2019 Marketplace Survey Results

2019 IBM i Marketplace Survey Results


Welcome to the fifth installment 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. In fact, the survey is now revealing 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. 2018 was a big year for the platform, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in June with fond memories from longtime users and a look toward what’s next, along with the launch of POWER9.

More than 750 people 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


Although security is a top concern for 69% of respondents, many fail to put even simple remedies in place.

No organization is immune to the threat of a data breach from internal or external sources. Despite this reality, many haven’t implemented technologies such as antivirus software, database encryption, and multi-factor authentication. The reason could rest within the other top challenges—namely the ever-changing security threats and reported lack of cybersecurity knowledge and skills. 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 is now the most popular version of the OS.

For the first four years of this survey, IBM i 7.1 was the frontrunner—but no longer! Version 7.3 usage rose 26% year over year and now leads the way, likely due to the fact that IBM ended support for 7.1 in April 2018. Organizations clearly seek to maintain this technology over the long term as evidenced by their investment to stay current.

POWER8 and POWER9 gain traction, and 71% of respondents are running multiple partitions.

With its high-performance capabilities, the POWER9 server has come onto the scene with a bang, and POWER8 continues its steady upward trajectory as the backbone of choice among this group. In addition, many 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.

Nearly half of respondents rely on high availability for disaster recovery.

Slowly but surely, reliance on tape backups is shrinking as IBM i shops look to HA and VTL options for maintaining uptime and availability. It’s not surprising this continues to be a trend 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.

Capacity planning is a sticking point, and 46% have concerns about their approach.

While the majority of respondents have no concerns about capacity planning, a large number indicated they lack the right tools or expertise internally or are unsure whether their vendor has assessed their needs accurately. 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 continues to evolve, and open source development tools are common.

There is active development on IBM i as evidenced by the fact that most organizations rely on it to run at least half of their core business applications—and 64% of these are 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 will likely continue.

The market for IBM i continues to be extremely stable with 1.3% annual attrition.

24% of IBM i shops are planning to expand their IBM i footprint for 2019, which outnumbers those who plan to migrate off the platform. Also, 71% rely on IBM i to run more than half of their core business applications, a strong indication of the platform’s stability.

For the fifth year in a row, 92% 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. Given that 78% of respondents work in environments with several platforms in place, these professionals are in a position to assess the ROI merits of a variety of options. The high IBM i customer satisfaction is a notable datapoint for the market as a whole.


Staying Current

For the first time since we began conducting this survey in 2015, there’s been a change in the most popular version of the IBM i operating system. IBM i 7.3 is now the frontrunner over 7.1. This isn’t too surprising since IBM ended support for 7.1 on April 30, 2018. The data shows a dramatic increase in 7.3 usage year over year, although 22% of respondents are still on 7.1 despite having expensive extended or no support from IBM. The 26% jump for 7.3 speaks to the longevity of platform as organizations continue to invest in keeping current.

With the 2018 release of POWER9 servers, there was a lot of infrastructure movement over the past several months as IT pros replaced POWER6 and POWER7 with POWER8 and POWER9 boxes. Those using POWER6 or older models dropped from 40% to 21% in the past year, but the prevalence of POWER8 servers rose from 46% to 57% over the same period. POWER7 usage has also decreased by its largest margin in recent history, likely contributing to the uptick in POWER8 and POWER9 boxes.

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 every three years, as you can see in their roadmap for POWER10.

Bar graphs of IBM i operating systems




New in 2019, we asked about plans for hardware and software upgrades. 58% of respondents indicated they will undertake either a hardware upgrade, a software upgrade, or both initiatives in the coming year.

For the 16% who indicated that they plan to upgrade software only, much of this could be related to updates for IBM i, as 32% are on version 7.1 and older and are running without support. Organizations could also be planning updates to applications or infrastructure software.

With 42% of the marketplace planning a hardware upgrade in 2019, it’s a good indicator that IBM i organizations are keeping very current with new hardware levels.

Pie chart for hardware and software updates



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. HelpSystems participates in this program for all its IBM i-based software.

IBM i IN THE DATA CENTER: Capacity Planning


Capacity Planning

Capacity planning for IBM i is key as companies rely on this platform to run business-critical applications from inventory management and CRM software to a host of homegrown programs. It’s surprising to see that while 54% of respondents have no concerns about their IBM i capacity planning requirements, the remaining 46% question the accuracy of vendor recommendations as well as their internal skillsets and software capabilities for predicting these needs.

Effective capacity planning is important for ensuring your business infrastructure can keep pace with daily operations or growth initiatives and isn’t over-provisioned and wasting unnecessary budget dollars.

Bar graphs of common concerns with IBM i

RECOMMENDATION 2: Capacity Planning


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

For 2019, 66% of respondents have more than one Power server, showing ongoing trust in this proven technology. Given that in a later survey question we learned 24% of people plan to increase their IBM i footprint, having ample server capacity is an important element for success. High availability 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 2019 than they were in 2018 with 72% running multiple partitions. The number of IBM i shops running only a handful of partitions has decreased, while those organizations running anywhere between seven and 60 partitions has increased. 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.

Bar graphs of the number of IBM i Power Servers owned

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. It’s important to consider that IBM i 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.

Pie chart of where IBM i infrastructure resides

RECOMMENDATION 3: Infrastructure Location


Some IBM i organizations have found that they can cut costs by replicating their IBM i environment to an MSP cloud instead of their own remote data center. This 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

We expect most IBM i shops to run other operating systems alongside IBM i, and Windows has been the predominant OS over the years. This will continue to be the case although there is some traction being lost to Linux, which IBM has promoted heavily as a replacement. Over the past year, there was a 7% decline in the number of IBM i-only environments with slight increases in Linux and AIX.

Bar graph of operating systems in use

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.



One of the ways IBM i generates a low TCO is through its ability to be maintained by a minimal number of administrators. This is shown in the data with 76% of teams having two or fewer admins.

When it comes to development staff, 65% of organizations have three or more people, which is the same number we saw last year. This stable trend indicates a lot of intellectual property for IBM i.

Bar graph of IBM i administrators and developers



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. This is where strategic partnerships come in. Your IBM i vendor partners such as HelpSystems have the training, services, and software you need to minimize the potential for disruption.




In recent years, IBM has promoted the use of managed service providers (MSPs) as a way for IBM i shops to overcome their challenges with the loss of expertise on the platform. The results show a 3% increase over 2018 in the number of organizations that already outsource some of their projects, which may account for the 2% drop in the number of shops looking at MSPs. That said, most respondents maintain their systems internally, a consistent trend since this survey began in 2015.

outsourcing consideration bar graph



While MSPs play a key role for organizations looking to offset the loss of IBM i talent, there are other options. For example, managed security services enable you to address a gap in security skills while maintaining control of your larger IT environment. This middle-ground approach can be an attractive option for those who need a balance between managing all activities in-house and fully outsourcing to an MSP.

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

Once again, the IBM i community shows its commitment to the platform as homegrown applications written in-house take the lead in the types of business applications running on the platform. Homegrown programs represent many years of diligence in creating and improving the application, so it can deliver unique and ongoing value to the organization.

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

Bar graph of business applications being run on IBM i

RECOMMENDATION 7: Business Applications


IBM i has long been prized 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 launch of POWER9 in 2018, 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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Bar graph of top concerns in IT environments



Businesses that leverage IBM i have more work ahead when it comes to securing their data and applications, as shown in The State of IBM i Security Study. A free Security Scan can help you take stock of your risk factors to get you on the right path. For those having difficulty finding security resources, remember that managed security services could be a good choice for your organization. With today’s high expectations for uptime and availability, you may also be looking at HA technology. Our IBM i High Availability Handbook is a great place to start your 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.

RECOMMENDATION 9: Cybersecurity


Doing nothing is simply not an option when it comes to cybersecurity and protecting your data. Although IBM i is a highly securable platform, you’re leaving the server wide open to security threats if you rely on default settings. Learn how you can protect your system via simple system configuration changes in our free Getting Started with IBM i Security e-Course. Assess your current level of risk and be on the lookout for changes with continual monitoring as you work through your plan for establishing a robust defense and risk mitigation strategy. Our complimentary Security Scan can also give you a real-time view of how your current security posture stacks up to benchmarks from industry experts.

IBM i security challenges

RECOMMENDATION 10: Cybersecurity Challenges


Keeping up with the ongoing changes in cybersecurity isn’t an easy job, and it’s not going to get any easier given the dim outlook on global threats. 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.

Security regulations

RECOMMENDATION 11: Regulations


When it comes to protecting your company’s valuable data, compliance is not the end all, be all—it should be considered the bare minimum. All organizations still need to implement and enforce a strong, well-thought-out security policy regardless of whether there are compliance requirements involved. If you’re looking for a well-established cybersecurity framework, use one such as NIST. Lean on your cybersecurity vendors for guidance in developing your cybersecurity plan. Compliance will no doubt be easy to achieve with a solid security posture in place.

Application of green screen (5250) bar graph
Development languages and open source development for IBM i

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 graphical IDE instead of PDM or SEU, so your developers can work in a more productive environment. Neither are free, but both will double your developer productivity.

Pie chart of Rational Developer for I (RDi) Use

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.

IBM i pie chart



IT departments worldwide seek methods of reducing errors, improving their productivity, and saving money—all of which point to the need for automation. With 49% of respondents concerned about diminishing IBM i skillsets, automation is a fantastic way to bridge this gap in expertise. Educate your management team about the savings automation 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.

External disk (SAN) use in IBM i graph

RECOMMENDATION: Data Storage and Technology


As storage technology trends point to increased use of virtualization, VIOS, and SAN, our team is seeing an increased need for a consolidated view of historical and real-time performance information. It’s possible to evaluate performance metrics across each of these technologies via Robot Monitor. It’s key to consider that visibility makes availability possible, and Robot Monitor’s consolidated view enables organizations to identify, investigate, and troubleshoot issues faster, helping you minimize business disruption.

disaster recovery system in place

RECOMMENDATION: High Availability


The concept of high availability is worrisome for many. 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.

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 health and stability of the IBM i platform is clear when considering 71% of respondents rely on it to run more than half of their core business applications. The issue for organizations continues to be modernizing the user interface to this critical application so that, as business users retire and a new workforce appears, they are not shocked by a green screen interface. Currently, about a third of the market is still 100% 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 longtime viability of these solutions.

Access to this core business data via modern business intelligence software that is native to IBM i is imperative. IBM, HelpSystems, and other vendors offer BI tools that can help with some of this modernization. Executives and the IT team cannot ignore the importance of the business rules built into core applications— this integration is the piece that makes the platform especially undesirable (and difficult) to replace.

Business Applications Being Run IBM i

RECOMMENDATION: Business Applications


Why replace? The better direction is to 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.

OUTLOOK FOR IBM i: Plans for the Platform

Plans for the Platform

According to the data, an average of 1.3% of IBM i users will migrate to another platform over the next five years, with the majority of those planning to move to Windows. Over the past five years, it’s interesting to note that Linux has overtaken UNIX. It’s natural to see some attrition each year, and this metric has been fairly flat over the past few years of this survey (it’s down .2% from last year). It’s important to highlight that 24% plan to increase their IBM i footprint in the future. 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.

Graphs for IBM i platform plans

OUTLOOK FOR IBM i: Return on Investment

Return on Investment

IBM is clearly doing something right when it comes to enabling users to realize a strong return on their technology investment. In fact, year over year, the numbers are nearly identical when it comes to the positive response to this question.

Given that only 22% of survey respondents run strictly on IBM i, the majority of organizations represented in this survey have developed a varied IT environment when it comes to the operating systems in place. This means respondents are well-qualified to assess ROI across the varied elements of their technology stack.

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

ROI vs IBM i chart


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, and experience levels to give a representative and diverse look at the worldwide IBM i market.

Data center location and primary industry charts
Job title and number of employees chart


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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