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The IBM i / COMMON Twitter blog – Part 2

August 19, 2016

Last time I covered the first three of the five “lessons” I tweeted after the COMMON Annual conference.  Today, we’ll wrap it up.  Here are the final two, with some comments. 


Open source on IBM i is not new, but at this past COMMON conference, it felt new – it felt re-energized and full of possibilities.  And there were good reasons for this.

First, yes, we’ve delivered a significant number of new open source options in the recent past, to complement technologies like PHP and Apache which have been a part of IBM i now for so long we just assume they’ll be there.  Among the newer options are node.js and Ruby, for example.  Then, at this conference, we talked about Git and Orion, which are commonly used in open source development environments.  So there certainly are many tools in an open source tool belt if you’re interested in open source and IBM i.

The key ingredient behind my “lesson” though, was not just the technology, but the impressive number of people interested in actually getting involved.  A few long-time enthusiasts arranged a “round table” discussion at a nearby restaurant, and they basically blew the doors off.  I was not one of the organizers, so forgive me for not knowing exact numbers, but it felt like there were 35-40 of us packed into that banquet room.  While we did have a few IBMers, the vast majority were customers and partners, most of whom are already implementing open source on IBM i, and all of whom wanted to figure out how to work with each other in a real IBM i open source community.

Many of the results of that have been discussed in other outlets – the #ibmioss hashtag to facilitate discussion, the LinkedIn group, the use of Litmis Spaces, etc. – so I’m not going to rehash all that.  I’m just pointing out that before New Orleans 2016, the IBM i open source enthusiasts of the world mostly worked in small groups, if they could find one another, but now there is a real community forming.  And they have a lot to talk about because of the wealth of open source technology we’ve been embracing in IBM i, and because of the committed IBM i developers who are engaging with the community to plot out the next tactical steps in the strategy.  It’s exciting to watch!

Final thought which was part of the lesson: This is not the “old AS/400.”  One of the great things about the architecture of IBM i – as opposed to the architecture of the original AS/400 – is that IBM i is truly able to adopt and integrate open source.  I appreciate the work it took to create the original architecture, and I am amazed at the work the development team did over the years to anticipate the need to run “non-native” software integrated with native software – even to the point of modifying the architecture to make it possible.  Some of the foundations for that were put down in the later days of the AS/400, but in the IBM i era, we’re taking full advantage of them.


At every COMMON annual conference, a group of young newcomers attends.  College teachers bring groups of students, and they add excitement and bring fresh ideas.  It’s great. 

New Orleans 2016 was extra special, though, because in addition to the students, we had presentations by Kody Robinson and Liam Allan, each of whom has his own story which shows the promise of the next generation of IBM i technologists.  Kody works for Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation, the company who won this year’s COMMON Innovation Award.  When Kody first joined the company, he didn’t know IBM i or RPG at all, but quickly learned what he needed to know, and was a key player in their efforts to use Arcad’s Transformer tool to turn existing column-based RPG to free-format RPG which a non-RPG developer could easily pick up and improve.  Kody accepted the award on behalf of his company, and got many chances to talk to people about the project.  He’s smart, he’s involved, he’s passionate about the project and IBM i. And he’s in his 20s! 

Liam was, technically, still a student, but he was also employed by a company which uses IBM i.  His story involves the kind of curiosity and determination which often show up in younger people who find cool new technology. The technology he found?  IBM i and the programming environment it has.  And then he found groups of people doing projects on IBM i, he began working with them, and soon he was winning the COMMON Student Innovation Award.  He, too, found many opportunities to discuss his work, and to learn things about IBM i from those he met.  (You can read a longer article about Liam here and here.)

Energy.  That’s what these young people brought to COMMON.  Now if you’ve attended the conference, you know there is a lot of energy already, but it gets compounded when you attend with such enthusiastic young IBM i users who are anxious to share what they know, and to learn what you can teach them.

For these final two “lessons” the common theme is excitement around new technology integrated into IBM i.  Now, as we approach the Fall conference and User Group season, it’s important to remember that the excitement continues at other IBM i events.  Find one that fits your schedule, attend and introduce yourself to people who are doing what you’re doing, or who are doing something new you haven’t tried yet.  There are plenty of people like that, whether in the open source arena, writing new RPG, or using one of the many ISV packages to run their businesses.  Get to know them, and you will get excited, too, about the great things you can do with IBM i.

Posted August 19, 2016 | Permalink

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