Sidebar

Weaving WebSphere: IT Starts with an "i"

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

 

In this article, I'm going to try to present you with the future of the System i. I ask you to read this and to join in with your comments, because I see this as a watershed time. As Mike was giving his talk, he was careful to mention that some of the things he was talking about might make it into V6R1, many would not, and some might never make it at all, depending on things like marketplace acceptance (read: profitability). All of which means that this may be one of those special leverage points, where you and I as the end users can most affect the future of our platform.

From my vantage point, I see five major trends in the System i family that are changing the face of the industry.

  • Pricing
  • Granularization
  • EGL
  • Super-integration
  • i Blades

Many of these we've seen coming over recent years, and some are out of the blue. But in either case, I don't think many of us put all the pieces together to make a coherent view of the future. I'll try to make some passes over the crystal ball, though, so hang on.

Pricing

First of course is pricing. For the longest time, System i hardware was selling at 10 or even 100 times the price of comparable Intel-based hardware. A lot of different reasons pushed that price structure, but it did allow for something rather unique in the industry: the tier-based price. This simplistic model allowed a shop to buy a machine and the software it needed and then stick as many people on the box as it could.

Those days are gone. Over the next few years, I expect IBM will move the platform to an entirely user-based model, although, as seems to often be the case, IBM chose the most difficult time in history to make such a change. With the explosion of the Internet and multi-tiered systems, the concept of a "user" has become very difficult to define, and even now IBM is winging it, trying to define the difference between authenticated users and anonymous users and named users and concurrent users.
Rest assured, though, the result will be that you will pay a base cost for your server and then incremental costs for each user, and those costs will be determined in a large part by what they do. In the end, that makes sense: It allows IBM to more directly apportion development dollars based on the number of people using the tool. On the other hand, it doesn't bode well for niche technologies like VisualAge for RPG.

The trend here is that tools will either be paid for by the marketplace (you and I), or they will die. Niche capabilities will become more and more expensive and then will disappear. This will include both hardware, such as twinax support, and software.

Granularization

Which leads us pretty directly into granularization. That's the term Mike used, although the other word for it is "unbundling." However you spell it, what it means is that IBM will be carving up large pieces of software and selling them to you a la carte.

I hate this concept. Every fiber in my IBM midrange evangelizing body screams against this concept, because I'm just so comfortable with the idea of being able to use any development tool whenever I need it. I pays my money, I gets my software, and after that it's up to me how I use it or whether I use it at all. It's been phenomenal for me over the last several years that, if I wanted to play with the COBOL compiler, I could just do so. And things like PASE were no more than a disk away. To me, it was one of the last major differentiating factors for the platform—and one that was sorely needed because, at the time, it looked like IBM was turning the platform into just another database server (and an overpriced one to boot).

But granularization is the wave of the future, both in tools and in utilities. From a developer's standpoint, all-for-one is a great way to live, but it plays havoc when trying to calculate return on investment for the vendor.

What that means, though, is that hopefully you'll be able to tailor your environment a little better. If you're purely a green-screen shop running S/36 code, you may be able to buy only those components that allow you to develop there without any additional cost. On the minus side, of course, if you plan to use both WDSC and PDM in the same shop, you'll probably have to pay more than someone who uses one or the other. My gut feeling is that this is going to force some shops to WDSC, and of course that's not going to go over very well.

My big argument with this notion—and one I brought up specifically to Mike during the Q&A after his presentation—was how to get software into the hands of System i developers so that they could evaluate its value to their shop. Since a lot of the push for this comes from the tools side of the business (especially Rational), they seem to favor the PC concept of downloading a 90-day trial. I made it clear that System i shops don't have the ability to perform an assessment of a multi-thousand dollar investment in 90 days, especially in the SMB space. First, we have to find the time to evaluate the product in our copious free time, which may take many months on its own. Only then can we present that to upper management, and their approval might take several more quarters. So if they do intend to go with a trial period concept, then it had better be a rather lengthy trial (like on the Zend products, which currently have a three-year license-free period, after which maintenance kicks in).

Personally, I prefer a single license-free developer seat for every tool. That seems to have done companies like Linoma Software pretty well. A developer gets to use the tool as much as necessary, and if the company needs more seats, it buys them. This does several things: It makes the platform extremely attractive to developers, it builds goodwill among smaller shops (which probably wouldn't be able to buy the tools anyway), it provides a base of free beta testers for the tool, and it builds product loyalty, which then extends to the paying community.

You need to decide which way you want to go with this, because it's coming one way or the other, whether you like it or not. You will either have to download trialware for every tool you want to use, or else you'll get a single license-free (and possibly unsupported) seat for each tool.

EGL

And that brings me to EGL. That's good, because EGL allows me to honestly call this a "Weaving WebSphere" column, since EGL is so intertwined with WDSC. Right now, you need to have either Rational Application Developer or WDSC installed on your workstation in order to install the Rational Business Developer extensions, which provide the tooling for the EGL language.

I'm biased here. You know me; I've been trying to bring browser-based technology to the System i for nearly a decade now, and I keep seeing pushback both from industry pundits and from IBM itself. IBM's disastrous attempt at replacing RPG with Java cost us several years, and the introduction of PHP is going to muddy the waters for another couple of years until people realize that it takes even more work to create a commercial, production PHP environment than it does to build one in Java. But most of this is because IBM hasn't presented us with a clear direction for the future.

That's over. EGL is the clear direction. You may not like it, but then again a lot of people hated subfiles. It's pretty clear to me that, like it or not, if you're going to do anything other than green-screen, you're going to have to get over it and embrace this technology. EGL is built from the ground up to provide easy, WYSIWYG design capabilities for the browser as well as direct, high-level access to SQL, MQSeries, and ILE programs. You can define a record (a set of named fields with attributes such as length and prompt literal and validation), drop it on a page using click and drag to do all the work of painting the screen, and then call an RPG program with that record by adding a single CALL statement to the generated code. It takes minutes, and no other language comes close.
The language is completely contained within the Rational tooling, which provides end-to-end debugging from the browser page to the Web application to the business logic back-end, again something no other architecture provides. And while I can't tell you what's coming in the new release, I can tell you that when it gets here, it's going to put every other tool in the also-ran bucket.

The only hang-up is going to be pricing. The problem is the collision between the old tier-based pricing world of OS/400 and the new user-based pricing of i5/OS and the Rational tools. My concern is that Rational wants to charge some $1,500 a seat to a company that already paid $10,000 or more for their compilers. No other platform gets this sort of double whammy, and IBM is either going to have to drastically reduce the price of RPG or include a couple of seats in the 5722WDS product. This is something you ought to be weighing in on. Would you rather pay an extra thousand or so for 5722WDS or pay a couple thousand less and spend that on seats for WDSC and EGL?

Super-Integration

I use the term "super-integration" because the correct term, "assimilation," is a little too scary. But the recent announcements regarding integration and virtualization have made clear a master strategy that can best be summed up as "All Your Server Are Belong To Us!"

We've seen virtualization in the last several years. I went to a class on Linux LPARs a while ago that just blew me away: I couldn't believe how easy it was to carve a virtual Linux partition out of your i5/OS system and then be able to save, restore, and even resize that entire server as if it were a simple physical file.

That's going to continue. IBM's direction is to allow you to point at a physical server in your network and then just sort of suck it up into a virtual server, sort of like materializing it with a transporter beam and plopping it onto the holodeck (OK, enough of the Star Trek references). What it means is that instead of an ever-proliferating number of Windows or Linux machines, you'll instead be able to import them into a single server and then manage them, even clone and deploy them, with all of them sharing the same hardware resources (including centralized backup and recovery).

So now, instead of the old legacy box being pushed out by the cute little Windows servers, the System i is instead the central repository for all your software images. It doesn't matter what you run; they all run on the i. Of course, this will require ever more computing power from the System i, but with the introduction of the Power 6 and the concept of Capacity on Demand, IBM is making even that more manageable. If you need the really big Web servers only once a month, you can deploy 10 of them, flip a switch on the System i, and have mega-capacity without having to pay for the fixed costs all year.

But the final bit of this that really caught my attention was the stated direction that IBM will provide some sort of hooks (and I'm still not sure exactly how this will work, although my guess would be through some sort of extender utility) to DB2 that will allow it to access other databases throughout the network. One of the biggest complaints about DB2 on the System i over the years has been that it's pretty much one way: SQL Server on a Windows box can easily access DB2 on the System i, but RPG can't easily access SQL Server data. That's going to change and, in the future, you'll be able to access any network-capable database "natively" from the System i. It will be interesting to see whether this applies all the way down to RPG and how much such an ability might cost, but the benefits are pretty obvious.

i Blades

And that leads me to the last bit, the infamous i Blades. Long rumored, and finally semi-official now with a delivery date sometime next year (dates to be determined, forward-looking statements, your mileage may vary), i5/OS will appear on POWER 6 servers in a blade center near you.

With i Blades, even if you don't travel down the road of full assimilation, that doesn't mean that i5/OS won't be able to live in your IT environment. In fact, the concept of an i5/OS blade that can interact with all of the databases in your network may have enormous appeal to ISVs that can write applications taking advantage of both Java and RPG and then simply sell blade plug-ins to IT shops. The heavy transactional applications that simply don't scale well in Wintel environments can be supplied in an i Blade and connected to the system via an EGL front-end, and then can supply data to Wintel/Lintel dashboard back-ends via DB2 integration.

This to me is the most important point for the future of RPG. The entry point for ISVs has become progressively higher compared to Windows applications, leading many vendors to either move to platform-independent (read: non-RPG) solutions or to abandon the platform entirely. By providing an avenue for low-cost entry into smaller IT environments through a standalone (but integrated) blade, vendors may once again be able to position an RPG solution as the high-power transaction-processing component in an overall integrated architecture.

Integration and Simplification

What I see here is a trend toward a simplified, integrated shop. It doesn't matter which end of the spectrum you come from. For large shops, mainframe applications can be migrated down to the System i and then integrated with the Linux Web applications that have sprung up to provide Web presence. Small shops that started out with an ERP system and a Web server and have since grown to a small server farm can now re-integrate into a single server. Even shops that don't use System i today can now add powerful enterprise applications by adding an i5/OS server to their blade center.

So, whether your IT shop is going to consist of either a single large server holding all of your virtualized environments or a rack of individual servers sharing data to provide information for rapid business decisions, it really looks to me like IT starts with "i."

Joe Pluta

Joe Pluta is the founder and chief architect of Pluta Brothers Design, Inc. He has been extending the IBM midrange since the days of the IBM System/3. Joe uses WebSphere extensively, especially as the base for PSC/400, the only product that can move your legacy systems to the Web using simple green-screen commands. He has written several books, including Developing Web 2.0 Applications with EGL for IBM i, E-Deployment: The Fastest Path to the Web, Eclipse: Step by Step, and WDSC: Step by Step. Joe performs onsite mentoring and speaks at user groups around the country. You can reach him at joepluta@plutabrothers.com.


MC Press books written by Joe Pluta available now on the MC Press Bookstore.

Developing Web 2.0 Applications with EGL for IBM i Developing Web 2.0 Applications with EGL for IBM i
Joe Pluta introduces you to EGL Rich UI and IBM’s Rational Developer for the IBM i platform.
List Price $39.95

Now On Sale

WDSC: Step by Step WDSC: Step by Step
Discover incredibly powerful WDSC with this easy-to-understand yet thorough introduction.
List Price $74.95

Now On Sale

Eclipse: Step by Step Eclipse: Step by Step
Quickly get up to speed and productivity using Eclipse.
List Price $59.00

Now On Sale

BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS

LATEST COMMENTS

Support MC Press Online

RESOURCE CENTER

  • WHITE PAPERS

  • WEBCAST

  • TRIAL SOFTWARE

  • 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.

     

  • Progressive Web Apps: Create a Universal Experience Across All Devices

    LANSAProgressive Web Apps allow you to reach anyone, anywhere, and on any device with a single unified codebase. This means that your applications—regardless of browser, device, or platform—instantly become more reliable and consistent. They are the present and future of application development, and more and more businesses are catching on.
    Download this whitepaper and learn:

    • How PWAs support fast application development and streamline DevOps
    • How to give your business a competitive edge using PWAs
    • What makes progressive web apps so versatile, both online and offline

     

     

  • 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 NodeRun.com 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

     

     

  • Node Webinar Series Pt. 1: The World of Node.js on IBM i

    SB Profound WC GenericHave 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.
    Part 1 will teach you what Node.js is, why it's a great option for IBM i shops, and how to take advantage of the ecosystem surrounding Node.
    In addition to background information, our Director of Product Development Scott Klement will demonstrate applications that take advantage of the Node Package Manager (npm).
    Watch Now.

  • 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.