an RPG dependence have a crisis coming very soon and need to plan today to avoid that crisis.”
The Db2 for i database has been a focus of attention by IBM for the past few years. That trend will continue in the new year, predicts Paul Tuohy, the host of the popular iTalk with Tuohy podcast.
“I think database and SQL enhancements will continue, as expected,” Tuohy writes. “This will probably include tweaks to the JSON and web services functionality. But I think there will be an extra push in the area of SQL IBM i Services: they are at the heart of new IBM i Navigator web interface and also provide a means of sharing system, performance and operations information with more generic ops/admin applications.
“Open source will continue to be one of the major areas of enhancement,” he continues. “It is way outside my area of expertise but it will be fun to see what new open source functionality is introduced to IBM i in 2022.”
Stay tuned for our next batch of IBM i predictions for 2022.