Technology Focus: Virtualization: Clouds in IT's Coffee

Managed Services / SaaS / PaaS / IaaS
  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

Applications and other computer services for in-house users consume plenty of resources. Virtualization enables outsourcing many of those expenses, but does it make sense for IBM i?


Outsourcing application and other computer services is far from an original idea for trimming IT budgets. What holds many enterprises back from taking this step are largely control issues, but it doesn't help that the many terms surrounding this kind of service remain murky. Virtualization, Software as a Service (SaaS), cloud computing, application streaming, and application virtualization all seem to be overlapping terms. Adding to the confusion is that vendors offering such services refer to themselves variously as application service providers, hosted service providers, and service bureaus. Finally, there's the problem that vendors providing such services essentially break down into three main types. It can be perplexing.

You're So Vane

If the weathercock on your IT barn is pointing to virtualization as a new dawn, maybe it's time to define some terms and get you at least pointed in the right direction.


Virtualization is a hot buzzword and in general refers to the ability to use the Internet as your local network for accessing computer services without necessarily having them in the same building with you. What's confusing is that there are four kinds of virtualization, each of which can operate locally or over the Internet:


  • Hardware virtualization is the division of system memory to let different operating systems run on the same machine so that specific applications and other computing services can operate under the OS most efficient for them to use without interfering with each other. Each partition is called a "virtual machine."
  • Network virtualization is a process of viewing all devices on a network logically (often via graphical icons) so they can be managed from a central console.
  • Storage virtualization is similar, letting users control multiple storage devices that may be located in the next room or on another continent. It's the basis for many high-availability and offsite-backup schemes, which unhelpfully use such terms as "virtual tape" to describe their effects.
  • Application virtualization has two meanings. The first is delivering applications to a user from a central server without necessarily having to load that application on the user's machine. The second is the ability to run the same application on different computer platforms (or under different OSes on the same machine) because they're written in a language (such as Java) that has a runtime engine for each OS.


Cloud computing is another popular term for techies in the know, but it follows virtualization's pattern. Here "cloud" replaces the old term "black box" to mean "an entity whose details you don't need to know" and refers to using the Internet as one entity to provide services in the areas of hardware, network, storage, and application virtualization.

You Probably Think This Song Is About You

Hardware, network, and storage virtualization have already become commoditized. Many companies offer these services via the Internet, and if you sign with them, you're committed to using their method, software, and maybe even their hardware. Picking the vendor is the only major decision you get to make.


This is where the hosted service providers step in. They collectively provide the whole buffet of IT functions, generally operating on their machines, though the combinations vary from company to company and can include application virtualization, hosting your company's Web site, infrastructure services (e.g., security, monitoring, business continuity), and Internet access.


Not commoditized yet is the application virtualization aspect, and if that's your interest, you still have some thinking to do. Setting aside the runtime-engine definition, application virtualization has two main branches. To accomplish it, you're either running applications over the Internet that reside on someone else's server, or you're downloading applications to a local machine each time you want to run them.


Client/server computing is the time-honored term for the latter in the IBM i context and is still the most common model for application delivery in most i shops. It simply doesn't require the Internet. But it's expensive because of all the machines, software licenses, and on-staff help desk and programming people that model requires. Using an outside source for software and connecting via the Internet is one way out of that financial lockdown.


SaaS typifies the first branch of application virtualization and is also sometimes called on-demand software. It's the process of leasing rather than buying software licenses. Subscription-based, SaaS software usually runs on someone else's server, and users access it via browser, which means applications can potentially run on any browser-capable device, not just PCs or terminals. Because it's the service provider's problem to worry about licenses and upgrades, the users always get the latest versions of the leased applications without their local IT department having to schedule and accomplish loading new versions or patches. The second branch of app virtualization is the situation in which software is downloaded to the user's machine, which often embodies the concept of application streaming. Here, the user's machine downloads just those parts of an application the user needs when the parts are needed (although obviously streaming can take place in non-Internet environments as well).

Dreaming They'd Be Your Partner

The companies that provide these services have many names. Probably the oldest term is service bureau, which has been with us since the days when enterprises offered software via a private network connection. TCP/IP and HTTP are much cheaper than those private lines used to be, but the concept is the same: software running on a remote server that you get to use.


A more common term for this type of business is application service provider (ASP), except that there are at least three different kinds. Wikipedia defines these as specialist or functional, vertical, and enterprise. The specialist or functional ASP offers a single application or a group of closely related ones. Often, this is simply an additional delivery model for a software vendor that specializes in one kind of application software. You buy licenses to run the software on your machines or take the SaaS option to run it on the vendor's. The vertical ASP focuses on a particular vertical market, such as manufacturing companies, and delivers a group of solutions tailored to that group--for example, accounting, enterprise resource planning, and shop-floor management applications. The most well-known example here is The enterprise ASP offers a spectrum of applications useful to a wide range of businesses, such as applications for human resources, marketing, and financial planning in addition to standard functions such as accounting and billing. (Wikipedia also defines two other ASP types. The local ASP delivers SMB services in a limited area, and the volume ASP provides a single, widely usable package via their own Web site--for example, PayPal.)

Giving Away the Things You Love

Following the ASP model has financial advantages that can't be ignored. In addition to avoiding the expenses of maintaining the machine and personnel infrastructure necessary to support on-premises software and computer services, licensing costs are usually lower. You pay only for what you need, you know what that amount will be every month, and (at least in theory) if the ASP's fees go too high, you can switch to a different ASP. You settle on a service-level agreement with the ASP and get to hold their feet to the fire if they don't perform. An ASP app is likely to be able to easily scale if you need to ramp your business activity up or down. Your IT resources can go to strategic projects and not get bogged down with user handholding.


But of course, using an ASP is not that simple. You have to give up a measure of control in a number of areas. You may be limited to using one-size-fits-all applications unless you're willing to pay extra for custom modifications. You'll become dependent on another enterprise for certain business functions, some of which may be critical. There may be integration difficulties with other applications you're running locally. If there are problems, you can't call the help desk and necessarily get instant top priority, because despite the ASP's best intentions, a hotter fire may be blazing somewhere else for them. And if the Internet itself should ever go down, where are you? That's going to happen, sooner or later. These are all issues you have to consider before switching to an ASP model for application software--and other kinds of virtualization, too.

Where You Should Be All the Time

There's one more question, though, and that is this: does cloud computing and software virtualization really make sense for the System i? The answer is "it depends." On the one hand, the i is known for reliability, and it's the relative lack of reliability of some other platforms that currently helps make virtualization attractive to other companies. Costs for transaction processing and storage on the i are already relatively low; do the loss-of-control aspects make up for any potential lower costs of "virtualizing" some or all of your operations? And switching over won't be cost- or pain-free, either. You will have to carefully think through the cost benefits for your individual enterprise.


Maybe for now, doing nothing or choosing partial adoption just for certain functions is the best answer for many i shops. But the i doesn't exist in a vacuum. Virtualization is attractive to many enterprises for different reasons, and as the computer industry moves forward in embracing this technology, pressure from upper management and users to conform may slowly mount. Whether it makes sense today for your enterprise to use it or not, cloud computing is an area you need to keep a weather eye on.

ASPs for Today's i

If you're interested in exploring an ASP option, here is a selection of some companies offering these services for System i. You can find many of them in the MC Press Buyer's Guide. This list includes the company name and a link to its Web site, with the company's primary applications or market shown in parentheses, where applicable.


Specialist ASPs include JDA Software Group, Inc. (supply chain reporting), Lawson Software (ERP), and SAP (ERP).


Vertical ASPs include DPS, Inc. (distribution), Fiserv, Inc. (financial processing), and MICROS-Retail (retail).


Enterprise ASPs include Aktion Associates, i365 (business continuity), Contemporary Computer Services, Inc., Infocrossing, and Tango/04 Computing Group.

John Ghrist

John Ghrist has been a journalist, programmer, and systems manager in the computer industry since 1982. He has covered the market for IBM i servers and their predecessor platforms for more than a quarter century and has attended more than 25 COMMON conferences. A former editor-in-chief with Defense Computing and a senior editor with SystemiNEWS, John has written and edited hundreds of articles and blogs for more than a dozen print and electronic publications. You can reach him at



Support MC Press Online





  • White Paper: Node.js for Enterprise IBM i Modernization

    SB Profound WP 5539

    If your business is thinking about modernizing your legacy IBM i (also known as AS/400 or iSeries) applications, you will want to read this white paper first!

    Download this paper and learn how Node.js can ensure that you:
    - Modernize on-time and budget - no more lengthy, costly, disruptive app rewrites!
    - Retain your IBM i systems of record
    - Find and hire new development talent
    - Integrate new Node.js applications with your existing RPG, Java, .Net, and PHP apps
    - Extend your IBM i capabilties to include Watson API, Cloud, and Internet of Things

    Read Node.js for Enterprise IBM i Modernization Now!


  • Profound Logic Solution Guide

    SB Profound WP 5539More than ever, there is a demand for IT to deliver innovation.
    Your IBM i has been an essential part of your business operations for years. However, your organization may struggle to maintain the current system and implement new projects.
    The thousands of customers we've worked with and surveyed state that expectations regarding the digital footprint and vision of the companyare not aligned with the current IT environment.

    Get your copy of this important guide today!


  • 2022 IBM i Marketplace Survey Results

    Fortra2022 marks the eighth edition of the IBM i Marketplace Survey Results. Each year, Fortra captures data on how businesses use the IBM i platform and the IT and cybersecurity initiatives it supports.

    Over the years, this survey has become a true industry benchmark, revealing to readers the trends that are shaping and driving the market and providing insight into what the future may bring for this technology.

  • Brunswick bowls a perfect 300 with LANSA!

    FortraBrunswick is the leader in bowling products, services, and industry expertise for the development and renovation of new and existing bowling centers and mixed-use recreation facilities across the entertainment industry. However, the lifeblood of Brunswick’s capital equipment business was running on a 15-year-old software application written in Visual Basic 6 (VB6) with a SQL Server back-end. The application was at the end of its life and needed to be replaced.
    With the help of Visual LANSA, they found an easy-to-use, long-term platform that enabled their team to collaborate, innovate, and integrate with existing systems and databases within a single platform.
    Read the case study to learn how they achieved success and increased the speed of development by 30% with Visual LANSA.


  • The Power of Coding in a Low-Code Solution

    LANSAWhen it comes to creating your business applications, there are hundreds of coding platforms and programming languages to choose from. These options range from very complex traditional programming languages to Low-Code platforms where sometimes no traditional coding experience is needed.
    Download our whitepaper, The Power of Writing Code in a Low-Code Solution, and:

    • Discover the benefits of Low-code's quick application creation
    • Understand the differences in model-based and language-based Low-Code platforms
    • Explore the strengths of LANSA's Low-Code Solution to Low-Code’s biggest drawbacks



  • Why Migrate When You Can Modernize?

    LANSABusiness users want new applications now. Market and regulatory pressures require faster application updates and delivery into production. Your IBM i developers may be approaching retirement, and you see no sure way to fill their positions with experienced developers. In addition, you may be caught between maintaining your existing applications and the uncertainty of moving to something new.
    In this white paper, you’ll learn how to think of these issues as opportunities rather than problems. We’ll explore motivations to migrate or modernize, their risks and considerations you should be aware of before embarking on a (migration or modernization) project.
    Lastly, we’ll discuss how modernizing IBM i applications with optimized business workflows, integration with other technologies and new mobile and web user interfaces will enable IT – and the business – to experience time-added value and much more.


  • UPDATED: Developer Kit: Making a Business Case for Modernization and Beyond

    Profound Logic Software, Inc.Having trouble getting management approval for modernization projects? The problem may be you're not speaking enough "business" to them.

    This Developer Kit provides you study-backed data and a ready-to-use business case template to help get your very next development project approved!

  • What to Do When Your AS/400 Talent Retires

    FortraIT managers hoping to find new IBM i talent are discovering that the pool of experienced RPG programmers and operators or administrators is small.

    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


  • Node.js on IBM i Webinar Series Pt. 2: Setting Up Your Development Tools

    Profound Logic Software, Inc.Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application. In Part 2, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Attend this webinar to learn:

    • Different tools to develop Node.js applications on IBM i
    • Debugging Node.js
    • The basics of Git and tools to help those new to it
    • Using as a pre-built development environment



  • Expert Tips for IBM i Security: Beyond the Basics

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

    Don't miss this chance to take your knowledge of IBM i security beyond the basics.



  • 5 IBM i Security Quick Wins

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn today’s threat landscape, upper management is laser-focused on cybersecurity. You need to make progress in securing your systems—and make it fast.
    There’s no shortage of actions you could take, but what tactics will actually deliver the results you need? And how can you find a security strategy that fits your budget and time constraints?
    Join top IBM i security expert Robin Tatam as he outlines the five fastest and most impactful changes you can make to strengthen IBM i security this year.
    Your system didn’t become unsecure overnight and you won’t be able to turn it around overnight either. But quick wins are possible with IBM i security, and Robin Tatam will show you how to achieve them.

  • Security Bulletin: Malware Infection Discovered on IBM i Server!

    SB PowerTech WC GenericMalicious programs can bring entire businesses to their knees—and IBM i shops are not immune. It’s critical to grasp the true impact malware can have on IBM i and the network that connects to it. Attend this webinar to gain a thorough understanding of the relationships between:

    • Viruses, native objects, and the integrated file system (IFS)
    • Power Systems and Windows-based viruses and malware
    • PC-based anti-virus scanning versus native IBM i scanning

    There are a number of ways you can minimize your exposure to viruses. IBM i security expert Sandi Moore explains the facts, including how to ensure you're fully protected and compliant with regulations such as PCI.



  • Encryption on IBM i Simplified

    SB PowerTech WC GenericDB2 Field Procedures (FieldProcs) were introduced in IBM i 7.1 and have greatly simplified encryption, often without requiring any application changes. Now you can quickly encrypt sensitive data on the IBM i including PII, PCI, PHI data in your physical files and tables.
    Watch this webinar to learn how you can quickly implement encryption on the IBM i. During the webinar, security expert Robin Tatam will show you how to:

    • Use Field Procedures to automate encryption and decryption
    • Restrict and mask field level access by user or group
    • Meet compliance requirements with effective key management and audit trails


  • Lessons Learned from IBM i Cyber Attacks

    SB PowerTech WC GenericDespite the many options IBM has provided to protect your systems and data, many organizations still struggle to apply appropriate security controls.
    In this webinar, you'll get insight into how the criminals accessed these systems, the fallout from these attacks, and how the incidents could have been avoided by following security best practices.

    • Learn which security gaps cyber criminals love most
    • Find out how other IBM i organizations have fallen victim
    • Get the details on policies and processes you can implement to protect your organization, even when staff works from home

    You will learn the steps you can take to avoid the mistakes made in these examples, as well as other inadequate and misconfigured settings that put businesses at risk.



  • The Power of Coding in a Low-Code Solution

    SB PowerTech WC GenericWhen it comes to creating your business applications, there are hundreds of coding platforms and programming languages to choose from. These options range from very complex traditional programming languages to Low-Code platforms where sometimes no traditional coding experience is needed.
    Download our whitepaper, The Power of Writing Code in a Low-Code Solution, and:

    • Discover the benefits of Low-code's quick application creation
    • Understand the differences in model-based and language-based Low-Code platforms
    • Explore the strengths of LANSA's Low-Code Solution to Low-Code’s biggest drawbacks



  • The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security

    SB Profound WC Generic The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security
    Here’s the harsh reality: cybersecurity pros have to get their jobs right every single day, while an attacker only has to succeed once to do incredible damage.
    Whether that’s thousands of exposed records, millions of dollars in fines and legal fees, or diminished share value, it’s easy to judge organizations that fall victim. IBM i enjoys an enviable reputation for security, but no system is impervious to mistakes.
    Join this webinar to learn about the biggest errors made when securing a Power Systems server.
    This knowledge is critical for ensuring integrity of your application data and preventing you from becoming the next Equifax. It’s also essential for complying with all formal regulations, including SOX, PCI, GDPR, and HIPAA
    Watch Now.

  • Comply in 5! Well, actually UNDER 5 minutes!!

    SB CYBRA PPL 5382

    TRY the one package that solves all your document design and printing challenges on all your platforms.

    Produce bar code labels, electronic forms, ad hoc reports, and RFID tags – without programming! MarkMagic is the only document design and print solution that combines report writing, WYSIWYG label and forms design, and conditional printing in one integrated product.

    Request your trial now!

  • Backup and Recovery on IBM i: Your Strategy for the Unexpected

    FortraRobot automates the routine tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:
    - Simplified backup procedures
    - Easy data encryption
    - Save media management
    - Guided restoration
    - Seamless product integration
    Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Try the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Manage IBM i Messages by Exception with Robot

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Managing messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events?
    Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated message management
    - Tailored notifications and automatic escalation
    - System-wide control of your IBM i partitions
    - Two-way system notifications from your mobile device
    - Seamless product integration
    Try the Robot Message Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Easiest Way to Save Money? Stop Printing IBM i Reports

    FortraRobot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing.
    Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

    - Automated report distribution
    - View online without delay
    - Browser interface to make notes
    - Custom retention capabilities
    - Seamless product integration
    Rerun another report? Never again. Try the Robot Report Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Hassle-Free IBM i Operations around the Clock

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413For over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i.
    Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated batch, interactive, and cross-platform scheduling
    - Event-driven dependency processing
    - Centralized monitoring and reporting
    - Audit log and ready-to-use reports
    - Seamless product integration
    Scale your software, not your staff. Try the Robot Job Scheduling Solution FREE for 30 days.