HelpSystems Blog

IBM i 2013: The Year in Review

We all depend on IBM and watch their directions for this platform. IBM’s changes this past year point to a future of helping us manage a more virtualized server and cloud technology that will help managed service providers (MSPs), independent software vendors (ISVs), and customers deploy new partitions of IBM i.


Looking back, IBM has spent about $3 billion annually in research and development for hardware that supports IBM i, AIX, and Linux all on one platform (the Power Server). As a result, we aren’t seeing too many changes in the operating system (IBM i), except to accommodate the advancements in hardware. Continued hardware changes indicate that IBM is pushing us toward virtualization. We’ve had partition technology since 1999, which has allowed us to host multiple instances of the OS and share processor and memory, but it has not helped us in sharing other aspects of the server, storage and communications for example.

This year, to allow the server to host cloud applications and/or your applications in a virtualized computing environment, IBM announced SmartCloud Entry, Pure Systems, and V7000, which can connect with or without the VIOS (Virtual I/O Server) partition (AIX). SmartCloud Entry helps you support new footprints and new customers by improving the process of spinning up a new partition. 

Help/Systems participated in the first ever IBM Cloud Summit for i also in 2013. There were about 150 attendees in Rochester, Minnesota. IBM recognizes the importance of providing support and hosting cloud technology for ISVs—who may support many different applications or a specific application for industries like trucking, agribusiness, retail, finance, or insurance.  

IBM is positioning the big data topic for business intelligence solutions, in addition to SAN (Storage Area Networks) and PowerHA, which certainly help customers manage large volumes of data more easily. For the typical IBM i account, this is mostly transactional data. More and more customers are using IBM i to store unstructured data like images and PDFs. They’re also using Solid-State Drives (SSDs) to speed access to their data. SSDs can be used in SAN or internal disk. Hopefully, over time, we’ll see prices drop in this area since I/O is a major bottleneck to performance on IBM i.

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Vendors like Infor showed their support for IBM i by establishing footprints at COMMON and setting up their own MSP environment for their customers. Applications drive the various uses for IBM i, and Infor has acquired many different packages over the past decade, including MAPICS, PRMS, BPCS, Lawson, Movex, Infinium, and others. Key executives from Infor have shared their commitment to helping their customers take advantage of IBM i technologies, and we hope our common Infor customers are seeing this added attention.



Help/Systems is keeping up with cloud technology and V7000 SAN. Once configured—which took some effort—we can now create the new instance of IBM i, with our products loaded, in about five minutes. The benefit? We can build out partitions with our software preloaded so that we can test large combinations of partitions more easily for you.

We continue to help our customers coordinate our products with HA solutions. In particular, support of IASP technology for PowerHA has been an on-going project. Robot/SPACE can help track and manage disk space in the IASP, and Robot/SCHEDULE can support running batch processes. In 2013, our development team delivered a version of Robot/CONSOLE that can be loaded into IASP and, thanks to our Support staff, customers have been able to load our software in an IASP.

We also had an across-the-board effort this year to modify all 45+ products so IBM i customers can handle live partition mobility, PowerHA, and role swaps on the fly by using a security code that can be staged before the targeted partition move occurs. This gives you greater flexibility in the movement process for all our brands.

In 2010, we started shipping Skybot Scheduler without integration with Robot/SCHEDULE. Today, they are integrated and your Windows, UNIX, and Linux teams can have their own scheduler, using reactive jobs between Robot/SCHEDULE and Skybot Scheduler. Robot/SCHEDULE Enterprise is still important for customers that want an IBM i-centric schedule, and we made enhancements this year giving Robot/SCHEDULE Enterprise the ability to run Windows, UNIX, and Linux jobs without a password.

Elsewhere at Help/Systems, the Skybot Scheduler team is working on Informatica Cloud integration, to go along with the Informatica PowerCenter integration, and delivered on Oracle E-Business Suite integration earlier in the year. PowerTech continues to be a leader in IBM i-based security solutions. One clever enhancement this year added screen capture functionality to the Authority Broker product, creating a better solution for tracking user activities to satisfy compliance requirements. We also expanded our business intelligence portfolio by acquiring ShowCase.


What's Ahead?

The new operating system (7.2) of IBM i is due out midyear, and rumor has it that you will also see POWER8 technology. It is clear that IBM is pushing for a more virtual environment so customers can move their workload around in the cloud. Meanwhile, cloud providers will deliver systems administration, high availability, security, backups, and automation for long-time IBM i customers that may no longer have their own administrators or lack the time to keep up with IBM OS levels and hardware.

As we look into 2014, the future at Help/Systems is bright. These changes, plus enhancements in the development pipeline, will certainly make for another busy year. Rest assured there is one thing that will never change: our commitment to customer support. We’ve been delighted to serve you this year and we’re thankful for the long-standing relationships we’ve built through this support.

We hope you’ve enjoyed your Robot/NEWS Flash articles. We look forward to providing you with more quality information on IBM i systems management topics, including iSeries job scheduling, message management, backups, and reporting in the coming year.