Negative perceptions proved to be more myth than reality
Many organizations are apprehensive about IBM i due to a perception that this is a dying platform. In-depth interviews with several mid-to-large-sized enterprises revealed that while there is some angst about the platform in some situations (e.g., when resourcing is an issue), most perceived challenges are more myth than reality. For example:
- Myth: Organizations are no longer investing in this platform. The install base is shrinking quickly.
Reality: An Info-Tech survey found that only 4% of organizations are planning to migrate away from IBM i, while 64% are planning to upgrade to new hardware/software. (28% are staying with their current version for the foreseeable future, while 3% are exploring Managed Services/Hosting providers.)
- Myth: IBM i and its Power Systems hardware platform are old technology.
Reality: IBM has consistently delivered new Power-based processors every three years since 2001, and has consistently introduced new features ahead of most competitors (e.g., 64-bit processing since 1995, and virtualization via logical partitioning since 1988).
- Myth: IBM i (and its predecessors such as the iSeries) only run applications that provide green screen interfaces.
Reality: 39% of respondents to an Info-Tech survey are running web applications on an IBM i/iSeries system. The release of IBM i v6.1 for Power Systems (in 2007) added support for languages such as Java, PHP, and C++, expanding the ability to provide modern interfaces.
In addition, development tools are available to create modern, web-based interfaces for interacting with a legacy application, making even RPG-based software accessible to tablets and smartphones.
What is the canary in the mineshaft for IBM Power Systems?
The first sign that IBM i may in fact be dying and following the path of OS/2 will be when major ISVs stop supporting this platform.
At this time, the ISV market is still strong, especially where it matters for this platform — enterprise software. IBM counts over 2,500 ISVs and 5,000 solutions available for Power Systems overall, and over 850 ISVs and 2,300 applications for IBM i 6.1 and 7.1.
What about resourcing?
The one concern that bore out as a legitimate challenge is finding resources, both programmers and system administrators. After all, very few people are learning to program in RPG these days. However, modernization efforts have helped to make this platform more accessible to the younger generation of programmers, and it’s a relatively easy platform to learn to administer.
Organizations that are most successful at overcoming the resourcing challenge are proactive about developing and maintaining that expertise in-house rather than relying solely on recruiting.
IBM i provides exceptional reliability, and has a lower TCO over the long term than alternative platforms. With those key factors in its corner, dismissing this platform based on perceptions that it’s an old technology or a dying platform is simply foolhardy.
For more details, and advice for mitigating potential challenges including resourcing, please see Info-Tech’s solution set Assess the Appropriateness of the iSeries/IBM i in My Business.