Happy Anniversary to the AS/400

June 21, 1988 was the official birth announcement of the AS/400 now IBM i server.  Around the world IBM threw parties to celebrate this product launch. I attended the event in Minneapolis—it was like a New Year’s Eve party with confetti and the works, minus alcohol in the champagne. Technically I was not an employee of Help/Systems until the following week, but I thank Richard Jacobson, founder of Help/Systems, for inviting me to this party and creating a memory that will stay with me forever.

The AS/400 launched as the system that was integrated for business and easy to operate. This product launch combined the then System 38 and System 36 product lines. At the time, the System 36 product line was the more popular of the two by probably four times the install base (my best guess), but the System 38 brought the technology and foundational features that have kept this server going strong for the past 2.5 decades:

  • Work management
  • Built-in database
  • Integrated programming language (RPG and CLP)
  • Platform-independent hardware

These technologies allowed IBM to protect your investment in application development as they moved the technology along.

Conversely, look what’s happened to applications on HP, SUN, Apple, and Microsoft during this 25-year span.  You’ve been forced to rewrite and repurchase as vendors in this space have convinced you that this is a good thing.  Why has this been acceptable?

My first job was to bring Robot/SCHEDULE over to the AS/400 from the System 38. I did have to recompile the code because IBM switched the CLP command syntax for referencing objects in libraries with a period (.) versus the slash as it is now. Since this transition, I’ve seen us bring our code from 32-bit to 64-bit technology with a simple mass recompile.  It was easy and many of our customers didn’t even have to do the recompile because they had observable code. We were also able to provide our customers with this new code before they even went to the newer hardware versions.

Help/Systems customers experienced weekend changes during this period of time while customers of other vendors spent months, even years, converting. How many software products on these other platforms never made the jump from one technology change to the next?

This is why you want IBM i. Today’s IBM PowerServer 7 running the IBM i operating system can support any modern hardware technology or application that you throw at it:

  • Java
  • PHP
  • VTL
  • SAN
  • SNMP
  • Web
  • RPG
  • DB2
  • MySQL
  • SAP
  • Domino
  • EnterpriseOne
  • Infor
  • And more!

My point is this: Not only can you run the latest technology; you can also buy a box that will fit your performance needs.  The hardware can support over 2,500 partitions (virtuals), 890,000 CPW, petabytes of data, and 128 processor cores as of February 2013.

I believe the 2008 collapse of the market and divesting market have impacted where we spend our money and how we look at the technology that runs our business.  With its stalwart history and continuing innovation in the face of “Big Data”, many CIOs have reconsidered their investment in IBM i.  This platform does not take the hordes of administers to keep it running either.  Yes, your initial investment is more, but it is worth it long-term by avoiding rewrites and staffing requirements.

Happy anniversary again to our legacy system called the AS/400 and its proven successor IBM i.  May you endear yourself to the hearts of other IT professionals as you have done for me—and all of us at Help/Systems—over the past 25 years. Join the celebration on Facebook!