IBM AS/400

Over the years, we have watched IBM AS/400 innovate and evolve into what it is today: IBM i Power. As the platform reached its 30th anniversary this past summer, we wanted to look at the evolution and key events that the AS/400 platform experienced. We will also look at how the architecture and its operating system is still relevant today.

Today, more companies are driving to a cloud only strategy. Yet, one area of technology that is vague in approach and adoption includes the applications or workloads that have resided on IBM AS/400. Our team at LightEdge engages in daily discussions with these types of companies.

They want information around cloud solutions, while also wanting to maintain status quo on the services delivered to their business and customers. However, they lack the desire to own and manage the platform. The same platform which has powered their organization to success over the last 30 years.

With the many updates the platform has seen, I wanted to take this time and dive into the history of IBM AS/400 and discuss how it became IBM i Power.

The Early Days

Let us go back to 1988 and revisit what the business conditions looked like in the good old days where life was simpler. Kids played outside until dark and Miami Vice was the clothing style of the day. The internet was not fully deployed to accommodate any business transactions without hours and hours of configuration. Dial up networks were very expensive, usually in the thousands of dollars, and network outages occurred with such frequency that some companies spent more time troubleshooting than actually accomplishing work.

When the AS/400 was unleashed on the business computing world in 1988, there were numerous ground-breaking aspects with the launch. In Rochester, MN, where the AS/400 was ‘born’ and continues to be developed, the system allowed customers to focus on their business applications instead of systems operations.

Primarily all the work by the company’s employees were being performed within the confines of the building and typically business hours were 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. IBM released the IBM Application System/400 for small to intermediate size companies. This easy-to-use computer systems provided impeccable resiliency, uptime, the lowest cost of administration because IBM engineered the hardware and operating system to cohesively exist in a nirvana state.

Changes to either the hardware or operating system was fully tested prior to public release, this is why we still hear or see older unsupported systems still in continued operations across multiple industry segments. Architectural design highlights included TIMI (Technology Independent Machine Interface), Single-level Storage, Object Persistence, and the microcode layer known as “SLIC” (System Licensed Internal Code).

Unprecedented Offerings

According to the SEA, when the AS/400 was first announced, over 1,000 “packaged software applications” were also announced to the public. Once the system was finally delivered in June 1988, there was 2,500 software packages available. This was a record in the software industry at the time.

IBM AS/400 was that technology platform which allowed companies to have one administrator to manage one system for all their technology needs. Database, web, application, mail, file & print server roles all running on a centralized system, where processor can be manipulated to the job which truly needed it. It was and still is the workhorse system. If you were concerned about pegging the processor, then you did not understand this is what the system was designed for.

I had an AS/400 admin who laughed hysterically when he could redline the processor just like how he drove his car. Companies created their own programs tailored to how they wanted their business operations to run in the most optimal and proficient manner. If they wanted the business process to change, they had the control and flexibility to modify their code and get back to business.

The biggest advantage I can attest to of AS/400 is the database. DB2 is the operating system, and it functioned at the highest level and didn’t require a database administrator. It worked, flawlessly and was consistent.

IBM Broadens its Product Line

In August of 1990, IBM unveiled two low-cost processors and added a low-end processor to the Application System/Entry series. At this time, the entire AS/400 series was enhanced with hundreds of hardware and software products.

This included operating system improvements, new data storage products, expanded memory, better systems availability and numerous advanced applications. A new entry-level model and new version of the AS/400’s operating system was then introduced. In 1993, a new F model AS/400 was unveiled and was up to 60 percent more powerful, reported IBM. This new model also offered 26 percent better price and performance improvements.

In the same year, three new high-performance AS/400 servers series models were introduced. They included the 9402 server series model 100, and 9504 server series models 135 and 140. For the thousands of businesses and IT professionals that have bet their business on this platform in its various incarnations, the AS/400 is legendary for reliability and low cost of ownership.

Towards the end of the 90s, IBM announced a powerful new line of AS/400e servers with faster processors, increased performance, and greater flexibility to handle multiple application workloads on a single server. The new line of servers consolidated multiple models into a smaller, more powerful family.

The Many Manifestations of AS/400

When discussing the evolution and history of IBM AS/400, discussing the many name changes over the years is unavoidable. So, why change the name from IBM AS/400 to IBM i on Power? I would like to blame IBM marketing but honestly, looking back over the years they were really trying stay a step ahead of the rapid evolutionary changes in technology. IBM AS/400 to iSeries to System i and now IBM i on Power, each change strengthened and reinforced IBM’s commitment to keeping this platform relevant and powerful for today’s corporate technology/Digital strategy.

The historical name changes tend to be a topic of discussion at many conferences, in user groups, and online. There are many people that still refer to the system as AS/400 because they do not know better. We try to do our best to gracefully move them towards the name IBM i, but fully understand any past iteration of the name.

Throughout these transformations, the original architecture of the IBM i with the abstraction layer has enabled the new servers to go to market without significant disruption to their user base. Those being the thousands of businesses with mission-critical systems on this platform.

The Evolution Continues

Now that we know how the hardware has evolved and that the name has seen many changes, we can touch on the topic of software. With IBM i, we now have the luxury of a totally integrated and bullet-proof system with unparalleled management tools.

While there are certainly some companies moving away from the platform for various reasons, we are also seeing just as many or more doubling down on IBM i these days. Adoption to programming principles and languages opened the realm of possibility to attract younger development talent. This adoption has also helped to expand the possibilities for integration to a new generation of cross platform application architecture, and cloud services.

IBM remains committed to maintaining currency on OS release levels to avoid the painful process of having customers operating on an unsupported version of the operating system. This brings up another great topic over the digital transformation for IBM i on Power, which I will cover in my next blog post. In the meantime, IBM i cloud is real and it is at LightEdge.

Today’s IT Environment and IBM i

Enterprises are currently undergoing major digital transformation projects and are rethinking what customers value. Because of this, they are creating operating models that take advantage of what is newly possible for competitive differentiation. Executives have long used technology to improve business operations. The only difference now, is that customer expectations have changed.

People are using social networks for their job hunt, reconnecting with old colleagues, and finding the newest local hotspots. They are using the internet for streaming, shopping and household management. Work-life integration is no longer an ideal for the future, but the way of the world today.

Today’s most agile companies are not limited by the business applications of the past. They are integrating technologies from traditional business services with open source solutions that are running on IBM i. It is all about providing technical flexibility to help clients solve and extend value.

The Value of LightEdge and IBM i

I am proud to say, LightEdge is located just hours from Rochester, MN which is home of the IBM AS/400. I cannot tell you the number of companies sprawled across the Midwest that have grown to prominence off the back of the AS/400. It is inspiring to meet and talk to these companies over the last 8 years and help guide them as they are transitioning to cloud services.

IBM i on Power Systems has kept pace with the exponential demand in the business and technology world to provide faster, more powerful and more enhanced capabilities. If you want to learn more about how we have helped our customers through our compliant cloud for IBM i, our LightEdge experts are here to help you.

We understand that security is a top priority for most companies. When it comes to compliance and security, LightEdge’s highly-trained compliance and security experts take the guesswork out of keeping your business protected. Trust our expertise to ensure you are covered through our security and compliance services, including risk management, information security, audit preparedness, and support. Learn more about our industry-specific compliance expertise. Our services are compliant with:

Why LightEdge Hosting for IBM?

As a certified IBM partner, LightEdge takes IBM’s standard of impeccable service delivery as seriously as they do with a variety of offerings for companies large and small in our highly-interconnected data centers.

LightEdge has a dedicated team of IBM experts on staff with a combined 120 years of experience working with IBM i (AS/400 / iSeries), AIX, mainframe environments, and dedicated disaster recovery solutions. Through this team, we have introduced a suite of IBM i on Power solutions that offer clients the same security and reliability they depend on with their AS/400 / iSeries and AIX environments in a flexible, redundant, and cost-effective cloud model.

For those wanting access to the latest mainframe / Z Cloud technology for their mission-critical workloads running in the cloud, we have solutions for that too. Companies turn to LightEdge to help with their hosting needs because we can reduce operational expenses and strain on internal staff. We do this all while giving you the flexibility to meet your business’s growing infrastructure demands in a secure, IBM certified environment.

Our Power Cloud is specialized solutions to ensure the stability and evolution of your IBM i (AS/400 / iSeries) or AIX environments, including: Hosted LPARs, Data Protection, IBM i Recovery Cloud and IBM i Premium Recovery Cloud. Our IBM Z Cloud is secure, available and scalable cloud mainframe services for your mission-critical workloads. You can gain access to the latest mainframe technology in a secure, multi-tenant model that allows you to scale computing resources, storage and networking as your business demands change.

As a top-tier colocation services provider, we provide a high level of availability and reliability through secure, certified data centers and dedicated staff onsite. Our customized and scalable services give you the control, whether you need a colocation rack, cage or custom suite now or in the future. Get started today with a free quote from one of our cloud specialists.

If you need help getting started, contact one of our IBM i experts to get started or to schedule your private tour of any of our seven concurrently maintainable data centers in Des Moines, IA, Kansas City, MO, Omaha, NE, Austin, TX, or Raleigh, NC. We have security, compliance, and cloud experts standing by to answer any of your questions.

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Roger Mellman

Roger Mellman is the Director of Business Development Enterprise Solutions for LightEdge, with a special emphasis on IBM i, AS/400, iSeries, System i. Roger has been working with IBM AS/400 environments for more than 20 years.

Throughout his career, he has gained experience in a wide array of information technologies, strategic planning, business process improvement, business continuity planning, system selection and project management.