IBM i > TRENDS > iTALK WITH TUOHY

Paul Tuohy Recaps 2017

2017 recap

P: Hi everybody and welcome to another iTalk with Tuohy. As is my want at this time of the year, I am going to be talking to myself in this iTalk as I take a look back at were for me the major highlights of 2017 and maybe look forward a little bit what might be coming in 2018 as well. Well in the world of IBM i, there is a certain amount that was just kind of business as usual so we're now living with the current release of 7.3 so we're had TR’s for that. Not to make me feel old or anybody else feel old but it was this year I kind of realized when they said 7.1 is now on its last legs you know you should be thinking about moving off it and its last support level. I was just kind of reminded of this because the other day I was looking revamping a couple of my presentations. I was quite amazed at how much detail I had in there about things that would work on 5.4 and how it would work differently on 6.1. I realized that all of theoretically should be long in the past for people. So on one side, the good old IBM i, it was just sort of business as usual. There were some as always great developments in database. I think one of the highlights for me is the introduction of all the JSON functions that were in there, basically mapping what we had with the XML functions but this is something that you know badly needed especially in the world of mobile, the ability to make use of JSON. I think again from the development point of view was the ongoing expansion of access client solutions and RDI. Now for RDI, again it is—I know it's strange. There are always good things come out in every release but it has not sort of fallen into that pattern of well it's kind of what we expect. I think the exception here though has been ACS. I think because it is sort of fitting into that even though it is not quite a new product, it sort of has that look and feel about it, and so every few months there are quite some nice changes come along with ACS. It's been quite nice for those of us who were using Navigator to do all our database development in the past. Navigator has sort of reached a stage where everything was frozen for a few years and suddenly we now have enhancements coming in that area so with things with like run SQL scripts and all of that, we had some nice enhancements coming in there and they seem to be ongoing and coming along quite nicely.

The other sort of big area during the year then was the whole area of open-source on IBM i. This of course has been enormous push from IBM. It is something that I'm sure that we're going to be seeing quite a bit more of in 2018 and obviously probably into 2019 as well is more and more being done to port open system stuff over onto i. One of the ones that has had an enormous impact of course is Node.js of the most recent ones and python as well along with that. There are some interesting stuff going on with that. I know there are a couple of the vendors have sort of embraced Node.js. I got to tell you though personally much and all as I like Node.js, I'm still kind of on the fence with it but I'm more than happy to be dragged off that fence any day now [Laughter]. So yeah, there's been exciting stuff going on with open-source. I found this sort of strange in the IBM i world. I think we are so used to having everything proprietary and sort of our hand held for us that when we delve into this world of open-source, it can become a little confusing and a little bit frustrating as well. So just to give you an example of what I mean by that. One of the things that we're very used to is the whole concept of things being compatible so when we move up to new releases of anything, we know that everything we have will keep working so if I had a RPG program and I you know installed a new TR or go up to a new release of the operating system, I mean I know that when I go to compile the program, my program will compile. Well in the world of open-source when you upgrade, that isn't always necessarily the case. Sometimes you've got to go back and change code, which can be—it's something we've not used too, just not used too but that's the reality of the way the rest of the industry works.

Now something that sort of also touched on this whole area of open-source or sort that opens it up a little bit is IBM swing towards this lovely world of cognitive. The area of cognitive, I did a couple of iTalks on it during the year with people is this whole area primarily of dealing with Watson, of communicating with Watson. This is something that personally I had a bit of involvement with during the year in that I had written some stuff about talking to Watson from RPG. I also was involved in the first driveway to Watson that they ran up in Rochester, which was sort of a two day workshop that they ran up there but the whole area of cognitive and how to deal with it from IBM i and that. So yeah, this push towards cognitive is going to be quite interesting. I've got say that for me, this is probably I think potentially one of the biggest changes we've had in IT in the last ten years. Now a lot of this is really going to depend on exactly what IBM will do with Watson and the type of stuff they make available or exactly how businesses start to embrace this whole area of cognitive computing but just the ability to have a machine that gets into these concepts of deep learning and be able to handle large amounts of data, all of that area is just incredibly exciting. I think it is for the first time in a long, long time I was kind of wishing that I was back in my 20s again and just starting out because I think for anybody coming into the industry at the moment that this whole area of cognitive computing, it's an incredibly exciting time and I'm sort of wondering if maybe in ten year's time when I am looking back at this, I might dig out this recording and sort of go oh, oh, look. I actually touched on something and I was right! [Laughter]. I don't know but I do think it's going to be great fun. Like to me, this whole area of being able to deal with Watson, it's going to be one of two things. It's either going to be the start of the computer on Star Trek that we're just going to be able to talk to and you know tell it to run a level 9 diagnostic or whatever or alternatively it is the start of Skynet from Terminator so you know pick one of them but either one, it's going to be exciting times ahead as we deal with that area of cognitive.

One of the other big things for me throughout the year was this whole area as it continues to I think for me every year of people coming in on the platform and this sort of image that there was for quite awhile that it has no appeal to young people. There is nobody coming in on the platform. Nobody is teaching RPG and all that kind of stuff. Well the reality of course is there are people out there teaching RPG. Actually, there is more RPG being taught now probably in universities than there has been in the last—you know than there was 10 years, 20 years ago, or 30 years ago for that matter. I don't think there has ever been so much RPG being taught as there is now. I also find it strange that people see this as a requirement that universities should be doing it because the reality is especially now with modern RPG there is very, very little requirement for-you know for RPG to be actually taught per se. To me, the only benefit I really think of if I saw somebody had been taught RPG in college would be that I would have a fair idea that they had also been taught business and that I would see as an advantage. From a programming side, RPG is now just another language. You can take any Java programmer, PHP programmer, node, or Ruby or whatever programmer and it will take them about a week to pick up the basics of RPG. Now this sort of recognition has been seen by IBM as well so I mean if you visit the IBM i homepage, you will see mention of this campaign for the fresh faces that IBM has going. What they're trying to emphasize that yes, there are young people coming in on the platform, and yes, they do find the platform appealing and interesting and all of that as well. So that's kind of interesting times there that we've had on the education side and that as well.

So as we look forward then to 2018, you know I think it's going to be more of the same. I think the two big areas that we're going to see in there will be cognitive and open-source. They I think will continue to be the big push from IBM. There are a couple of things. Again, I'm going to keep—you know I mean I'm just loving what they are doing with ACS and RDI. Of course, one of the big things that happened that was enhanced with RDI during 2017 was the involvement of HelpSystems in the development of RDI. It is going to be interesting on how that works out in 2018 and whether there will be any big changes. I'm hoping it will. I'm hoping that one of the things that we might see is enhancements to RDI becoming available a little bit more rapidly than they were before so I'm hoping that maybe some of the IBM bureaucracy is going to be removed.

So there were I think maybe two things that I wanted to end on, both on a sort of personal note. So one of the fun things for me personally this year was the fact that I have now had over a year as a grandfather, as a new grandfather and I'm just really, really, really loving that. It's a whole new experience and a little bit like when you become a parent for the first time. You didn't quite know what to expect and that was the same with being a grandfather. Just the great thing is there isn't as much of changing nappies as there was back then. I think the other big thing for me this year was that this year I was an IBM Champion, which is a very nice experience but one of the nice things that I got to do during the year was to just a couple of months ago visit Austin, IBM in Austin, where they were developing the new POWER9 processor. We got to have a look at the processor and see it and all of that. One of the cool things about this processor is like at the high end at least. Excuse me. Remember I'm not a hardware guy but at the high end at least that this is actually a water cooled processor so to me it was kind of cool to see these chips with copper pipes running in, where the water runs over the chip, and the pipes going out again. I know a lot of you listening won't be old enough to remember this but of course there are some of us who remember that back in the early days and back on mainframes, this is exactly what we had as well was we had water cooled system; it's interesting to see how there is now a swing back to that. While we were there commenting on that, one of my fellow IBM Champions made a comment. He sort of said that in one of the areas he had worked in, one of the mainframes he had worked on, they used to actually take the hot water that was coming out after running it through the systems for cooling them, they would take that hot water, run it down to the bathrooms and this was actually a good way of-you know of-they would actually generate hot water in the computer room for use in the bathrooms. It just struck me at the time that I was wondering that you know if it was a thing that you maybe wanted to have a shower that on the mainframe you would just take that COBOL program from hell and put it running in a loop for maybe 20 minutes and so you could have a really good long hot shower. You never know. There may be a hidden use for that RPG program from hell that you have when you get your new Power9 system some time in the New Year.

Okay, well that's it for 2017 folks. For those of you who do celebrate Christmas, then I wish you all a happy Christmas and for those of you who celebrate Christmas and for those of you who don't, I can at least wish you all a very happy 2018 and I look forward to talking at you and talking to come of you in the new year as well. So that's it for 2017 folks. Talk to you all in 2018. Bye for now.

Paul Tuohy has specialized in application development and training on IBM midrange systems for more than 20 years.



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