Often when I introduce myself as an ‘AS/400’ SME, the first reaction I get is – “Oh! Ok, so you work on Mainframes?" And then when I start correcting them, mentioning AS/400 is not a mainframe, but actually, a midrange system, a completely different architecture, a series of questions invariably follows: “Is AS/400 an OS? Is it a box server? If not, then what is AS/400?”
It is surprising that most of the IT professionals today are not familiar with one of the most robust, secure and powerful system ever designed by any server manufacturer. AS/400 is one of those systems, which came into existence in the eighties and still are very relevant and running applications which were coded on it decades ago. And the prime reason for this system’s never fading popularity is that IBM kept evolving the system in tandem with fast paced market demands and rapid changes in how businesses are supported, introduced by the Information Technology domain.
Moreover, IBM kept changing the system’s name with every major enhancement. So, AS/400, i-Series, System i & ‘Power System for IBM i’ are the names of this same server, which are nothing but the re-branding effort from IBM.
Through this blog, I'd like to give a brief introduction about AS/400, its key features, new and upcoming technology trends and HCL’s unique offerings on this server platform. Though Power System for IBM i is a more appropriate name – yet for the purposes of this blog, I will continue to use AS/400 as it is by far the most popular and easily recognizable avatar.
Recounting the origin: A brief history
In 1988, IBM introduced the AS/400 system as a server solution for large to midrange customers. Gradually AS/400 extended its reach across other verticals with a proprietary operating system running on the platform called ‘IBM i' (aka OS/400). Since then, AS/400 systems have already witnessed over 150,000 installations across more than 115 countries.
Defining the AS/400 system: Key differentiators
- Unique Architecture: Single Level Storage, Object-based Architecture, as well as TIMI and database integration within the OS are some of the distinctive features
- IBM Proprietary Hardware and Operating System: A common power-based Hardware and Blade Server Architecture, which can be used for AIX and LINUX
- Processor Architecture: RISC based
- Virus Free: No event of virus attack and hacking has ever been reported – making it the platform of choice for organizations looking to host their most critical applications
- Integrated Database with OS: DB2/400 (a flavor of DB2) is the database that runs on AS/400. Tightly integrated with the OS, the database features are immediately activated once the OS is installed on the AS/400. Besides DB2, multiple open-source databases can be loaded on this server platform, such as MySQL or MariaDB.
- Storage: DASD or SAN (currently, native connectivity is provided by limited IBM and EMC based storage models)
Harnessing tech enablers: Applications, Tools and ISVs
- Applications: Infor ERPs (LX, XA, M3, SYS21), JDE, JDA, Kronos, Mapics, Custom EPR packages
- Programming languages: JAVA, Python, Node.js, RPG/400, RPGLE, CL, CLLE, COBOL, REXX
- Middleware: MQ Series
- Virtualization: Power VM, Power VC
- Popular ISVs: Help/Systems, BMC, CA, Vision Solutions, QSL, Soft-landing Inc.
Enhancing server flexibility: Support for open source solutions
Some of the popular Open Source solutions supported and available on IBM i platform.
The above list surprises many IT professionals (including IBM i taskforce) as many professionals are still unaware of the open source development tools supported on IBM i. IBM continues to add new languages and tools to the mix. As a result, we expect this number to continue to grow.
However, if you are still using the application which was coded on it decades ago, you might altogether be underutilizing the potential of this great server platform.
Working toward a robust future: The IBM commitment blueprint
The chart illustrates IBM’s continued investment in this technology – with a clearly defined roadmap extending beyond 2020.
Mapping the Server of Tomorrow: Forthcoming Trends
- Executing IBM i Capacity as a Service (Utility/consumption based hosting of the IBM i environment)
- Enabling Open Source development (PHP, Python, Node.js etc)
- Modernizing the UI using APIs and tools (Lansa, HATS etc)
- Using IBM i as the database server by coding tables in DDL format, and accessing using jdbc connectors and native IBMi interfaces
- Increasing ROI and reduce TCO using HCL’s unique framework, Optimize-i
Simplifying AS/400 adoption: HCL Optimize-i
Optimize-i is HCL’s unique framework which has a three step approach to assess and articulate the ‘To-Be’ state for IBM i rollout. The evaluation leverages business cases for ecosystem transformation with a clear migration path – based on HW/SW rightsizing, service consolidation, business continuity, SW license usage rationalization, and job automation. Enterprises can achieve savings to the tune of 30-40% of overall TCO, post implementation of the environment.
For more information, please reach out to the NGDC Power System for IBM i Practice.