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IMHO: What Will It Take to Turn the System i Around?

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  • R.Daugherty
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    IMHO: What Will It Take to Turn the System i Around?

    In addition, they have just released or soon will be releasing a new Notes desktop client based on Eclipse which I've seen only good things said about it. I haven't looked for any details on it, though. rd

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  • MCWebsite.Staff
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    IMHO: What Will It Take to Turn the System i Around?

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  • Guest's Avatar
    Guest replied
    IMHO: What Will It Take to Turn the System i Around?

    I'd just like to comment on the question "What happened to Lotus Notes and Domino?" The simple answer is "A Lot!" But in the event that the anonymous author of this post -- who posited this query -- has missed our coverage of the Lotus product line, let me recap! 1. Lotus Domino/Notes is in its 8th major release cycle. 2. The Lotus Domino/Notes platform has, at last count (March) 40 million seats worldwide. 3. Lotus has released the latest version of Lotus Sametime and continues to integrate that product with every major public IM platform (Yahoo! IM, Microsoft, AOL, etc.) with the only completely secure, auditable messaging bridge in the industry. 4. Lotus has released "Connections" which is a social networking platform that integrates to Domino seamlessly that puts to shame the offerings of Microsoft and every other middleware vendor. 5. Lotus has released middleware platform that enables you to transform legacy Microsoft VBasic and other code into cross-platform components, completely independent of the Notes DB structure. The Lotus platform is completely cross-platform, and fully backward and forward compatible. (Release agnostic). Try that with any other messaging/application platform. This means that customer-written code initially created in any of the rapid-development modalities of Notes/Domino can run on any machine or operating system. This includes Wintel, Linux, Unix, Mainframe, Apple, etc. This makes it extremely EXTREMELY transportable and highly secure. The recent LotusSphere gathering, held annually at Walt Disney World, was sold out, with over 2500 attendees from countries all over the world. (Compare that to COMMON!) It was a true international gathering, and the momentum on the platform continues to build. The number of business partners with packaged applications at the event has never been larger. The platform is used by the Pentagon, the State Department, and by large government agencies in many many other countries. Now, the downside of the Lotus Note/Domino story: 1. Even with the Express licensing, Notes/Domino is not inexpensive for System i shops. 2. US support from the likes of small independent consulting groups is spotty because IBM Lotus has not done a great job competing in the US beyond the Eastern corridor of the country to develop a cohesive customer base. 3. The value-statement of the platform requires real strategic IT vision, which is often sorely missing from the Small and Medium Business (SMB) marketplace in the US. 4. The marketing for Lotus brand-awareness in the SMB marketplace by Lotus is not -- in my opinion -- granular enough to impact decision makers in the area where you and I commune. Instead, Lotus marketing competes for dollars with IBM's larger "middleware" message -- which is created by multi-million dollar marketing firms that report elsewhere to IBM honchos. As a result, we get confused about whether Notes/Domino is a part of WebSphere, or a legacy product, or "in competetions" with WebSphere. It is none of those things. The fact that these Lotus products run on the System i (as well as those other platforms) doesn't mean that these products are legacy engines. I can tell you of hundreds of stories in which System i IT managers obtained Lotus Domino/Notes for email, and never bothered to do anything else with the platform. Why? Because they bought it to fill a niche' (email) and never invested in it as a real workgroup application development environment. Sure, they send an RPG programmer off for a couple of weeks of training, but never assign them any real projects to develop. Later on, these same programmers come to me and say "Nobody is interested! They don't understand the power and potential!" Like the IT managers who say that the System i is "dead", these IT managers don't have a vision of what IT can achieve if they have the right tools. Instead, they watch as public "freeware" versions of IM and other tools seep into their organizations through the back door, and then wonder why their PC based systems crash. The impact is pretty horrendous, because instead of focusing on the technology that works, they are forced to go out and find new employees who know how to fix the stuff that just crashed their information systems. Finally, just as for System i personnel, the people who know how Lotus products can expand the effectiveness of the organization are outnumbered by the ones who only know how to fix the stuff that keeps breaking. It's a downward spiral. They are outnumbered, they have no voice, and the application-base begins to falter. I have talked substantially with Lotus' chief architect, who knows the marketing problems but is focused -- instead -- upon getting his team to the next release with new features and functions. The platform is stable, aggressive, vibrant, and resilient. It's not going away, and -- if anything -- will continue to lead technology. But IBM will not give it away, and will not push it in front of its strategic WebSphere strategy. As a result, IMHO, Lotus Notes/Domino will remain the secret that separates real visionary IT managers from the run-of-the-mill (get it off the racks) managers that drive us all nuts.

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  • Guest's Avatar
    Guest replied
    IMHO: What Will It Take to Turn the System i Around?

    We have 4 RPG'ers here below 40 (2 in mid 20's, 2 in early 30's). Another left a while back for a new job (she just had a baby!). So, that's 5. I taught a class on service programs a week ago... Chris

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  • JohndeCoville
    replied
    IMHO: What Will It Take to Turn the System i Around?

    You're right! We as a group have been lazy, and increasingly irrelevant. As for RPG there is nobody below 40 and effectively below 50 learning it. -John

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  • R.Daugherty
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    IMHO: What Will It Take to Turn the System i Around?

    I agree with all that, TAGrove. Well said. And certainly, I also came very close to going off to another platform because of no RPG jobs. I had been working on a personal Java project to come up to speed for Java certification for a few months before getting very lucky in finding an excellent employer running on iseries after I finally got my house sold and was able to move elsewhere to look. There was never an RPG centric replacement to our 5250 architecture because IBM staked their future on their Websphere J2EE server. At that point to them it became here's a web page, call something to do something with it. Thus a brave new world of stateless web pages calling programs rather state 5250 sessions calling screens was born. I'm convinced it's idiotic but IBM has bet their future on it. I just looked last weekend at a Websphere project that Texas pulled the plug on, CRIS, a Crash Records web page system. Maybe IBM knows what they're doing, but I think the architecture is backwards. Web people have taken something intended for random viewing of content and tried to replace the successful terminal session screen architecture with a Rube Goldberg meets chaos hodgepodge. Try for example even finding a web hosting company that will host Websphere if you were to develop something for the internet. I don't think it's possible without paying a professional services company, with matching fees. At best you can get some Tomcat JSP hosting (which JSP is the recommended solution by some on the iseries), but it is a mess. People stick with PHP because you basically have to have your own server and nurse it for Websphere Java serving, so hosts won't touch it. So there's a basic disconnect from an individual running this stuff when an enterprise team with their own servers is required. So to tap into it to train? I'd say IBM would have to have a training server set up to promote their technology, but all in all I'd say they probably have their own problems with it vis a vis Texas CRIS and the like and I wouldn't be looking anytime soon for IBM showcasing this stuff for iseries people. Just my opinion. Whatever is going on out there is all over the map. But I'm now focusing personally on RPG solutions communicating in a number of ways, not web pages calling CGI programs in a number of ways. Thanks for the clarification, TAGrove. And I hope something good happens for you and everyone else in the new year. rd

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  • T.Grove
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    IMHO: What Will It Take to Turn the System i Around?

    Again, please don't get me wrong - I LOVE the AS400/iSeries/WhateverIBMcallsTheIbox. In referring to learning Webshpere, we get into the semantics of what IS Websphere. IBM has branded so much under the name, but I digress. I have used Code400 and RSE to program RPG, and it IS relatively easy to use. I don't see the productivity gains that are touted by using it, so prefer to use SEU for RPG coding. The part that I would LOVE to learn is creating the web interfaces, and so forth. But, that's just not needed at my current job, so if I want to learn, it's got to be at home on my own time. With no AS400 to attach to, AND no version of the software that I can own legally, that's impossible. I'LL SAY IT AGAIN: I as a person cannot own Websphere, unless I buy an AS400. If I could, there's AS400 sharing sites online that I could connect to with my own account. Then I would be able to learn the newer technology,and maybe show the benefit to the employer, as opposed to half-**s'ed thrown together stuff in my "Spare time" at work, that would not be seriously looked at. In summary, using RSE/Code400 and saying that I'm using Websphere is not what I'm after. IBM needs to get off it's corporate butt, and aggressively market the AS400 and find a way to really promote it's development tool and system to newer generations, or the machine will die from attrition. I don't necesarily LIKE MS Visual Studio programming, but there ARE jobs out there for it, and not too many for AS400 programmers EVEN IF they can do web programming with Websphere. It makes me sad.

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  • R.Daugherty
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    IMHO: What Will It Take to Turn the System i Around?

    Well, my work starts when working for someone else stops. I'm wrapping up some research for my next project. My previous post was on yet another J2EE failure in replacing green screen systems that are still chugging along, still doing the job that J2EE and web pages can't for any amount of money! No one knows how much could be spent trying because the plug is pulled after several hundred million dollars of futilty. All those hundreds of millions and billions of dollars are going to the major vendors, IBM, EDS, SAIC, BearingPoint?, and others who keep changing their names to protect the guilty. If you read the original justification for all these failed systems, they were like they were written by the same few people. Probably were. Having looked at Java web pages trying to replace green screens, let's look at Windows web pages trying to replace them: From Wikipedia: CalWIN, the CalWORKs Information Network, is an automated information system to automate eligibility determination and case maintenance functions for specific county-administered social services programs in the state of California, including CalWORKs, Food Stamps, Medi-Cal, CAPI, General Assistance, and Foster Care. CalWIN was developed by Electronic Data Systems (EDS), which also built, owns, and operates other major health and benefits information systems in the state. Under the CalWIN contract, state and county consortium pay EDS more than $800 million for the system. EDS is promoting the same technology in several states for proportionally equivalent fees; the Colorado Benefits Management System, now in operation, is one such variation. CalWIN is a Windows-based software package radically evolved from its predecessor, the mainframe, 'green screen' style Welfare Case Data System (WCDS), also developed and maintained by EDS. end quote So EDS develops a Windows based package to replace green screens, including the Colorado Benefits Management System. And what do the people in Colorado who have to use it think of it? from AP: "We were told by EDS they had a computer program that would address the needs of our constituents. It's a mess, it's a disaster." end quote from Glen Emerson Morris: "Automated functionality testing would have made EDS aware that the Colorado Benefits Management System ran so slowly that data entry timed out when moving between data entry screens. According to some reports 17 different screens had to billed out and it took up to 24 minutes for each new screen to load." end quote from Rocky Mountain News: "To make the system work, county officials have developed a six-volume set of "manual work-arounds" for resolving problems. Counties also have had to increase their staffing levels by 30 percent to 40 percent." end quote from The Gazette: "The CBMS System Cost 200 million Dollars. It was supposed to be more efficient, faster, require less staff, and provide better services. It will cost more to maintain, it is hardly working, much slower, and requires more staff to deliver the same benefits." end quote These Colorado and the previously posted Texas systems, by the way, being compared in speed to green screen systems developed in the 1980's and running on old IBM mainframes. And still they are faster and unmatched by hundreds of millions of dollars of state of the art web page technology by EDS or IBM. Ahhh, but new technology is maintainable and "legacy" technology isn't, yada, yada, yada is the IT mantra to justify all this. Let's take a look at the "maintainability" of the brand new Windows system. From Wikipedia: "Major operational problems, delays, and systems failures are occurring on a frequent and regular basis. Service requests to correct such errors are backlogged to the point that a two-month delay between a county filing and initial EDS response -- usually a rejection taking the form "Functions As Designed" -- is the norm. A period of debate and negotiation follows the rejection, consuming additional weeks. If EDS ultimately agrees to make the change -- or if the county pays for it -- actual implementation takes another six months or more. CalWIN programmers do not keep pace with regulatory changes: A relatively simple adjustment in income limits for the Food Stamps program, published early 2006 and taking effect November 1 of that year, was not programmed in time for the change. Instead, EDS recommended that counties employ a manual budget system, and has not set an estimated target for releasing accurate code in this area." end quote The people who have to use these "new technology" web pages want to go back to decades old green screens. They can actually get their work done that way. Merry Christmas to them and the lucky ones of us on an iseries. rd

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  • Guest's Avatar
    Guest replied
    IMHO: What Will It Take to Turn the System i Around?

    Obviously the target demographics you discuss are, in my opinion at least, firmly still in midrange / mainframe market. Obviously, the vendors of these replacement solutions don't look at it that way though. But to be fair a lot of software implementation issues relate to the quality of their developers and how they target the implementation layer. I wonder how many people have dropped the AS/400/ISeries/I5/SeriesI over the years as the software applications offered on them were shown up by alternative products in performance or function. Does this mean that all Green Screen implementations are bad? Of course not. Anyway - work is over now. It's Xmas eve. Let's hope for a bright future for the Series I and a great new year to all. Ron.

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  • David Abramowitz
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    IMHO: What Will It Take to Turn the System i Around?

    Ralph Daugherty wrote: I do think and advocate the 5250 interface be extensible to a richer standard desktop interface, IMO There is much unfinished work left to do in 5250 land. It is hard for me to accept IBM's line that all the new i5 OS development will be web based. After all they did recently enhance CL after many years of inactivity. Some 5250 basic improvements on the wish list (nothing fancy here) :
      [*] Ability to select and mix typestyles on a single screen.[*] Ability to select and mix font sizes on a single screen.[*] More Colors.[*] Ability to imbed graphic files (JPG, BMP, GIF, TIF, etc) at specific character locations, The files could reside in the IFS, or be a BLOB field in a DB2 table.[/list]None of this is OOP, or revolutionary. It is merely an evolutionary and natural step in the right direction. Such enhancements will also give shops with heavy investment in HLL programming, the ability to enhance existing programs without having to sell the farm. Dave

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  • R.Daugherty
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    IMHO: What Will It Take to Turn the System i Around?

    Well, some clarifications first for the GP post. Developing in RPG with "Websphere" WDSc is not really "learning" anything, it's just a screen that you need instructions to use, just like you were given instructions to use the SEU screen. Of course pictures are worth a thousand words, and the book(s) on WDSc containing those instructions and pictures are as helpful as with anything else. I used WDSc exclusively for much of last year for a project, but just to contrast with SEU. I still prefer SEU. However, WDSc is much preferable to work with a project with several source files, as in any desktop GUI editor product with a tab per source file. Now, as to "learning" it. It is an Eclipse IDE. Using Eclipse to develop with any language will have the same basics involved. A plus would be learning the language involved in the process, such as Java, but it's just another IDE for a language. The same stuff is involved in Visual Studio. Eye candy. Having done that, what does it get you? The number of RPG jobs out there where saying you have developed with "Websphere" Eclipse WDSc as a significant factor in choice has to be vanishingly small. There are so many more overriding factors involved that it's irrelevant. But you can download Eclipse for free and most any language IDE plugin with it. An interested person can and should do some web development with it for the experience and knowledge. That is unless they've decided to go the Microsoft route. Then they'll drop into the Visual Studio IDE, of course. I have always maintained that given same integration, the customer will choose the richest interface. Often integration and interface richness have been tradeoffs, however. The iseries~AS/400 offers a high level of integration with a powerful 5250 green screen interface. It would be difficult to make it richer without changing the communications to keystroke level, which a PC can support but an integrated server like an iseries~AS/400 mainframe cannot without having the equivalent of a PC for each session. This is readily apparent in the AJAX keystroke level interface in web pages. I do think and advocate the 5250 interface be extensible to a richer standard desktop interface, such as one based on Eclipse, but the keystroke type stuff where data changes on every keystroke or even cursor movement requires a fundamental tradeoff with integration. Customers choose the 5250 interface when they have experienced it. Dazzling effects are nice but they actually are trying to get their work done, and the iseries~AS/400 provides the most potent mixture of interface speed, power, and richness. rd

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  • R.Daugherty
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    IMHO: What Will It Take to Turn the System i Around?

    SQL Server preferred by who, and why? The answer is the IT people are SQL Server people, which is my point. And if they can engineer a cost effective product solution, then more power to all involved. I spent a few hours last night researching a Texas HHS disaster, TIERS, and a preceding one in Colorado, which amusingly was contrasted with the nascent Texas one at the time with all the reasons the Texas nearly $1 billion software project would be so successful while they scoffed at Colorado's huge failure. But the plug was just pulled on TIERS at half a billion, with $3 million a month still being paid for life support. From my research, it was Oracle J2EE developed by a consortium of consulting companies. I looked at the web pages of the new system. Very simple screens, much simpler than green screen. And what do the Texans who have to use this failed new system say? "State workers swear by SAVERR, an (IBM mainframe DOS based) application that was built in 1985 and only requires a green monochrome monitor to do the work." Just as with the multi-hundred million dollar failed FBI Case system, an IBM green screen system is still chugging away, still doing the job, and no amount of hundreds of millions of dollars of Java and Oracle databases can replace them. Knee jerks always blame the government, but for this TIERS disaster the whole thing was attempted to be privatized and the government agency and employees eliminated, so the operational disaster is all private. The government was hated enough by these types that they aren't there to blame for this one, for once. Instead the plug was pulled, government layoff notices rescinded, and government employees asked not to leave with $1800 pleas for forgiveness. And all this talk about how "new technology" makes everything so easy to change and "legacy technology" is oh so hard to change? "In April, Health and Human Services Commissioner Albert Hawkins indefinitely suspended plans for a statewide rollout of the call centers and asked 1,000 state employees scheduled for layoffs to stay on the job. The State Auditor's Office said that inspectors have been unable to pursue criminal cases for the past two years because of insufficient data coming from the (TIERS) call centers. It stopped looking for fraud last April because information was not "readily accessible," the report said. "Furthermore, TIERS lacks interfaces to the automated systems at the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Social Security Administration, and the Texas Workforce Commission" that are necessary to identify potential fraud, the audit added." These "interface" issues are promised to be resolved by September 2007. Of course this two year failed rollout was supposed to be six months, and how many promises like that do you think have been given for the last two years? Mainframe green screens work (and I count the AS/400 as a mainframe), and I haven't seen anything replace them for any amount of money and web pages. And if Microsoft knew how to do it, they wouldn't have put their Project Green ERP in suspended animation. rd

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  • Guest's Avatar
    Guest replied
    IMHO: What Will It Take to Turn the System i Around?

    "If you're saying five seats is what's running the business, then I agree, that's not enough to justify moving beyond the familiar." Sorry - I was quoting from Joe Pluto's comments where the MS market dominance consisted of anything less than 5 seats. My post pointed out that there was an enormous scope of enterprises running MS with thousands of connections - not 5 connections or less. The examples given were in my sphere of contact only - how many other verticals have gone to MS? Recently we proposed a software solution in a bid for 2 large state health department clinical contracts. Both stipulated SQL Server as the preferred platform. Oracle was a 3rd choice of database for one of the tenders. DB2 obviously wasn't mentioned on either contract response. This is just the reality out there. Ron

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  • boomer400
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    IMHO: What Will It Take to Turn the System i Around?

    My 2 cents on the development language issues on the iBox vs. MS Vx et al. I really think it's actually a matter of accessibility. MS Vx is ok but has it's limitations and issues as well and Unix dev has its' own particulars too. However, for a someone in college or just out, it is virtually free to download, install and run a IDE on their PC. You can't really do that with an iSeries VAx product; you need an iBox to connect to. If it weren't for that MAJOR limitation, we probably wouldn't really be having this discussion. As far as I can see, the only way currently around this problem, is for someone to sell either a iBox VM that works on an Intel 64 bit processor(s) or sell an iBox so inexpensive and so open that young developers feel a need to get one and do stuff on them. So it has to be a box that does a lot of things the current machine is unable to do either due to physically unable to (no IOPs for different hardware) or no software exists for those "new" functions. Does anyone have any other scenarios?

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  • R.Daugherty
    replied
    IMHO: What Will It Take to Turn the System i Around?

    If you're saying five seats is what's running the business, then I agree, that's not enough to justify moving beyond the familiar. As for all the stuff about Java, there are only two main IDE's, Netbeans and Eclipse, both open source. There are only two GUI interfaces, Swing and SWT, both open source, and there's a bridge for them to work together. Frameworks? Yeah, being open source, there's an active evolution of frameworks, it's not like you just do whatever Microsoft tells you to do. As far as that goes, .NET is a new framework over VB 6 and I saw lots of very upset open letters and gathering of signatures to try to keep their VB 6 platform. Microsoft said nyet. You don't have anybody telling you that your framework is no longer supported with open source. So yeah, they're still around if you want to use them. rd

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