<img alt="" src="https://secure.hiss3lark.com/186653.png" style="display:none;">
Contact Us
Back to blog index
subscribe to our blog

Transforming Tradition: Adapting IBM i for the Digital Era

The IBM i / AS400 has been a staple in countless businesses, acting as the backbone for their daily operations and enduring as a testament to the robustness of IBM's technology. However, its longevity can often lead to various challenges as we move into the digital age. These pressures are not reasons to abandon the system but rather hurdles to be jumped, marking the path toward a renewed, more efficient usage of IBM i in the modern business environment.

IBM i: The Unmovable Rock in the IT Landscape

AS400, now known as the IBM i, is as ubiquitous in corporate computing as it is enduring. Its versatility serves various business functions, from database management to legacy application hosting. Its durability and reliability are second to none, delivering consistent performance over decades.

However, with technological advancement, particularly in the realm of user experience and integration, IBM i can seem like a Goliath amidst an army of Davids—agile, responsive, and modern. 

The Harrowing Tales of Integration

One of the program’s most notorious challenges is its integration with modern IT environments. Often the custodian of mission-critical legacy systems, the program is often siloed, isolated from more modern platforms.

Integrating IBM i with cloud services, web applications, and mobile technologies imposes significant hurdles, not the least of which is integrating databases and transaction processing. If mishandled, each of these tasks can result in expensive downtime and unintended data discrepancies.

The Dystopia of User Interfaces

For many, the IBM i is synonymous with a less-than-desirable user interface (UI). Often text-based, it lacks the bells and whistles of contemporary UI design. This presents a user experience (UX) conundrum businesses struggle to overcome. An outdated and unwelcoming UI can lead to reduced productivity and, more worryingly, user adoption of workarounds unsanctioned by the IT department, compromising security and data integrity.

The Labyrinth of Talent and Skill

IBM i’s continued use demands a specialized set of skills that, over time, has become a rarity. Trained RPG programmers are the gatekeepers of a complex system, and when one retires or leaves, finding a replacement is akin to searching for a needle in a haystack. 

Training new staff is challenging due to the lack of current educational material. Additionally, ingrained habits and practices, though based on outdated techniques, often perpetuate an institutional culture that is resistant to change.

The Call for Modernization

Bearing the weight of legacy software, the IBM i must evolve without sacrificing its inherent stability. The modernization process must be undertaken thoughtfully, ensuring that the system remains as dependable as ever while adopting the necessary updates to remain relevant.

Modernization also intersects with concerns about cost. Upgrading IBM i / AS400 systems is a significant investment. Balancing long-term benefits with short-term budgetary constraints is a tightrope act that finance and IT departments must undertake together, with clear visibility of the return on investment (ROI).

Solutions to the IBM iSeries Dilemma

While each challenge presented by the IBM iSeries is formidable, there are solutions — measures that can be taken to navigate each difficulty successfully. The key is to approach these issues systematically and with foresight, not as stopgaps but as pillars of a robust future for IBM i.

Bridging the Gap with a Comprehensive Training Initiative

The first step in addressing the RPG programming skill gap is an investment in training. Businesses must cultivate their programming talent, nurture expertise, and provide clear pathways for professional growth. This can include specialized courses, mentor-protege relationships, and establishing in-house centers of excellence.

Fostering talent from within offers the advantage of staff intimately familiar with the business context and operations, something an external hire may struggle to grasp.

Streamlining Operations Through Integrated Modern Approaches

Modernizing operations means looking beyond the system itself. It requires integrating IBM i into the broader IT landscape with agile and responsive methodologies.

DevOps practices can also revolutionize the deployment and management of IBM i systems, bringing agility to a platform often perceived as static. By automating tasks that were once labor-intensive, businesses can redirect human capital toward innovation and strategic direction.

The Art of Modernization: Balancing Act and Best Practices

Modernization efforts should start with a comprehensive assessment of the system's current and future requirements. 

Adopting open-source technologies can breathe new life into IBM i / AS400 systems, leveraging the powerful combination of community-driven innovation and enterprise-grade support. Middleware platforms can bridge the legacy program and modern software, facilitating communication without the complexity of direct integration.

When It Rains, It Pours: A Proactive Stance on Downtime

Unplanned downtime is anathema to business continuity and can be financially devastating. Building redundancies into critical system functions can mitigate the impact of hardware failures or software glitches. Regular maintenance and ongoing monitoring are vital to prevent issues before they can disrupt operations.

Disaster recovery procedures should be periodically tested and refined to ensure they are functional and optimal. With the right preparations, downtime need not be a disaster; instead, it can be an opportunity to showcase the resilience of the organization's IBM i / AS400 setup.

Breaking the Text-Only Mold: UI/UX Revolution

Enhancing the user interface is more than a cosmetic upgrade. It's a strategic imperative to ensure staff can leverage the system to its fullest potential with minimal resistance. An improved UI can increase user satisfaction, efficiency gains, and reduced training overhead.

Design thinking methodologies, that is, understanding the end-user’s experience and needs, can inform the reimagining of UI. This approach, coupled with user testing and feedback, can yield a modern and truly user-centric interface.

Looking Forward: A Renewed Role for the IBM iSeries

Contrary to being a technological relic, the IBM i / AS400 can find new life and relevance in the modern enterprise. By addressing its challenges head-on and confidently implementing the solutions we’ve discussed, businesses can ensure that their IBM i / AS400 system remains an asset, not an albatross.

As we've explored, mastering the IBM i complexities is not simple, but it is a path worth taking. It requires dedication, investment, and a commitment to excellence. With these in mind, the IBM i / AS400 system — steadfast, reliable, and storied — can continue its legacy, adapting and thriving in a world where change is the only constant.

Let’s Chat

Revolutionize your IBM i / AS400 system with RPG Programming from DDC. 

Contact Us

How Can We Help You?

Get in touch to learn how we can support your success.

Get Started
Subscribe to Our Blog