IBM i and IBM Power courses out there

(the original article can be found HERE)

“We are leaving the platform, because we cannot find RPG programmers” I am sick and tired of this comment. For me this is pure BS and I will tell you why.

First of all, to be a bit more humble, if you are still running RPGII and RPGIII code from 1970s and 1980s you might be correct (It is awesome you can still run this on completely different and hyper modern hardware architecture that would have blown the programmer away when the code was written). You will even find it impossible to get someone who wants to learn those versions (even if I have a very inspiring example when this happened and they are now using AI in the modernised RPG application). Learn, yes people are still interested in learning things such as MODERN programming languages where Full Free Form RPG is one of them. Remember new programming languages comes out every now and then and people learn how to program in them.

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To be successful you therefore need to do your homework and give the developers an environment that is attractive to them. Most likely you have a pretty cool business to support with the application already, IBM i is always involved in business critical stuff after all. Btw, an attractive environment for developers today includes modern IDE’s, open source and modern tooling like Git based stuff. I hope I don’t have to remind you that SQL should be your other No1 programming language. It is time jump off the steam locomotive and jump on the high speed train that is on the same platform.

Learn modern RPG is not difficult for a decent smart person. To learn your or your clients business though is often the tricky part. If you have other developers in house already who knows at least the basics of your “business logic” I would start by reaching out to them. If you hired people with the right attitude and curiosity to begin with they will say H*LL YEAH!

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By the way, like Paul Tuohy (the picture is not of his best side should be mentioned) says there are two kinds of programmers. Maintenance programers and business application developers. You should most likely to go for the latter. Well, not if you are still looking for a RPGII person perhaps 🙂

“No schools educate people in RPG”, is another comment I virtually punch people in the face when I hear. One reason is because this is not true, the second reason is I rarely hear companies in the need of programming skills in R, D, Rust, Go or any new programming language crying out the same complaints. Instead they are reaching out to schools and companies learning these languages or just put courses up themselves if they have the resources, like Asseco PST in Portugal or Sanmarco Informatica in Italy.

Therefore I have put together a list of alternatives for you (Thank you Michael Mayer for your list on your great site https://ibmireference.blogspot.com for a number of links) when you are planning for the future of your IBM i application.

IBM Education (still around and updated)

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In Europe you have a number of local provides teaching in their native (speaking) language as well.

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There are also hundreds of smaller firms helping out if needed.

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And my own little hobby www.ibmicompetence.com

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Now repeat after me

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i for innovative

I have a question. Why is IBM i (ignorant people still calls it AS/400, iSeries or other old names..) seen as an outdated platform for running business applications by some?

Is it the green screen “5250” user interface? It must still be the 5250 user interface that was such a success factor in the 1970-1990s but quickly became a burden for the platform once Apple and Microsoft came with nice and shiny colourful alternatives 25-30 years ago… Are people that stupid and cannot se the greatness beyond that even today when the preferred UI for end users are built on javascript.

Even 5250 is more sophisticated than all other system admin interfaces on the planet. But let’s focus on the extremely innovative system IBM i in this article… To do that we have to go back to the early 1970’s or even a bit before that.

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From the book “Inside the AS/400” by Chief Architect Frank Soltis : “During the 1960s, MIT engineers and computer scientists worked on a department of Defense project called MULTICS. Companies such as Digital, Data General and IBM’s New York laboratories hired graduates from MIT and other eastern universities. The computers and operating systems designed at these companies borrowed much from projects such as MULTICS. The Unix operating system from Bell Laboratories came out of this environment. Because designs from these companies were variations on the same themes, they pretty much looked alike. It was highly unlikely that a revolutionary new design would ever come from one of these facilities. The IBM i (AS/400 in the book)history is very different…”

It was highly unlikely that a revolutionary new design would ever come from one of these facilities. The IBM i (AS/400 in the book)history is very different

So, already now we know that IBM i is the most innovative operating system on the planet not just a copy past of ideas from the same source. But it will be better. Let’s read more in that brilliant book.

“In the late 1960s and early 1970s, IBM considered a radical redesign of their entire product line to take advantage of the much lower cost of computer circuitry expected in the 1980s. The major objectives of the FS project were consequently stated as follows:

  • make obsolete all existing computing equipment, including IBM’s, by fully exploiting the newest technologies
  • diminish greatly the costs and efforts involved in application development and operation
  • provide a technically sound basis for re-bundling as much as possible of IBM’s offerings (hardware, software and services)

It was hoped that a new architecture making a heavier use of hardware resources, the cost of which was going down, could significantly simplify software development and reduce costs for both IBM and customers

The project failed because of several reasons, but many of the innovative ideas and concepts used in that project ended up in IBM i via System/38, AS/400, iSeries, System i…

IBM i has been mocked by competitors since the 1990’s, not at least from Microsoft. But after a bit googling, I can say it was because they were jealous and nothing more. Well, they were obviously very pleased that the majority looked only at the GUI layer when they decided where to put their business applications. This alone was their success if you ask me..

One of the most innovative technologies that even defines the operating system (which is much more than an operating system) is the built in relational database. I repeat, built into the operating system. Cannot be removed (doesn’t have to be installed either..) and this is the native file system if you would like. You install IBM i, logging in with the supersmart 5250 interface and you type CRTTBL and the TaBLe is CReaTed (you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand the command structure of the system). How cool isn’t that?? There are good reasons why you should create your schemas etc with better interfaces but we leave that out in this article.

You install IBM i, logging in with the supersmart 5250 interface and you type CRTTBL and the TaBLe is CReaTed (you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand the command structure of the system). How cool isn’t that??

If it is that cool, why didn’t the competition do the same thing in their solutions?? Well they tried but it is not so very easy if you don’t have the smartest people on the earth as IBM had.

WinFS (short for Windows Future Storage) was the code name for a canceled data storage and management system project based on relational databases, developed by Microsoft and first demonstrated in 2003 as an advanced storage subsystem for the Microsoft Windows operating system, designed for persistence and management of structured, semi-structured and unstructured data. WinFS includes a relational database for storage of information, and allows any type of information to be stored in it, provided there is a well defined schema for the type.”

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“Before it’s time”hahahahaaaaa… Bill old Bill…

Ok, what else. Oh yeees! This one is good.

Single Level Storage (or somethings just Store) This is a brilliant technology implemented (not invented) in IBM i and Microsoft also really wanted. Really. 12 (2003-2015) years of development isn’t just a hobby project..

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We shall not mock MS anymore. They are heavily under attack after all. I participated a online course by MIT earlier this year where the professors said “Microsoft probably doesn’t exist 15 years from now..”

So where does the attack comes from? Containers and “cloud native development”… This god’s solution to all problems in the IT industry. Please learn how libraries, subsystems, memory pools and objects on IBM i all work together and you will be ashamed if you thought containers were such a good idea for enterprise business applications. And ask your CFO which application architecture he or she think will be the most cost effective the next coming 3, 5 and 10 years… Be ready to invest in an IBM i environment *immed if you don’t have that already.

I stop here but could go on for another 10 pages or so. But please agree with me, the IBM i “sophisticated business application environment” deserves a better place in the IT landscape of today.

IDG Sweden – Come on!!

I am still waiting for Swedish IDG to publish ANYTHING about the new IBM z16 server. Z as in ZERO!!!

To the Swedish audience:

“IBM innovations, including the IBM z16, have formed the technology backbone of the global economy for decades. Today’s modern IBM mainframe is central to hybrid cloud environments, valued by two thirds of the Fortune 100, 45 of the world’s top 50 banks, 8 of the top 10 insurers, 7 of the top 10 global retailers and 8 out of the top 10 telcos as a highly secured platform for running their most mission critical workloads”

So let’s compare IDG.SE with the rest of the world..

At the same time in the big world outside of Sweden..

User groups – tools for management

Tools are the difference between smooth management of an user group and a not-so-smooth one.

There are a couple of different tools we are going to mention here. There are of course more out there and plenty of specialists comparing different tools if you are looking for something more.

Please give ideas in the comment field if you have other tools to suggest.

Management of a user group

This one is a bit related to how big or small your user group is. But let’s start with the basic tasks you have to perform.

  • Keeping tracks of members
  • Invoicing (if you are charging a fee)
  • Project planning (Another post will cover event plannings)
  • Communicating with the users

To start with, creating a Gmail account is not a stupid thing. First of all It is good to separate your work with the user group from your daily job or even private life. Secondly with Gmail comes tons of tools.

Keeping track of members

This one is crucial of course. Depending of your size and “ambition level” you should know a couple of things about your members. Name, email, company is the minimum I would say. If you are charging a fee you need to know if they’ve paid or not.

Gmail contacts is a good place to start, or just a spreadsheet with Google Sheets or Excel if you are willing to pay a bit for this.

Invoicing

is a bit up to where you are in the world (and of course if you would like to charge anything in the first place). But I would go with a local vendor with a cloud based solution today. To create an invoice and send it as PDF is today a very simple process. The financial reporting is a bit trickier, but with online tooling you can do this yourself with basic knowledge. Make sure you follow the rules of your region though. To pay a bit extra for this as a service might be a good idea after all.

Project planning

There are many tools out there nowadays. Again, you can do magic with Google sheets or Excel when it comes to planning activities for the user groups, but some other tools gives you some nice features. One such feature is to delegate tasks another one is to set due dates and reminders.

One popular tool for project management is Trello. It is free and you can tweak it a lot to meet your requirements.

Communication

You need of course to communicate with your members in different ways. You should probably create groups on Linkedin and Facebook and perhaps also a Twitter account. Another great way of communicating is through newsletters. A bit old fashioned but let’s call it “classic” instead.

Mailchimp is the most popular tool around, and free up to 2000 email addresses. Most likely enough to start with at least. You get tons of good functionalities using Mailchimp where one important thing is that Mailchimp will help you being compliant to rules around spam etc.

Slack is another popular way of communicating with your user group members. It is free to start with and easy to get started with. Also it will give you tons of options when it comes to integrations with other tools (such as Mailchimp) and runs well on both browsers but also on my smartphone. You can create different “channels” and they can be both open or hidden, you can chat in threads and much more.

Some other tools that you should take a look at for managing your user group are:

Doodle – To find a good time for meetings or events.

SurveyMonkey for surveys

Google Forms for different types of registrations

Please comment below if you would like to suggest other tools for managing a user group!

Saving an user group

A short story that perhaps you can relate to or get some insights from:

I came 2008/2009 into an very old organization (40+ years old) after about 10 years of hard times with losing members and with that members fees, lost interest from sponsors, bad reputation of the name, few people attending meetings, previous board members that used all the money for personal benefits, people trying to split the organization etc.

I made a decision very early, I was there to create content to make the user group relevant in the future. Luckily there was other at the board that could take care of the boring stuff such as cutting costs, going through bylaws and just keep the members list up to date and make sure invoiced went out.

We had a very good relation with IBM locally and the first year we cancelled our yearly conference (two per year was done in the past) and made a half day in IBM facilities where mostly IBMers and business partners showed up. Previous conferences had cost us money we no longer had more or less..

The year after we arranged a two day conference with approx 80 people attending, again mainly IBMers, business partners and some old members that always showed up. On my initiative we ended the conference with a brainstorming session where one very important idea came up from one of the participants. “Why not make sessions that attracts developers?”

Back then, around 2009 – 2010 the agenda was mainly for hardware people including operating system management. We did, and the following year we invited Paul Tuohy, Susan Gantner and Jon Paris, with that we grew the number of participants to over 150 and more each year with a peak of 300+ attendees when we in 2016 hosted the Common Europe Congress which was seen as a huge success. Common Europe and many other organizations through out in Europe had similar issue like we had in Sweden after all.

We also produced a members magazine which I took control over. Another huge success was made especially I was lucky to know a person doing magazines for a living. We got really good attention from all around the world, and I always brought a number of them to the board of directors meeting for COMMON in North America for example.

The third thing I started was a monthly newsletter that had about 800 subscribers when I quit doing them in 2019. Short messages about what is going on in the community, news from IBM etc was the success factor. People really liked to read about their beloved platform that the outside word gave very little attention after all.

First page of a newsletter

What would I like to say with this?

  1. Keep an good relation with your local IBM people
  2. Keep it simple. All initiatives are good initiatives.
  3. Look around and see what resources you have available. Perhaps just starting a monthly newsletter or a Slack group for chatting is good enough to start with. Or just gather some people in a pub and brainstorm together.