2020 HelpSystems Marketplace Study

2020 IBM i Marketplace Survey Results


This year marks the sixth edition of the popular IBM i Marketplace Survey Results. Each year, HelpSystems sets out to gather data about how businesses use the IBM i platform and the IT initiatives it supports. Year over year, the survey has begun to reveal long-term trends that give insight into the future of this trusted technology.

Past surveys have sparked many thoughtful conversations about IBM i, and we’re thrilled to be part of such an engaged community. We thank those who shared the 2019 results while at IT conferences, briefings, and team meetings.

2019 brought the launch of IBM i 7.4 and many new breakthroughs for IBM i in the cloud. We can’t wait to see how these technologies support growth for IBM i users in 2020.

More than 500 IBM i users from around the globe participated in this year’s survey, and we’re so happy to share the results with you. We hope you’ll find the information interesting and useful as you evaluate your own IT projects.

Thank you to everyone who participated—we couldn’t have done it without you!

Section Links: IBM i in the Data Center  |  IT Initiatives & Trends  |  Outlook for IBM i  |  Demographics  |  Resources


Security concerns continue to rise—77% of respondents ranked it top of the list—but many still fail to put simple remedies in place.

The threat of data breaches is a grim reality for most organizations. Despite the risks, many haven’t implemented technologies such as antivirus software, database encryption, and multi-factor authentication. This lack of action could be related to other top challenges—namely the challenge of balancing security controls with business efficiency and the shortage of security knowledge and skills cited by 40% of organizations. If this is an area of concern for your business, it may be worth exploring managed security services to fill the gap.

IBM i 7.3 gains even more popularity and adoption of 7.4 is just starting.

In last year’s results, we saw a dramatic increase in the use of 7.3, likely due to IBM ending support for 7.1 in April 2018. With the June 2019 release of 7.4, 4% of early adopters are leading the way. Organizations clearly seek to maintain this technology over the long term as evidenced by their continued investment in performing system upgrades.

POWER8 and POWER9 usage grows and 76% of respondents are running multiple partitions.

With POWER7 no longer supported by IBM as of September 2019, organizations continue to upgrade. With its high-performance capabilities, POWER9 usage more than doubled and POWER8 stayed steady. In addition, more organizations are running multiple partitions on virtualized Power servers to improve resource utilization and reduce power consumption, among other benefits. For those looking for a consolidated view of performance data in a virtualization scenario, automated, real-time monitoring helps prevent business disruption with a proactive approach to maximizing availability.

Almost 60% of respondents rely on high availability for disaster recovery.

As IBM i shops look to HA and VTL options for maintaining uptime and availability, reliance on tape backups alone continues to shrink, though it is still used in many organizations as part of their disaster recovery toolbox. It’s not surprising that HA and VTL usage continues to trend upwards in the wake of high-profile outages, and this shift will no doubt continue. For IBM i shops in search of HA resources, the IBM i High Availability Handbook is a great first step.

Most have concerns about capacity planning but aren’t sure where to turn for expertise.

51% of respondents are concerned about capacity management, but questions about the accuracy of vendor recommendations are on the rise. Respondents also indicated they lack the right tools or internal expertise. In light of potential investments in new Power servers, this could cause organizations to over- or under-invest in technology, with each causing its own set of scalability and budget issues.

Development on IBM i is crucial and open source development tools are common.

Active development on IBM i continues, with most organizations relying on it to run at least half of their core business applications and 73% of respondents using applications written in-house. RPG remains a go-to technology, but open source development tools such as Apache, Node.js, and Python also support modernization projects, a trend that has held steady year over year.

The market for IBM i continues to be extremely stable with 1.4% annual attrition.

Although we’ve grown accustomed to hearing that the IBM i market is shrinking, it’s fan base continues to expand. 65% of IBM i shops are planning to expand their IBM i footprint or keep it as is for 2020, which significantly outnumbers those who plan to migrate off the platform. Also, 72% rely on IBM i to run more than half of their core business applications, a strong indication of the platform’s stability.

For the sixth year in a row, over 90% of respondents believe IBM i provides better ROI than other server options.

IBM i users continue to rate the platform higher than other options when it comes to providing a return on their investment. Since 84% of respondents work in environments with several platforms in place, these professionals are in a position to assess the ROI of a variety of options. The high IBM i customer satisfaction is a notable datapoint for the market as a whole.


Staying Current

In last year’s results, we saw a dramatic increase in the use of IBM i 7.3, which isn’t too surprising since IBM ended support for 7.1 on April 30, 2018. Since then, 7.1 usage has nearly been cut in half. For 2020, 7.3 continues to increase steadily and 4% of early adopters are leading the way by migrating to 7.4—which was released in June 2019. Organizations clearly seek to maintain this technology over the long term as evidenced by their investment to stay current. 

Since its release in March 2018, POWER9 continues to take the market by storm with 115% increase in usage. POWER6 and POWER7 usage continues to decrease, likely contributing to the uptick of 16% combined usage for POWER8 and POWER9. Of the 53% of respondents who are using POWER7 or older models, 27% of them are also using a POWER8 or POWER9 server as well. It’s likely that shops are keeping these older models around to use as testing environments or to continue using an application tied to an older operating system.

Together, these metrics show the continued reliance on IBM Power Systems hardware and a dedication to keeping current with the latest technology. IBM continues to release new Power processors about every three years, as you can see in their roadmap for POWER10, which is rumored to release in 2021 with even faster CPUs expected in 2022.

2020 HelpSystems Marketplace Study IBM i in the data center




IBM i is here to stay, and the community continues to invest in both hardware and software upgrades. 2020 saw more respondents indicating they will undertake either a hardware upgrade, a software upgrade, or both initiatives in the coming year—a total of 61%.

Because IBM no longer supports 7.1, we’ve already seen a big increase in 7.2 and 7.3 usage. Although only 4% of respondents have upgraded to the newly released 7.4, 54% of the marketplace plans to upgrade software in 2020. Organizations could also be planning updates to applications or infrastructure software.

Although down slightly from last year, 35% of the marketplace is planning a hardware upgrade in 2019. This dip was to be expected as the 2018 release of POWER9 kicked off a big wave of upgrades. This continues to be a strong indicator that IBM i organizations are keeping very current with new hardware levels. The newer hardware improves security, enhances capabilities for virtualization, and provides additional high availability and business continuity options for these customers.

2020 HelpSystems Marketplace Study IBM i in the data center



As you upgrade your hardware, be sure to take advantage of programs like the Solution Edition for IBM i, where you may be eligible for rebates when you bundle new hardware and software. Along with other vendors, HelpSystems participates in this program for all its IBM i-based software.

IBM i IN THE DATA CENTER: Capacity Planning


Capacity Planning

Capacity planning plays a critical role in making sure everything stays up and running at maximum efficiency, which is key for IBM i shops who rely on this platform to run over half of their business-critical applications—from inventory management and CRM software to a host of homegrown programs. However, concerns about IBM i capacity planning requirements are on the rise. 51% of respondents question the accuracy of vendor recommendations, their internal skillsets, or software capabilities for predicting these needs.

Effective capacity planning is important for both on-premises and cloud environments and ensures your business infrastructure can keep pace with daily operations or growth initiatives and isn’t over-provisioned and wasting unnecessary dollars.

2020 HelpSystems Marketplace Study IBM i in the data center

RECOMMENDATION 2: Capacity Planning


It’s time for IBM i users to eliminate the guesswork and size your Power Systems servers with confidence. Without taking the time to accurately analyze your hardware needs based on real-world data, you’re flying blind when it comes to making a major hardware investment such as a move to a new Power server. Ultimately, not having the right capacity can negatively impact your ability to run your business in an optimal, cost-effective way. We encourage you to read our How to Right-Size Your POWER9 Capacity and Configuration guide and do a capacity planning exercise with an expert before you upgrade your hardware.

IBM i IN THE DATA CENTER: Power Server Capacity


Power Server Capacity

Since the first installment of the survey, reliance on just one IBM Power server has steadily decreased. For 2020, 72% of respondents have more than one Power server, showing a growing and ongoing trust in this proven technology. Given that 20% of people plan to increase their IBM i footprint, having ample server capacity is an important element for success. Since IBM i hosts mission-critical data for many organizations, high availability (HA) servers are another reason we see 37% of the marketplace with two servers—typically you need pairs in order to replicate your data for HA.

Power servers are more virtualized in 2020 than they were in 2019 with 76% running multiple partitions. The number of IBM i shops running only one partition has decreased. Most commonly, organizations have between two and five servers. The POWER8 and POWER9 boxes are helping to pave the way for the increase in virtual machines (VMs), which enable better resource utilization and reduce power consumption. This year, 16% more IBM i shops are using POWER8 or POWER9.

2020 HelpSystems Marketplace Study IBM i in the data center

IBM i IN THE DATA CENTER: Infrastructure Location


Infrastructure Location

It’s interesting to see that 17% of the IBM i market is already finding their way into the cloud as IBM i often deals heavily in transactional data. This information tends to be highly proprietary to each organization, making many CISOs and other executives uncomfortable with the idea hosting it externally. 

This year’s stats show that IBM i servers can—and do—reside in the cloud. Today, most of this activity has occurred via software supplier offerings or through hardware providers having a home to run VMs (partitions) of IBM i off premises. We would expect this number to continue to grow for IBM i, but by small
percentage points each year.

2020 HelpSystems Marketplace Study IBM i in the data center

RECOMMENDATION 3: Infrastructure Location


Managed service providers (MSPs) have been offering IBM i hosting on private clouds for years and public IBM i clouds are popping up everywhere. Now it’s up to you to determine what that might mean for the future of your IBM i production, development, and disaster recovery VMs (partitions). If you’re just getting started, the Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) model is a great way to give your high availability initiative a jolt while also getting a taste of IBM i in the cloud.

IBM i IN THE DATA CENTER: Other Operating Systems


Other Operating Systems

As expected, most IBM i shops run additional operating systems alongside IBM i, and Windows has been the predominant OS over the years with 76% of IBM i users also running Windows. However, Linux continues to pick up traction, which IBM has promoted heavily as an option to run on IBM Power technology in conjunction with IBM i. Over the past year, there was an 8% decline in the number of IBM i-only environments with slight increases in Linux and AIX.  

2020 HelpSystems Marketplace Study IBM i in the data center

RECOMMENDATION 4: Other Operating Systems


It’s important to evaluate the total cost of ownership (TCO) for Windows servers before migrating more workload onto these machines. Remember IBM i, AIX, and Linux partitions can coexist beautifully on the same Power hardware. And, contrary to some opinions, leaving IBM platforms isn’t as cost effective as some may think.



IBM i is renowned for its ability to be maintained by a minimal number of administrators, which contributes to the platform’s low TCO. We know this to be true because 78% of teams have two or fewer admins.

When it comes to development staff, 65% of organizations have three or more people, which has been consistent for the past three years. This stable trend indicates a lot of intellectual property for IBM i—which likely has to do with the amount of homegrown applications written and used by IBM i shops.

2020 HelpSystems Marketplace Study IBM i in the data center



While low TCO is always a good thing, having a minimal number of IBM i experts on staff could be a concern if they’re retiring in a few years. It’s important to leverage strategic partnerships to make sure your team is prepared. Your IBM i vendor partners such as HelpSystems have the training, services, and software you need to minimize the potential for disruption.




Managed service providers (MSPs) are just one way for IBM i shops to overcome their challenges with the loss of expertise on the platform. The survey results show a 5% increase over 2019 in the number of organizations that are looking at MSPs to outsource some of their projects, and a new 2020 data point tells us that 7% of shops are looking at or are already hosting IBM i in the cloud. That said, most respondents continue to maintain their systems internally, a consistent trend since this survey began in 2015. In 2020, 60% of IBM i shops plan to continue doing this.

MSPs can help by monitoring systems that may still be in your data center or even collocated. Some MSPs provide their customers with services to implement better backup and recovery strategies and improve the physical aspects of where your server can be located. MSPs don’t just host, they actively get involved in high availability, monitoring, backups, and software upgrades.

2020 HelpSystems Marketplace Study IBM i in the data center



While MSPs may be right for some organizations, there are other options. For example, managed security services allow you to maintain control of your larger IT environment while enabling you to address a gap in security skills. Services can be the perfect middle-ground approach for those who need a balance between managing all activities in-house and fully outsourcing.

HelpSystems Security Services

Cyberthreats and compliance audits are increasingly complex. Face them head-on and free up valuable time with expert-led Managed Security Services (MSS).

IBM i IN THE DATA CENTER: Business Applications


Business Applications

Now more than ever, the IBM i community shows its commitment to the platform as homegrown applications written in-house continue to take the lead in the types of business applications running on the platform. In 2020, 9% more organizations will run homegrown applications than in 2019—a total of 73%. Homegrown programs represent many years of diligence in creating and improving the application in order to deliver unique and ongoing value to the organization. These applications play a huge role in making sure IBM i sticks around in many organizations.

Several respondents are running more than one type of application on their IBM i, indicating its flexibility. It’s also important to note the sheer number of write-in responses for other types of tools, which shows the breadth of applications running on IBM i.

2020 HelpSystems Marketplace Study IBM i in the data center

RECOMMENDATION 7: Business Applications


IBM i is often praised for its ability to scale up, enabling you to run multiple applications on a single server without requiring more space, energy, or even staff. With the increased adoption rate of POWER9 in 2019, organizations now have access to a processor with significant performance advantages over previous versions. This scalability enables companies doing business on IBM i to consider the technology to be proven instead of legacy.

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2020 HelpSystems Marketplace Study IT Initiatives & Trends



The State of IBM i Security Study tells us businesses that leverage IBM i still have more work to do when it comes to securing their data and applications. Get started with a free Security Scan to take stock of your risk factors and get on the right path. If you’re short on security resources, remember that managed security services could be a good choice for your organization. Data breaches can impact business continuity—which means security, automation, and high availability all play an important role. Our IBM i High Availability Handbook is a great place to start your HA journey.

HelpSystems Is Here to Help

Check how secure your IBM i is with a Security Scan from HelpSystems. Security Scan is free, fast, and reveals dangerous security gaps lurking on your system. Our Security Advisers can then help you formulate a plan to remedy your security vulnerabilities.

2020 HelpSystems Marketplace Study IT Initiatives & Trends

RECOMMENDATION 9: Cybersecurity


In today’s threat landscape, doing nothing is simply not an option when it comes to cybersecurity and protecting your data. Although IBM i is a highly securable platform, relying on default settings leaves your server extremely vulnerable to security threats. With so many options, organizations often don’t know where to start. Learn how you can protect your system via simple system configuration changes in our free Getting Started with IBM i Security e-Course. Our complimentary Security Scan can also give you a real-time view of how your current security posture stacks up to benchmarks and our security experts will help you prioritize action items.

2020 HelpSystems Marketplace Study IT Initiatives & Trends

RECOMMENDATION 10: Cybersecurity Challenges


Balancing security and business efficiency isn’t an easy job, and it’s not going to get any easier. Now more than ever it’s critical to find the right cybersecurity partner to help you identify the appropriate level of security for your operations and supplement any gaps with the right skillsets. Managed Security Services (MSS) from HelpSystems is one such option. Our industry-leading team of IBM i security experts helps organizations meet their needs across a variety of fronts through MSS, architecture, remediation, and risk assessment services.

2020 HelpSystems Marketplace Study IT Initiatives & Trends

RECOMMENDATION 11: Compliance Mandates


When it comes to protecting your company’s valuable data, compliance should be considered the bare minimum. All organizations still need to implement and enforce a strong, well-thought-out security policy regardless of whether compliance requirements are involved. If you’re looking for a well-established cybersecurity framework, NIST is a good option. Lean on your cybersecurity vendors for guidance in developing your cybersecurity plan. With a solid security posture in place, compliance will come easily.

2020 HelpSystems Marketplace Study IT Initiatives & Trends
2020 HelpSystems Marketplace Study IT Initiatives & Trends

RECOMMENDATION 12: Development


If you are looking to modernize your IBM i RPG, RPG Toolbox can be used to convert yesterday’s RPG formats to the free-format of today. RDi is a graphical integrated development environment (IDE) instead of PDM or SEU, so your developers can work in a more productive environment. Neither are free, but both will double your develper productivity. Information regarding open source support for IBM i can be found here.

2020 HelpSystems Marketplace Study IT Initiatives & Trends

RECOMMENDATION 13: Development


RDi enables IT teams to create, maintain, and modernize applications running on IBM i quickly and easily. Teams that leverage this valuable technology tend to see large gains in their productivity. HelpSystems recommends that all IBM i shops that aren’t using RDi take a fresh look at it as a method of not only modernizing their infrastructure, but also of handling larger development backlogs. To get started, you can also check out these six RDi tutorials.

2020 HelpSystems Marketplace Study IT Initiatives & Trends



Automation helps IT departments reduce errors, improve productivity, and save money—so why aren’t more doing it? With 40% of respondents concerned about diminishing IBM i security skillsets and 43% concerned with balancing security controls and business efficiency, automation is a great way to bridge these gaps. Educate your management team about the time and money savings automation, like RPA, can provide—they may not know the full scope of what’s possible. Schedule a guided automation assessment to determine how your organization can implement automation to the greatest effect.

2020 HelpSystems Marketplace Study IT Initiatives & Trends

RECOMMENDATION: Data Storage and Technology


The concept of disaster recovery can be overwhelming. The Recovery Without Disaster guide can help you get your arms around your recovery options, explaining that a layered approach is often the best approach. If you are unsure about your recovery abilities, let us review your backup and recovery procedures and rules. For IBM i shops in search of HA resources, the IBM i High Availability Handbook is a great first step.

2020 HelpSystems Marketplace Study IT Initiatives & Trends

RECOMMENDATION: High Availability


The concept of disaster recovery can be overwhelming. The Recovery Without Disaster guide can help you get your arms around your recovery options, explaining that a layered approach is often the best approach. If you are unsure about your recovery abilities, let us review your backup and recovery procedures and rules. For IBM i shops in search of HA resources, the IBM i High Availability Handbook is a great first step.

The IBM i High Availability Handbook

Are there uncomfortable gaps in your HA/DR strategy? Read this guide to get everything you need to get started with IBM i high availability.

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Business Applications

The IBM i platform continues to provide stability for organizations of all sizes. This is clear when we consider 72% of respondents rely on it to run more than half of their core business applications. A growing issue for organizations continues to be modernizing the application’s user interface to attract a new workforce as current users begin to retire. Currently, about a third of the market is still running their main application on the green screen. Developers for these environments must realize that, as each year passes, the absence of a mobile or browser interface will seriously jeopardize the long-term viability of these solutions—yet we are not seeing a significant shift in this practice.

IT professionals and decision makers across the organization cannot ignore the importance of the unique business rules built into these core applications—this integration is the piece that makes the platform especially difficult to replace. Accessing this core business data via modern business intelligence software that is native to IBM i is imperative, and almost 30% of respondents listed it as a top IT concern for 2020. IBM, HelpSystems, and other vendors offer BI tools that can help with some of this modernization.

2020 HelpSystems Marketplace Study Outlook for IBM i

RECOMMENDATION: Business Applications


Why replace when you can modernize? The reliability, scalability, securability, and recoverability of the IBM i platform are well known in IT circles, making it a top choice for supporting critical operations. Remember to consider the role of your platform in supporting your organization’s long-term success when reviewing your IBM i technology investment. Check out our enterprise data access software to get started modernizing your business intelligence strategy.

OUTLOOK FOR IBM i: Plans for the Platform

Plans for the Platform

According to the data, an average of 1.4% of IBM i users will migrate to another platform each year over the next five years, with the majority of those planning to move to the cloud—a change from the usual Windows frontrunner. With more options for IBM i in the cloud, 13% fewer respondents are planning to move to Windows in 2020. It’s important to highlight that 78% of IBM i shops do not have plans to migrate away from IBM i, and many plan to increase their footprint. Once again, this underscores how heavily organizations rely on the capabilities of this platform and believe it’s the right foundation for many critical business applications, especially those developed in-house.

2020 HelpSystems Marketplace Study Outlook for IBM i

OUTLOOK FOR IBM i: Return on Investment

Return on Investment

Year after year, the numbers are nearly identical when it comes to the positive response to this question. IBM has done a remarkable job of creating a strong return on investment  for a solid platform well-deserving of its extremely loyal customer base.

The majority of organizations represented in this survey operate in a mixed IT environment with multiple operating systems in place. Because only 16% of survey respondents run strictly on IBM i, we know this audience is well-qualified to assess ROI across the varied elements of their technology stack.

This high customer satisfaction is something the market should take note of, especially when it comes time to train new talent on this technology mainstay.

2020 HelpSystems Marketplace Study Outlook for IBM i


This survey represents the viewpoints of IBM i professionals from around the globe across multiple industries and regions. This diverse sampling spans variability in budgets, company size, server size, operating system versions, and experience levels to give a representative and diverse look at the worldwide IBM i market. IT software development and logistics/transportation are a few growth industries for the platform.

2020 HelpSystems Marketplace Study Outlook for IBM i
2020 HelpSystems Marketplace Study Outlook for IBM i


If you’re planning new projects for your IT environment, this list of tools, tips, and solutions can help you get started.

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