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The strange story of the IBM i

IBM i developments are now almost as famous as the Fitzgerald novel in which Benjamin Button, the protagonist who was born old, gets younger as time goes by.

Instead of “aging”, becoming a “legacy” system and on the verge of extinction, the IBM i is getting brighter and more interesting. The progress we’ve made and the roadmap we’ve drawn up only make the IBM i younger, more powerful and more flexible.

Translation of the original article from Portail iSeries: https: //

What is IBM i?

To be honest, the IBM i isn’t for everyone. If you’re not looking for high-performance management of huge amounts of data and transaction processing, the IBM i isn’t for you. The IBM i is essentially a small mainframe for small and medium-sized businesses, offering data processing and high performance because it was designed to do just that. The IBM i platform has long been a market leader in high-performance computing, due to the design of the platform and the way work is managed on the system.


Why migrate from IBM i to other systems?

The competition’s overwhelming marketing pitches and lucrative “deep discount” offers are driving people away from IBM i and locking them into ecosystems that will ultimately reduce their immediate ROI and long-term scalability. However, this is not the case for the well-informed who can really measure the return on investment with IBM i and who have closely followed progress in the IBM i sphere. This perceived cost advantage is prohibitive in the long term for many reasons. Some of them are mentioned below.

1. When you switch from an IBM i processor to a competing processor, you still pay per core for most software, and since IBM processors are more than 2.5 times faster than others, this means you pay just as much more in software costs in the end. Consider the rote performance factor when discounts are offered.

2. The IBM i works best with higher workloads, so if your workloads increase in the future, you’ll be faced with performance limitations, whereas the IBM i platform is designed to evolve.

3. Budgets you lock in while you move to another platform, your competitors can seize your market share when customer service is affected by delays due to new technologies, user learning curves, etc.

4. IBM i runs all the major programming languages, such as java, php and python, as well as RPG / ILE / CL, which it executes natively. However, it is now also compatible with openssl, openssh, apache, etc. and with the redhat advantage that IBM now has, we can only expect open source integration to get better, which means that great software now meets great hardware and the rapid pace of open source innovation has already shown that it will only get better as it evolves.

5. With the design of the IBM i, which optimizes performance by identifying “hot” data and providing faster access to it. It’s almost like having a database administrator on your side, integrated into the system. Consider the cost of hiring one on other platforms.

6. If you’re using virtualization, the IBM i’s Power hypervisor by design has been integrated into the system chip itself, so this technology is always there whatever operating system you’re using, be it IBM i, LINUX, AIX. This design on IBM i costs 2% in guest system performance compared with other hypervisors, which cost around 20%, and is 10 times slower than the Power architecture.

Watch out! Myths also need to be mentioned: the green screen and lack of skills!


1. IBM i is not a “green screen” at all, if you want, you can manage the system from your mobile and iPad if you want too. There are far fewer native applications and solutions to talk about, and also some very good extensions in the IBM i technology partner ecosystem if you need advanced tools. The green screen is used by administrators who are more comfortable using it, just like Linux administrators who are more comfortable with the terminal, even if graphical applications are available. It’s more a question of personal preference, not a limitation of the system.

2. What’s more, it’s not hard to find people to support the IBM i, as that’s the argument that’s used very often. It’s more likely that the programs were written in old code that needs to be ported to new code due to advances in operating systems and the applications themselves. As already mentioned, the IBM i supports a variety of languages, so you can rethink your applications the way you want. Programs written in Java, for example, would only run better on IBM i than on other systems because of the system’s design. John Rockwell of has put together a very good job board listing resources available for hire worldwide for the IBM i platform, as well as a list of companies still using IBM i.


Read between the lines!

The marketing pitch of most competitors would obviously be to show samples of very small workloads where performance is not significantly different. For example, the speed at which a 1 MB file can be copied on an i3 system versus an i7 system isn’t really a good way to compare system performance, but contrast that with a large database file that several people access to make changes, read data, run reports and now we can talk about it. Comparing smaller workloads won’t show how powerful the IBM i is compared to the competition, because it’s in the bigger things that the platform excels, as shown below for a Linux deployment.


If you’re looking for high-performance processing, now’s the time to switch to the IBM i platform. If you’re looking to rethink your applications, prefer open standards, as they offer the flexibility to easily port to a private / hybrid cloud, and the decision will be yours as to which provider to choose. IBM i is now available in the cloud from IBM and IBM Business Partners.


Should I stay or should I go?

If you’re on the IBM i platform and you’re thinking of moving to other systems, think about what you can do instead, while staying on the IBM i platform…

1. Invest in a high-availability hardware or software solution that allows you to switch instantly to another system without interruption.

2. Implement a modern backup solution (UTL, Cloud, NAS) to improve tape backup and slow restores.

3. Modernize your applications and port them to the latest languages supported by IBM i.

4. Invest in the new IBM Flashsystem SSD-compatible devices, which multiply speed and performance compared with mechanical disks.


Be better informed about hidden costs and lock-in costs over time, and take your time to decide. Ask yourself, do you really need to upgrade to an ERP system or simply modernize your IBM i environment? How will your costs change when you add high availability, SSD storage and the cost in time and money for customizations to the new solution you’re considering? If you really need to switch, many major ERP systems also run on IBM i because of the performance advantages the platform offers, and it also reduces your per-core licensing costs.

Innovation and being ahead of the game brings advantages over the competition, because it means you can deliver faster and better than them. IBM and Redhat both support this ecosystem very well. Private / hybrid clouds and AI will be increasingly adopted for the conveniences they bring and if you haven’t tried the APIs for IBM Watson from your IBM i, then you definitely should. It’s an exciting time for technological progress and IBM i, and we believe it’s just beginning!

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