Does it sometimes seem that IBM wants to kill the AS/400, aka eServer iSeries, aka System i, aka IBM i on Power Systems?
The real answer is that they absolutely do want to kill this system. Lets back up and take a look at this system. It was first introduce in June of 1987. IBM had thousands of software vendors selling business application software for just about every industry you could imagine.
Retailers bought small systems for their stores. These systems attached to point of sale devices (fancy cash registers) throughout the store and maintained pricing, customer discounts, customer credit information, and inventory within the store. The machines also connected to master machines located at distribution centers and corporate headquarters and tracked everything.
There were AS/400's in just about every hotel of any size in the country running the local hotel's operation and synchronizing with centralized reservation systems and other corporate management systems.
The same goes for just about any type of business you can name. IBM shipped over 1 million of these machines from the time they introduced them until the present with prices ranging from about $10,000 for the smallest stripped down machine you could buy to about $1.5 Million for the high end machines.
These were immensely popular machines! In 1996 when the Internet was opened up for commercial use, the AS/400 was ready with a full suite of application servers, email servers, DNS, FTP, and just about every other server you could name or imagine to make the system immediately Internet ready! Over the years with Java, WebSphere and many other middleware additions including a tremendous amount of free open source software, like PHP , Apache Tomcat, and the Apache HTTP Server.
As the Internet matured, one IBM i base Power System (AS/400, iSeries, or System i) could do the work of many Linux, Unix, or Microsoft Windows based machines. The system was also well known for its incredible reliability.
So, you say why on earth would IBM want to kill this golden goose?
As always with a major company like IBM its all about money! Yes, IBM made a lot of money selling these machines! Unfortunately the features that made it popular with customers (all the integrated features like its built in DB2 database) made it horribly unpopular with IBM executives.
Lets look at some basic features of OS/400 or IBM i as the current Operating System is called. It includes support for 5250 terminals. There was a feature on IBM mainframes that you could not buy but had to pay a permanent perpetual monthly license of $1500 for a product called CICS that did exactly what the 5250 system did.
There was a version of IBM's DB2 database bundled with OS/400 or IBM i that when sold on other platforms would cost upwards from $250,000 plus annual maintenance.
There were many other features built-in to OS/400 including the language compilers and development tools that were sold separately on other IBM hardware platforms. IBM Software Group truly hated OS/400 as they could not sell many of their products because much of what they sold was built into the system.
IBM just recently attempted to increase their annual maintenance fees by approximately 25% and were stopped by some major customers! They offer free open source Linux on the same machines. They will not support the RPG programming language on any other platform even though it would take no more than 3 days to to port it to run on any machine IBM supports including Microsoft Windows based PC's! RPG and every language running on the AS/400 or follow ons has always been hardware independent. The compilers generate something called W-Code that is available on all IBM supported machines. RPG, COBOL, BASIC, C, C++, PL1, etc. all generate W-Code which is then translated into machine code to run on the machine on which it is compiled. There is a W-Code processor in existence for every IBM supported platform.
IBM i on Power and its predecessors alway seem to get in the way of selling IBM software, hardware, or services.
Services is a huge revenue focus for IBM. IBM has the world largest consulting practice of Microsoft system engineers! No one can engineer a multiple server Microsoft based system better than IBM! It will cost you an arm and leg, but they are the best in the world. Same goes for Linux! IBM can build you a server farm of Linux servers spread around the world and allow you to add or remove systems with no one other than a few administrators knowing about it. Oh, yeah, it takes a bunch of expensive IBM engineers to put that together and make it work.
With IBM i you roll in a system turn it on, load data, software, and use it. There is no way you can justify expensive technical consultants! It just does its thing! You do not even need a full time system administrator!
I mentioned hardware. When you are building a complex network of IBM xSeries (Microsoft Intel based servers) scattered around the planet, you need a bunch of machines performing specialized tasks. The same goes for Linux! As your system grows you buy more Linux or windows based machines.
With LInux and Microsoft you need a bunch of consultants, a bunch of machines, and a ton of expensive IBM middleware. You feed three divisions of IBM! Sadly with IBM i on Power System you buy a relatively low cost machine virtually no middleware (you really don't need any middleware), and no consulting.
Also take a look at the cost of machines. I entered the world of the AS/400 in 1990. At that time my company had purchased the largest AS/400 that IBM made at the time for close to $1 Million dollars. From that time, every time IBM shipped new hardware they added tremendous capacity and we moved from the top of the line machines to the middle, then into the lower end of the line of machines. From 1990 to 2005 our machines dropped in price from $1 million to about $100,000 a drop of 1/10th of the original machine cost with processor speeds and overall throughput of at least 10 times the original machine.
We did not need dozens of servers, we needed one! We really splurged and added a second identical machine in a remote location with replication software to provide high availability. We spun off virtual partitions for our test systems and did not need dedicated test machines.
I just completed a project with a Linux based company where they bought about 30 Linux based Intel machines just to support our test environment!
Are you getting the picture? IBM i is just too cost effective and efficient. It can be supported by too few people with no need to bring in high powered (and high cost) technical experts. You don't need a bunch of middleware and can run your systems on basic IBM supplied software or free open source software.
Today the only thing you pay on an existing system is the annual maintenance fee in order to get support. You only need that if you like talking to an IBM support rep on the telephone. You can still get all of the IBM PTF's and fixes free by downloading them from IBM's web site.
When you upgrade, your IBM license clearly states that IBM cannot charge you for a new version of the operating system.
Are you getting the picture? IBM HATES IBM i with a passion! It costs them millions of dollars of revenue in virtually every single area of the company! So its not one or two IBM executives that hate IBM i but virtually every executive in Software Group, Server Group, and IBM Consulting!
Read the original at Bob Cancilla on IBM i.