Standing the Test of Time: IBM i on POWER9

Benefits of business process automation

Descriptive phrases like “long-lasting”, “proven technology”, “old reliable”, “ease-of-use”, “best-kept secret”, and “stands the test of time” really encompass the story of the IBM i operating system.

In 1988, IBM combined the System/38 with the System/36 to make a new server that was called the AS/400. As time went by, the AS/400 became the eServer iSeries, which paved the way for POWER4, POWER5, POWER6, POWER7, POWER8, and POWER9. Along with the Power servers came the combination of AIX (RS6000) first and now the go-to-market strategy of Linux on Power.

Today, the server has the ability to host AIX, Linux, and IBM i on the same physical footprint and can be configured with 192 cores, terabytes of disk, and thousands of partitions (VMs).

But that is the hardware; the IBM i operating system is still unique from Linux and AIX.

Fundamental features of the IBM i operating system have existed since the System/38 in 1978. From the beginning, it was made with business applications in mind. This system was built so that the hardware could evolve while business applications ran, with little or no interruption.

Relational Database

IBM i comes with a built-in database (Db2), virtualized with subsystems (work management), easy-to-configure security, and a solid reputation for sitting in the corner of a data center and running.

The Db2 database was placed on the original System/38 in such a way that developers could write applications and take advantage of the relational database. It was easy to create application database files (i.e., tables) for things in business inventory, part numbers, invoice headers, invoice details, purchase orders, and so on.

Today, the server supports SQL and many high-level languages to access this database and does not require a database administrator. Ask any larger IBM i organization how many database administrators they need and they will chuckle. Ask any infrastructure manager how many database servers she owns for IBM i and she’ll chuckle, too, as it’s all in one server, potentially even one partition.

Tom’s Take: I recently spoke with an application hosting provider for IBM i. They host 185 competing organizations in the trucking industry on an IBM Power server running IBM i. They do it all in one partition and don’t worry about the security aspects of these competing businesses seeing each other’s data. That’s because they use the database, objects, internal security, and subsystems to define the environment for each business. The database and objects that their application uses have the security to protect the data. The work management—including subsystems, memory, jobs, job queues, and access to disk—is flexible. Think of it as virtualized. We IBM i users have run multiple applications on the same server without VMs for years!

Just as the Db2 database on IBM i has been modernized with SQL, so too have the application development options, including open source. IBM i teams can use open source like PHP, Git, Node.js, PASE, and many other popular, modern tools. IBM i has truly become a scalable yet highly available database server for your teams to build very modern applications.

Powerful Hardware

IBM has invested over $2.5 billion on the new POWER9 servers. The IBM i operating system benefits from this investment and it, too, receives the similar set of technology like SAN, SSD, and the POWER9 chip, which is optimized for AI and even supercomputer technology. The next generation chip (POWER10) is already in progress, continuing the power and growth of this server. IBM’s Power technology chips create a world-class server for data centers, one that is highly available and extremely scalable. This growth in server technology and modernization continues to increase the longevity of the server with IBM i.

The Importance of Applications

Remember, the original System/38 was built for business, and businesses need applications—on-site or in the cloud—that are resilient and always available.

For three decades, IBM i has been unique in protecting application investments for businesses by building new servers and new versions of the operating systems. In the late ’90s, IBM went from 32-bit to 64-bit technology, which allowed users to run the same applications after an object-level conversion. What’s more, most users were able to make this conversion in a single weekend.

Today, Power servers running IBM i house the critical applications that run our banking industry, gaming, retail, insurance, manufacturing, transportation, and more. These applications host the transactional data that will continue to be available even as big data and security concerns cause those in IT on other platforms to panic.

The IBM i operating system was built and further certified by IBM over the years for securing your applications; no one has ever hacked this operating system. Of course, here at HelpSystems, we say the system is the most “securable” but not necessarily secure, unless you have done the configuration correctly.


POWER9 Power Hour

What does POWER9 mean for your data center? Watch this webinar with Tom Huntington and IBM’s Joe Armstrong for a discussion on why POWER9 technology is the right strategic investment if you run IBM i, AIX, or Linux.