Making the Case to Keep Your IBM i

Laurie Leblanc
Laurie LeBlanc, iTech Solutions

A good CIO will take a hard look at the status quo to determine if it is still the right decision.  While we love our IBM i and don’t want the CIO to consider migration, it’s part of the job. They need to consider future business needs such as availability, scalability, security, and modernization to keep the budget in good shape.  The good news is these are all things that IBM i is poised to help companies to achieve.

The HelpSystems’ 2020 IBM i Marketplace Survey results indicate that security is on the top of the CIO’s list of concerns.  With the shift to having more remote workers, your systems’ security should be a greater concern.  Security was followed by High Availability/Disaster Recovery, Modernizing Applications, IBM i skills, and Data Growth.  These responses highlight how important IBM i is to the business.

Rocket Software commissioned an IDC study that found that the companies that modernized their IBM i (and System Z) applications had a higher satisfaction rate and lower costs than companies who chose to migrate to other platforms.  The IBM i often gets a bad rap of being a legacy system because companies haven’t taken the time to bring it into the current decade.  The IBM i supports open source languages and tools, and IBM has many examples of how companies are modernizing their IBM i applications.

Resources Needed to Administer the Platform

Let’s face it, part of the investigation process needs to include costs of the resources required to support the platform.  When looking at your skilled IBM i resources’ cost, you may find that you spend a good deal of money on these people’s salaries. However, what you probably haven’t considered is what resources will I need to support a new platform?  This is where you will start to see a difference in costs.

Again referencing the HelpSystems 2020 IBM i Marketplace Survey, 41% of respondents have only one IBM i Administrator, followed by 26% with two.  11% answered none. That’s 78% running with two or fewer admins.  Compare this data with the Quark + Lepton study, which found that the cost of the resources for IBM i was 60% less than Windows.  This demonstrates the need to have more people administer SQL and Oracle running on Windows. Driving resource costs higher and higher.

The Most Securable System

Ransomware is a big problem today. Companies have to either pay or pray they have a good enough recovery point available.  The IBM i is the most securable platform.  We know that you have to configure your security to ensure that your system is protected.  IBM i is more secure than Windows is because it has an object-based architecture.  You can’t just execute a program on an IBM i, which is why it is resistant to viruses, another big plus for IBM i.  The one caveat is the IFS. You can pass a virus through your IFS. However, it can’t infect the IBM i.  That doesn’t mean you should ignore it.

Auditors want to be sure that you know who has access to what. IBM i allows you to grant authorities to your users based on their role. To configure password rules, encrypt communications, grant users access to objects, and more. When your IBM i is properly secured, you will meet the most stringent of audit or compliance requirements.

Availability of the System

Some companies have to have their IBM i available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  They have invested in redundant hardware and replication to ensure that the systems meet the business demands.  The IBM i has 3-4 times more reliable uptime compared to Windows/SQL and X86 Linux/Oracle. (Source: Quark + Lepton, IBM I on Power Systems, May 2017.)  The cost of downtime for Windows servers is 3 -4 times higher than IBM i. That’s a significant difference.  If your company is concerned with downtime, then moving off-platform could be a costly decision.


Change is hard.  Getting RPG programmers to change can be really hard.  RPG is a rock-solid language, and programs written thirty years ago can still run the business.  So why change?

We know that one of the issues IBM i companies are facing is a shortage of skilled resources.  As employees who have been with the company forever start to retire, many CIOs are worried about finding resources that can keep their critical systems running.  Many turn to iTech for Managed Services to help fill their gaps.

IT’s future is learning about Python, Php, and using Git and Yum and other tools. IBM i has support for open source languages and modern programming tools.  Give a young resource a green screen, and they will think they stepped into the twilight zone.  Give them RPG Free and the ability to use their open source languages and tools, and your old code will be modernized in no time. It’s all about perception.

Speaking of perception, when people see a green screen, they immediately think that your application is old.  This can be maddening when the developers are doing all they can to give the users additional functionality.  Modernization will allow you to use that code that works great and improve the end-users’ experience with web or mobile interfaces.

The bottom line

It all boils down to the bottom line: What is the total cost of ownership? And when you compare IBM i to Windows, there is no comparison. Companies often start looking for alternatives because the IBM i hardware refreshes are a higher dollar value than when a Windows server needs a refresh.  The thing is, you don’t’ need nearly as many IBM i servers as you do Windows.  Windows servers populate like rabbits.

There’s more than the cost of acquiring hardware. There are also the additional resources we talked about earlier. There’s also the new application’s cost and the training time to get everyone up to speed.  In the end, you spend more money migrating from IBM i to Windows systems.

Gartner’s white paper cautions companies against moving off IBM platforms.  Gartner also found that the cost of modernizing your legacy IBM platforms is lower than migration to another platform. Their findings conclude that projects often fail when businesses modernize based on IT needs instead of business needs. Further driving up costs.

The cost is higher, the availability is lower, and the environment is less secure. IBM i has a lower total cost of ownership, requiring fewer IT resources, is more secure with less downtime and supports open source languages and tools. Does it make sense to migrate off your legacy IBM i or should you modernize what you have?

View more from this Month:


Gartner, Considering Leaving Legacy IBM Platforms? Beware, as Cost Savings May Disappoint, While Risking Quality, March 21, 2020.


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