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That Was 2008

January 6, 2009

Even without the ongoing financial crisis, 2008 was quite an "interesting" year from the IBM i perspective. So we thought for our first blog entry of 2009 we'd take a quick look back at some of the significant events in our world as we have seen them during the past year. 

1) Passages:

In 2008 we lost a number of major characters from the i world. By far the biggest impact in the user community was the passing in April of our dear friend, Al Barsa, who died while at the Nashville COMMON conference. We wrote about Al here, so we won't repeat ourselves. In October Tom Jarosh, an early General Manager of the AS/400 division also passed away. Regardless of whether you agreed with the direction in which Tom took the platform, there is no doubt that he had a major impact on our world. More recently, a member of the team who initially envisioned the AS/400 system and the father of a number of the early compilers, Dick Bains, passed away. You can read more in our blog entry

The end of 2008 was also the end of an era as it brought with it the retirement of "Doctor Frank"-- Dr. Frank Soltis, IBM Chief Scientist and father of the System/38 (and of course the AS/400 and its successors). Sad as we are to see Frank go. After 40 years at IBM he certainly deserves a break!  And of course we're hoping that he won't disappear completely from our world. We still hope to see Dr. Frank on the conference circuit.

2) Convergence:

As far as the hardware is concerned, the i and p platforms have been moving closer and closer together for years and we all knew it was inevitable that they would eventually converge completely. Well--for good or ill--this year it happened. One of the good aspects is that there is no longer a price premium on the hardware. You now pay the same for disk and memory as your p brethren. Other touted benefits such as greater marketing exposure seem to have had a short shelf-life. Unfortunately, the problems with parts of IBM walking into i shops to try to persuade them to move to AIX or Linux, which we had hoped might end with the convergence, continue on unabated. We have met the enemy ...

3) More new names:

With convergence came new names. Since the hardware is now a commodity item, and the latest POWER processor hardware is POWER6, clearly i5/OS made no sense. Sadly the name "i/OS" was already in use, so we are now simply IBM i, which doesn't work too well with Google! But then many Web sites (including IBM's in places) still refer to AS/400, System i, iSeries or System i5 so don't let anyone make you feel guilty about doing the same!

Along with the new OS name came a change in the way versions are identified. The new release is not known as V6R1 but simply as 6.1.

6.1 is also the first release since V3R6 and the introduction of the RISC hardware to require that all programs be converted. This has caused a little consternation for some users who discovered that vendor packages were not 6.1. ready, but most of these issues seem to have been resolved now. The payback for this conversion is that in the future your programs will always fully be able to exploit your hardware and not be constrained by the lowest-common-denominator approach formerly used.  

4) Tools Re-Packaging:

With the advent of 6.1, the AD tools formerly combined under the ADTS banner (compilers, PDM, SEU, and the workstation-based tools) were repackaged. The compilers, green-screen tools and workstation tools were broken out into separate products. We understand IBM needs to derive more revenue to fund future tool development, but feel that IBM has "punished" those customers who have moved their development forward and embraced RPG IV and the workstation tools.

While existing customers get entitlement to the compiler packages, the pricing for those purchasing new systems seems backwards. Those who need only the new RPG IV compiler must pay a higher price than those who choose to stay in the past with RPG/400. Of course many of those who pay the premium for the ILE compilers are also forced to purchase the legacy compilers as well because IBM has yet to persuade a number of big ISVs to make the simple transition to RPG IV. You don't need to consult the oracle to know who we're talking about here.

We're still hopeful that in 2009 IBM will offer a better deal for the early adopters of the workstation tools. Those who adopted the tools in WDSC get no entitlement for either of the follow-on products. Yet they could go backwards and use PDM and SEU with their entitled licenses of ADTS. What kind of sense is that? Sure, there's a discount they can get on RDi if they agree to give up their entitled ADTS licenses. Of course, to do that means accepting the "functionality gaps" that are likely to remain for some time to come. Of course, one could just continue to use WDSC, which is what the pricing policy seems to be encouraging this group of developers to do.   

5) And PHP kept growing and growing and ...

We're hoping to hear shortly that Zend's agreement with IBM to supply PHP to the platform will be extended--hopefully for at least another three years. The major developments on the PHP front this year concerned the introduction of Zend Bridge and the announcement of a DB2 Storage Engine for MySQL. 

Zend Bridge, which we covered here, has been a huge hit with those looking to modernize and extend their existing green-screen applications. The DB2 Storage Engine offers the prospect of extending open-souce gems such as SugarCRM with additional reporting and processing courtesy of native RPG programs. As of today rumor has it that IBM's work on the "engine" is done, the product is out of beta, and we are awaiting the integration components from the MySQL team. We're really looking forward to playing with this stuff when it GAs.

That's enough from us--what about you? What were the high and low points of 2008 in your part of the i world?

Posted January 6, 2009| Permalink

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