14
Fri, Jun
4 New Articles

Reports of System i's Death...

Commentary
Typography
  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

Anyone who read the columns that I used to write for this space is well aware that to call me a wee bit neurotic is roughly equivalent to saying that the molten lava at the center of an active volcano is a wee bit hot and dangerous, the ocean is a wee bit wet, and light travels a wee bit fast. An exceptionally wise, eminent sage recently suggested to me that, far from regretting my neuroses, I wrap them around me like a cape and revel in them. At least, that was the gist of it. By that point, I had started my second glass of wine and completed my seventh course of whine, so I might not have the quote exactly right.

Unless they visit me in my home, I normally pay little attention to sages, no matter how wise or eminent they may be, because whenever I'm out I'm always way too distracted with worries about whether I've left on some appliance that's about to burst into flames or whether someone is breaking into my condo and stealing my prized dust bunny collection*. This line of fret is particularly prevalent when I'm out of town, which I was on this occasion. Nonetheless, despite my normal inattentiveness, this particular sage was uncommonly beautiful so I listened to her with rapt respect.

The "wrap them around me like a cape" part of the sage's astute words is not literally true. I've never worn a cape. Shirts, pants, underwear, jackets, coats, overcoats, sweaters, socks, shoes, glasses, parkas, and even, on occasion, long johns, yes, absolutely, but never a cape. Then again, metaphorically, she is probably bang on. I do feel comfortable in my angst. I figure that you do what you do best and what I do best is worry and whine, which is probably why I feel so comfortable in the System i crowd. Worrying and whining is a long-standing tradition among many of that ilk.

What am I on about now, you ask? Don't be so impatient, my dear overeager reader. I'm getting to that. But first, a little background.

My initial exposure to what was then called AS/400 came about as a result of a subcontract from a marketing communication firm that IBM had hired to produce what ended up as a 28-page, tabloid-sized advertorial magazine that was handed out at the launch event for AS/400 Advanced Series. (It was originally supposed to be an eight-page magazine, but IBM kept adding to what it wanted to say about Advanced Series.) I was the author.

That was back in 1994, about 13 years ago. At the time, when I told a few of my IT-ensconced associates, some of whom were working on the platform, that I was doing work for AS/400, their response was, almost to a person, something along the lines of, "Why would you ever want to get involved with AS/400? It's a dying platform. IBM is going to kill it."

I was recently at COMMON in Anaheim. (I began writing this rant on the plane back, but I use the word "recently" to be vague as I don't know when I'll finish writing it. Nor do I know when MC Press will find a slot to publish it because I didn't warn Victoria, the gifted editor, that it was coming.) Guess what I heard from the mouths of some people at COMMON. (It would have been truly amazing if I had heard it from any other parts of their anatomy.) That's right, I heard comments to the effect of "IBM is ignoring System i." "Nobody is buying AS/400 anymore." "iSeries is a dying platform." And, among other similar laments, "IBM is killing System i." (Yes, I really did hear all of those different names for the same platform spoken at COMMON.)

Hmm. Do you detect a continuing theme? In the past, I have made fun of IBM's nom du jour approach to branding the system formerly known as AS/400, but I've never considered IBM to be incompetent. If I were one one-millionth as competent as IBM, I'd be spending my enormous wealth flying first class, staying in five-star hotels, and eating in the finest of restaurants as I travel leisurely through Europe. Instead, I'm sitting in steerage class on a flight to Toronto, typing this with my ThinkPad rammed into my gut because the guy ahead of me just leaned back; my elbows are digging holes into my seatback to make it possible, even with my abnormally short forearms, for my fingers to land on the keys rather than, say, punching through the screen; and I'm forced to make constant corrections due to the typos that are induced by the jostling of my shoulder every time someone walks by to go to the restroom. No, IBM is not the incompetent one here.

Despite currently thinking that IBM is, for the most part, quite competent, after listening to all of the talk at COMMON and elsewhere about how IBM is killing System i, I'm beginning to reassess my opinion. If IBM is trying to kill System i, née System i5, née iSeries, née AS/400, it's certainly doing an incredibly incompetent job of it.

The statistic I found for the number of System i (or whatever you want to call it) boxes that are out there in the world today is 800,000+. I have to admit that I'm not sure of the reliability of that factoid as I didn't get it from IBM. I got it from some notes for a System i–specific college course that Google found for me. (Hmm...a college course specifically about System i. Someone should warn those ill-fated instructors and students about the looming death of System i.) Furthermore, IBM is still aggressively launching new models and making current technologies, like PHP and MySQL, available on System i. If that's a dying platform, I want to see what these people call "thriving." It must be a truly glorious state of being.

I have a theory about why there is a discrepancy between the perception and the reality of the market for the system formerly known as AS/400. Here it is: The System i community is a cult. Plain and simple; it's a cult. Cult i members revere the platform so highly that anything less than perfection in IBM's System i marketing and promotion is looked on as blasphemous. At the first sign that System i sales may be temporarily leveling off or, heaven forbid, dropping a few percentage points, Cult i members immediately interpret that as a sign of the imminent Apocalypse.

I've been to only two COMMON conferences. The first was in Toronto. In both cases, questions and comments about System i marketing, or lack thereof, were raised prominently during the Q&A period of the opening session. Give me a break. I'm in a room filled with System i propeller heads, at a conference devoted to System i technologies and usage, at a session that placed the top IBM System i decision-makers up on the dais, and the most important question that some people in the audience can raise is about IBM marketing.

Outside of the session, these same people were busy loudly singing hymns of praise for System i and proclaiming from the rooftops its greatness. You rarely hear such enthralled devotion unless it's directed at someone who has successfully passed himself off as the second coming of Dafernyx, the white-robed omnipotent space being who created all humans and most web-footed animals. With rapture like that, it's no wonder that these people hear any hint of System i sales and marketing weakness as a death rattle.

Get real. To paraphrase Samuel Langhorne Clemens (aka Mark Twain), reports of System i's death are greatly exaggerated.

For 13 or so years now, I've been hearing that the system formerly known as AS/400 was on its deathbed. I still hear it. Well, guess what. System i is still here. It's going to be here next year. The hearse or garbage truck that carts my lifeless body away to the cemetery, crematorium, dump, or wherever I end up will probably be dispatched by an application running on System i. Heck, by then maybe it will drive itself using a System i–based autopilot. There's still time for that to happen because I'm not planning to die until after I reach the average lifespan for a Canadian male, a milestone that I won't pass for more than a couple of decades. (Not much more and, of course, I worry that it will happen a great deal sooner...maybe before you read this. You never know.)

- - - - -

*Of course, if the sage does visit me in my home, I will still find plenty of other things to distract me from the sage's advice, such as, for example, worrying about whether he or she is judging me and my slovenly ways or whether an immense asteroid is about to crash into my condo. Consequently, it would probably be a good idea if sages not count too heavily on having my full attention, regardless of the location.

Joel Klebanoff is a consultant, a writer, and president of Klebanoff Associates, Inc., a Toronto, Canada-based marketing communications firm. He is also the author of BYTE-ing Satire, a compilation of a year's worth of his columns. Joel has 25 years experience working in IT, first as a programmer/analyst and then as a marketer. He holds a Bachelor of Science in computer science and an MBA, both from the University of Toronto. Contact Joel at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. He fully expects to be flamed vociferously by people who feel the need to say, "Yeah, but System i really is dying and the sky really is falling." Flame away. He can take it. What's more, his nature leads him to believe that the reader or two who were masochistic enough to finish reading this article are just itching to criticize his views about System i longevity, among other thoughts. Feel free to scratch that itch now.

Joel Klebanoff

Joel Klebanoff is a consultant, writer, and formerly president of Klebanoff Associates, Inc., a Toronto-based marketing communications firm. He has 30 years' experience in various IT capacities and now specializes in writing articles, white papers, and case studies for IT vendors and publications across North America. Joel is also the author of BYTE-ing Satire, a compilation of a year's worth of his columns. He holds a BS in computer science and an MBA, both from the University of Toronto.


MC Press books written by Joel Klebanoff available now on the MC Press Bookstore.

BYTE-ing Satire BYTE-ing Satire
Find out the hilarious answer to the eternal question: "Is technology more hindrance than help?"
List Price $14.95

Now On Sale

BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS

LATEST COMMENTS

Support MC Press Online

$0.00 Raised:
$

Book Reviews

Resource Center

  • SB Profound WC 5536 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. You can find Part 1 here. In Part 2 of our free Node.js Webinar Series, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Brian will briefly discuss the different tools available, and demonstrate his preferred setup for Node development on IBM i or any platform. Attend this webinar to learn:

  • 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 company are not aligned with the current IT environment.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT Generic IBM announced the E1080 servers using the latest Power10 processor in September 2021. The most powerful processor from IBM to date, Power10 is designed to handle the demands of doing business in today’s high-tech atmosphere, including running cloud applications, supporting big data, and managing AI workloads. But what does Power10 mean for your data center? In this recorded webinar, IBMers Dan Sundt and Dylan Boday join IBM Power Champion Tom Huntington for a discussion on why Power10 technology is the right strategic investment if you run IBM i, AIX, or Linux. In this action-packed hour, Tom will share trends from the IBM i and AIX user communities while Dan and Dylan dive into the tech specs for key hardware, including:

  • Magic MarkTRY 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. Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Request your trial now!  Request Now.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericForms of ransomware has been around for over 30 years, and with more and more organizations suffering attacks each year, it continues to endure. What has made ransomware such a durable threat and what is the best way to combat it? In order to prevent ransomware, organizations must first understand how it works.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericIT security is a top priority for businesses around the world, but most IBM i pros don’t know where to begin—and most cybersecurity experts don’t know IBM i. In this session, Robin Tatam explores the business impact of lax IBM i security, the top vulnerabilities putting IBM i at risk, and the steps you can take to protect your organization. If you’re looking to avoid unexpected downtime or corrupted data, you don’t want to miss this session.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericCan you trust all of your users all of the time? A typical end user receives 16 malicious emails each month, but only 17 percent of these phishing campaigns are reported to IT. Once an attack is underway, most organizations won’t discover the breach until six months later. A staggering amount of damage can occur in that time. Despite these risks, 93 percent of organizations are leaving their IBM i systems vulnerable to cybercrime. In this on-demand webinar, IBM i security experts Robin Tatam and Sandi Moore will reveal:

  • FORTRA Disaster protection is vital to every business. Yet, it often consists of patched together procedures that are prone to error. From automatic backups to data encryption to media management, Robot automates the routine (yet often complex) 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:

  • FORTRAManaging messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. Messages need a response and resources must be monitored—often over multiple systems and across platforms. 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:

  • FORTRAThe thought of printing, distributing, and storing iSeries reports manually may reduce you to tears. Paper and labor costs associated with report generation can spiral out of control. Mountains of paper threaten to swamp your files. Robot 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:

  • FORTRAFor over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i. With batch job creation and scheduling at its core, the Robot Job Scheduling Solution reduces the opportunity for human error and helps you maintain service levels, automating even the biggest, most complex runbooks. Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:

  • LANSA Business 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.

  • 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:

  • LANSASupply Chain is becoming increasingly complex and unpredictable. From raw materials for manufacturing to food supply chains, the journey from source to production to delivery to consumers is marred with inefficiencies, manual processes, shortages, recalls, counterfeits, and scandals. In this webinar, we discuss how:

  • The MC Resource Centers bring you the widest selection of white papers, trial software, and on-demand webcasts for you to choose from. >> Review the list of White Papers, Trial Software or On-Demand Webcast at the MC Press Resource Center. >> Add the items to yru Cart and complet he checkout process and submit

  • Profound Logic 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.

  • SB Profound WC 5536Join us for this hour-long webcast that will explore:

  • Fortra IT managers hoping to find new IBM i talent 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: