The iSeries Blog

October 29, 2009  1:07 PM

Young i Professionals start Virtual Learning Center

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

The Young i Professionals group has launched its Virtual Learning Center, a way for IT pros go to get online tutorials on the System i platform.

One of the early goals of the group was educational, and the VLC is a step in that direction. The YiPs, which started a couple years ago and continues to chug along, have a few tutorials already up on the site, mainly on PHP, Rational Developer for System i (RDi) and WebSphere. Other categories not filled yet include others related to programming, such as RPG, Java and C, as well as hardware and operating system categories.

The free tutorials now are just text, but the VLC is able to expand to videos, Q&As and other formats.

October 29, 2009  12:37 PM

What you can do to spur growth in System i

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

Trevor Perry writes this week about a recent System i conference he went to, and a panel session he moderated. Anyone who knows Perry knows that he complains about the complainers. That is, he criticizes those who bemoan platform name changes, IBM’s marketing of the System i, and so forth.

This time, however, I think he has a solid argument.

Perry recalled how, during the panel session, the discussion arose regarding the shrinking pool of System i developers out there. Some panel members pointed to the IBM Academic Initiative, which has gotten some System i-related courses in universities and community colleges. Attendees supported this kind of educational effort, but as Perry writes, the complaints continued:

And the conversation went around and around. And the complaints continued. While we all love love love the platform, there are not enough people who know about IBM i, not enough new programmers working on IBM i, not enough, not enough, not enough… So, I asked everyone in the room – about 40 or so, some questions I have used with the i community in the past. I had just not paid attention to the answer.

The questions were:

  • “How many of you have talked to your local college or school and encouraged them to teach IBM i and RPG?”
  • “How many of you have hired interns from local colleges to work with your IT department with IBM i and RPG?”
  • “How many of you have told someone outside this community about this amazing platform?”

As Perry recalls, there was a lot of uncomfortable silence following those questions, and Perry knew why. Because they hadn’t actually done any of those things. He thinks that everyone in the System i community — not only IBM, the ISVs, the VARs and the consultants, but the end users too — should be participating and doing things to further the platform. He has a point.

October 29, 2009  12:12 PM

Rochester’s support for the IBM System i

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

It’s often good to take a look at things a year or so down the road, and that’s what I did with a recent story looking back at the merger of System i and System p into Power Systems. At the time of announcement, emotions can often be raw and reactions of the knee-jerk variety, but as time goes on, those involved in the merger can gain perspective about how it really affected the platform.

For the most part, IT pros told me that the results were mixed — from a technological and cost standpoint it was good for System i, but from a community and support aspect, not so much.

Shortly after the story came out, I got an email from an IBM VAR that basically confirmed the story. It came from Warren Muldrow, a senior programmer and analyst with Springfield, Mo.-based Karmak Inc. Here it is:

We are an IBM i VAR.  Just two brief comments:

  1. It is obvious that a large number of the “i” community is no longer at Rochester.  Getting support from someone who can speak “i” is a real challenge.
  2. Like many of those who remain in Rochester, we feel like we’ve been “p’ed” on.

In a follow-up email, Muldrow wrote that he couldn’t take credit for the “p’ed on” comment.

“Urban legend says it was first seen on a t-shirt inside the hallowed halls of IBM Rochester,” he wrote.

October 15, 2009  2:57 PM

Top 10, er, 20 reasons to move to IBM i 6.1

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

Craig Johnson at IBM Systems Magazine has his top 10 list, which morphed into a top 20 list. It starts with a push toward blades and ends with a pitch saying the OS is available on DVD. Here are the top 5. Check out the link for the rest:

  1. Enable consolidation of i and x86 servers with an IBM BladeCenter solution. IBM i 6.1 is supported in IBM BladeCenter S and H with BladeCenter JS12, JS22, JS23 and JS43 blades.
  2. Reduce impact of planned and unplanned outages with a high-availability solution from IBM. IBM i 6.1 supports the new PowerHA for i disk-clustering solution.
  3. Better performance for i and IBM System Storage environments through improved storage-area network (SAN) support. i 6.1 with POWER6 processor based-servers and a new Fibre Channel Adapter can deliver performance with the DS8000 that’s comparable to internal disk.
  4. Increased performance for Java and WebSphere applications with IBM i 6.1 enhancements. In Java-application performance tests, IBM i delivered 68-78 percent more transactions per second than i 5.4 running on the same POWER5+ processor-based server.
  5. Reduce IT costs with an easy, integrated, Web-based management environment. IBM i 6.1 delivers Systems Director Navigator for i that enables Web-based management. Navigator integrates with IBM Systems Director 6.1 providing a rich management environment for multiple, heterogeneous servers.

October 15, 2009  2:46 PM

IBM Power Systems product list getting shorter

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

IBM has announced that it will withdraw from marketing a bunch of Power Systems-related products starting on January 4. I counted 91 different feature numbers, so if you have an older Power-based server, it might do you well to take a quick scan and see if you need anything.

IT Jungle listed what it considered to be some of the more important items:

The processor cables that are used to lash multiple Power 570 boxes together into a single SMP server are going, so is the dual-port GX host channel adapters and conversion cables for the original Remote I/O (RIO, a variant of Fibre Channel) to the RIO-2 (a faster Fibre Channel) external drawers. A whole slew of SCSI cables are biting the dust, and as are dual-line power cords used with earlier Power 570 and Power 595 boxes, and so is the twinaxial workstation controller used in the current Power Systems lineup. (That could be a biggie for a lot of i shops.)

The article also lists of bunch of other processor and memory cards, and power supplies.

October 15, 2009  2:13 PM

Lawson Software quarterly results mixed

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

Lawson Software, a midrange ERP software company and a longtime System i vendor, showed some mixed results when announcing its most recent quarterly results.

Total revenues for the St. Paul, Minn.-based company were down 11% from the same quarter last year, but this is no surprise. Just about every vendor, software and hardware, have been seeing decreased revenue this year.

What is perhaps telling is that revenue from software licensing fees for Lawson is up 23% from last year. The company says in its release that the increase was “driven primarily by increases in healthcare, public sector and equipment service management & rental vertical markets. Contributing to the increase was the recognition of a larger amount of deferred license fees in the first quarter of fiscal 2010 as compared to the similar period last year as well as several significant deals signed and recognized in the current quarter.”

In general, overall software revenues were up 1%, according to the company. What took a hit was consulting revenue, which dropped 29% “driven by fewer billable consultants. The company has reduced the size of its consulting staff as part of a strategy to move more implementation services to its partner channel as well as due to lower bookings for consulting and implementation services.”

“We delivered strong software revenue and excellent earnings growth despite continued weakness in the global economy,” Harry Debes, Lawson president and chief executive officer, said in the statement. “Our vertical strategy is yielding growth in software revenues and our continued focus on internal efficiencies has significantly improved operating margin.”

October 1, 2009  4:27 PM

Zend for System i now only free for the first year?

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

The IBM i development blog has heard from a user who has been told that Zend Core for System i is only free for the first year. Whether this is true for all customers or not is unclear, but here’s a snippet of what the end user has heard from Zend:

“We can install Zend Core for i5 and all nine developers can use Zend Studio for i5 and we can continue to utilize these products free of charge for one year and one year only. When the first, free year concludes, in order to continue using the Zend products, we will need to purchase…”

The IBM i development blog says that they’ve been using Zend on i for three years now with no demand for payments.

Update: It seems as though support for Zend Core is free only for the first year, but the software itself remains free past one year and beyond.

October 1, 2009  4:24 PM

Planning for Power7: Some technology considerations

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

IBM has published a statement of direction on its web site that starts to spell out the direction it’s going with the System i. Hat tip to IT Jungle for pointing this out. Here are the statements, step by step:

If you want to upgrade from a Power5 machine to Power7, the only way you can preserve the serial number is by first upgrading to Power6, and then to Power7. Why is the serial number important? From IT Jungle:

This serial number thing is important for the accountants and the tax man. (If you don’t preserve the serial number, you have to write off the full value of the initial asset at the time of the upgrade.)

Power7 hardware will support the existing 12X I/O drawers, according to the statement of direction. Older I/O drawers that were supported on Power6 and earlier hardware — RIO/HSL-attached I/O drawers — will not be supported. In the statement, IBM “suggests” that Power6 users upgrade to the 12X I/O drawers now in anticipation of an eventual upgrade.

IT Jungle calls 12X I/O drawers “gussied up” InfiniBand, and had this to say about the potential future of I/O on i:

I think IBM will have to move to QDR InfiniBand for I/O drawer links for a simple reason. The PCI-Express 2.0 peripheral slot standard has a peak data rate of 40 Gigabits/sec. If you don’t have a faster and wider network pipe, the I/O is going to flood it. And when the I/O pipes are flooded, expensive multicore processors like Power7 chips spin their cycles and do not work. As a wise man once said, all computers wait at precisely the same speed. . . . And waiting is the one thing system engineers have to design out of the box.

The statement of direction also says that Power6 machines will be the last hardware to support a number of storage and networking technologies: SCSI drives that are 36 GB or less or 10K RPM SCSI drives; quarter-inch cartridge tape drives, and I/O Processor (IOP) and IOP-based PCI cards.

October 1, 2009  1:53 PM

RPG and 5250 screens are like music CDs?

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

The iDevelop blog has a recent post comparing the music industry to the IBM System i. In particular, it looks at how the reluctance of the music industry to embrace digital music — instead continuing to push CDs — is similar to System i end users’ reluctance to embrace PHP and other newer System i technologies, instead continuing to embrace green screens and RPG.

What do you think?

September 24, 2009  4:45 PM

IBM i runs PHP, but is it enough?

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

Mike Pavlak ponders an interesting question: While IBM may continue to develop technology on the System i and Power Systems, such as PHP, is it enough to overcome the CIO who, in an attempt to impress his bosses, wants quick changes that show quick savings?

Pavlak is a former IT director and System i consultant who is now a solution consultant for Zend Technologies, which is the PHP company. So he has a dog in the fight. Still, Pavlak is honest in his post about whether PHP and other technologies are enough to prevent migration off the System i platform.

Can you hang on to your IBM i through the tenure of the 3-year CIO? I would guess that you wouldn’t. Primarily because the 3-year CIO is cost justifying all the new systems based upon the upgrade costs and maintenance fees of the IBM i. (TCA vs. TCO) And how many CIO’s are reporting to the CFO? And what CFO wouldn’t be attracted to the smell of fresh cut costs? It’s like catnip to the tabby crawling around my feet as I write this.

Pavlak presents some hope there, though. He feels that if IT managers and staff sell the CIO hard enough on the platform, it can work. They just need to justify the higher initial cost that usually comes with buying System i over Intel.

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