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Jan 11, 2012

Adamantly Optimistic About IBM i

By Tami Deedrick

Aaron Bartell is sharing some insights from his brilliant mind again. In “Shouldn’t Everything Run on IBM i?” he talks about why IBM i shops rely on technologies other than on the i—and why that need not be the case. Aaron’s adamant and optimistic about a bring future on IBM i. Now he wants to talk about it.

So is Aaron off his rocker? Where is he right or wrong? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.





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Aaron is spot on.

I've been trying to convince the folks at IBM Collaboration Solutions (i.e., Lotus) to keep IBM i supported on their suite of products. Offering Windows/Linux on x86-64 support for major products alienates many IBM i customers.

If you're a fan of Lotus on IBM i then help us out below!

I love how optimistic Aaron is about IBM i!!! If I were starting a business from scratch I might even be tempted to only have an IBM i in the data centre.

Problematically, very few midrange organisations initially deployed their web applications on i. They used .NET on Windows or they used some LAMP architecture with the web front end calling back to DB2 on i for the data. For the most part, it will continue to make business sense to maintain and enhance those existing web applications.

For those of us in that scenario, the only means we have of breaking into the web world is a new web application, and it is a difficult business case to make to put RPG programmers on a Java web project: who in the organisation already has web experience, the RPG people or the .NET people?

I love the idea of consolidating on i but so far, the business case for doing so has not been in my favour.

I will have some more optimism to share in the not too distant future based on an IBM i hosting company I am working with that has tentatively agreed to publicly post their best-I-have-seen-to-date hosting price (which is unprecedented as far as I know). It is a IBM i hosting company that KrengelTech is moving all of our hosting/development to starting next week.

The barriers that have plagued IBM i for many years are incrementally being erased.

I am only cautiously optimistic. I think IBM needs to include RPG Open as part of the OS. Then it needs some kind of open source (or IBM supplied) enhancements to read/write a web page as easy as EXFMT.

Secondly, IBM need to GIVE an IBM i to a big, honkin' well know website and then publicize the snot out of it.

Then maybe others will pay some attention.

I still love the IBM slogan, "i came, i saw, i conquered".

Unfortunately, Buck makes a good point. A lot of businesses have significant existing infrastructure running on Windows. Changing the status quo is not easy. Even new developments will most likely be routed along familiar lines. Overall, regaining ground will likely be difficult.

From my perspective, the Power i is still the best system on the market. And it offers the best protection for software investments. I am thinking particularly of the evolution of the AS400. Make the same with MS products.

The biggest problem is the lack of the graphical front end from my perspective. This actually prevents native developments. If no more solutions are developed for a system, the confidence of customer will vanish, may the technical progress still be large. A step in the right direction certainly is Open Access. For this reason I became a partnership of ProfoundLogic. I think web applications are the future, because they are device independent. The ProfoundUI Framework offers the best approach to modernize native RPG solutions (including EXFMT / WRITE) or to develop new, because everything happens at the power i.

I will repeat, what we really need are new solutions, native on the Power i and a bit more marketing commitment of IBM.

I've been exploring the many technologies to web enable apps on my System i and it worries me that I may be making the wrong choice between RPGOA, Java, or PHP. Then there are a wide array of IBM and 3rd Party RAD tools to chose from that makes it hard to know which is the best. It's impossible to evaluate all of them. It's difficult to make a long term commitment when you really don't know what to expect from these technologies/tools.

It would be nice if there was a publication/forum that ranks or evaluates all these RAD tools and technologies to help me make a decision.

I put by response in my blog:


As Aaron said many times, the value of IBM i is integration. Of course WebSphere/Java or Microsoft developers can also do business applications, the problem is not here. Let me take a similar example: imagine that a giant grouper fish sees suddenly a diver underwater: apparently there is no difference between a fish and a diver using a scuba. However, the sea occupies 80% of the surface of the earth. So, why there are just a few houses underwater? I think that if you want to live underwater 24/7 you need to be a fish and if you want to make business application you need an integrated OS able to manage persistence NATIVELY because 80% of business applications ARE persistent.
Google Aps is already multitenant, Microsoft 365 will be multitenant around 2013 and IBM i was multitenant thirty years ago. Telling to a Google Aps or IBM i developer to migrate to WebSphere/Java is the same as telling a group fish that it needs to wear an underwater breathing apparatus to be modern. That would be crazy.
When decision-makers have to invest on long term, they are looking about IBM investments on long term to see if the platform is viable. Profound UI is not IBM but an ISV doing what IBM should have done, which demonstrates that IBM must care of the life cycle of its own operating system.
So, I quite agree with Dale Janus and Karl Fritz.

I'm glad to see Profound UI mentioned in this conversation, but more importantly I'm happy to see the points made about leveraging IBM i's native integration capabilities with RPGOA.

We hear from customers and user groups alike that IBM i is their platform of choice for its reliability and RPG code for its stability. We believe that the logical next step is to use RPGOA as the pathway to modern application development and modernization. We're actually focusing on this topic in the coming months and hope to educate RPG developers on the benefits of modernizing the native way with RPGOA as opposed to Java/.Net.

Amanda Blackburn

Amanda, I look forward to hearing what you guys have to say. Particularly what you mean by, "benefits of modernizing the native way with RPGOA as opposed to Java/.Net". I assume you mean RPGOA/Java/.NET all from a server perspective. RPGOA requires some client software, which could be a browser, or even a Java or .NET client.

@Karl Fritz.
I quite agree with you when you say that the lack of native GUI actually prevents native developpements.
I have writen to Rational in order to have a solution for the IBM i customers. Wait and see... maybe they will hear us.

The article first bemoans the fact that we've adopted many languages, frameworks and operating systems that can't integrate on the IBM i platform and then the article claims everything integrates so well on the IBM i! How can both be true?


Thanks for taking the time to question the article. The main thought of the article is to keep all processing on IBM i whether it be RPG, PHP, Java, Ruby, Perl, Python, etc.

Introducing additional operating systems (Windows) and databases (MSSQL) can easily double the complexities of a shop (half-life of knowledge, licensing, personnel, etc) and thus increase costs significantly.

Of course somethings on IBMi integrate better than others, but my opinion is that if the machine can run it then it shouldn't be moved to another platform.

Does that help explain it better? Please respond.

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