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September 14, 2010

Comments

Hans Boldt

"Good News in i Land"???

So you have a new i shop coming to you every 9 months asking for training, and you're trying to convince us there's a groundswell of new support for the iSeries?

Dan Devoe

Wow... there is just so much to say about this article, that I probably won't be able to hit on all points.

Last week, I sent an e-mail to Jon, explaining such, and asking if he had any case studies of failed migrations from the IBM i. I never received a response, but if you were busy training newbie RPG'ers, then you're forgiven. :-)

I don't know if it was the e-mail, or just coincidence that helped to influence this article, but in either case, THANK YOU!

Our company is currently doing an ERP evaluation. Our IT staff (boss included) wants to stay on the i. Management isn't necessarily opposed to it, but doesn't quite understand why.

We are looking to strengthen our position, because one of the solutions that is being presented is an SAP solution. I'm hoping that the 5-year failed SAP conversion mentioned in your article will do just that.

I was at the aforementioned local user group conference. I was sitting at your table, as we were listening to the keynote speaker. I'll never forget how Jon stood up, and interjected with him, and how when Jon was finished speaking, there was a round of applause for the audience (I think a standing O, but I don't remember for sure). It left the keynote speaker speechless. :-)

Also, I'm noticing on the systeminetwork forum, there seems to be a few "newbies" posting. From the scope of the questions, it appears that they are taking courses in RPG.

But there is one post that I feel compliments your article:
http://forums.systeminetwork.com/isnetforums/showthread.php?t=110291

Jon Paris

@Dan I'm sorry I have not responded but we have been insanely busy the last few weeks - the unread email in my inbox is at an all time high.

I will reply to you but please be patient. Sadly I can't give you any more names than the one you have. The others that we know about can't be named which - as we've said before - is one of the huge problems IBM constantly face. Most companies who blow $5 - $10M on a misguided migration are not willing to stand up in public and tell their shareholders how dumb they were.

Jon Paris

@Hans "So you have a new i shop coming ... groundswell of new support for the iSeries?"

I am tempted to ignore this as I have ignored many of your comments before but this was just one too many.

I could say that you have understated the numbers - but it would make no difference because it could have been 1,000 or 10,000 and you'd still have found something to disparage.

You've never fully understood the nature of i - and why and where it fits. You don't like RPG very much and yet despite all that you continue to spend time posting negative comments here and elsewhere.

Why? Are you so determined to convince us all of the futility of our ways? I don't understand why someone so convinced of the death of the platform wants to waste so much time belittling it. Surely there is something more productive you could be doing?

Aaron Bartell

@Hans

Yes the numbers need to be higher, but why not get excited about people finally realizing the truth about pursuing a solid business computing platform?

I am quite excited about this news because it shows the reality that we have been talking about for nearly a decade - if you want to run a solid server with minimal personnel then RPG+DB2+IBMi is a VERY solid solution.

Keep the stories coming Jon!

AaronBartell.com

Chris Maxcer

Hey Jon!
Happy to see the extra coverage of the NACG IBM i case study . . . it's a great story, definitely, and fantastic when a CIO and company recognizes the right tools for the job at hand.
--Chris

Hans Boldt

Jon: I understand the i, as you should know. And I agree it is a rock solid platform ideally suited to business applications.

I really do wish I could believe that the i has a solid future. I understand your frustration with my comments.

But look: After I left IBM 3 years ago, I actively looked for an iSeries job in the Toronto area. One recruiter told me that the bottom had pretty much dropped out of the iSeries job market. That's the recent iSeries reality I've seen first-hand.

Rather than posting anecdotal iSeries stories, how about some hard numbers showing the growth of the iSeries market over the past 10-20 years relative to the industry? Talk to your contacts at IBM and convince them to release the positive stats.

Otherwise, we're all going to have to take your cheerleading with a grain of salt.

(Sorry for being so blunt, Jon, but that's the way I see it.)


Hans Boldt

Jon: As for why I bother visiting forums like this and commenting? I spent about 22 years working on the iSeries, going back to S/38. I DO care about what happens to the system, and to the programming language I worked on for almost all that time. Do I want to see all that work go for naught? No.

On the other hand, I'm also familiar with what the iSeries and RPG are up against. And I'm aware of their fundamental architectural limitations. And I see where the computer industry is headed.

I do see positive activity in the iSeries arena. But I'm just afraid the industry is just moving ahead at a much faster rate.

Adam Stein

I do hope there will be more positions available.
A shop converting doesn't mean new jobs necessarily, but it is good news.
I still hope to get back on the i, currently I am doing SQL server, asp.net, c#, Silverlight.

Luis Rodriguez

About 4 years ago the company I work for (a medium sized clinic) decided to go the HP/ORACLE/SAP route, ditching its 520 and home-grown software. In the three years it took for SAP to be ready to go into production, the HP system was updated at least three times, adding a multitude of servers in order to spread out the computing load and alleviate severe performance problems (and, of course, the infrastructure department has swelled correspondingly in size, too). The systems are down for maintenance reasons for several hours at least once a week, which the users are starting to consider a normal occurrence.

Four years ago, if I had had a fourth of today’s outages with our i5, I’m sure I would have been fired very quickly (not to mention asking for the myriad of tools used for monitoring and managing the DB and systems that are considered “essential” in our new environment).

Sigh… I really miss the old days…

Mistersaxon

I've been involved with a number of migrations to the i from Windows, Sun, and other platforms. some were ERP solutions, or other critical business applications - all were characterized by the prior platform having poor response, unnecessary complexity and literally being "high maintenance". These were all issues that moving to the i addressed to everyone's satisfaction (and sometimes amazement).

I also know of a number of sites where migrations off the platform have either failed or been canceled and sometimes this was due to the fact that the complex and "organic" systems on the iSeries weren't worth the cost of picking apart. This is a strength of the platform: inertia is permitted, even encouraged, by the reliability of the systems - but it is also a weakness. When you inherit a system it is literally a "legacy" and this type of lock-in allows IBM to gouge the installed base pretty hard (so they do).

In other cases migrations off the platform have failed due to the fact that the systems on the iSeries, old-fashioned though they may look, turn out to perform far better than the new alternatives. 5250 is a ruthlessly efficient protocol and mouseless, keyboard-only data entry is equally efficient. Well designed applications on the iSeries can often outpace the would-be successors. When that happens the sensible IT manager says "let's keep it" - albeit sometimes through gritted teeth.

There is, of course, a place for modern application development on the iSeries. Who would be without the WWWeb now? So far RPG has failed to really deliver the enhancements to keep pace with these shifts (can I say "fashions"?) in development but IBM seem committed to doing their best to catch up now, even if it is by throwing open an API, rather than delivering finished solutions. If these updates allow programmers to move to RPG and the i more easily, and then produce applications that make the platform desirable then this is all good. I remember how the B10 was the most popular system in Italy because it ran the Italian equivalent of Sage Accounts. Every man and his shop had one and IBM built the machines there because of it. We could do with a good app like that now that makes the i not just good but actually compelling - even to newbies.

But it won't happen without a couple of things that IBM MUST do:

IBM need to produce a developer system. Stick it in a laptop or SFFPC chassis if you can (and if you can get i on a blade then you definitely can!) so that the IO is too limited for anyone to consider it for production use. Sell this machine for cheap and GIVE AWAY the tools to develop with.

IBM need to build a REAL entry machine that can be used by a TINY (5-10 user max) business economically and they need to stop pretending that anyone pays $25000 for SQL Server in their cost comparisons - nobody pays that or anything close to it. Set up the file sharing, build a web-based management interface into the FSP that includes iSeries Nav functions and an emulator console, support USB for printing so it really can be the machine that does what a Windows box can. None of this is impossible, or even very hard, for the world's largest software company.

Oh yeah, also keep pushing the technology in schools! Give them machines that they can afford and that can run a school. I know school IT people and the problems they have with Windows...! Seriously, make it LPAR-able for cheap and let the pupils loose on it in ICT lessons.

Then, and only then, will your trickle become the flood it should be.

p.s. Why does your sign-in want to UPDATE my Twitter information? That seems a little invasive...

Aaron Bartell

@Hans

Just pretend the IBM i is a brand new platform with a new language named RPG and it has a new DB named DB2, and companies are moving en-masse to the platform because it is better.

Seriously though, what if we don't consider the numbers we once had and instead look to the possibilities of the future. We are in a VERY solid place when I put those glasses on.

AaronBartell.com

Frank

We have been running SAP on the IBM i using PASE since 2004 supporting a global business and it is the platform we will continue to run for sometime to come.

Greg

Running canned software reminds me of what they say about regular expressions, 'Some people, when confronted with a problem decide to use regular expressions - now they have two problems'. Canned software doesn't seem to work with a company's architecture, infrastructure or business. Choosing a different canned software would be an interesting solution to those problems.

anurag

Wow! What varied comments.

My 2 cents :

Although the project described in the post is quite compelling, I am pretty sure that this is a rare case. I have never really come across a project where window based servers were switched off and a System i was switched on. That's the sad truth. System i may be added as a component within the infrastructure but never as a replacement server.

Conversely, I have never actually come across a project where a System i app was moved, successfully, to a Windows/UNIX based app. I have heard of various attempts and was involved in a project an year ago but that's about it. They all have been attempts. An app on System i is waaaaaaay too robust for any alternative in the market.

So, what does that mean? It means that we will always have a Hans in the industry who will get disillusioned with the Systemi and move on. Happened to me a couple of times for a few nanoseconds. But I was able to get over the feeling by reading posts like this one. Does it mean that the System i is doomed? I think not. But will System i grow rapidly? Nope. That's not happening any time as well. I will settle for a slow and steady growth and if posts like this can change one IT managers' mind, I am all for it.

Hans, am in Toronto area too. The bank I work for is looking for System i programmers (RPGLE and a little Java) on a 6+months (extendable) contract basis. If you are interested, please contact me and let's see if something works out : agsharma at gmail dot com.

Scott Klement

@Anurag: I see things similarly to what you do. People get disillusioned, or they find a solution that seems to fit them better, and they move away from IBM i. I think that's normal in any industry, customers will come and customers will go.

The problem in IBM i right now is that there are very few that are coming, and lots that are going. Sitting at the IT manager's desk in my shop, I get a lot of calls from vendors selling software solutions -- very impressive software solutions, well presented, and with a convincing pitch about how their software is going to improve my organization. And none of these vendors seem to be software for IBM i. When I do get a vendor that makes software for IBM i, they usually _also_ make software for other platforms, and have even told me that sticking with IBM i would be "going backwards", and that I'm better off buying their "modern" Windows product rather than their "legacy" IBM i product.

To me, that's why this industry is shrinking. Normally, people come and go. But on IBM i, people just go. There's very little out there that even makes an attempt to get new people to come _to_ this platform. In other words, very few vendors are marketing valuable applications that recommend IBM i as a solution. (Believe me, I'd be very pleased if they did! It'd make me look good, and it'd vindicate my decisions to stick with this platform!)

But that's also what makes this blog post so compelling. It's an example where someone _is_ pushing IBM i because of it's strengths! That's a marvelous thing, and we should be encouraging it (as Chris, Jon & Susan have.) If we are the IBM i faithful, why are we reacting so negatively to news that someone actually _sold_ our platform to someone else?!

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