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Is the AS/400 Dead?

Is AS/400 dead?

Many IT professionals still use the term “AS/400”. It’s seen in job titles and professional associations and certifications. It’s been woven into the content we consume online and the products that we use every day.

And yet, “Is the AS/400 dead?” is a common question heard throughout the user community. Loosely translated, what current users, jobseekers, and organizations want to know is whether a platform that was introduced in 1988 is still relevant today.

The answers typically surprise people.

What is the AS/400?

IBM introduced the AS/400 system in 1988. It was an integrated system featuring hardware (AS/400) and an operating system (OS/400), along with many core functions such as an integrated database.

Both the hardware and the software have gone through many upgrades, revisions, and name changes over the years. While many still refer to the system as an AS/400 or sometimes an iSeries IBM server, today’s hardware is technically Power Systems, which runs an updated operating system called IBM i.

From the beginning, one of the strongest features of this platform has been its upward compatibility. You can run a program created for the AS/400 in 1988 on a Power Systems server today with little or no changes.

This seamless compatibility is one reason why many companies that purchased an AS/400 years ago continue to refer to it as an AS/400 even though their Power server is an order of magnitude faster and features cutting-edge technologies.

IBM continues to update the platform today and has big plans for the future of IBM i. Every two to three years, they release new versions of the hardware and software that feature quantum leaps forward in processing power and functionality.

AS/400 Evolution
blog-as400-dead-pyramid-01.png
IBM Application System/400 (a.k.a. the AS/400)
The AS/400 replaces the System/38 and adds an integrated, DB2,
relational database.
1988
blog-as400-dead-pyramid-02.png
IBM Application System/400 (a.k.a. the AS/400)
It retains the object-based operating system, renamed OS/400, and its virtual machine and single-level storage concepts establish the platform as an advanced business computer.
1988
blog-as400-dead-pyramid-02.png
2000
IBM eServer iSeries
IBM introduces a new generation of servers to help manage the unprecedented needs of e-business.
blog-as400-dead-pyramid-03.png
The AS/400 is rebranded as the eServer iSeries and the operating system becomes known as the i5/OS to coincide with POWER5 processors.
2000
IBM eServer iSeries
blog-as400-dead-pyramid-03.png
2006
IBM System i
The iSeries is renamed System i, distinguishing it from System p hardware, which runs AIX and Linux.
blog-as400-dead-pyramid-04.png
2006
IBM System i
System i5 is positioned as an
"all-in-one" Windows alternative for small and medium sized business.

The operating system name is
shortened to i5.
blog-as400-dead-pyramid-04.png
2008
IBM Power Systems
IBM integrates the System i and System p platforms into a single, unified server
called Power Systems, which supports the IBM i (formerly i5), AIX (UNIX), and Linux operating systems.
blog-as400-dead-pyramid-05.png
2XXX
The Future
IBM i is poised to enter the cognitive computing era with new hardware on the horizon and hooks into IBM's Watson AI and Bluemix cognitive capabilities.
blog-as400-dead-pyramid-06.png
The platform continues to prove its
long-standing reputation for reliability, scalability, and securability.
2XXX
The Future
blog-as400-dead-pyramid-06.png

But is AS/400 still used?

There are over 100,000 companies that use AS/400 technology as it exists within IBM i to power their most mission-critical application. These companies run the gamut from banks and hospitals to manufacturing and distribution centers to retailers and government agencies.

These systems are the unsung heroes. Not often used for general office functions or employee productivity, they instead handle robust, computing-heavy applications like ERP, banking, or health information systems. 

In a recent survey of IBM i users, 42% say they are running 75-100% of their workload and business applications on IBM i, reflecting the enduring legacy of the platform.

Recent statistics also indicate the future relevance of the platform as 25% of the users say they are increasing workloads on the platform while a number in the low, single digits are planning to move off the platform.

Then where’s the controversy?

Even with all its heavy-hitting technology, the platform is not without its challenges.

  • AS/400 is perceived as outdated. The fact it was created in 1988 and has been renamed several times has not helped to build the perception that it is a modern platform. Even so, it remains a critical part of the computing infrastructure for many of the top organizations in the world. But what users call it can confuse decision makers who aren’t as close to the platform. So, it’s important to get the story straight.

So, is the AS/400 dead?

In a word, no. Arguably, the platform is more popular than ever! Here are five reasons why:

  • IBM i is scalable. Businesses can start with an affordable 4-core server and easily go all the way up to 256-core machines. It’s very rare that a company’s processing needs outgrow IBM i.
  • IBM i is modern. In addition to being able to run existing programs, IBM i supports a healthy mix of native and open source development languages, including RPG, SQL, Java, .NET, PHP, and C++.
  • IBM i is compatible. As true today as it was in 1988, the upward compatibility of this platform protects your investment by avoiding expensive code migrations when platforms are updated.

Organizations in every industry around the world still run on AS/400 technology, but not the way you think. It forms the foundation for some of the most powerful servers and operating systems on the market today—Power Systems and IBM i—which are both alive and kicking.

And the platform continues to evolve, becoming increasingly robust, embracing modern technologies, and giving many of the world’s top organizations a competitive edge.

What do you think?

 
Is the AS/400 dead?
No way! It lives on in IBM i.
Yes! IBM i is different tech.
Do Quizzes
 
 
 
 
 
 
Bring Your AS/400 Back to Life

HelpSystems expertise on this platform runs deep. See how the right combination of hardware, operating system, and HelpSystems software can bring your AS/400 back to life.