Worrying about the future of IBMi? Here are some facts!

Aug 17, 2020 Anjan Barman

In the late 80s, the concept of enterprise systems was nascent and business leaders were in the dark about the implications of running operations with a disruptive system with tightly integrated hardware, software, security, and database. By 1987, IBM had already introduced the world to its path-breaking System38 along with a complete product line-System3, System/32, System/34, and System/36. Once it launched the new AS400 with operating system OS400 and RPG language in 1988, the platform took the world by storm. It was a highly stable system with excellent documentation, foolproof operations, and robust applications. What made it unique was that the OS was object-oriented from the beginning, implying that everything was an object and not a file. However, not many realized that even after 3 decades of its launch, with focused efforts by IBM through aggressive features and updates, AS400 would continue to be the bedrock of mission-critical tasks at countless large and modestly-sized organizations.

AS400 is still the real deal

A recently conducted survey of IBM users reveals that the majority of enterprises still have 75-100% of their workload on AS400. Organizations still betting big on the platform succinctly reflects its enduring legacy.

Scalable: Starting with a 4-core server, the system can be scaled all the way up to 256-cores. Instances of users’ process requirements outgrowing the system are rare, if any.

Secure: With hardy and bulletproof built-in security features, objects in OS/400 are self-described and monitored. When configured with the right software, AS400/IBM i’s security barriers are impossible to breach.

Reliable: With integrated database, security, networking, web services, and storage management, AS400 is built for enterprise-class reliability.

A study suggests that the average Windows server suffers 224.5 hours of unplanned outages annually, compared to IBM i's 5.2 hours.

Compatible: IBM i/AS400 can evolve and get increasingly robust to meet all modern business needs. It embraces a healthy mix of native and open source development languages to give users a definite competitive edge.

Myths surrounding AS400

AS400 is a dying platform: With only 4% of AS400 users migrating from the platform and over 64% users reinvesting in it, your AS400 environment is anything but obsolete. It continues to meet even the most complex business requirements

AS400 talent is retiring: Some AS400 veterans have retired while the majority is approaching retirement, creating the perception that AS400 maintenance is difficult and expensive as newer programmers are not interested in it. However, with a little advanced planning, users can have a robust talent transition process and unhindered access to AS400 resources.

Only green screen applications: Modernization efforts can transform the green screens into interfaces that today’s user demands, thus bridging the generation gap. AS400 application modernization is a low-risk and cost-effective way to conserve intellectual property and leverage investment.

RPG is obsolete: RPG certainly began a long time ago but like any modern coding language, IBM has kept it up to speed with timely changes and enhancements.

Not web-enabled: It has been over a decade since AS400 was internet-enabled. Whereas most servers have limited web access, AS400 has no limits on the number of users who can access the site simultaneously.

It’s expensive: This would have been a plausible statement 2 decades ago, but to stay in the race, IBM has updated their price model and today its economics are comparable to any other enterprise systems in use.

Scarcity of compatible applications: That’s the myth; the truth is that the iSeries market is still very strong for enterprise software. With countless solutions available, all you need is a competent partner to transform the face of your existing AS400 application landscape.

The following can’t be reasons for parting with your AS400 environment

Compatibility with modern technology: Your AS400 setup can continue to be the workhorse that powers your organization’s operations. Thoughtful moves from IBM over the years in tandem with the changing needs of users have evolved the system into what we today know as IBM Power Systems. The latest 9th generation IBM Power 9 processors are very capable of running AIX, IBM i, and Linux.

Overheads: The availability of PowerVM in IBM Power Systems causes massive hardware redundancy. This reduces the complexity of administration as well as energy costs. Users get a good range of AS400 options ranging from the moderately priced, entry-level systems to high power servers for larger enterprise operations.

Performance: With CPUs 3-5 times more powerful than competitors, AS400 is the best bet for applications that require extremely high performance and low downtime. Furthermore, when the setup is hosted on the cloud, ultra-high uptime, enhanced flexibility, and simplified internal IT become the default reality in daily operations.

Migration is profitable: A widespread lie is that moving from AS400 to any ‘modern’ environment is easy, effective, and cost-efficient. The fact is that migration is a massive undertaking that involves multiple stakeholders and factors such as change management and replacement/rewriting of systems, which incur time, expense, and risk. On the flip side, web enablement of AS400 with a GUI, and extending system functionality, enable wider access to users from any device.

IBM iSeries – Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow

While some ill-informed users believe that the time-tested AS400 system can get them only so far and no further, the facts state otherwise. Having its roots from the past is not a shortcoming but the biggest strength of AS400. IBM didn’t build the system to be time-bounded and has enhanced the platform with time through regular updates in the software and hardware.

Today, IBM i is in perfect sync with the requirements of the market on every front, and major cloud services such as Microsoft Azure, Google, Amazon, and IBM itself are aggressively exploring the possibilities of boosting the capabilities of AS400 with cloud power.

Nalashaa’s AS400 expertise at your service

While the capabilities and relevance of AS400 have been established beyond doubt, finding the right resources to harness the system is a genuine concern. As AS400 specialists are scarce these days, users are on a constant lookout for AS400 solution experts to realize the maximum capabilities of the system at minimal costs. This is where Nalashaa’s AS400 expertise enters the scene. Over the years, we have enabled enterprises to take their AS400 setup to the next level with custom modernization, cloud migration, and support to combat modern business challenges. While we assume the responsibility for the optimal performance of your operations, you can adjust your focus on the other strategic fronts of your organization.

Anjan Barman

Anjan Barman is a technology enthusiast with primary interests in the applications and possibilities of Cloud, RPA, AI, CRM, and the like in modern businesses. He loves exploring how innovations help organizations improve their efficiency while reducing the operating costs and presents the same in an atypical way. His other indulgences are non-fiction paperbacks, oriental music, and cricket.