Many IT professionals still use the term “AS/400”. It’s seen in job titles and professional associations and certifications. It’s been woven into the content we consume online and the products that we use every day.
And yet, “Is the AS/400 dead?” is a common question heard throughout the user community. Loosely translated, what current users, jobseekers, and organizations want to know is whether a platform that was introduced in 1988 is still relevant today.
The answers typically surprise people.
What is the AS/400?
IBM introduced the AS/400 system in 1988. It was an integrated system featuring hardware (AS/400) and an operating system (OS/400), along with many core functions such as an integrated database.
Both the hardware and the software have gone through many upgrades, revisions, and name changes over the years. While many still refer to the system as an AS/400 or sometimes an iSeries IBM server, today’s hardware is technically Power Systems, which runs an updated operating system called IBM i.
From the beginning, one of the strongest features of this platform has been its upward compatibility. You can run a program created for the AS/400 in 1988 on a Power Systems server today with little or no changes.
This seamless compatibility is one reason why many companies that purchased an AS/400 years ago continue to refer to it as an AS/400 even though their Power server is an order of magnitude faster and features cutting-edge technologies.
IBM continues to update the platform today and has big plans for the future of IBM i. Every two to three years, they release new versions of the hardware and software that feature quantum leaps forward in processing power and functionality.
A Brief History of IBM i
Click through the image slider that follows for a brief history of the IBM i platform from the AS/400 in 1988 to IBM Power Systems with IBM i in 2008 with a glimpse into the future. You’ll find a more detailed IBM i history and timeline here, including milestones and end of support dates.
But is AS/400 still used?
There are over 100,000 companies that use AS/400 technology as it exists within IBM i to power their most mission-critical application. These companies run the gamut from banks and hospitals to manufacturing and distribution centers to retailers and government agencies.
These systems are the unsung heroes. Not often used for general office functions or employee productivity, they instead handle robust, computing-heavy applications like ERP, banking, or health information systems.
In a recent survey of IBM i users, 44% say they are running 75-100% of their workload and business applications on IBM i, reflecting the enduring legacy of the platform.
Recent statistics also indicate the future relevance of the platform as 25% of the users say they are increasing workloads on the platform while a number in the low, single digits are planning to move off the platform.
Then where’s the controversy?
Even with all its heavy-hitting technology, the platform is not without its challenges.
- AS/400 is perceived as outdated. The fact it was created in 1988 and has been renamed several times has not helped to build the perception that it is a modern platform. Even so, it remains a critical part of the computing infrastructure for many of the top organizations in the world. But what users call it can confuse decision makers who aren’t as close to the platform. So, it’s important to get the story straight.
- AS/400 talent is retiring. Some of the veterans on the platform are reaching retirement age. When they do retire, all their knowledge and expertise will go right out the door with them. But with a little advanced planning, there’s a simple solution. We created this guide to help organizations that are dealing with this talent transition.
So, is the AS/400 dead?
In a word, no. Arguably, the platform is more popular than ever! Here are five reasons why:
- IBM i is scalable. Businesses can start with an affordable 4-core server and easily go all the way up to 256-core machines. It’s very rare that a company’s processing needs outgrow IBM i.
- IBM i is securable. When it’s correctly configured and equipped with the right software, IBM i can be very secure.
- IBM i is reliable. It’s often said that this platform just runs all the time. In fact, it features enterprise class reliability and high availability tools are readily available for near 100% uptime.
- IBM i is modern. In addition to being able to run existing programs, IBM i supports a healthy mix of native and open source development languages, including RPG, SQL, Java, .NET, PHP, and C++.
- IBM i is compatible. As true today as it was in 1988, the upward compatibility of this platform protects your investment by avoiding expensive code migrations when platforms are updated.
Organizations in every industry around the world still run on AS/400 technology, but not the way you think. It forms the foundation for some of the most powerful servers and operating systems on the market today—Power Systems and IBM i—which are both alive and kicking.
And the platform continues to evolve, becoming increasingly robust, embracing modern technologies, and giving many of the world’s top organizations a competitive edge.
What do the experts think?
What do you think?
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Where can I find more info on IBM i?
You can find IBM i insights from the experts and enthusiasts at Fortra. Start by checking out these great resources:
- Annual IBM i Marketplace Survey Results
- Annual State of IBM i Security Study
- What to Do When Your IBM i Talent Retires
- IBM i: It's Not Just AS/400 with Steve Will
- The Evolution of IBM i in the Data Center with Dr. Frank Soltis
- Promoting the Future of IBM i in Your Business with Trevor Perry
- Lessons Learned from the AS/400 Breach with Robin Tatam, CISM
What about IBM i skills?
Ask any IBM i user and they’ll proudly tell you how they got their start back in the System/38 or AS/400 days. Many of these experienced IT professionals are now nearing retirement. When they do, all their knowledge and expertise will go right out the door with them. But don't worry. This guide shows you what to do when your IBM i talent retires.