The AS/400 platform (a.k.a. iSeries or IBM i) is behind the scenes at many organizations around the world, reliably storing trillions of records and running the large-scale applications that power their business.
The advantages of this platform have been obvious to its user community—who are its most stalwart supporters—for decades. But this community is in the midst of a demographic shift. Many of the most experienced AS/400 resources are reaching retirement age.
IT managers hoping to find new IBM i talent to fill their shoes are discovering that the pool of experienced RPG programmers and operators or administrators with intimate knowledge of the operating system and the applications that run on it is small.
This begs the question: How will you manage the platform that supports such a big part of your business?
This guide offers strategies and software suggestions to help you plan IT staffing and resources and smooth the transition after your AS/400 talent retires. Read on to learn:
- Why IBM i skills depletion is a top concern
- How leading organizations are coping
- Where automation will make the biggest impact
What’s Wrong with Retirement?
Ask almost any IBM i user in the business and they’ll proudly tell you how they got their start back in the System/38 or AS/400 days. Many of these experienced IT professionals are directly responsible for building and managing the processes that have kept their company running for years.
The problem with retirement is not only do you lose a reliable worker, but all their knowledge and experience goes right out the door with them.
Even though the 2019 IBM i Marketplace Survey Results indicate that 49 percent of respondents include IBM i skills depletion as a top concern while planning their IT environment, companies are clearly choosing to stay with the platform.
For 71 percent of survey respondents, IBM i runs over half of their business-critical applications and a whopping 92 percent believe that their IBM i server provides a better ROI than other servers.
There are many applications available for IBM i that run critical functions for many companies today. In some cases, these applications have been heavily customized to fit the business rather than forcing the business to fit the software. In other cases, companies have developed their own applications to run unique portions of their business where packaged software was not available. In either case, this software may have been in place for a long period of time since IBM i has always been known for upward compatibility.
However, the 2019 IBM i Marketplace Survey Results also suggest that the interface for at least a third of this software is the green screen. Green screen is comfortable and familiar to veteran AS/400 operators, administrators, and developers, but it can also come across as antiquated.
Some CIOs, IT managers, and IT directors might think it’s time to replace this legacy-looking technology, despite the fact that the business rules created in-house on IBM applications are unique and highly competitive.
Luckily, such a costly project is completely unnecessary. The underlying hardware and operating system are robust and secure, and IT leadership can turn to modern applications from software vendors that make the work on IBM i look good, really good.
In fact, the survey results show that 43 percent of IBM i shops anticipate no change to their IBM i environment and another 24 percent plan to increase their IBM i footprint.
Over the years, IBM i has cemented its reputation for reliability. A 2017 study from Quark + Lepton reaffirmed that the cost of downtime at IBM i shops averaged 72 percent less than Windows and 79 percent less than x86 Linux servers.
Even with robust features, including the ability to support multiple environments simultaneously—from legacy green screen to Java, PHP, and web servers—from a single server, this high-caliber platform has a low total cost of ownership (TCO). The ITG study showed that TCO for IBM i over three years is 64 percent less than an equivalent Windows solution and 66 percent less than an x86 solution.