We recently hosted a day of strategy discussions for IT executives at Seiden Group’s CIO Summit in Dallas. Special guest Steve Will, Chief Architect of IBM i, joined the group to share his direction for the platform.
Steve began by addressing IBM i’s place in IBM’s list of priorities—how actively is IBM i being supported and improved? Can CIOs who commit to IBM i as their strategic platform count on IBM to continue enhancing and supporting it?
Two major trends make Steve bullish on the future of IBM i.
Ten years ago, many of the Chief Architect’s conversations involved companies who were considering moving away from the system. His conversations have changed dramatically. Today, Steve reports, many executives are far more visionary about the platform, seeking to leverage the assets that they have in a better way. The tide of attrition has turned.
Furthermore, IBM’s own internal metrics show that, in the last 3 years, the IBM i/Power business has remained constant in a shrinking market. As the cloud model takes over the thoughts of many executives, the IBM i offers a strong value proposition to cloud providers, and that helps ensure the financial viability of the platform.
In short, Steve assured us that IBM recognizes the business value of IBM i and is committed to investing in it.
Steve outlined his roadmap to address the three biggest concerns for IBM i users.
Concern #1: New Talent on IBM i
Steve’s team is working to attract younger developers to the IBM i platform. IBM created the Fresh Faces program (which includes Seiden Group’s Stephanie Rabbani) as one way to show that IBM i is loved by developers of every generation.
At this point, 20–40 US-based colleges teach RPG. Their graduates get snapped up by employers quickly. Because our platform needs more new professionals than the educational system can train, Steve’s team has crafted a realistic strategy that meets the next generation where they are.
1. Support technology familiar to younger developers
Rather than insist that the world train all students in IBM i technology, Steve finds it more practical to equip IBM i with the technologies that younger developers already know. For developers comfortable with Linux, today’s IBM i could feel quite familiar, as favorite tools became available here.
This strategy began 7-8 years ago and is bearing fruit with accelerating open source infrastructure and tools in the PASE environment. Besides open-source languages, we now have package managers; the Bash shell; Git; and a rapidly increasing portfolio of other open-source tools.
Developers of the new generation expect—and often have a passion for—a collaborative work environment. They favor tools that support collaboration, such as version control (Git) and messaging/file sharing (Slack).
2. Make your RPG environment more familiar to younger developers
Steve encourages IT executives to invest in transforming older code to newer variants and techniques that younger developers can easily understand, such as Free Form RPG and modular coding. IBM i’s rich partner ecosystem offers tools to make RPG code more modern and accessible to new developers.
It’s equally important to use modern IDEs, such as RDi, to give new developers coming out of school a familiar and productive development environment.
Concern #2: Anywhere at Any Time
Today’s IT users have the expectation that their applications and data will be available to them from any place, at any time.
The IBM i team and the ISV community have made major strides to enable “Anywhere at Any time.” Customers who still see IBM i as a back-office platform will be surprised to learn how much has changed when they take a fresh look at the platform’s “Anywhere” capabilities.
On the “Any time” side of things, Steve discussed how “available” high availability really can be.
Those of us not versed in the latest storage and system administration techniques were surprised to hear of some IBM i capabilities. Steve informed us, for example, that planned downtime for system backups can be reduced to mere seconds through the use of PowerHA and FlashCopy technology. Unplanned downtime can be short and become even shorter with ongoing R&D by IBM.
Concern #3: How Does the User Base Learn What’s New?
Steve challenged us to watch our social media.
IBM is using targeted web-based communication channels to understand customer interests and deliver relevant information via ads and social media. Start by following these twitter accounts:
- Steve Will: @Steve_Will_IBMi
- Scott Forstie: @Forstie_IBMi (SQL and DB2 for i)
- Jesse Gorzinski: @IBMJesseG (open source)
Other Resources for IBM i Direction
- DB2 for i with Mike Cain
Insight and perspectives on data management using IBM i
- i Can with Dawn May
Technical Tips for i
- iTalk with Tuohy
Podcast interviews with people doing interesting things with IBM i development
- IBM Systems Magazine
IBM i’s 30th Anniversary Celebration
Starting April 2, 2018, IBM began celebrating IBM i’s 30th Anniversary with user stories and more.
Truth be told, we got a head start on the celebrations with the world debut of The RPG Five at the RPG & DB2 Summit in March. Steve Will, Ted Holt, and Seiden Group’s Alan, Stephanie Rabbani, and Jorge Diaz performed to a standing ovation. Check out the video!
Next CIO Summit
Our next CIO Summit will take place October 1-2, 2018, in Chicago. Seating is limited. If you are a CIO or IT Director who is responsible for application development, let us know if you would like to receive an invitation when registration opens.