The future is bright for IBM i, as the powerful machine that could continues to provide data processing for hundreds of thousands of businesses across the globe.
In April 2010, IBM i 7.1 was released with enhancements that include:
- DB2 for i support for XML and column level encryption
- PowerHA for i asynchronous Geographic Mirroring & LUN-level switching
- Virtualization enhancements for IBM i hosted partitions and PowerVM
- Storage management enhancements for solid state drives
- Systems management enhancements for Systems Director Navigator for i
- Rational software development product enhancements
- Zend PHP Enhancements
- Web Application Serving enhancements
A recent IBM Whitepaper on the future of the IBM i shares the current state of the platform, and some of the future plans for development. One fact I found interesting was that in 2010, approximately 85% of IBM i shipments were on the IBM Power 520 and Power 720 servers, indicating that the medium and small enterprises are the biggest market segment.
The white paper shares that the future development focus of the IBM i includes the cloud: providing virtual machine image management, mobility and automation as well as extending storage virtualization features including thin provisioning. There will also be a focus on simplified management including automation of management tasks, and integration of management tools with virtual I/O server.
IBM also has continued its support of RPG, and recently announced IBM Rational Open Access RPG Edition, which modernizes RPG and allows RPG-based applications to interface with the wide range of new devices and resources. Not sure where COBOL stands, didn’t see it mentioned… but this recent article shares that COBOL is alive and kicking (as in, “it ain’t dead yet!), and there are certainly still job openings for developers familiar with the language.
The white paper included some case studies of companies that have upgraded their systems, which leads me to wonder, how many of you are using V5R3 (or V5R2) still? The support lifetime is waning, so what are your plans for an upgrade?
IBM user group Common recently declared its love for the new cost- and energy-efficient IBM Power7 line of machines announced in part in February and completed in August.
Included in the most recent rollout were the IBM Power 795; Power 710, 720, 730 and 740 Express models; i Solution Editions; and i Edition Express for BladeCenter S, the latter which integrates IBM i and Windows blades in the same chassis.
But what does this embracement and new line of systems really mean for Common members, especially those affected by the pSeries/i Series merger just a couple years back?
“When IBM first announced [the merger], I was very skeptical about what type of benefits the iSeries users would get from a merged platform,” said Pete Massiello, Common President. “But since the announcement, it has become very evident that we have greatly benefitted in the delivery of newer hardware at a lower cost, and new hardware and technology delivered faster to the IBM i community.”
Massiello specifically cites the total cost of new hardware, memory and disk drives being much higher pre-merger, and, if not for the merger, customers may have never seen the solid disk drives introduced to the IBM i last year.
The only caveat to the new systems for i users, says Massiello?
“The new machines do require that customers are running either IBM i 6.1.1 or 7.1,” he noted. “But we have been offering educational sessions and webcasts on these for some time now to help our members and the entire i community upgrade their operating system.”
The bang-for-your-buck theory also holds truer with this generation, according to Massiello, because of the large amount of CPW per core for your dollar.
“I doubt that IBM would have been able to deliver what they did at this low of a price-point had the merger not happened,” he mentioned.
(See one such example of CPW performance data from the Power 795 server).
Another item that Massiello is excited about for Common users as a whole in the new Power systems is the virtualization of I/O option – Virtual I/O Server, or VIOS.
“This primary partition virtualizes all the I/O to the other partitions on the server. We know that IBM i can also virtualize I/O, but not to the extent that VIOS can,” said Massiello. “What VIOS does better is that it attaches natively to many different external disks and storage area networks (SANs), and can then virtualizes those disks to IBM i. IBM i doesn’t have to know how to attach to all these SANs. IBM writes it once in VIOS and then VIOS can virtualize the disks to IBM i so thatIBM i doesn’t care about the physical disks. This gives customers more options.” Options, again, that continue the theme of not being possible without a platform merger.
The new Redbook, called “IBM i 6.1 Independent ASPs: A Guide to Quick Implementation of Independent ASPs,” includes chapters introducing independent disk pools, as well as others on managing, backup/recovery, and example hardware configurations.
The bloggers at iDevelop write to Santa with their four wishes for the System i server platform: respect, visibility, modernization, and no more name changes (at least for a while). I would add a fifth: Keep the System i identity and resist merging it completely with AIX/Unix simply because they both run on Power processors.
The operation will be splitting up, providing more strategic and management news for CIOs and IT managers in its typical print format, and moving all technical tips and articles online.
In a recent column, IT Jungle suggests that IBM offer specialty engines on the IBM System i, similar to what they do with the mainframe.
Currently with its System z mainframes, IBM offers three kinds of specialty engines: the Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL) to run Linux applications, the System z Application Assist Processor (zAAP) to run Java, and the System z Integrated Information Processor (zIIP) to run database applications, particularly DB2. Mind you, there is no physical difference between the mainframe’s central processors and its specialty engines. They’re the same chip. The difference lies in software licensing, which is free on the specialty engines.
IT Jungle thinks this philosophy could carry over to the System i and AS/400, particularly as IBM moves toward Power7-based machines:
On entry, midrange, and enterprise boxes that have more cores per chip activated, IBM would be wise to take a page out of its mainframe playbook and designate some engines for i/OS and others to run particular workloads as so-called “specialty engines.” These could be configured to run database queries, support Java virtual machines, run PHP applications, support various application modernization front ends from third-party tool suppliers, support Linux for infrastructure workloads, run firewalls, support fault tolerance and disaster recovery mirroring on a single system, or even allow for the harvesting of number-crunching capacity for analytics applications running on workstations.
While I don’t like the idea of i/OS engines carrying a premium price, lowering the overall price of a mixed workload system with i/OS and its DB2 for i database at the center of it all is a lot better than having a Power Systems i box that is too expensive to do anything but run the absolutely minimal amount of legacy code. I would prefer that these future Power7 boxes offer better value for the dollar than IBM’s AIX-DB2 combo, in fact.
The column hints at the benefit for both sides. System i pros can viably stay on the platform that they’ve know and loved, probably for decades. Meanwhile, IBM can prevent any mass migration off the System i by allowing shops to mix-and-match so-called legacy AS/400 applications with newer ones that run on Linux and PHP, for example.
Here’s a pointer to some of the more recent IBM Redbooks around the IBM System i:
IBM Systems Director Navigator for i: Chapters in this Redbook on the systems management Web console include Network, Integrated Server Administration, File Systems, and Advanced Job Scheduler for IBM i.
End to End Performance Management on IBM i: Chapters in this self-explanatory title include Performance Management Life Cycle, Performance Data Analysis, Trending and Capacity Planning Tools, and Performance Management Best Practices.
DS8000 Copy Services for IBM i with VIOS: Chapters here include Virtualization with PowerVM, Connecting PowerVM Clients to DS8000, FlashCopy Scenarios, Metro Mirror Scenarios, and Global Mirror Scenarios.
I recently wrote about the next version of the IBM i operating system, formerly called i5/OS. It is due out next year. But in the meantime, IBM has come out with an intermediate version of IBM i 6.1.1. Once you get past all those decimal points, you may want to know what the heck it is, what it does, and why it might be useful to install.
For that we have Steve Will, the chief IBM i architect, who wrote about “What is This ‘.1’ Anyway?” for IBM Systems Magazine. Dawn May also writes about it in her post, “Install IBM i Over the Network.”
Several prominent members of the System i community who usually give some of the best received presentations at COMMON user group meetings will not be doing that anymore, at least for the foreseeable future.
Jon Paris, Susan Gantner and Paul Tuohy are among the list of people who will pass on presenting at the COMMON show in Orlando next May. It is clear that COMMON’s recent cutbacks will have substantial effects on the look and feel of the show. Perhaps the biggest cut of all is COMMON’s decision to reduce compensation to volunteer speakers — whether that be in the form of a free registration, paying for travel and hotel, or other expenses. It certainly was one of the major factors that led to Paris’s and Ganter’s decision:
Had it not been for the need to examine our participation from a financial perspective, we would probably have continued on autopilot, delivering sessions along with our other volunteer duties, as we’ve done every time a COMMON conference rolled around. Being forced to think about whether we could afford to do that next year also caused us to think about why we were doing it in the first place and whether the time, money and energy we’ve been donating to COMMON represent the best way for us to help the community.
This weekend we found ourselves at the moment of truth, wrestling with the decision to either accept or decline our sessions that had been selected for the spring conference. We concluded that we still wanted to support the idea of COMMON, but increasingly it became apparent that the COMMON we wanted to support was an idealized organization that existed only in our minds. We had hoped the old COMMON could return and we worked with many other volunteers to make that a reality, but for whatever reasons COMMON’s direction seems to be set. For the time being we’ll remain members of COMMON and hope that things will change.
Paris and Gantner added that they won’t, by any means, just disappear from the System i landscape. They just plan to put their efforts into other System i educational and social endeavors, among them the Young i Professionals, iManifest, and local System i user groups.
Even those continuing to participate in COMMON shows realize the problems with the user group’s cutbacks to volunteers. Scott Klement, for example, will be going because Systemi Network is paying for him. But he said that he’s “not happy with COMMON’s attitude towards its volunteers, and (he) sincerely hope(s) they re-think their direction.”
Oh, I think that Jon and Susan are the tip of the iceberg of what’s to come not only from a presenter standpoint but from an attendee standpoint. And as much as I like Jon and Susan and as super as thier presentations are, I find it hard to believe that there’s NOBODY else out there that can do presentations on RPG, ILE…etc… Yet, it was absolutely shocking to find that there were NO sessions on RPG, ILE, CL or any of the other traditional “AS/400″ languages offered at IBM’s tech conf this past September.And if COMMON continues to capitulate to IBM’s demands that it become a AIX user group, it will also go the way of User Blue – even though User Blue had alot of help in its demise from SHARE, IMHO.
After attending the RPG & DB2 summit in October 2009, Profound Logic founder, Alex Roytman, got interested in some of the features that will be released in the upcoming versions of the IBM i operating system. Roytman is joined by Philip Roestamadji, marketing director at Profound Logic, and they discuss what they learned about RPG Open I/O. Two highlights include the possibility of using RPG to access non-DB2 databases, making RPG work with Oracle or MySQL databases, the other is using RPG to interface with browser applications to interface with browser applications, XML or mobile devices.
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