It is interesting to see what type of industries use AS/400 and iSeries systems. When businesses need a machine that is reliable, has a high level of integrity, and promises little downtime, they choose AS/400 (or iSeries). Yet we keep hearing that shops are moving off of the AS/400.
Of course, we all know that IBM has failed us AS/400-iSeries customers by not marketing the system effectively. Even today, IBM has this ridiculous notion that running TV commercials featuring eServer is somehow helping the iSeries. We've all seen them: One commercial shows how a bunch of non-specific servers were consolidated into one box--an eServer. Another shows how happy the business is because it's using eServer, and then the commercial goes on to be specific: xSeries. So eServer xSeries is the solution, right? So how do we move our old AS/400 RPG III applications onto a new xSeries box? Well, we don't. xSeries is a PC; yet for some reason, IBM believes companies will spend more money on a box named "eServer xSeries" than they will on a "Dell PowerEdge" for Microsoft-based operating systems. So, first, we have to explain to management that the xSeries is a PC/Intel-based box. What's wrong with just calling it an "IBM PC Server"?
The same problem occurs with AS/400, now iSeries. The name "eServer iSeries" is so cryptic that even if people see an advertisement with that term in it, it will not stick in their memory. In my opinion, the two biggest mistakes IBM has made in the areas of packaging and marketing are 1) calling all the high-end systems "eServer," regardless of the CPU or operating system they run and 2) calling virtually all of their software WebSphere. Even 20-year veterans of this platform don't know what WebSphere is.
I always ask people what they will be using to create their new applications, and they usually answer "RPG IV" or "We were going to use RPG IV, but now we're going to use WebSphere." OK, great brand imaging, but what is WebSphere anyway?
WebSphere, as far as I can tell, is the name of virtually all IBM software. If it is software and IBM sells it, it's called WebSphere [package title], where "package title" is either the old name of the software or some new variation of the old name. So saying "We're going to use WebSphere" is like saying "We're going to use IBM software." Well, isn't RPG IV from IBM? So using RPG IV is using WebSphere, isn't it?
IBM does a great job of coming up with new names for old stuff and then confusing the customer base into not knowing if they own the new stuff or not. It is very disturbing.
I don't think customers are moving off of the AS/400-iSeries (OK, from now on, I'm calling it "the OS/400 platform"). I think they are staying on their existing OS/400 platform hardware or upgrading to the new 8xx models. Some (all?) are adding Intel-based PC platforms as servers, and they think they may be moving off the OS/400 platform, but that day will not come for 80% or more of them. Why? Because you just can't do it. It doesn't work, it doesn't scale, and it doesn't stay up.
So when we hear people are moving off the OS/400 platform, let's remember, it is just a combination of poor IBM product naming, marginal or counterproductive marketing, and a lot of rumors. The OS/400 platform isn't going anywhere, and the decision we make to keep this platform in our shops is the right one.
Bob Cozzi has been programming in RPG since 1978. Since then, he has written many articles and several books, including The Modern RPG IV Language--the most widely used RPG reference manual in the world. Bob is also a very popular speaker at industry events such as COMMON and RPG World and is the author of his own Web site, www.rpgiv.com, and of the RPG ToolKit, an add-on library for RPG IV programmers. Bob runs his own one-man iSeries consulting and contract programming firm in the Chicago area.