Buell Duncan of IBM has sent out a memo to IBM Business Partners around North America pre-announcing new iSeries hardware without giving specifics. Basically, it says IBM is going to announce new iSeries hardware later this year, and the details will be revealed this month.
I'm excited about the new hardware because, as the memo indicates, this is "the most important announcement for our customers in the last 15 years." Does this mean the new announcement will be to the iSeries what AS/400 was to the System/38? I certainly hope so. The OS/400-based systems (System/38, AS/400, and eServer iSeries) have been the most advanced systems in the world. IBM needs to keep that momentum going with an entirely new system, one that abandons the character-mode interface of the 5250 data stream (i.e., DDS for display files) and presents a new look and feel to all applications. After all, to announce a new system in 2003 that has only a non-GUI as its native interface is tantamount to career suicide.
There is a rumor--only a rumor--that IBM has figured out how to use XML to provide both a legacy look and feel and a GUI all in one. If that or something like it is true, and the performance and features are there, I'd say it's a great new world for iSeries customers!
But I'm wondering what impact this so-called "On Demand" marketing push will have on our economy (i.e., the employment market for iSeries IT staff).
To me, if companies start moving to an On Demand environment, they are effectively outsourcing their IT resources (i.e., hardware) and getting to their applications over the Web. I suppose this means that whatever company is hosting the big box in the sky controls or greatly influences the applications that run on the customers' boxes. So would a customer of On Demand basically become a de facto "branch office" of sorts to IBM's big computer in the sky? Perhaps not.
If On Demand means you're not really outsourcing your applications--but rather just housing the system box (which I guess we now call "capacity") at a third-party location--then I suppose it wouldn't have such a negative impact on iSeries IT staffs. In this scenario, an OS/400 customer would be allocated a virtual partition of capacity on a huge iSeries follow-on. That partition would be "owned" by the customers, who could run V5R2, V5R3, Linux, AIX, or whatever in that partition. They would also be able to create customized applications and purchase third-party software that, I presume, would be installed over the Internet (after all, there would be no tape drives at the customer site).
For the first time in probably seven years, I'm interested in an upcoming hardware announcement from IBM related to the midrange platform. I just hope it's a good one.