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Three Ways Open Source Brings Business Value

November 5, 2018

The IBM i development teams have been delivering new open source software at a mind-numbing rate. In fact, it’s hard to keep up! Since our move to RPMs in May, hundreds of new packages have been delivered that help with application development, system administration and many things in between. In fact, I was in the middle of writing a short blog post about a tool called “Midnight Commander” when Steve Will published a discussion about some of our business results.

In a blatant and gratuitous attempt to ride Steve’s coattails, I decided to instead focus on business value with this blog post. After all, open source has been bringing victories for IBM i clients around the globe. As it turns out, a few of these open source wins have been showcased in some recent case studies. So, that’s the agenda for today. I’m going to highlight three case studies. Each one highlights a particular manner in which open source software can bring value to your enterprise!

1. Enhanced Capability

First up is one of my favorite stories, and one that you’ve likely heard of. JORI, a luxury furniture designer, was looking for an easy way for potential customers to customize items in a modern, web-based fashion. To do so, they worked with IBM i Business Partner CD-Invest, and they kept an open mind about the potential of IBM i. The resulting solution utilized Db2 for i, RPG, Web Services and (of course) open source technology. In this case, they found software specialized for video gaming and other three-dimensional modeling needs.

What a terrific solution! And to think, this is all running on IBM i! The key point here: open source is fundamentally changing the capabilities of the platform. The constantly-evolving technology is allowing IBM i to accomplish things that would otherwise be unattainable (or at least very difficult)!

2. Protection of Investment

Next up, let’s take a brief look at another Belgian company, DeKnudt Frames, who rolled out a new e-commerce solution. It is fueled by IBM i, POWER hardware, and open-source software. With the new technology, the company “expanded its market reach, given retail partners an out-of-the-box web store they can integrate into their own websites, streamlined payment and inventory processing, and reduced the cost of IT administration.”

When implementing an e-commerce solution, it’s quite natural to leverage open source. After all, you’ll probably use an Apache or Nginx HTTP server, a client-side Javascript framework (virtually all of which are open source), or a language whose runtime is open source.

That’s great, but IBM i business often relies on a foundation of tried-and-true application code. In this sense, DeKnudt is no different. Naturally, they wanted to utilize the technology that has been running their business for decades. Thankfully, their new application suite helped them do just that. To pull a quote from the case study, “this up-to-date, open source solution runs side-by-side and fully integrated with trusted core business systems originally coded in the 1970s.” How’s that for protection of investment? Preservation of core business logic has always been a cornerstone of the platform. Because open source on IBM i offers integration with Db2, CL commands, and ILE languages, it can bring existing applications to new frontiers such as social media, microservices, modern web design, etc.

3. Operational Efficiency

Our next subject, Winsol, wanted to evolve and modernize their day-to-day operations: “With its manufacturing processes still largely organized on paper, Winsol needed to speed up internal communications and increase the visibility of orders to enable faster, better customer service.” This case study demonstrates the huge success they had in doing so. Throughout their operations, things became quicker, easier, and less error-prone.

Naturally, open source software played a significant part in this comprehensive solution. An often-overlooked benefit of open source software is that it tends to integrate easily with the rest of the world. Whether you need to talk to IBM Watson, a social media feed, a Raspberry Pi, or anything in between, there’s often a readily-available piece of software to help you out. While open source doesn’t claim exclusivity for these abilities, a general trend is that there’s an open source package for nearly anything. Resulting solutions tend to have low complexity and a seamless feel. In Winsol’s case, they used open source to replace manufacturing-control terminals with more nimble technology.

Plus, in their words, “Everything – both core business systems and the new open source solutions – runs on IBM i, so reliability is perfect as always.” It’s a nice bonus. Since everything is running on their Power S814, there’s just one system to manage!

That’s not all…

So, there you have it. Three case studies, demonstrating three valuable merits of open source software. There’s more, though! Here are some more case studies, along with some notable quotes therein:
  • Fibrocrit: “The fact that the platform supports open source solutions means that we can leverage the very best technology and benefit from the support and development of the open source community while avoiding inhibitive licensing costs.”
  • Kube-Pak: “We can develop in C, PHP, Java—there’s now a full range of open source software on the platform that meshes seamlessly with the core technologies that we’ve been running for decades.”
  • Cras: “The ability to run the latest open source software alongside unmodified code from the 1980s is surely unheard of on any other platform, and this offers huge value to our business in terms of reducing both ongoing risk and costs in IT.”
  • Immo Bonehill: “The website runs using a combination of RPG and open source software. All of it integrates seamlessly with the IBM i operating system.”
  • ORIS: “The solution combines tried-and-trusted systems with the latest in open source innovation to create new value."

It’s relatively easy to see some important themes as one peruses this information. First, the obvious one: open source brings value to IBM i in a big way! But, let’s not overlook the “how.” It creates wins for IBM i customers because it allows a unique synergy between the rapid innovation of open source and the trusted enterprise value of IBM i (reliability, integrity, security, etc.).

I’m not done, though! As part of IBM i's 30-year celebration, IBM launched a web page to celebrate three decades of innovation. The page also features some customer stories. We asked companies from around the world to share a short blurb about how they are innovating with the platform. Not surprisingly, a large percentage of these customer stories reference open source technology, either being used or considered. Can you spot them? Here’s some that I found:
  • Norwegian Air Ambulance Foundation: PHP
  • FRS: PHP
  • Sunstate: PHP
  • Krengeltech: Node.js, Python, chroot-based containers
  • Robertet: Java (remember that IBM Java is open source)
  • Kube-Pak: “PHP, Java and other open source languages”
  • Mutual Distributing Company: Node.js, Ruby, Python, PHP
  • Deknudt Frames: Web technologies, Ghostscript, ImageMagick
  • Mission Produce and Avocado Packing Company: PHP
  • JORI: open source gaming software
  • RPC Superfos: Python, Node.js
  • King III Solutions: PHP
  • Fuyo General Lease: SugarCRM
  • HT BENDIX A/S: the Open Source Licensed Program
  • ORIS: Drupal, curl, ImageMagick
  • Assura: “the latest open source solutions”
  • Cras: “the latest open source components”
  • Kuehne + Nagel S.à.r.l.: Node.js
  • Carnegie General Insurance Agency: .NET
Clearly, open source is no longer a niche topic in the IBM i community. As more companies see the value, expect to see continued increase in adoption. I can only imagine how many stories like this will be on the IBM i 60th anniversary web page!

Closing thoughts

As a technologist, I’m excited about all the advancements in the software itself. However, it has been equally exciting to see the business value that open source software is bringing to IBM i clients. As a reader of my blog, I am issuing a challenge: help spread the word to your colleagues, leadership teams, pets, and family members! If you need backup, feel free to reach out to me or someone else on the IBM i architect team.

For my next blog post, I’ll circle back to some technology, I promise! In fact, there’s a brief post about “Midnight Commander” that’s half-written! Plus, I have tons more to write about, so please stay tuned!

Posted November 5, 2018| Permalink

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