If nothing else, the IBM i has a certain longevity (including, dare I say it – a whole host of previous names). This year the evergreen platform celebrated its 30th anniversary.
A lot has changed in those 30 years, but one thing remains. The IBM i really is a fantastic platform with a community of incredibly passionate and vibrant developers, ISVs and evangelists.
We’ve talked to some of our IBM i specialists to see what we can expect in the next 12-months – and beyond.
Businesses want to stabilise, modernise, support & develop their applications on IBM i
Dave Pickburn, Director
The trends we’re seeing in the next year are things like people wanting to stabilise or regularise the platform that they’ve got running their main business. Sometimes that’s because people are retiring, sometimes that’s because they’re wanting to modernise and take that forwards, so there are various reasons.
But tools like X-Analysis can help.
We’re also seeing quite a few projects coming from customers and prospects where they want us to get involved in modernisation, and in taking on some of those maintenance and support activities – perhaps undertaken at the moment by their own staff.
The other thing that’s coming up – which is not strictly on IBM i – is that all the Windows CE devices are going out of support. They’re currently used in environments such as warehouses, logistics, and retail for example and they’re old tech, really not the best devices, so there are projects coming along to replace those with Android devices. We’re working with Ivanti, StayLinked and Zebra to deliver the very best mobile handheld devices and 5250 terminal emulation software.
The IBM i is here to stay: modernisation has a big role to play
Shahid Latif, IBM i Product Manager
Modernisation has got a big part to play. There is an acceptance that a lot of the hardware and a lot of the applications running on the IBM i are still going to be running for a few more years, at the very least, and yet there is still a difference in expectations from people coming new into organisations and needing to use that software.
They expect products to be better from a UI point of view, performance needs to be improved and all those things are really in tune with that you can do with modernisation, be it database reporting, impact analysis, GUI – all those factors are still three and are still important.
I think it could be more and more of an issue for people in the years to come – it’s not been totally resolved, people have dipped in and dipped out and it’s not going away, so I think modernisation generally is still going to have an influence.
The other part of that is with the outsourcing of the skills – not just development but also on the hardware side. People are looking for more managed services, and they want to reduce the onus on them because the skill sets are very specialist now. There are around but they’re not as widespread as they would have been in the past.
A lot of people are getting to retirement age or moving on to a new role, so you have that skills gap, those specialist skills are shrinking. There’s a demand for RPG skills, hardware skills, technical skills, there’s even a demand for specialist knowledge on the well-known ERP, logistics and warehouse management solutions like CIEL and Infor’s BPCS, LX and System 21 – those are still being used by a lot of companies, but the skill set is dwindling.
Open Source is still the big thing on IBM i
Pete Samways, IBM i Development Manager
From my perspective, I would say that open source is going to continue to be a big thing on IBM i, going forward.
That means that there’s going to be more stuff available, that’s currently only available on platforms like Linux and Windows. IBM seems to be working to make a lot more open source products available on IBM i and to make it easier to access them, as well.
For example, RPM has been made available on IBM i. Its been used by Linux and other platforms for a long time, and it makes it very easy to find packages from the internet and install them on your system, which is going to make it a lot easier to access this stuff in future.
Simple, scalable & secure with a roadmap until 2026
Rob Jackson, Director
The IBM i remains and will remain, a simple, scalable and secure platform.
It actually has a roadmap available until at least 2026, with things like the Power 9 Chip, integrated DB2 database. It represents a secure, scalable and very powerful platform for lots of different applications.
Also, given the ability to modernise legacy applications with the tools provided by Fresche and Proximity, there is absolutely no need to move away from Power i.
Web-enabling IBM i applications and core functions
Martin Coates, IBM i Developer
We are working with our customers to web-enable more and more of their IBM i applications and core functions.
It’s a continuation of the modernisation and development projects that we’ve been working on for the last few years. We’re moving increasingly code from RPG to PHP and web-servers, which means they get a lovely graphical front-end – with modernisation everything looks a lot prettier with many benefits to users, including more intuitive user interface, modern look and feel and the ability to run on mobile devices seamlessly.
The idea is that it still runs over the existing database that they’ve got. You can for example, drag-and-drop, which you can’t do in RPG and green screen, and you can fit more on a screen, and put graphics onto the screen.
As a development team, we’ve been working on many UI improvements to Stream, which is our delivery and fleet compliance software application, which runs on the IBM i.
And I suspect that Stream is going to go from strength to strength, too.
Terminal emulation & mobile device modernisation
Anthony Whalley, IBM i Developer
We’re seeing a trend towards mobile device modernisation, moving off old windows devices onto Android devices. We’re using a couple of companies to help with terminal emulation, Ivanti and StayLinked, both in actually modernising the screens to make it easier for people in the warehouse to use them, and towards adding customisation.
Its a way for companies to upgrade their scanners, so they they can have things like bespoke on-screen menus and function keys. It can also give companies a way to stay flexible – they can bring in temporary staff at busy or promotional periods, and those staff can use their own mobile phones to do the job, because it’s just an emulation on their phones – the company don’t have to supply the devices, they can just give staff access.