2022: An IBM i Year In Review: Part 2
December 19, 2022 Alex Woodie
In part one of this now annual recap of the IBM i world that we do here at IT Jungle, we reminisced on the biggest stories of the first six months of the year. There was quite a bit going on, with the launch of IBM i 7.5 and more. But getting into the last half of the year – now that’s where the real action began.
The first full month of summer started off with a bang when IBM, after much anticipation, unveiled the long-awaited scale-out Power10 machines. The Power10 rollout included the S1014, with up to eight cores per system; the S1022s, with up to 16 cores per system; the S1022 and L1022, with up to 40 cores per system; and the S1024 and L1024, with up to 48 cores per system. The prices on the new systems are higher than with the equivalent Power9 systems, Steve Sibley, IBM vice president of Power product management says. But with the improved performance, customers are getting more bang for their buck, he says.
There’s no doubt that application modernization and digital transformation is a hot topic. We’ve just lived through a case of punctuated equilibrium when it comes to information systems, driven by COVID-19 and related dynamics. But when it comes to planning a digital transformation for your business, don’t get caught up in the hype, warns Chris Koppe, the senior vice president of strategy, transformation, and modernization services at Fresche Solutions. Set your business requirements, and the technology will follow.
Driven by the rise of the cloud and the promise of digital transformation, moving away from IBM big iron has become fashionable, and as a result, we’ve seen a number of companies profess plans to move away from IBM i. Early this summer, a FedEx executive declared on an analyst call that it would turn off the last “mainframe” within two years, as it was moving entirely to the cloud. What did he mean by mainframe? There’s evidence to suggest that he was only referring to the System Z, not IBM i running on Power.
There’s a considerable amount of legacy analytics code from the SAS out there, which is a tribute to the language and its importance to business. Companies that are hesitant to pay the SAS Institute for SAS runtimes were given a new runtime option this summer from Altair, which acquired the SAS environment following the conclusion of a lawsuit. The good news is the new WPS Analytics runs on IBM i too.
How does the new Power1050 midrange machine stand up against similarly sized X86 platforms running Windows Server or Linux and an Oracle or Microsoft database? TPM ran the numbers as supplied by the system vendors for the SPECjbb test and SAP SD application benchmarks. The four-socket Power10 machine had considerably better performance than systems from Lenovo and HPE, but figuring out what the price-performance had to wait for another day.
What about the Power S1022? TPM gathered the relevant benchmark data for this entry level box and comparable systems, and concluded that it had a 2.4X higher performance per-core, and a 2.3X advantage on price/performance. The catch: this was a Red Hat Linux box running TensorFlow machine learning workloads, not an IBM i box running transactional code.
Just after Labor Day, IBM rolled out a full subscription offering that bundles a Power S1014 server with a 25-user license for IBM i. Users get the four-core box with one core activated for IBM i and 64 GB of memory, all for $50 per user per month – or cheaper than an iPhone.
IBM made a big change in how it distributes open source software for the IBM i platform this month. Instead of using a single RPM repository to distribute the software for all releases of the IBM i operating system, as has been the case for the past five years, IBM switched to delivering software through operating system-specific releases. The change was made to address difficulties that have arisen in the use of a single repo for all releases of IBM i, the company says.
There are a lot of myths out there: the existence of Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and space aliens, for starters. But there are also myths to look out for when it comes to application modernization, including that digital transformations are quick, that they’re painless, and they can be outsourced so it’s out of your hair. Luckily, we know better than that here in the IT Jungle.
The fall Technology Refreshes landed right on schedule in early October, bringing a host of new functionality in IBM i 7.5 TR1 and 7.4 TR7. In addition to enhancements to security (which is a big priority now among IBM i shops), these releases introduce some interesting new capabilities, including Watson-based geospatial capabilities for Db2 and a debugger for Merlin.
We knew the end of IBM i 7.3 was coming, and IBM made it official early this fall. IBM will stop selling the aging operating system, which was first released in April 2016, at the end of April 2023. It will end standard support for 7.3 at the end of September 2023. Of course, chances are good that there will be extended support offered for 7.3, but IBM hasn’t announced that yet.
Things were looking pretty good for Power Systems revenues in the third quarter. At least, that’s the conclusion that TPM came do after doing some number finagling, since IBM doesn’t explicitly break out server sales from its Power Systems – er, its Hybrid Platforms & Solutions – division. Best as TPM could tell, Power Systems sales were up 13 percent to $216 million in the third quarter, while Power-based storage brought in $52 million, up 15.6 percent. For full fiscal 2022, this revenue should be up modestly from last year.
IBM officially unveiled a plan to bring the Microsoft .NET runtime to Power, contradicting what it told IT Jungle earlier in the year that it had no such plans. This is good news for Power customers that would like to run .NET applications on Power, as well as the potential to steal workloads from Windows. The Db2 for i database driver, however, is not yet ready.
With inflation running at a 40-year high, you knew they were coming, and they finally arrived in November. That’s right – we’re talking about price hikes, and IBM made a number of them for customers outside of the U.S. buying Power Systems, IBM Storage, and distributed software products. Incidentally, none of the price hikes (which IBM called a price “harmonization”) impacted IBM i software.
My, how things have changed in the IBM i app dev world, at least when it comes to IBM. Remember when Rational Developer for i (RDi) was pretty much it when it came to IBM-sanctioned products? Well, with the launch of Merlin, which sports a browser-based VS Code core, those days are over. Another VS Code product vying for attention is Code for IBM i, which adds ILE extensions to the popular Microsoft IDE.
Think the fall 2022 Tech Refresh cycle only included 7.5 TR1 and 7.4 TR7? Think again. Once again, IBM slipped out a secret TR for IBM i 7.3. While it isn’t an “official” technology refresh, IBM i 7.3 TR13 is a definite thing, even though IBM will stop selling IBM i 7.3 in about four months.
No good deed goes unpunished. That’s what IBM figured out after it patched a security flaw in WebSphere Liberty earlier this fall, only to have Web services start to fail as a result of the patch. The issue impacts customers running SOAP services in IWS and IAS.
We’re in the midst of a severe worker shortage, which has resulted many jobs going unfilled. It turns out there are also unfilled positions on two of the most prominent advisory councils that advise IBM on the direction of IBM i, including the COMMON Americas Advisory Council (CAAC) and COMMON Europe Advisory Council (CEAC).
That’s it for this year! We’ll see you back here in 2023.