29th May 2024

IBM i Update: May 2024

Welcome to your IBM i update for May 2024.

This month we have an announcement on a native IBM i coding assistant by Steve Will, a preview of COMMON Europe [in Milan, no less] with COMMON Vice Chairman, Torbjörn Appehl plus… a dalliance with AS/400 by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

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

Watch the Video:


IBM i AI Coding Assistant

So, on the 20th May, the American IBM i community enjoyed the PowerUp conference in Fort Worth. IBM i CTO, Steve Will delivered the keynote speech and luckily for us, Alex Woodie of the Four Hundred was there to report on what he heard.

During the keynote, Steve introduced the possibility of incorporating generative AI on the IBM i platform.


Ok, so, exciting stuff, but what are the plans? Well, first, let’s say what it’s not going to be.

Steve explained that they decided that, “he’s pretty sure that an RPG to Java conversion tool is not the right thing to do for the customer base. What he believe the IBM i community does want however is co-pilot code assistant.

Steve went on to explain that, “What we decided that we really needed to do was to create a code assistant that could help programmers’ existing RPG, not move from RPG to something else.”

Now, I’m paraphrasing here but he explained that one of the biggest problems for a new programmer would be to assess and support massive amounts of RPG easily, especially if it’s coded in, say, RPG2.

Even if it’s well documented, to interpret and add to this code base would be both difficult and time consuming.

The key to this ‘co-pilot’ would be to understand and and provide contextual information, plus support coding activities in both a generative sense and for application support too.

So, how are IBM going to build this?

Well, the create a large language model (or LLM) powered coding assistant.

LLMs are built on machine learning and so will be fed with all the iterations and idiosyncrasies of RPG and IBM i so it can best assist.

In fact, during the speech, Steve asked for donations of code from the community that will go into training the LLM.

And, with this foundation, the first task of the LLM will be to read and understand YOUR code and interpret accordingly.

So, if we cast our mind back to when Roberto De Pedrini first completed his ChatGPT trial for creating RPG [as covered in the April 2023 IBM i Update], this IBM co-pilot would perhaps be better able to create code with it knowing the nuances of RPG, your application data model and code base, and what you’re trying to achieve in the confines of the specification against the understanding of your enterprise systems, APIs, databases and perhaps other disparate systems too.

I imagine it’ll be like have the benefit of an ‘old hand’ RPGer who’s been building these system for many years on hand to help support and guide you… and you’d be able to speak to this ‘old-hand’ using natural language too.


Steve went on to summarise the three AI use cases that they’re working on for IBM i.

First, as discussed was supporting code development through generative AI. 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 things, such as perhaps spikes in production, fraud or of key indicators.

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

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 we look forward to learning more in the coming weeks and months… watch this space!


COMMON Europe Preview with Torbjörn Appehl

So, that announcement was from the American PowerUp 2024 event in Fort Worth. The European equivalent comes to Milan at the beginning of June and I tool time to catch up with Torbjorn Appehl, the Vice Chairman for COMMON Europe to speak about the upcoming event.


Andy Nicholson: Torbjorn, welcome to the IBM i update!

Torbjörn Appehl: Thank you for inviting me. I really like your update videos always spread them in my network, my newsletter and all that. So, thanks for doing them Andy.

Andy Nicholson: Smashing, thanks Tobjorn, I appreciate that. First, can you provide an overview of the common Europe Congress 2024 and its significance within the IBM i community?

Torbjörn Appehl: Last year, in Prague, we had just over 400 people attend and I’m really hoping to get at least 400 this year as well. Also, we’re growing in the number of tracks and content too. Previously, we focused on hardware and operating system and then we grew into modernisation and application development. Some people think we grew a little bit focused too much on that, right? So now we are trying to keep all that but going into other areas too including infrastructure, open source and more…

Andy Nicholson: What do you think can be done to top last year’s event?

Torbjörn Appehl: It’ll be difficult, of course, but we’ll keep the same atmosphere and a lot of the core speakers including really good international experts and executives. We aim to have the best speakers you can actually find at an IBM event in Europe. And for streams, we’ll enjoy a really good Smorgasbord of education and experience. It’s something for everyone and I think people appreciate that.

Andy Nicholson: And speaking of education, this has always been a focus of a congress,…

Torbjörn Appehl: Yes, and again we’ll offer a smorgasboard of conference workshops. So, if you want to learn something new and you want to get your fingers dirty, arrive on Monday. You can sign up for the three hours technology workshops in a range of subjects. If you want to learn and try the tools, this is a great opportunity. For example, last year Paul Sharpton provided a workshop in which we developed apps in .NET and ran them on Power. We also have workshops on microservices, opensource and more…

Andy Nicholson: Can you tell me a little more about the venue?

Torbjörn Appehl: So, this year, the venue there’s a little bit outside of the city center, which is for many reasons, but it’s about 30 minutes by train. So, not very far away, but it’s still a bit out which is good us as for two reasons. First, costs, we are nonprofit organization. So we want to keep our cost down as much as possible to keep the fee for attendees as low as possible. Also, this allows us to keep deligates in the one place, and it’s a very beautiful hotel and everything will be in the same building so an excellent opportunity to focus on IBM I and Power and network with experts and thought leaders alike. There will also be many vendors there too so a great way to see first hand what they do and experience new and innovative ways of doing things.

Andy Nicholson: speaking about the information you need. Is there any pre-event resources or materials available to help attendees prepare?

Torbjörn Appehl: Other than asking delegates to review the schedule of events and book what sessions they sit in, not so much. But what we do have is a first timers’ session. If you’ve never been to conference like this before it can be overwhelming, right and there’s so much to take in. Resources, presentations, vendors… where to go, and the speakers not to miss… So, in this session we provide tips and ideas on what to do… practical things that first timers will appreciate.

Torbjörn Appehl: So I would just encourage people to go because I mean we can see a lot of people coming every year and that’s for a good reason but if it never been you don’t really know what it, go and check for yourself because you would probably be there next year again.

Andy Nicholson: Thank you Tobjorn, I’m very much looking forward to the event. Thank you very much.

Torbjörn Appehl: Thank you so much, Andy. And of course. I was spread it as always in the news today and all that. Take care, bye-bye


A Dalliance with AS/400 with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella from 1993

And before we call it a day, I found a video floating around social media that I thought you may be interested in.

The video was from the Microsoft Dev Cast in 1993. In the video we see a younger Satya Nadella, then, the Technical Marketing Manager, telling us how we can extract data via ODBC from the AS/400 into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.


It’s a cracking bit of history and demonstrates really how robust this technology was 30 years ago and how we’ve moved forward since.

The whole video is available on YouTube, should you be interested… or simply nostalgic? (Watch it here)

And that’s it for this months update.

But for now, 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,

…oh, and don’t forget to say hello if you see me in Milan in June!


Catch our previous March/April 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 29th May 2024.