2017 State of IBM i Modernization

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The IBM i (aka AS/400 and iSeries) market has seen some remarkable changes over the last decade. New capabilities, including graphical user interfaces and support of open source languages, have ensured that the platform is more than capable of supporting the needs of today's businesses.

Editor's note: This article introduces the white paper 2017 State of IBM i Modernization, which is free to download from the MC White Paper Center.

However, the use of these modern capabilities on IBM i varies from business to business. "Modernization", the umbrella term for utilizing the newest capabilities on IBM i  - including transitioning from green screens to web GUIs, and updating legacy RPG source code to a newer format or open source language - has not been universally embraced.

For the second year in a row, Profound Logic reached out to the IBM i community to take part in the "State of IBM i Modernization" survey. The purpose of the survey is to attempt to uncover how widely businesses have adopted modernization, and gauge what their plans are for the platform in the future.

The response rate for this year's survey surpassed last year's by 20%, with over 500 IBM I professionals taking the survey. The survey asked respondents a range of questions based on their role in the business (technical, business management, or both). The survey was broken up into three sections: Current state of IBM i; Current attitudes toward IBM i; and, Future of IBM i in the business. The analysis of the findings was conducted by IBM i Champions and community experts.

Survey Findings

A positive finding in this year's survey is that more businesses have upgraded to the latest versions of IBM i and RPG compared to last year. Those companies that are remaining on the platform are embracing the many options they have to optimize IBM i for their modern enterprise: Web GUIs, mobile development, and Open Source development are all listed as projects businesses took on in 2017.

Another finding is that more businesses have shifted slightly away from in-house development and toward packaged applications. The downside to this development is that the majority of those applications either entirely or partially use green-screen interfaces, which respondents list as a roadblock to developer and end-user productivity.

Compared to last year, confidence in the future of the platform appears to have taken somewhat of a downturn. More respondents are concerned that their management's negative view of the IBM I will stand in the way of future use, let alone any modernization efforts. And more respondents this year believe that their business doesn't see a future at all in the platform.

Based on the total responses, it appears that, while some companies have solidified their decision to leave the platform, even more companies have doubled down on the platform and embraced making it a modern powerhouse for future business development.

Recommendations

If your business plans to remain on the IBM i, now is the time to give your system a health check. IBM releases frequent technology refreshes, and if you're running on an OS older than version 7.3, you should seriously consider an update.

IBM i also supports the capabilities that many businesses need, if the responses to this survey are any indicator. Cloud, IoT, Open Source development, Mobile - all of these can be accomplished with IBM i. Once again, respondents to this survey listed "outdated green screens" and "diminishing developer pool" as top concerns about IBM i.

The good news here is that both of these problems can be easily addressed. With the right tools, green screens can be transformed into modern web and mobile interfaces, and new developers can start working on IBM i more easily with Free Format RPG or Node.js, which is JavaScript (the most popular development language in the world) and supported on IBM i.

Unfortunately, many respondents still struggle with a poor perception of the platform as a roadblock for future development. Rather than look at this as a challenge, we encourage developers to make the case for the IBM i by listing the many benefits of the platform singled out in this survey, including: stability, security, ease of use, and ease of maintenance.

Want to learn more? Download the free white paper 2017 State of IBM i Modernization, which is free to download from the MC White Paper Center.

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