Fresh Faces Debunk IBM i Myths
While many have heard people say that IBM i isn’t a thriving modern computing platform, nothing could be further from the truth.
By Brett Martin10/01/2017
While many have heard people say that IBM i isn’t a thriving modern computing platform because no younger members of the workforce are using it, nothing could be further from the truth. Steve Will, chief architect for IBM i, addressed these myths head-on in his “You and i” blog (http://ibmsystemsmag.com/blogs/you-and-i/july-2017/promoting-ibm-i-fresh-faces/).
Will also chaired a roundtable discussion at the spring 2017 COMMON conference with four “Fresh Faces” who are using the platform (youtube.com/watch?v=BmZJ-lhcyfk). Their enthusiasm, experience, and insights debunk common myths and misconceptions about IBM i.
The IT professionals who championed IBM i during the roundtable are:
- Stephanie Rabbani, independent consultant for Seiden Group
- Kody Robinson, business and financial systems developer for Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp.
- Liam Allan, software developer for Profound Logic
- Lynell Constantine, applications developer for Credentials Solutions
Myth 1: RPG Programmers are Essential, But Hard to Find
Fact: Organizations can find qualified programmers by looking beyond “RPG” on resumes. Instead, hiring managers should look for skilled and passionate candidates first, then teach them RPG. Any programmer can learn RPG because, as Will points out, it’s “just another language.”
College graduates who already know a programming language can quickly pick up RPG, Robinson says. “Look for just programmers. Look for developers. If you have a modern environment, if you have Rational Developer for i or free-form RPG, it takes no time to come out, learning Java or C in school ... and hit the ground running.”
Constantine agrees, encouraging companies to cast a wider net for talent outside of a specific language. “A lot of younger people aren’t getting into IBM i just because they literally don’t know about it,” he says. “Maybe a programmer who’s going to school and primarily learning Java and C will see this and think, ‘Maybe I should take a look at this’ because as soon as they actually see what it is, if they have an understanding of programming, they should be able to see how advanced it actually is.”
Allan, who taught himself RPG, also works extensively in open-source languages. Likewise, Rabbani didn’t know IBM i or RPG when she graduated from college, but she now integrates IBM i with other platforms and works with web development. “We’ve been doing a lot of web applications on the i, integrating with lots of other systems,” she says. “Take the reliability of the i, serve web applications from there, and then get data from other services and systems, and integrate the whole thing so people can have a full experience on the i.”
Myth 2: IBM i Has No Future
Fact: The IBM i roadmap extends to 2027, and IBM is committed to both the platform and RPG. Not only is the company loyal to the technology, but so is a new generation of Fresh Faces who chose IBM i as their platform of choice for their career.
Robinson expects IBM i and RPG to continue as mainstays and serve the evolving needs of businesses. “If you look at these big companies or small companies and everything in between, it’s what runs their day-to-day core operations, so it’s not going away any time soon,” he says. “IBM gives us opportunities to progress and advance on the platform and provides more modern solutions for clients, and it’s only going to get better from here.”
Other young developers are discovering that the IBM i platform coupled with other IBM solutions is designed to meet customers’ future needs.
“I love the fact that Db2* continues to improve on an already amazing database. I love learning about the temporal tables and the row and access column control,” Rabbani says. “This is not necessarily the things that my clients are doing yet, but it could serve them in the future. That’s always what I’m looking at—what could serve our customers better in the future.”
Myth 3: IBM i Education Is Hard to Find
Fact: Several colleges and universities continue to offer a robust IBM i curriculum. Outside the traditional classroom setting, educational opportunities can be found throughout the IBM i community, including user groups, both online and in person, conferences like COMMON, and IBM Systems Technical Universities.
New hires like Rabbani continue to learn from other IT professionals, including those using IBM i, their peers, and members of Club Seiden. “I learn best by looking at other people’s code,” Rabbani says. “There are starting to be repositories online, and GitHub, and places like that with people sharing code.”
Other Fresh Faces have had similar learning experiences. “I learn the most by looking at code examples from people either in my company or on blogs that I find in my Google searches,” Constantine says.
Young professionals also appreciate the social aspect of conferences, which fosters educational experiences through peer interactions. “It’s nice knowing what everybody is doing while at the same time, it’s nice to see [the people who contribute to] Club Seiden (club.alanseiden.com ) because we are all contributors in the open-source space,” Allan says. “We actually get to sit down, have a chat with each other about what we’re working on and might need help with.”
Myth 4: IBM i Isn’t a Modern Platform
Fact: IBM i is not just a traditional green-screen platform anymore. Companies can modernize their infrastructure and interface to gain more business value for their organizations and customers by integrating new technologies such as IBM Watson*—all without moving to a new platform.
IBM has created a set of modern tools with RDi that are designed for newly minted programmers to easily learn and utilize. Constantine’s company has a requirement, generated from its own employees, to work with browser-based interfaces rather than green screens. When programmers have the tools they need, they can meet business objectives and perform use cases on IBM i without the expense and disruption of switching to another platform.
Robinson comments, “It’s so easy now to develop real-time web applications that clients will love just the way any other platform would.”
Myth 5: IBM i Isn’t an Open Environment
Fact: New applications can be written in modern and open languages such as Node.js and Python on IBM i. In addition, a strong network of open-source developers and solutions, such as those in Club Seiden, also work well with the platform. In fact, Allan points out that support for open source is one advantage of IBM i.
“There are even more options outside of what IBM provides. That’s the reason open source is good—because there are so many different options to do things,” Allan says. “There is so much choice for how things can be done and how things should be done. The client can decide. It’s good the platform has that ability.”
Newly hired programmers appreciate that IBM supports an open-source environment. “The idea that IBM is pushing support for open-source technologies is fantastic and makes me want to keep pushing it as well,” Robinson says. “I have a reason to stick around and keep pushing more new ideas. That’s what I tell people they’re missing out on by not being on IBM i.”
Lincoln Heritage Life Insurance Company
I am currently involved in a project that will automate part of our leads process to allow our agents to get leads faster. We’re also working on an online bill pay system for our customers as well as a customer portal for online access.
The coolest thing about Power* is its versatility. You can do anything from working with Watson* to basic report generation. The possibilities are endless and they’re constantly expanding.
I’ve been working on Power for three years. I’d recommend an IBM i career to others because it’s unlike any other job you will have. IBM i is so dependable. The IBM i community is one of the best in my opinion and being a part of it is an incredible opportunity. Everyone is so willing to share their knowledge and experiences with others. They are so passionate about what they are doing and that makes me want to work even harder.
I’m working on our data center infrastructure to provide a fully managed Infrastructure-as-a-Service based on IBM i and Power Systems*. By implementing products like Cloud PowerVC Manager, we allow end users to deploy new IBM i environments in minutes.
As an IBM Platinum Business Partner, we see the most important trends as cloud, security and continuity strategy development based on future Power* technologies. With cloud, we can provide end users with flexible capacity for short or longer periods. By distributing our infrastructure over multiple data centers using IBM technologies, we have achieved an always available business platform for our clients.
I’ve been working on Power Systems for about a decade, mostly on IBM i and PowerVM*. As I gained experience, I discovered the OS integrates the latest technologies at every new release and technology refresh.
The IBM Power Systems platform is great because it can run any possible workload as well as being very reliable. It’s a very innovative platform.
Through developerWorks, several blogs and the IBM Systems Technical University, I get updates about new developments and can share my experiences with peers.
Senior Systems Engineer
The ATS Group
I am developing and documenting a solid, easy-to-follow process for my customers to add the Live Kernel Update functionality introduced in AIX* 7.2. I have done the same type of proof of concept for SR-IOV. I have access to the latest Power* hardware in our Innovation Center, which is invaluable in fostering a relationship as a trusted advisor with our customers.
As a Premier IBM Business Partner, my company performs server consolidation studies, health checks and troubleshoots performance issues impacting critical business operations. Our Galileo tool helps expedite problem resolution and identify bottlenecks with AIX workloads and other technologies.
I was introduced to AIX early in my nine-year professional career and it laid a very solid foundation. If you’re looking to vary your skillset and are familiar with other flavors of UNIX*, the AIX OS is an excellent skill to have.
Many businesses are migrating to the cloud. AIX users on Power* are being challenged to adapt and more cloud hosting companies are appearing to support AIX on Power.
Tech Solutions Consultant
Arbor Solutions Inc.
My team and I work with IBM i clients who have seen the effects of the Power Systems* platform’s ability to just sit in the corner and run. I help clients modernize and optimize their infrastructure and applications to support current and future business workloads. I’m able to show clients who are getting pressure to move off the platform that staying on IBM i gives them a more cost effective, reliable, and efficient future.
My company, which is an IBM Business Partner, supports a large portfolio of hardware, software and services offerings within the IBM i stack. This provides a foundation for connecting companies with innovative solutions to increase their competitive advantage.
I see a big opportunity for mid-size IBM i shops to cost-effectively introduce high availability and external SAN storage into their infrastructure stack.
With almost six years of experience with Power*, I’m a raving fan of the platform. I grew up around the platform as my father Scott Palma started writing RPG code 25-plus years ago and launched Arbor Solutions in 1991.
If you show interest in the platform, aren’t afraid to dive into the technology and show a willingness to learn, the IBM i community will make you successful.
Senior Web Developer
I work with organizations that run their critical IT infrastructure on IBM i to develop innovative web applications that help evolve business practices. I’m part of a team that develops applications written in PHP and RPG for businesses of all sizes. I’ve worked on many projects including e-commerce applications, warehouse management systems and mobile enablement. My favorite part of my job is watching projects progress from beginning to end.
I love the stability and reliability of the IBM Power Systems* platform. When I’ve had issues with an application, the cause is rarely the box itself. It just works.
I started with BCD (now Fresche Solutions) in 2006. I was about a year out of university, and I’d never heard of IBM i. It was a learning curve at first, but now most things are second nature.
As I work with clients, I see they want to simplify their IT processes. For instance, they want to reuse data and business rules without duplicating logic and programs. This insight is helping me develop applications that are simpler and deliver more value to clients. Seeing organizations benefit from the solutions we’ve built is very gratifying.
I’ve been working on IBM Power* for about 10 months. Before I took my present job, I had never even heard of IBM i. The thing I appreciate most about the Power platform is that it’s very easy to pick up. Once you learn some of the techniques, everything just builds from there.
Currently I’m using IBM i to offer a managed service solution to our clients. Clients want to know their system is faster, safer and always being monitored 24-7-365. They also want their solutions to have worry-free management. They love that we can walk them through any issues they’re facing.
The IBM i is a fun platform to work on. The community is very helpful and welcoming. Being part of the community has helped a great deal with my work. I attended the Spring IBM Technical University in Orlando, Florida, and discovered some of the common solutions that other IBM i users have employed. Many opportunities exist for young IT workers who have IBM i and Power skills.
How many years did you work in education?
For the last 15 years I worked as an IT programming instructor at Gateway Technical College in eastern Wisconsin. I retired at the end of the 2016-2017 academic year and started my new company where I will continue to provide training to young and seasoned programmers on the latest IBM i technologies.
During your tenure at Gateway, about how many students did you teach about IBM i?
It varied over the years depending on enrollment, but I would guess over 500.
What was the most innovative IBM i-related change you witnessed during your career?
This is a very exciting time to be involved with the IBM i platform. For most IBM i companies, the major changes are to IBM i, Db2*, RPG and the development tools. Many of these advancements are just starting to become mainstream in many companies, which is raising the need for quality education.
What makes you the most proud of your career?
I am very proud of the fact that so many of my students are employed working on the platform. Companies would inquire about my students every year and many had jobs before finishing the program. Besides teaching them IBM i technical skills I also taught them the skills that would make them successful IT professionals—doing the job correctly, turning in projects on time, working in groups and understanding that they should always add value to an organization. Watching my graduates continue to grow both personally and professionally and knowing that I was an important part of getting them started makes me proud.
Aside from your career in education, in what other ways did you contribute to the IBM i community?
For 13 years, I served as president of the Wisconsin Midrange Computer Association (WMCPA). I handed over the helm of the organization to Ajay Gomez. He is now the leader of the WMCPA and most members of the current board are graduates of mine. My goal when I took over the WMCPA was to have young people see the value of professional organizations because I believe young people are our future!
Brett Martin is a freelance writer based in Shakopee, Minnesota. He’s been writing about business and technology for more than a decade.