Make My Work on IBM i Look Good with Modern Interfaces - Read This Article

How Do I Make My Work on IBM i Look Good So My Company Doesn’t Ditch the Platform?

September 11, 2019


I would like to share with you a photo of my grandpa dressed in a sparkly disco dancing outfit.

Not really! But that’s what some people think I’m suggesting when I tell them they need to modernize their IBM i green screens.

Well I have news for you, breaking news—web-based GUIs are the new green screen!

Let me set the scene. You’ve worked for 20 or maybe 30 years developing in RPG and RPG/ILE on one of the most reliable, solid, and securable computer systems ever made and you are proud of it. You like the green screen—no you don’t, you LOVE the green screen—and why shouldn’t you? It has made you a good living and, despite what people say, it’s still as popular as ever.

The problem with the above statement is that you are wrong.

If you strongly condone the belief that green screen is still as popular as ever, then you may be among the dwindling group who have been working on the IBM box since “way back when” and you’ve sometimes been accused of sticking your head in the sand.

The fact is that the superb standards, repeatable and structured methodologies, and the flexibility of the technology supporting the green screen interface are amazing, but the interface itself is its biggest downfall. If we don’t do something and embrace change, this could be the final nail in the coffin for IBM i.

Why Do We Need to Modernize?

In my opinion there are many reasons. One is fashion; things just need to look modern and sexy. I remember a presenter saying to me when talking about securing web traffic, “We must always practice safe hex.” That was his attempt at being modern.

Another reason for modernization is that the pace of life is quicker now and our demands for data access are instant and immediate. I expect near instant access to the internet to look up anything and everything. I expect an app that gives me access to my bank account. I must know what song is playing on the car radio the moment it comes on. I expect to be able to check traffic data and travel routes, look at maps, check my insurance details, contact my breakdown service, or book flights, all graphically

I expect it and I expect it wherever I am at whatever time of day or night.

What many of you may not realize is that the back-end data for a lot of the applications I have just mentioned are hosted on IBM Power Systems servers running the IBM i operating system, but the traditional green screen, green on black, or GOB interface is not what customers wish to use anymore. Imagine trying to use green screen on an iPhone!

Which Should I Use: IBM i Green Screen or Web Front-End?

Both! You heard right; I said both. You need to appeal to your audience and your audience is not made up of just one type of person.

For the traditional or “retro” clients, as I like to call them, you should continue with green screen. That being said, you do definitely, 100 percent, can’t argue with, must not fight against, and absolutely need web enablement and mobile applications.

By having both, you also appeal to newcomers to the IBM i job market. Interns and recent university graduates have grown up with graphical, speedy, safe, “hexy” front-ends. What’s more, they’re happy to work on trains, planes, and automobiles with handheld devices and tablets rather than pull out a laptop to try and get the most out of its 90-minute battery life.

Never forget that the underlying architecture—your IBM i—is sound, reliable, and trusted. The development resources working on the platform are experienced, mature, and structured. As I mentioned earlier, the only downside is the way it’s presented—and perceived—when we use green screen.

I would make the analogy of spending the best part of your life in the gym and eating healthily to create an uber-efficient, well-toned, strong, and secure body…and then dressing yourself in a garbage bag. You know that what’s underneath is a solid foundation, but nobody else knows or cares because the presentation is so ugly. The same is true of how the green screen presents IBM i. 

How Do I Make IBM i Look Good?

Worried about the IBM i platform being replaced at our company? Make IBM i look modern. Make it quick to use. Make the user experience a great one. Attract users to the platform by making it look sexy, sleek, and intuitive all while performing well and being the backbone for your company’s IT staff, your company’s employees access to data, and your customers’ access to your solutions.

I know, I know. I haven’t given you step-by-step details on how to make your work on IBM i look good. I haven’t provided you a recipe from a cookbook. What I have provided is an opinion: my vision of what you need to achieve and why.

I’m also leading by example. I can point you to many HelpSystems solutions that offer web and mobile-friendly interfaces to demonstrate what the end result can look like. Here are just a few of our IBM i systems management solutions that leverage the power of HelpSystems Insite:

And HelpSystems has many others! We have done the hard work for you, and our continuous improvement program will ensure we are modern and functionally rich in the future.

If nothing else, I hope I’ve helped to raise awareness and provoke discussion on why you need to modernize. And I sure hope I have helped, if even in the smallest way, to ensure that IBM i and Power Systems remain the primary choice for reliable, secure applications, and application availability at your business.


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HelpSystems Insite transforms the way you manage your systems. With this mobile-friendly interface, you can easily define and share dashboards and securely view system information from your preferred device, providing single-pane-of-glass visibility for IT staff and executives alike.

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