17th June 2024

IBM i Update: June 2024


Welcome to your IBM i update for June 2024.

This month we have a last chance to be part of the ALL400s community IBM i survey, plus we have a full report from COMMON Europe in Milan, including presentations by Steve Will and Charlie Guarino.

You can watch the video below or read the full article underneath.

Watch the Video:

All400s IBM i Survey 2024

All round good-guy and arbiter of the IBM i companies list, John Rockwell released the ALL400s 2024 IBM i survey in April. With June quickly coming to a close, now is our last opportunity for us to join together as a community and answer just 30 quick, non-obligatory questions.

This survey is uniquely open to all within the IBM i community and has a goal of 500 respondents for 2024, shy of the 600 plus in 2023. It’s your chance to share with the community of your experience, insight and feelings on the platform. So please do jump on board and spare 10 minutes or so to provide your thoughts…

To complete the survey, visit the following link – https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/KVRLDQF



Common Europe: Milan 2024

Now, as previewed in last months IBM i update, at the beginning of June saw the return of the COMMON Europe event.

This year, we were in Milan Italy with the event hosted at the Expo centre, 20 minutes outside of the city centre.

As promised by Torbjorn, we enjoyed a smorgasbord of over 170 presentations or discussions from 88 international speakers in this multi-threaded event.


With over 450 attendees from 31 different countries, COMMON Milan broke previous attendance records.

And on the morning of Tuesday 4th, after introductions by the committee, we were straight onto the keynote speech in which VP Steve Sibley, CTO Steve Will and Distinguished engineer, Joe Cropper provided insight into what they’re working on.



Continued Success of the IBM i with Steve Sibley

First, Steve [Sibley] told of the continuing success of the platform with IBM i delivering nine straight quarters of revenue growth and two years of double digit revenue growth, consolidating its position as a very important part of IBMs ongoing strategy while reassuring us of their commitment to continue to deliver for platform too.

Steve went on to discuss AI and its growing importance to IBMs strategy. He explained that, “Generative AI is creating an inflection point in business transformation…

Talking about their future direction, he cited results from a survey conducted by IBM.

He said that over 62% of executives said that generative AI will disrupt how their organisation designs experiences, and 71% of execs think its difficult to realise the full potential of digital transformation without having a solid hybrid cloud strategy.

So, AI and cloud are both pivotal to their strategy moving forward.


Incorporating generative AI on the IBM i platform with Steve Will

This led neatly into the presentation by Steve Will, who introduced the possibility of incorporating generative AI on the IBM i platform.

Now, I covered this last month as he did the very same presentation in Texas in May…

But to summarise, the key to this new development will be in its use cases.


First, is its ability to support code development through generative AI. Here, the ‘co-pilot’ would be able to understand the code base and and provide contextual information, plus support coding activities in both a generative sense and for application support too.

Secondly however was an idea in DB2 data analytics. For example, the AI could sit next to the transaction stream, read the throughput and build and notice trends to help you understand what’s going.

With knowledge built, this in turn, could lead to AI predicting events and therefore supporting preventative actions.

And finally, in ongoing operations, AI could monitor and react appropriately to operational alerts.

Steve said, “If we can figure out how to get the right transaction data, like messages that go to QSYSOPR and so on, over to an AI workload that can do automated operations, it could then help you run your machine.”


So, really exciting stuff and Steve put out a ‘call to action’ for the community to donate RPG code to help support the build of an IBM i large language model.


What IBM i are doing with Cloud, Hybrid Cloud and Private Cloud 2 with Joe Cropper

Joe Cropper also provided insight into what IBM are doing with cloud, hybrid cloud and private cloud too, using Power Virtual Server.

Joe explained that, using Power Virtual Server, he has a customer who migrated and was productive on Power 10, in just a week!

Joe told us that, in the past 12 months, they’ve simplified the networking stack to make it easier for you to get your applications and data into Power Virtual Server or even move them back and forth.


In the same vein, IBM have invested significantly into seamless DR and geographical replication of data too.

In addition, there are new capabilities including compliance, additional data centers in Madrid and Chennai ‘chun-i’ in India. Plus, options for dedicated hosting resource, hybrid model and granulated costings too.


Experience the Wonders of AI with Charles Guarino

But it was AI that was the ‘unofficial’ theme of the event with many presentations and discussions outside of the announcement by Steve Will.

With the highlight for me being the presentation and subsequent hosting of a panel discussion by inimitable New Yorker, Charlie Guarino.

On the Tuesday, Charlie presented, ‘experience the wonders of AI’.


Charlie started by providing pivotal moments in history, going back to Alan Turing who first proposed the idea, ‘can machines think’ back in an article he published during his time at Oxford in 1950.

Charlie moved through the timeline from the 50’s citing examples of in every decade, from HAL in 1968s a space odyssey, in 1999 Deep Blue evaluating up to 200 million moves in a second to defeat Garry Kasperov in Chess.

Right up to IBM Watson winning Jeopardy in 2011 and the introduction of ChatGPT in 2022…

And providing context for what is a large language model and why its needed. Passing over to his colleague, Thomas Decorte (a research doctorate no less).

Thomas went on to explain that ‘essentially’ a LLM is a deep learning algorithm that studies, computes and learns from massives datasets.

Think of learning to drive, the more roads you drive down from city to the country, the more you learn and understand the nature and law of driving, and perhaps more importantly how to react given certain circumstances.

But to use this knowledge, you’ll need to articulate it.

Charles took to the floor again and explained that to get the most out of AI, you have to provide the AI with context – tell it the roles you’d like to play, the audience in which you’re working with and clearly tell it what you are looking for and how you’d like it presented.

The key is, be very specific.

However, AI doesn’t stop at the prompt as with, ‘great understanding comes great clarity’.

So, if you can apply the same logic on your mobile device, you can have something that can translate phone calls in real-time, summarise web pages, is able to rewrite your emoji ladened text message.

And AI does all this through a generative pre-trained transformer, or GPT to you and I.

The GPT uses the LLM to build it’s understanding of its world and provides context and contextual information, with human-like responses, accordingly.

And today, there are plenty of GPTs to choose from, not just ChatGPT, with the numbers growing seemingly every week.

So, where does a co-pilot fit in with the GPTs and LLMs? Well, think of a copilot as a specialist in a certain field – it’s trained to a high level in a particular topic or field of expertise and as such, can provide expert advice, guidance and support in those areas.

The IBM i copilot for example, will be able to support your RPG coding better than a ChatGPT because of the information it has and the training its received – specific for the IBM i and all the nuances and specialist features there-in.

Now, of course, I’m summarising a subject in a few minutes that Charles spent an hour presenting… and even his presentation was a summary of other articles and insight. If you’ve not seen Charles speak, please do so. He’s certainly one of the best in the IBM i community.

Which is why, at 8am the following day, I was back with Charlie for a an open panel discussion on the practical AI usages in the enterprise.



Practical usages for AI on the IBM i

First, Charles asked what would be the ‘low hanging fruit’ to help introduce AI to the enterprise?

Alex Roytman explained that, “Every IBM i show has a big backlog of documents and reports to generate. This is something simple that AI can resolve by taking a model that knows how to generate SQL, give it some natural language and a description of your data and what we’ve found is that, just through speaking to the AI, it’ll generate the SQL and create the report.”

Thomas Decorte concurred and explained, “Simple but well used data driven application such as a sales forecast, inventory report or customer analysis are usually one of the first applications of AI you can do.

My advice is, start with something small that doesn’t impact mission critical information.”

Sebastian Lehrig [AI on IBM Power Lead at IBM] agreed but added that it’s important to get these wins under your belt and it would provide the enterprise with the confidence to move forward with AI.

Jessie Gorzinski [AI Business Architect at IBM] added that, “what we’re really doing is leveraging AI to remove the repetitive, tedious tasks that humans are doing. And that’s one thing that AI in general is very good at.”

On the other side of the AI coin are the concerts with security and Charles asked the panel what their recommendations were .

Jessie explained that, “AI exasperates any security vulnerabilities you already have on your system.

The same considerations for something like providing full system access to all users or all object authority (never a good idea) should be applied to AI too.

Keep in mind the purpose of what you’re trying to achieve and lock that in to the permissions you give it. Be diligent when data modeling these applications.”


Common Europe Milan: Exhibitions, Goodies and Entertainment

The presentations and debate at the exhibition were up to their usual high standards then. But outside of the conference rooms we could enjoy the main exhibition hall.

Here, the conference hosted the sponsors and vendors. Now, there was a real buzz here, with live demonstration to be enjoyed, good food to eat, and weather that allowed delegates to chat and network outside too.

And then there’s the obligatory tote bag that comes with goodies including a common t-shirt and flask.


And on the final evening of the congress, COMMON gave us an opportunity to let our hair down and put on an evening of food, drink and entertainment including a set by 90s dutch sensation Nathalie Arts [watch the video].

I think there were many a sore head in the morning…



Learning new IBM i skills with zero training budget

And, on that final morning, COMMON hosted an open panel discussion with the experts. Many questions were fielded, including AI, but I thought I’d close on a question involving training.

The question was (and I think this may be a common one), “I have a training budget of zero dollars, what do I do to get the training I need?”.

Steve Will took this questions and explained that, “Our community is really good at creating training material that you need. It’s part of our (IBMs) mission to have our development and product team to supply free training too.

Every Wednesday morning we have a technology ‘guided tour’ in which an expert spends an hour detailing a particular technology.

The expert presenting is the happy to take an email or have a chat to answer any questions you may have.”

Liam Barry Allan added to this explaining that YouTube remains an important asset for training with many IBM i advocates and experts sharing their tricks and tips in everything from coding to system administration.


Common Milan 2024 Summary

All-in-all, the COMMON European Congress remains the most important IBM i conference in Europe.

Should you get a chance to go, I would strongly recommend it, you’ll come away with valuable knowledge and insight… plus a few new friends too.

I’ll be at the iUG event in mid-June too, so if you’re there, be sure to say hello! But that’s it for this update for June 2024.

Thank you for taking the time to read (and watch) the blog post.

Should you wish to view any of the articles featured in full, please see our blog on the proximity website here https://www.proximity.co.uk/blog/

Until next time,

P.S – don’t forget to say hello if you see me at the i-Power conference mid-June!


Catch our previous May IBM i Update here. Alternatively, if you’d like to receive the latest IBM i Update hot off the press to your inbox, subscribe to the newsletter version on LinkedIn here.

Posted by Rob on 17th June 2024.