Angus: Time for tough love!
I started a recent tweet exchange with “I petition IBM to remove RPG from #IBMi SEU. Require developers to modernize with some tough love!”.
While this was a tongue in cheek comment, the responses got me thinking. IBM provides longevity in its IBM i OS by allowing developers to leverage applications and code written on previous generations of the platform. Certainly, this applies to AS/400, and at least back to System/38 and System/34. What incredible technology, what an incredible legacy.
On the other hand, this capability of the platform seems to have had another interesting effect. If a business ~can~ run the code they wrote thirty years ago, then surely this platform must be old and outdated! And this accusation is leveled often by platform detractors and competitors. Without marketing of IBM i, the I.T. industry is generally unaware of the evolution that makes IBM i significantly more modern than the predecessors, and a modern, agile, scalable, powerful, integrated business platform.
Partly, this view of the IBM i platform as being old is propagated by the same developers who have benefited from the ability to code in the same manner as they did twenty of thirty years ago. Their career has been one sweet ride, using the same principles of coding and development upon which they started their career. Unless they are forced somehow into connecting to new applications, new platforms, or new technologies such as web services, they remain in their 1988 bubble.
The community has been making an attempt to spread awareness of the IBM i platform, the branding, the capabilities, the developer tooling. Over the last 4 years, awareness of the current brand name has helped some people realize their own future. PHP has had a remarkable impact on the perspective of a modern IBM i. Industry pundits and educators have spread awareness of the Rational tooling, and as more and more companies upgrade their skills, existing applications are being modernized and developers are building new 21st century enterprise applications.
The difficult part for the community is to reach the IBM i, System i, iSeries and AS/400 customers who don’t engage in the community. IBM i vendors are able to reach more customers than are seen at conferences, or are engaged in social media and online forums. Yet there is still not universal adoption of modern technology, modern development, modern methodologies, modern applications or modern user experiences.
It is my contention that IBM could fix all of that. One PTF to remove SEU+SDA would do it. Build it in V5R4, 6.1 and 7.1, and send out an urgent PTF fix letter to every IBM i customer whose address is still known. After the PTF is applied, STRSEU simply shows a standard marketing message that informs the developer that new tools are available, and provides them with an easy method of downloading and installing them.
Tough love? Exactly. Would it piss a lot of customers off? Absolutely! And in that, the press that IBM i would receive would be global, and reach the entire I.T industry. Imagine if IBM was now lauded as the next Microsoft – requiring an update to developer skills with a new release of the OS? Sure, there will be negative press, we may lose a few customers, but the number of customers we would gain would far outweigh the losses. And, the world would – once again – be talking about our platform.
Of course, there would still be a number of companies who never apply PTFs and would not be affected. Some would see the press, and jump on the bandwagon, but the rest would stay in AS/400 bliss forever. Sure, we could make the process a little less disruptive, and provide a phone number to call to get SEU+SDA reinstated. In that phone call, there would be an opportunity to inform those customers of the evolution of the platform – something we have been unable to do as a community. They would then need to upgrade their skills or hire developers with modern RPG and RD Power skills, schools would start to offer IBM i and RPG education, and user groups would be screaming for RD Power speakers.
With one small PTF, the entire industry would be reinvigorated.
I cannot think of a better outcome!