2021 IBM i Marketplace Survey Results - HelpSystems
2021 Marketplace Study Results

2021 IBM i Marketplace Survey Results


2021 marks the seventh edition of the IBM i Marketplace Survey Results. Each year, HelpSystems captures data on how businesses use the IBM i platform and the IT initiatives it supports.

Over the years, this survey has become a true industry benchmark, revealing to readers the trends that are shaping and driving the market and providing insight into what the future may bring for this technology.

But 2020 has been a year like no other, both in the wider world and in the IBM i community. These surveys always encourage conversation, debate, and discussion about IBM i, but we cannot pretend that the COVID-19 pandemic did not impact life for our respondents in 2020. Budget decisions have been postponed, organizations have transitioned to fully-distributed working models, and the world is generally a little more uncertain than in previous years.

Despite all that, almost 500 IBM i users from all over the world completed this year’s survey, which revealed a major increase in take-up of IBM i 7.4 after its 2019 launch and a renewed concern about cybersecurity. There are many other data points that we hope you will find interesting as you plan your 2021 IT projects and the world hopefully gets back on a more even footing.

As always, I want to thank everyone who participated in the research and who helped bring it all together. Your help and enthusiasm are always appreciated, but perhaps just a little bit more so this year.

Section Links: The COVID-19 Effect  |  IBM i in the Data Center  |  IT Initiatives & Trends  |  Outlook for IBM i  |  Demographics  |  Resources


Concerns about security remain. Three-quarters of respondents rank security as their main concern when planning their IT environment.

Cyberattacks and data breaches are a major concern for most organizations, and this has not changed in this year’s research. 75% of respondents said security is their main concern. Many have put measures in place to address this or are willing to invest in the right cybersecurity tools. The number of organizations with antivirus protection, exit point security, privileged user management, and multi-factor authentication in place has increased, although 44% of organizations said that a lack of security knowledge and skills is their main IBM i cybersecurity challenge. If your organization has concerns over IBM i cybersecurity skills, managed security services could be a way of filling in any holes.

IBM i 7.4 surges in usage.

Although COVID-19 has affected planning and budgeting for many organizations, use of 7.4 increased significantly in 2020. It only launched in 2019, so while last year’s survey saw just 4% of participants using 7.4, adoption has increased by nearly fourfold to 15%. Use of 7.3 increased slightly, while there was a major drop in use of 7.2 in 2020. Despite the broader challenges, it is clear people are still moving forward in their deployment of IBM i.

IBM i has become even more business-critical for many organizations.

44% of respondents said that they run between 76% and 100% of their core apps on IBM i, a 5% increase on the previous year. IBM i continues to deliver as a technology with a consistently low volume of migration off the platform. The number of respondents planning to migrate all applications from IBM i over the next two years has fallen to just 3%.

COVID-19 has impacted plans.

The number of organizations migrating applications to the cloud dropped—this is likely an example of organizations deferring bigger projects due to COVID-19. Despite any concerns about shifting project timelines, the research has shown that organizations are definitely still willing and able to spend to keep their organization moving forward. When planning for 2021 and beyond, make sure you aren’t overspending on hardware upgrades or capacity needs.

Usage of POWER9 shows a significant increase ahead of the POWER10 launch.

Usage of POWER9 was growing strongly in last year’s research and that trend continued in 2020. 31% of respondents were using POWER9 last year and that figure has increased to 42% this year. POWER8 usage was steady, dropping just a few percentage points. 42% of respondents said they have no plans for a hardware and/or software upgrade in 2021. However, with POWER9 being such a highperformance option, and the launch of POWER10 predicted for late 2021/early 2022, this could change.

Development on IBM i grows more important.

Development on IBM i is on the rise, especially within larger organizations. The number of organizations with more than 11 IBM i developers has increased to 25%, the biggest number since we started this survey. The majority (76%) of organizations use IBM i for homegrown applications, meaning they need developers with local knowledge to keep these applications running and updated. The main increase in non-homegrown applications was found in SAP, which has been growing consistently year over year.

Respondents continue to think IBM i provides greater ROI than other server options.

92% of IBM i users rate the platform higher than other server options when it comes to delivering a robust return on investment. This is an increase on the previous year and highlights the value that users ascribe to IBM i—the more people use IBM i, the more they like it. 25% of respondents said that they plan to increase their IBM i footprint in 2021, the highest this figure has been since we started the research.

COVID-19 has had a large impact on how organizations operate.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge effect on how organizations operate. The two main areas where IT teams feel they have struggled this year are remote access to IT functions (45%) and security concerns with remote access (41%). With IT teams busy firefighting, it has been harder for them to address more strategic challenges. If this continues into 2021, the deployment of professional services can help organizations get the most from their IBM i environment and balance day-to-day challenges with longer-term goals more effectively.



Budgets and Planning

When we issued last year’s results, COVID-19 was yet to really register in many parts of the world. 12 months on, the world is a vastly different place. The pandemic has affected virtually every facet of life, including IT generally and operating environments specifically. Budgets have been squeezed more than at any time in recent years, making planning that much harder, while bigger projects have been postponed until the world is more settled.

This is best illustrated by the fact that 35% of respondents said reduced IT spending was their biggest challenge as they planned their IT environment. This is the highest this figure has been since the very first IBM i Marketplace Survey. Furthermore, the number of respondents migrating applications to the cloud dropped 7%, as organizations were not able to focus fully on specialty projects and decided to put many such projects on hold.

The outlook is not necessarily much rosier for the year ahead. IT teams will remain stretched, budgets will have to go further than they have previously, and the early months of 2021 could see further consolidation. Organizations will focus efforts on navigating their way through this current uncertainty by pausing major projects until things have settled down.


The COVID-19 Effect: Budgets and Planning

RECOMMENDATION: COVID Budgets and Planning


Despite the legitimate concerns about reduced IT spending for the coming year, the research has shown that organizations are still willing and able to spend in the most important areas. If you’re planning to invest more in both your hardware and software solutions, make sure to take advantage of the IBM i Solution Edition program and focus on automation and security tools that help you save time, money, and resources.

THE COVID-19 EFFECT: Operational Activity


Operational Activity

Beyond making budgeting and planning much more difficult, the COVID-19 pandemic has also put additional strain on IT teams around the world, as they struggle to manage and keep secure an almost completely distributed workforce. As you’d expect, remote access concerns were front and center. Remote access to IT functions and security concerns with remote access were the two main areas where respondents felt IT teams had struggled during the pandemic.

We cannot underestimate the scale of the challenge for organizations to suddenly switch to remote working. 80% of respondents have had to switch and adapt in some form. When asked about the technologies used on IBM i to adapt to new homeworking environments, the two biggest by far were VPN access (59%) and Access Client Solutions (ACS) (40%).

Managing this has taken significant resources for many IT teams. This has understandably resulted in a lack of time to focus on bigger projects around IBM i, with more emphasis on day-to-day priorities. As 2021 unfolds, and the pandemic hopefully subsides, IT teams will be able to return to their longer-term strategic planning.


The COVID-19 Effect: Operational Activity

RECOMMENDATION: COVID-19 Operational Activity


With IT teams under pressure to balance day-to-day priorities with more strategic goals, finding the resources to help with this is a challenge. Professional services can help organizations get more from their IBM i environment and fill any gaps in resource or expertise.


Trends for the Year

Adoption of IBM i 7.4 spiked this year. 15% of respondents are using 7.4 as their primary operating system level, almost four times the number that were last year, showing that people are still moving forward in their deployment of IBM i, despite the shadow of COVID-19.

The use of 7.1 and 7.3 remained consistent this year, although there was a drop in the use of 7.2 as the primary operating system level. Because of COVID-19, IBM has extended premium support for 7.1 and is expected to do the same for 7.2 in 2021, which would suggest that users may stick with their current operating system level for a while yet.

Usage of POWER9 also saw a sharp increase this year. 42% of respondents are using POWER9, three times the level of two years ago. Yet the number of people using POWER6, POWER7, and POWER8 has remained steady—with many respondents considering high availability, they could be using their older hardware for those purposes.

Reliance on IBM Power Systems hardware continues. It will be interesting to see the take-up when the rumored release of POWER10 takes place in either late 2021 or early 2022.

IBM i in the Data Center: Staying Current




IBM i is an environment that provides great value to its users and one to which users show great loyalty and commitment. This is reflected in the upgrade trends for the year with 58% of respondents planning to upgrade hardware, software, or both in 2021—despite challenges that COVID-19 has thrown their way.

On the other hand, users previously required new hardware for performance purposes, but because of the advancements in POWER processor chip performance in POWER8 and POWER9, and its ability to be shared with Enterprise Pools 2.0, that is no longer the case and they can continue using their existing hardware more easily. Many users understandably want to see how the pandemic situation plays out before making any significant upgrades, which was echoed by 42% of users saying they had no plans for upgrades of any type in 2021.

With a possible POWER10 launch in 2021, it will be fascinating to see how that impacts upgrade plans, as there are tangible benefits to new hardware around security, virtualization, and high availability.

IBM i in the Data Center: Upgrades



For anyone who does upgrade their hardware in 2021, programs such as the IBM i Solution Edition can be a huge help, with users eligible for rebates when new hardware and software are bundled together.

IBM i IN THE DATA CENTER: Capacity Planning


Capacity Planning

Capacity planning has been a big concern in the past for anyone involved in managing on-premises and/ or cloud environments. Systems need to operate and function at maximum efficiency as much as possible, but the number of users with no concerns regarding capacity planning actually increased slightly this year.

52% of respondents (an increase of 3% compared to last year) currently have no concerns because they are not experiencing any capacity issues. However, IBM discontinued its Performance Navigator (PM400) service in September 2020. Given that many users rely on IBM PM400 for historical data collection and reporting across their Power Systems environment, we likely would have seen more concerns had IBM made this announcement earlier in the year.

Users who did have concerns held fairly steady—26% of respondents worried about the accuracy of vendor recommendations, 13% cited a lack of internal expertise to determine what hardware is needed, while 9% felt they lacked the software to accurately predict what hardware is needed.

IBM i in the Data Center: Capacity Planning

RECOMMENDATION 2: Capacity Planning


Capacity planning is so important to support growth and maintain effective day-to-day operations and is not something that should be left to guesswork. Assessing and analyzing hardware needs using actual performance data is a smart move for anyone involved in capacity planning or considering moving workload to the cloud. For help in this area, this capacity planning and performance analysis software is highly effective and a suitable replacement for IBM’s PM400 offering. If you’re just getting started, you can listen along as performance experts from HelpSystems walk you through the modern alternative to PM400.

IBM i IN THE DATA CENTER: Power Server Capacity


Power Server Capacity

Year on year, the trends in the IBM i Marketplace Survey relating to the number of IBM Power servers have remained remarkably consistent. This points to IBM i being a very stable environment.

IBM Power servers are proven technology and users are happy with such stability. Where we did see a consolidation in the number of IBM Power servers used, there was an increase in the number of partitions. Just 22% of users will run only one partition in 2021, a reduction of 11% over the past six years, while there were increases in most other categories of partition numbers. Almost half of respondents were running between two and six partitions.

This trend of virtualization is one that we would expect to continue in future editions of this research, given that virtualization is easier to do and it more effectively utilizes resources.

IBM i in the Data Center: Power Server Capacity
IBM i in the Data Center: Power Server Capacity Partitions

IBM i IN THE DATA CENTER: Other Operating Systems


Other Operating Systems

In so many ways, 2020 was an extremely unusual year, and some of the findings in this year’s IBM i Marketplace Survey reflect that. This question is one where we might have expected more change, with such a large shift to working from home, but in fact the numbers are very consistent.

Most companies using IBM i also run additional operating systems beside it, with Windows taking the lead—as 79% of respondents also use Windows servers. The use of Linux on x86 servers has been on an upward trend in every previous edition of this research, but this year saw it fall back for the first time to 36%. There has been a further drop in the number of IBM i-only users this year, falling from 27% in our very first survey to just 13% now.

IBM i in the Data Center: Operating Systems

IBM i IN THE DATA CENTER: Infrastructure Location


Infrastructure Location

Ever since we started asking questions about infrastructure location, there has been a gradually increasing trend of people using IBM i in the cloud. However, this year saw a drop of seven points to 16% of respondents using IBM i servers in the cloud. This is likely an area in which COVID-19 had a significant effect, with people putting migration projects on hold until things are a little less uncertain.

A new question we asked in this year’s survey centered around which IBM i workloads people are running in the cloud. What became clear is that, if respondents were already running in the cloud, they are likely doing a little bit of everything there—71% are running backup in the cloud, 60% are running disaster recovery and core business applications in the cloud, and 64% are running test and development in the cloud.

It doesn’t make much sense to run just one element in the cloud. It will be interesting to see how this trend evolves over the next few editions of the research.

IBM i in the Data Center: Infrastructure

RECOMMENDATION 3: Infrastructure Location


Running IBM i workloads in the cloud has great benefits. If you need help making the leap, whether hosting on private or public cloud, our webinar on planning for IBM i in the cloud is a great starting point.



The number of organizations with no developers for IBM i almost halved from last year to this one, falling from 11% to just 6%. This reflects the fact that people are still doing a lot of development work on IBM i—it is a platform with longevity and also one that is capable of on-going modernization to suit evolving requirements.

25% of respondents have at least 11 developers for IBM i, an increase of 7% from the previous year. Most of the applications running on IBM i are written in house and these require developers to understand and have local knowledge to keep these applications running and fully updated.

A key unique selling proposition of IBM i is it requires little day-to-day administration. This can be seen through this year’s findings which revealed that 71% of our respondents have less than three administrators in total for IBM i. There hasn’t been a major shift away from these admin roles, which again highlights the stability of this market. In addition, a substantial increase in developers speaks to the fact IBM i is more important to organizations than ever. The good news is that more development doesn’t necessarily mean more admins. Interestingly enough, we had a large increase in developers who took this year’s survey.

IBM i in the Data Center: Staffing



Having the right expertise is a key component of any successful IBM i environment. If you feel your team is under-resourced or lacking certain skills, check out the IBM i Academy or first-class training options to fill any gaps you may have. IBM i user group COMMON and events like IBM TechU also offer educational and networking opportunities.

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

By a long way, the most commonly run applications on IBM i are homegrown applications that are written in house. 76% of organizations will run such applications, the highest figure we have seen in seven years of conducting the IBM i Marketplace Survey. This requires a strong development team with technical expertise as well as an understanding of and familiarity with the local environment in which they are working.

The rise in homegrown applications has been an upward trend in every edition of this research and these applications bring a great deal of bespoke value to an organization. In addition, the number of respondents running SAP on IBM i is also on the rise. 11% of users now run SAP, an increase of 2% on the previous year and a rise from 7% on the year before that. In some ways this is slightly surprising, given SAP’s push for HANA, but equally, SAP and IBM i are a good fit. IBM i offers scalability, reliability, and availability, all qualities that make for a successful SAP implementation.

IBM i is a hugely flexible and versatile platform, indicated by the volume of different applications run over it and the fact that many of our respondents run applications of more than one type. With flexibility so highly valued in business, this trend is only likely to continue.

IBM i in the Data Center: Business Applications

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IT Initiatives & Trends: Top Concerns



Given that cybersecurity is such a strong and ongoing concern for IBM i users, it’s crucial to continue to gain a deeper understanding of the cybersecurity environment. The HelpSystems State of IBM i Security Study provides exclusive insight into the tools and strategies organizations are using to secure IBM i and where systems are most often left vulnerable.

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.

IT Initiatives & Trends: Security Solutions

RECOMMENDATION 9: Cybersecurity


If your organization is one that currently has no plans to implement certain cybersecurity solutions, it’s worth rethinking that approach. If you are unsure of how to start, our free IBM i Security Scan and team of experts will point you in the right direction.

IT Initiatives & Trends: Cybersecurity Challenges

RECOMMENDATION 10: Cybersecurity Challenges


In a year that saw COVID-19 present yet more fresh cybersecurity challenges, choosing a cybersecurity partner who understands how to manage constantly evolving threats becomes even more important. Managed Security Services (MSS) from HelpSystems is a great option to fill in any gaps in the latest expertise.

IT Initiatives & Trends: Regulations

RECOMMENDATION 11: Regulations


Compliance is incredibly important, but some organizations struggle to find the resources to manage requirements efficiently. This compliance monitoring and reporting software for IBM i simplifies compliance report generation and allows you to quickly and easily provide auditors with the information they need.

IT Initiatives & Trends: Development Languages

RECOMMENDATION 12: Development Languages


With open source development almost certain to increase over the coming years, it is wise to ensure your development teams are ready for this. Information regarding support for open source on IBM i can be found here.

IT Initiatives & Trends: Open Source Tools
IT Initiatives & Trends: Rational Developer

RECOMMENDATION 13: Rational Developer


RDi is a technology rich with potential for any IBM i shop. If it’s a question of not being quite sure how best to deploy it, these six RDi tutorials contain a wealth of suggestions and tips to maximize the value from RDi.

IT Initiatives & Trends



Automation can be incredibly useful for any IT department, saving time, money, and resources. If you are unsure whether more automation is suitable for your organization, a HelpSystems guided automation assessment can help with the decision-making.

IT Initiatives & Trends: High Availability

RECOMMENDATION: High Availability


Disaster recovery cannot be left to chance or ignored completely—we are talking directly to the 2% with no disaster recovery systems now! HelpSystems has a range of business continuity solutions and services that can help you plan for (and recover from) the worst.

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

An organization’s core business applications are called “core” because of their intrinsic importance to that organization. Those applications need to be available and run at speed, and organizations need to be certain they are going to function as they should.

Given that IBM i is known for (among other things) its stability and reliability, it is not surprising to see so many users running the majority of their core business applications on the platform. 73% of respondents use IBM i to run more than half of their core business applications, a small trend upwards from last year. A bigger upward trend was in the number of users that run between 76% and 100% of their core business applications on IBM i, up five points to 44%, the second-highest it has been since we started running this research. People who use IBM i really rely on it and trust it with their most important business applications.

Outlook for IBM i: Business Applications

RECOMMENDATION: Business Applications


With applications relying very much on access to core business data, the role of business intelligence cannot be underestimated when it comes to successful applications. HelpSystems has a suite of business intelligence solutions and services that dovetail seamlessly with IBM i and allow business users and leadership teams to make smarter and more informed decisions based on real-time data.

OUTLOOK FOR IBM i: Plans for the Platform

Plans for the Platform

Throughout seven years of running the IBM i Marketplace Survey, we’ve seen the value users get from IBM i. This is reflected in the fact that 25% of our respondents plan to increase their IBM i footprint in 2021, the highest this figure has ever been and an increase of five points from last year. From a management perspective, IBM i takes fewer people and has a lower cost of ownership, so it’s not hard to see why users are keen to increase their footprint.

For those organizations planning to move their applications to another operating system or service, Windows-based servers come out highest at 47%. However, this is not surprising as many organizations have Windows servers running alongside IBM i. The number of users planning to move applications to the cloud fell by 14 points to 44%, but again this is likely influenced by COVID-19 and people putting projects on hold.

When it comes to timeframes for moving applications from IBM i, there wasn’t a great deal of urgency. Just 3% of respondents plan to migrate all applications within two years. Over time, there isn’t a strong drive for people to move from IBM i.

Outlook for IBM i: Plans for the Platform

OUTLOOK FOR IBM i: Return on Investment

Return on Investment

Over the seven years of the IBM i Marketplace Survey, the most consistent finding has been the value that users get from IBM i. It has delivered strong and consistent return on investment (ROI), and this year was no exception.

92% of respondents this year believe their IBM i server gives them better ROI than other servers, the highest figure since 2018. In fact, this figure has never dropped below 90% in the entire seven years of the research, highlighting what a good job IBM has done in creating a platform that delivers such value to its users.

Many users are also working with other servers and are well-positioned to ascertain which server provides the most value. IBM i is a platform that inspires great loyalty, and this is a trend that will surely continue in future editions of this research.

Outlook for IBM i: Return on Investment


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. This year saw a major uptick in the number of respondents from Latin America, up 12 points to 27% and now the second-biggest territory behind the United States. Banking/finance unseated manufacturing as the main industry of our respondents this year, with an increase of five points to 20%.

This year saw a small increase in the number of respondents working for smaller organizations. 36% of users work for an organization with less than 249 employees, an increase of five points from the previous year. In terms of the job titles of respondents, the main change was the increase in the number of developers completing the research, up eight points to 21%.

2021 HelpSystems Marketplace Study Demographics


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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