Facing The Challenges Of Upgrading Old Systems With The Cloud
September 18, 2023 Jason Hardy
If you are one of the many IBM i shops that has always created its own applications and that has a long history of investing in the AS/400, iSeries, System i, and IBM i platforms over the past three and a half decades at reasonably regular intervals to keep the hardware and the systems software current, you have it relatively easy and we definitely want to talk to you about your move to the cloud and how we might help.
But if you are one of the many OS/400 and IBM i shops that have, for myriad reasons, gotten stuck on older hardware and software releases, guess what? We want to talk to you, too. Because we don’t just think we can help you – we know we can help you because we have helped others like you.
Still, we have to call them like we see them. It is a simple fact that many OS/400, i5/OS, and IBM i shops have trapped themselves by taking short-term shortcuts and not thinking long term. It happens, and people usually have good short-term reasons for making technical and economic decisions that have long term consequences.
We see a variety of situations out there in the field, and many of them have to do with issues relating to third party applications suites. In some cases, the independent software vendors that created the applications for the OS/400 or i5/OS platforms back in the day are no longer in business, so those applications have not been moved forward to modern IBM i releases on modern Power Systems iron.
In other cases, the software house wants customers to move to a different set of applications it has created – often a suite of apps that is now written in Java instead of the RPG used in the older suite – or they have been acquired by another software vendor that has mothballed the applications after milking customers for support and are encouraging them to move to another suite by high maintenance costs on the old suites and by only adding new features on the software the customers are not currently using. These customers are freeze-dried onto the last OS/400, i5/OS, or IBM i release that their original vendor supported. And every year gets more risky for those applications to stay on older systems.
Sometimes, for budgetary reasons, Power Systems shops using the older operating systems and hardware trapped themselves, creating their own technical debt by not paying for application software maintenance and now they have fallen so far back on code updates and maintenance bills that it is cost prohibitive to get caught up on the maintenance bill and very disruptive to the business to do sequential upgrades to the code. In some cases, with customers being so far behind, if the upgrades were free the business could not take the risk of applying so many system, operating system, and application upgrades, condensing a decade or two of updates into a very intense couple of months.
In other cases, customers with homegrown or third party software have been able to get up to IBM i 7.1 running on Power7, Power7+, or even Power8 iron, and everything is running fine and they are just afraid to change anything. In the past year, if you can believe it, we have brought over five customers running on vintage Power Systems machines that were on OS/400 V5R4 because they had not changed there servers for nearly two decades. This not only happens, but it happens quite a lot. And thankfully, these customers control their own code so there is a way for them to move the code without dire economic consequences.
If it comes down to it, we can get legacy hardware with vintage operating system releases and host your applications on that iron in our datacenter. For instance, we have one customer that for complicated reasons is stuck on Power5-based systems, and we host a Power5 box for them in our datacenter and they understand that this is a best-effort service on our part, with the full knowledge that the older OS/400 and i5/OS releases that run on this machine are not secure against the hacking and malware threats that come in from the modern Internet.
Things get a little bit easier if customers are on IBM i 6.1 or IBM i 7.1, which is still the most popular release in the IBM i installed base according to the best analysis we have seen. If you are starting on Power7 or Power7+, we will get you to a Power8 machine running IBM i 7.1 as a baseline. From there, we can upgrade to you IBM i 7.3 on that Power8 iron and make sure everything is good with your code. But don’t get too comfortable because Power8 machines are going off maintenance soon and IBM i 7.3 will be coming to end of normal support on September 30. If you want to double your Software Maintenance (SWMA) bill to IBM, you can stay there, but it makes sense to move to Power9 or Power10 running on either IBM i 7.4 or IBM i 7.5. Very few of our customers want to be on IBM i 7.5 because IBM i shops are conservative and they like for the operating system to settle down before they move to it. Most will move to IBM i 7.4 and then skip IBM i 7.5 and wait for IBM i 7.6 (or IBM i 8.1 if it is called that) to be in the field for a while before they move to it.
The point is, we keep Power7+, Power8, Power9, and Power10 iron in our fleet, and as long as you show up with the license keys for releases, we can install them for you. Even after the Power8 iron is dead and the Power9 iron is dead, we will keep some around so we have the stepping stones for your future migrations. We build LPARs for you on the next server stone, you do a SAVE 21, we restore from that and it is a sandbox for you to test our applications. It is all firewalled and secure, and you can check it all out before you do the actual move.
From our perspective, we are trying to eliminate the stress of moving to modern hardware and systems software. Let us get you from IBM i 7.1 to IBM i 7.3 on a cloud instance running on either Power8 or Power9 iron. And then some months hence, when you can take a breather, we can move you to IBM i 7.4 and then you can decide at some point in the future to go to IBM i 7.5 or wait for IBM i 7.6. The important thing is, once you move to the cloud, you never have to touch the operating system again. We maintain that for you, and all you worry about is your applications. If you want to be in control of applying PTFs to the partition you rent from us, you can do that, too. That’s your choice. But the point is, you have a choice and you don’t have to do it.
And you never buy more CPW capacity than what you need ever again, which makes the cloud more cost effective than doing a stressful and capital intensive hardware upgrade every five, six, or seven years. If you only need 3,000 CPWs, the minimum amount of CPWs you can buy on a Power10 system is 26,000 CPWs. You can do that if you want, but it is a tremendous waste. Buying a smaller slice of our Power10 systems makes much more sense.
And, we are pretty certain that once you experience us taking care of you in our cloud, you will never want to go back to on premises computing again.
Jason Hardy is director and general manager of Racksquared.
This content was sponsored by Racksquared.