The kernel of the idea to blog about this topic came to us a few days ago when we received a call from a company asking if we could provide basic IBM i and RPG training to a group of IT personnel because this shop is coming to IBM i for the first time. (We said enthusiastically “Yes,” by the way.) In and of itself, that call probably wouldn’t have struck us a “bloggable.” It wasn’t until we realized that this is at least the third such request we’ve received in the last 18 months or so that we suddenly woke up to the fact that certainly not all shops are moving away from IBM i – many seem to be moving toward it.Admittedly, in one case, we were teaching new managers who were coming into an already IBM i shop, so that wasn’t technically an IBM i “win.” Or was it? How many stories have we heard about new management coming into an IBM i shop and deciding “old technology” must be replaced with a Windows or UNIX-operating system based “solution.” In this company, all new IT management who came into the shop kept an open mind when evaluating the existing situation and were amazed at the reliability and productivity of the IT infrastructure provided by the IBM i and its applications.
In another one of these cases, we were specifically asked to teach RPG to a group of VB developers. We weren’t surprised at all that they took to RPG like a duck to water. Of course, we taught the /Free format logic and we used RSE to edit the code. And the transition didn’t seem difficult for them. While there were many spirited debates going on for the few days we were there, we’re pretty sure by the time we left, there were some new IBM i and RPG fans in the making.At that shop and others where we’re teaching RPG newbies we were reminded of the words from a high-level manager in Rochester, Minn. at a local user-group conference near Boston a couple of years ago who implied that no programmers coming to IBM i from another platform would ever learn RPG – they would only use PHP or Java. We begged to differ with him then and now that we’ve taught RPG newbies (programmers experienced in other languages – not kids just out of school) we feel we’ve proved our point!
What about some of the stories we’ve heard about shops moving away from RPG and IBM i? Just yesterday, we heard an update regarding the story of a company that decided to “modernize” by moving off the IBM i, to go to SAP on another platform. The new news is that after five years of trying, the move to SAP has been abandoned. They are now (still) running their business on IBM i.But here’s what may be the most remarkable story of all. North American Construction Group was running (with difficulty, it seems) its business on the JDE Enterprise One application running on a collection of Dell servers running Windows and SQL Server. Problems with the application were rampant – outages were an everyday occurrence. A new CIO came into NACG and diagnosed the source of the problems and (long story short) installed an IBM Power 570 server running IBM i.
What we find so remarkable about this story isn’t just that the CIO was smart enough to see what (to us, the admittedly biased IBM i faithful) seemed to be an obvious solution to the company’s problems. What makes this story truly remarkable is two other factors in the story that we haven’t mentioned so far.
First, consultants came to NACG and helped with the new-system implementation. We’ve heard consultants are often not inclined to recommend the IBM i platform, we suspect because the system doesn’t require as much consultancy help as other platforms. In the past, anecdotal evidence is it seems to have been equally true of consultants from IBM. NACG used IBM consultants to implement their new IBM i based solution. Wow! It’s not clear from what we’ve read whether the consultants came on board before or after the decision to move to IBM i, but the mere fact IBM Global Business Services and IBM Gobal Technology Services were involved even in the implementation phases of the solution makes us hopeful that maybe IBM i has even made inroads into the consulting community.
Second, and this may well be the most remarkable thing of all, where can you read more about the NACG story? On an IBM website! It seems so rare to see IBM telling the good news of IBM i, but this is indeed really good news and it comes from a case study published on an ibm.com domain.We must give credit to Chris Maxcer who first called our attention to the NACG case study.Thanks, Chris! But honestly, we had already planned to blog about our experience with training new IBM converts.Thanks to Chris, we were able to add the extra good news about the NACG story.
Feeling better about the future of IBM i? We are! Now, back to work!