3rd March 2021

A year like no other: Trends and challenges for IBM i

A year like no other: Trends and challenges for IBM i in 2021

2020 was a uniquely challenging year – both in the IBM i community and in the wider world. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all of us, with postponed budget decisions, fully-distributed work-from-home models, and increased uncertainty.

That particular picture hasn’t changed very much )so far) as we’ve moved into 2021.

HelpSystems’ 2021 IBM i Marketplace Survey looks at the trends and challenges that are shaping and driving the industry – both now and in the future.

2020’s benchmark report looked at how we can overcome IBM i staffing challenges by reducing IBM i application risk. 2021’s report reveals trends beyond the pandemic, including a major increase in the take-up of IBM i 7.4  since its launch in 2019, as well as renewed cybersecurity concerns.

Trends and challenges for IBM i in 2021

Security remains a big concern

75% view cyber attacks and data breaches, and other cybersecurity risks as the main concern in 2021. Though many organisations either already have security measures in place, or plan to invest in cybersecurity tools, 44% point to a lack of knowledge and skills around security as their main IBM i cybersecurity challenge.

Tools like Raz-Lee’s iSecurity provide you with security, auditing, compliance and security information & event management (SIEM) tools, developed specifically for the IBM i.

Use of  IBM i 7.4 booms

IBM i 7.4 was launched in 2019 and, despite the effect of COVID-19 on future-planning and budgets, uptake of the latest version increased significantly in 2020.

Adoption of 7.4 increased almost fourfold, use of 7.3 also increased slightly, and there was a major drop in the use of 7.2.

IBM i is more business-critical than ever before

The IBM i has a consistently low volume of migration off the platform, with just 3% planning to migrate all applications away in the next two years.

In fact, organisations are still moving their deployment of IBM i forward, and the IBM i is even more business-critical in some cases, with 44% running 76-100% of core apps on IBM i.

The impact of COVID-19 on planning

Many organisations have had to defer  bigger projects due to the pandemic, with a drop in the number of applications migrated to the cloud

Project timelines may have shifted, but organisations are definitely still willing and able to spend in order to keep moving forward.

In planning for 2021 (and beyond) there will be a trend towards minimising spend on hardware upgrades or capacity needs.

Increase in the use of POWER9 – ahead of the POWER10 launch.

Over 42% are now using POWER9, with POWER8 usage remaining steady.

POWER9 is a high-performance option and, with the release of POWER10 just around the corner in late 2021 or early 2022, many may take advantage of hardware/software upgrades.

IBM i development is ever-more important

Large organisations are doing more development on IBM i than ever, and 25% of organisations now have more than 11 IBM i developers. With over 75% of organisations using the IBM i for homegrown applications, developers with local knowledge are required to keep those applications up and running.

That’s why a tool like X-Analysis is so helpful for mapping an organisation’s entire application archetexture, so you can keep those applications running and updated into the future.

IBM i continues to provide greater ROI than other server options

A massive 92% of IBM i users rate the platform higher than other server options in terms of delivering a robust return on investment –  even more than in previous years.

The more people use IBM i, the more they like it, and the more value they ascribe to the system.

If you’re amongst the 25% of people who plan to increase their IBM i
footprint in 2021, we can help you to deliver the very best from your IBM i applications with managed services.

The impact of COVID-19 on operations

Perhaps

The COVID-19 pandemic has, unsurprisingly, had a massive impact on the way many organisations operate. The two main areas of challenge for IT teams have been:

  1. 45% feel they have struggled with remote access to IT functions this year
  2. 41% security  concerns with remote access

IT teams have been busy busy firefighting the issues around remote access and working from home, which has also made it harder to address strategic challenges.

Again, professional services may be needed to help balance those day-to-day issues with long-term strategic goals.


The 2021 IBM i Marketplace Survey was completed by almost 500 IBM i users worldwide.

As vaccines roll out and the world begins to recover from the effects of the pandemic,  the data points outlined in the survey may help in planning IBM i IT projects in 2021 and beyond.

Get in touch to speak with us about IBM i projects from security, to application mapping or professional services.

Posted by Zoe on 3rd March 2021.