IBM Suits Up i5/OS for Web Services

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In several announcements, IBM made important enhancements to i5/OS, unveiled new packaged offerings, and brought some much-anticipated technologies to the System i. Let's roll up our sleeves and dive into the details.

i5/OS Deepens Web Services Support

On December 21 of this year, i5/OS will become a far more powerful platform for hosting Web services and supporting service-oriented architectures (SOAs). Last week, IBM designated that date as the day when it will add several Web service technologies to i5/OS V5R4 and bring native i5/OS support to several of its most powerful WebSphere products.

IBM will deliver the new operating system technologies in a package known as Web Services and SOA for i5/OS (5722-SS1 Option 3). The package, which will be part of a PTF for i5/OS V5R4, will include the following enhancements:

  • An integrated Web services server for ILEThis embedded server will automate and simplify many of the tasks involved in externalizing ILE business logic for consumption as a Web service. IBM claimed in its announcement that the new facility will reduce the externalization of ILE logic to an administrative task. The integrated Web services server will work with code written in ILE RPG as well as the ILE versions of COBOL, C, and C++.
  • An integrated Web services client for ILEWhile the new server will make ILE code available for consumption by the "outside world," the client will enable ILE routines to consume other services. The new client will be able to consume services written in the ILE and Microsoft .NET languages as well as in Java and PHP.
  • WebSphere Application Server V6.1 Feature Pack for Web servicesThis bundle of enhancements will enable the System i version of WebSphere Application Server to send Web service messages asynchronously. Just as importantly, the messages will be sent using current Web Services Interoperability (WS-I) standards for message reliability and security.

Taken together, these technologies should make it considerably easier for developers to support Web services within i5/OS. Just as importantly, they will enable i5/OS to support new releases of three WebSphere products that have been waiting to make their debut on the operating system. The first product, WebSphere Process Server V6.1, is a robust runtime platform for deploying, monitoring, and managing SOAs. The second, WebSphere Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) V6.1, provides mediation and messaging services to integrate disparate applications with each other and with Web services. The third, WebSphere Integration Developer V6.1, is an Eclipse-based environment for assembling composite applications that run on WebSphere Process Server and WebSphere ESB. All three of these applications will ship with i5/OS V5R4 support on December 21.

Packages Galore

Besides expanding the Web services footprint of the System i last week, IBM also announced several packaged offerings for both current and prospective customers. One offering that will garner interest among PHP and MySQL aficionados is the Zend and MySQL Value Pack for i5/OS. The Value Pack, which runs on iSeries 8xx and System i models, includes licenses and support services for the i5/OS versions of Zend Core, Zend Studio, Zend Platform, and MySQL Enterprise. Priced at $6,595, the Value Pack costs about 25 percent less than what customers will pay to purchase the licenses and support offerings separately.

On another front, IBM announced new System i Solution Editions for Oracle JD Edwards and SAP applications. What makes these packages new is the fact that they are the first ones to be based on the System i Model 525 instead of the Model 520. As you may remember, the System i Models 515 and 525 are priced based on the number of concurrent i5/OS users they support rather than the performance ratings of the systems. On the new Solution Editions for Oracle JD Edwards and SAP, customers receive entitlements to 60 concurrent i5/OS users in the base system, which starts at $22,500. IBM stated in its announcement that the new Oracle and SAP offerings replace the old ones based on the Model 520.

Speaking of user-based pricing, Big Blue announced a new licensing option for the Model 515 and 525 that should interest many users of collaboration software. The Unlimited Collaboration Users offering entitles an unlimited number of users to access Lotus Domino, Sametime, Quickplace, and Quickr applications running on the Model 515 or 525. It also extends the same entitlement to users of WebSphere Portal. Under the normal licensing terms for these systems, such users would have to be counted as i5/OS users. As such, the new licensing option could make financial sense for heavy Lotus and WebSphere Portal users. The Unlimited Collaboration Users entitlement costs $3,995 on the System i Model 515 and $5,995 on the Model 525.

Finally, IBM officially announced something that many customers have been requesting for a long time: support for VMware ESX Server. In reality, the feature was quietly shipped via a PTF to i5/OS V5R4 back in mid-September, but the news did not make it to IBM's announcement letters until last week. The PTF enables the disk subsystem of System i to act as an ESX server to IBM BladeCenter blades and System x models. The blades and System x servers must connect to the System i using iSCSI attachments; the System i must be running i5/OS V5R4 with the relevant PTF installed.

A Viable Platform

As this quick review indicates, last Tuesday's announcements did much to make i5/OS a more versatile and open platform. By delivering Web service capabilities and other enhancements to i5/OS V5R4, IBM gave its customers fresh reasons to upgrade to the current release of the operating system. It also gave its biggest customers—who frequently run the System i with UNIX servers and mainframes—more reasons to hang onto their i5/OS applications instead of migrating to other systems. After all, if i5/OS can hold its own against other servers as a SOA platform, more customers will choose to modernize their i5/OS applications rather than replace them. Such choices will be critical if the System i is to remain a viable platform over the next several years.

Lee Kroon
Lee Kroon is a Senior Industry Analyst for Andrews Consulting Group, a firm that helps mid-sized companies manage business transformation through technology.


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