IBM i Fresh Faces Solve Business Challenges
Learn how the six new Fresh Faces are using everything from AI to open source to help their organizations
By Brett Martin04/09/2020
Benedikt Ruzicka // IT technician and junior IBM i administrator Panasonic Industrial Devices Materials Europe GmbH
After finishing technical college four years ago, I studied at the Schule für IT in Vienna. That’s where I was introduced to the IBM i platform.
Our company in Enns, Austria, is being innovative with IBM i. We’re hosting a variety of applications on our platform, such as our ERP, accounting and time management systems. We’re also actively working with our ERP manufacturer to improve our systems.
IBM i has helped us solve customer problems. Last year, we implemented an EDI solution for purchase orders and invoices together with one of our biggest customers. As a production company, our highest priority is constant availability and having a reliable system. That’s why we use IBM i and why companies have been using it for decades. For 2020, we’re planning to migrate to new Power Systems* hardware and upgrade to IBM i 7.4.
When I joined Schule für IT, I had no idea what IBM i was. In two years of talking to all kinds of people at different events, I was surprised to learn how many fields of applications IBM i has. It’s great for young people to have such a broad field to choose from while developing their profession.
Calvin Buckley // Student New Brunswick Community College
I’ve been working on the IBM i platform for about two years. I promote and expand its use through open-source development and by helping hobbyists and other people interested in the platform find ways into it. That’s how I got into using IBM i. This was very difficult due to the lack of a community and resources for self-driven learners, so I try to pay it forward.
I’m currently porting open-source software, especially major pieces of the ecosystem. This includes using the open-source software Mono to enable .NET applications. I had people coming to me who thought working with .NET on IBM i was impossible. They were impressed it was finally happening, even in its early state.
The software I port allows IBM i users to optimize technologies they would previously have had to use another platform for. At a personal level, porting a wide range of software has made me a better developer by exposing me to diverse technologies, allowing me to work with upstream developers and enabling me to resolve complicated challenges.
When I started using IBM i, I was surprised by the ubiquity and resilience of the platform. So many shops utilize the platform. They don’t have to think about the technology because it just keeps working. What’s also interesting is the technical sophistication of the platform—it’s very advanced, which you’d never know until you start working with it.
Thomas Decorte // Junior business and data analyst CD Invest
I’ve been working with the IBM i platform for a year. I’ve also been teaching sessions on using AI and R on IBM i at several events such as COMMON Luxembourg, COMMON Iberia, the Benelux Power* event, and several meetups in Belgium and Luxemburg.
At our office in Oostkamp, Belgium, near the medieval town of Bruges, we’re working with a lot of new, innovative solutions and open-source projects. We’re proud of our 12 official case studies, including our 3-D configurator on IBM i. At the moment, we’re using different AI techniques in customer projects across several business aspects such as sales prediction and invoice to cash collection. We’re also implementing AI chatbots for customers to automate various functions.
Our company uses IBM i to help solve customer problems. For example, one customer wanted to predict which new stores would be the best investments. I came up with the idea to build a performant model on the customer’s IBM i to calculate the investments. The customer was pleased that the solution could run on its current IBM machine next to its other business applications. This opened doors for other customers to invest in their IBM i and in AI for their Db2* for IBM i data.
A modern platform like the IBM i must be able to run new solutions. This means running AI solutions with R, Python and others on top of customers’ databases and data systems to maximize business value. I’m amazed by what my colleagues show me is possible with IBM i. I always thought of it as just an old system with green screens. Finding out that all the open-source packages I’m working with, including Python and R, can also run on IBM i shows me that it’s a platform for innovators.
Tony Turetsky // Software developer P.C. Richard & Son
Our company is currently pairing exciting new front-end web technologies such as React while running the back end on our trusted IBM i. This allows us to give our applications a much more modern look and feel, compared to green screen, without losing any of the security or ease-of-record access that we love about IBM i. We’re running more node projects with ODBC alongside our CGI programs. AI, and, in particular, Watson*, is a wildly cool technology that I hope to dive into someday soon.
I don’t know of any platform that makes it easier or faster to access tables and files than IBM i—enhanced only by the addition of embedded SQL in our RPGLE code. Being able to run SQL queries or chains directly to a specific record in a table is a huge benefit of IBM i that directly impacts the time required to solve niche problems. The platform keeps up with the latest releases and the best new practices, which is critical to my role as a developer. The move to a fully free format RPG and the adoption of templating all variables/parameters based on table schemas makes writing readable code simple and straightforward.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much IBM cares about its users’ wants and needs. The ability to submit a request for enhancement (RFE) and have the community vote to integrate a new feature into the IBM i ecosystem is a great idea that everyone should be checking out.
Mike Zaringhalam // Software engineer P.C. Richard & Son
I’ve been working with IBM i for three years. To promote the platform, I give presentations on topics that help today’s RPG developers expand their knowledge base. Topics are based on modernization efforts such as modern Db2 functionality, modern RPG code and using Rational* Developer for i. The presentations help improve developer and program efficiency by promoting the latest and greatest features and benefits of IBM i. I also expand the use of IBM i through RFEs. Whenever I think of a functionality that would benefit IBM i users, I happily submit them. I also regularly check new RFEs to vote on them.
One of my main projects at P.C. Richard & Son was creating the ability to make a sale through text messaging. A separate service is used for text messaging, but everything else was built on IBM i using RPG and Db2. This was an awesome project to be part of, and it’s definitely innovative because other retailers are not doing anything like this. It was also one of the first projects to utilize data description language at our company.
Recently, we launched a system to handle promotional discounts in our point of sale application. During our launch phase, we had a few issues and needed to find problematic invoices. Using RUNSQL scripts, we were able to easily run queries and quickly make the necessary updates for our customers.
Using a modern, fast platform helps me succeed in my job. Nobody likes to be delayed by a loading screen. By modernizing, we can continue to improve our programs and database to achieve the maximum speed our programs can run at, which makes our users happy. I admit that I never knew about the IBM i platform until I started at P.C. Richard & Son. When they mentioned the platform, my immediate thought was that this is a deprecated technology. Now, every time I hear about new functionality coming to IBM i or the functionality that currently exists, it reminds me that I was wrong.
Felix Kasper // Software developer, ROHA software support Wolfgang M. Roser, Software-Support GmbH
We recently created a system for purchasing goods to help solve a customer problem. The system’s databases are located on IBM i, and communications with the PC-based order tool use web services. The orders are created on IBM i, which streamlines and simplifies the process for the customer.
I used to hear that IBM i was outdated. I disagree. Despite having origins dating back to the 1980s, it’s been continually modernized to meet current workloads and needs. It has many uses, which you don’t realize until you start to use it.
Brett Martin is a freelance writer based in Shakopee, Minnesota. He’s been writing about business and technology for more than a decade.