8 Reactions to the 2018 IBM i Marketplace Survey Results

Did you know that 2018 marks the 30-year anniversary of the IBM i platform? Did you further know that IBM will announce the new POWER9 hardware this year? OK, those were easy. Here’s a real stumper: Did you know that nearly 75% of IBM i shops are using open source development tools on IBM i?

You may have guessed, but thanks to HelpSystems and the enthusiastic response from the IBM i community, we now have valuable data on the many, innovative ways you’re using IBM i to keep your organization running strong.

HelpSystems recently released the results of our fourth annual IBM i Marketplace Survey, which I help to author. I shared our findings with several, prominent advocates for the IBM i platform. Eight of my fellow IBM Champions have added their insight below. 



Torbjörn Appehl

President and Chairman of the Board, Data3 (COMMON Sweden)

The survey is a great source of information from different perspectives. As a user, you can benchmark your organization and get inspiration to take new initiatives to modernize your environment. For example, 78.8% are still using 5250 screens in some way with 33.8% using 5250 only. Sure, it’s the best shell in the world for us, but not for end users.

Additionally, 44.3% of respondents are concerned about IBM i skills depletion, but 66.5% are either not using RDi at all or have less than half of their developers using it. These two stats go hand in hand. After modernizing to full, free-form RPG (which requires RDi) and adopting SQL and web services, IBM i skills concerns should go down to under 5%. 

Lastly, 30.5% rely on backups from tape only. I love tape, but if you know your total cost of recovery you would do more than tape backups.

Steve Pitcher

IBM i Administration and Security Professional, iTech Solutions

First, I’ll say thank you for compiling this information. It’s always a great resource each year to get the pulse of the community.

It’s unfortunate to see 44% of customers still on IBM i 7.1, but we’ve been incredibly busy doing a lot of 7.1 to 7.3 upgrades. Upgrading folks from 7.1 is probably the bulk of our services for the last six months and we’re getting more requests the closer we get to April 30, 2018. Many are skipping 7.2 unless they’re bound by a lack of vendor support. It would be interesting to see that percentage this time next year. Actually, I’d like to see that percentage in three months. I bet that needle is going to move.

Aaron Bartell

Director of IBM i Innovation, Krengeltech

One stat shows that 71.4% run more than one partition on their Power server. It’s great to see IBM i shops furthering their adoption of multiple partitions. We’re also seeing shops become comfortable in spinning up hosted IBM i solutions as a complement to their on-premise machine. The geeks are realizing that having separate partitions for the various stages of software development (development, testing, production) proves to be advantageous for quickly responding to business needs. 

More specifically, when you have no fear of bringing down production, you can “fail fast” to get to success more quickly. The lessons learned with partitions (a.k.a. containers) needs to be carried into the adoption of open source languages because that’s exactly how IBM i shops will continue to compete with other platforms (i.e. Docker on Linux). The IBM i Chroot project coupled with IBM’s forthcoming port of a package manager for PASE will put us on a trajectory of success for automating tediousness.

Pete Massiello

President, iTech Solutions

I would say once again that HelpSystems has done a great job with this survey. It’s interesting to see that 72% say that security is their number one concern. Cyberattacks are mainstream. Everyone from the CEO to the end user has heard the horror stories of Equifax, Spectre, and Meltdown, so it’s no wonder that the IBM i professionals are on high alert. IBM i 7.1 is far less secure than 7.2 or 7.3—which is a great argument for upgrading in itself—but there are more threats that we need to be aware of.

And as IBM makes IBM i more open, there is a greater potential for threats. The good news is that there are solutions and services to harden your security, the bad news is that not enough IBM i shops are taking advantage of these.

Jim Buck

CEO, imPower Technologies LLC

I always look forward to the HelpSystems yearly survey. Wow! 92% of companies in a varied environment (multiple operating systems) feel they have a better ROI than other servers! In this bottom-line business environment, why would a company consider changing?

I found it interesting that three of the top four IT concerns required a high investment in education: security, modernizing applications, and IBM i skill depletion. I wonder what effort is being made in educating the current workforce in modern technologies and languages. This is an opportunity for companies to recruit younger developers and administrators to move the company’s software base forward.

Meanwhile, 87.5% of respondents are using RPG to develop on the platform, among other languages. I’m seeing more interest from companies that want to learn how to utilize (modernize) their RPG code. The database and RPG are the strongest benefits of the system, but the goal is not to propagate the past. If you are still writing code like you did in the 1980s, maybe you should move on. Java, .NET, and PHP are still in the top three web-type languages. I was surprised to see Java at number one.

Richie Palma

Tech Solutions Consultant, Arbor Solutions Inc.

It always stuns me how many IBM i applications running in shops today are homegrown. The biggest hurdle these companies have to jump is the mindset of their developers. The tools are available to build beautiful applications on top of their existing business logic, but that means long-timers need to let go of their RPG-only mindset and collaborate with the next generation of developers. This is a make-or-break moment for the life of IBM i in any organization.

I love building business continuity solutions as they relate to IT operations, so it is great to see high availability (HA) still being a major priority for clients. The adoption rate and emphasis my clients are putting on HA for their IBM i applications is in line with the priority level represented in the data.

Additionally, IBM i shops are continuing to get more comfortable with the benefits of external storage. I think this is great because it pulls IBM i out of the box labeled “old school infrastructure” and makes it much more relatable to the x86 folks, who have been required to adopt it for various reasons.

Susan Gantner

Partner and Educator, Partner400 and System i Developer

I’m most interested in the application development aspects of the survey. In those areas, I wasn’t surprised at most of the results, but I think some others in the IBM i community will be.

For example, when asked what development language is used for new development, RPG is still number one by a long shot with over 87% shops using it. In some ways, it’s almost unfair to lump all flavors of RPG into one response. I’d be curious to see results of a follow-up question asking what flavor of RPG is used for new development.

Also not surprising to me were the responses about the use of RDi. I often hear that “hardly anyone uses RDi” or “nearly all RPGers use green screen.” Not quite true, according to the survey results. While only 18% of shops report that all their developers use RDi, another 28% report that at least some of their developers are RDi users. We’ve made a lot of progress with RDi adoption over the last two or three years, but we have a long way to go yet to convince RPGers to leave SEU behind and embrace the power of modern tooling with more to offer than a green screen and compile listings.

Perhaps one of the most exciting statements I saw in the survey was related to plans for the platform. I read so much gloom and doom over all the shops leaving the IBM i platform that it was great to see the survey reporting that more shops actually plan to increase their IBM i footprint than plan to migrate any or all of their applications elsewhere. I’m not surprised by that result, but I think many will be.

IBM i is very much alive and well. Many thanks to HelpSystems and their marketplace survey for showing us statistics about where we are and where we’re going.

Discover how your peers on the platform are using IBM i today. Read the results from the annual IBM i Marketplace Survey.