COMMON 2009: Where Next?
By Thibault Dambrine
Exploring the future of the IBM iSeries computing platform
In 1991, a young Linus Torvalds created the original version of Linux, a UNIX-like operating system. From humble beginnings, it has grown to the point where it is now a viable commercial Operating System in its own right. Indeed, IBM contributes to this OS regularly these days.
Fast forward to May 2009. A
week has passed since the 2009 COMMON Annual Meeting in
One of the biggest benefits of attending such a conference is taking a step back. Taking time to talk face-to-face with peers, experts, people who experience similar challenges. Also a good time to speak directly to IBM staff.
So, what did I learn this year? Here are the trends as I see them:
With these facts in mind, one does wonder, where the future or "i" and indeed COMMON lies? Not even COMMON's Young "i" Professional (YiP) membership can alter this impression.
When discussing these
topics with an “i” software vendor, he only had one response:
“Follow the money! – or more precisely “follow the next quarter’s money. The "i" Operating System, with its ever-reliable built-in DB2 database, is not as strong a money generator for IBM as AIX or even Linux. With no [extra charge] database to install, no separate compiler to add, too few extras and services to sell, "i" has become simply less profitable [for IBM] than other operating systems.”
One could be tempted to think that short term profits, to the exclusion of all other factors, will ultimately determine the fate of the "i" operating system. I submit that the water companies, manufacturers, distributors, gambling operations, municipal governments and banks - who rely heavily on the unparalleled 24/7/365 reliability built within "i" will not look for other platforms unless they absolutely have to.
Perhaps in light of IBM's perceived tepid interest in such hard-core, long-term clients, the time has come, to look at other options. Would there, could there, be appetite for a Linux-style Open/400 or Open/i (pick your name) operating system? One that could run, just as Linux does, on any platform? Imagine if you will, hitting the F4 key on your PC, to prompt a command on an x86 machine?
COMMON is a great sounding board for debating such ideas. I brought up this topic at the COMMON User Discussion Session. Around the table, one IBMer became somewhat agitated by this suggestion. He voiced his opposition with some measure of struggle to keep control. A good sign indeed! One enthusiastic attendant suggested the name “i Wide Open” as a name for this idea, which I bet is not completely new. Others tossed the “GNU i” licence possibility.
Could the Open Source model breathe new life into the "i" operating system? Linux is now coming to maturity after nearly 20 years of development. Do we have that much time? These are the questions I pondered at this year's COMMON.
Thibault Dambrine works for Shell Canada Limited as a systems analyst.
He speaks at COMMON and local user groups on SQL implementation and FTP automation and maintains www.tylogix.com. You can reach Thibault at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was first published in the June 2009 issue of the COMMON.CONNECT magazine.