January 21, 2020

Article at IBM Systems Magazine

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Paul Tuohy Reviews 2019

The host of the iTalk With Tuohy podcast recaps 2019 events in the IBM i world.

Paul Tuohy:Hi everyone and welcome to another iTalk with Tuohy. Well it's that time of year again when I get to talk to myself and take the opportunity to look back at what were for me—and please note, just for me—some of the highlights in the IBM i world over 2019 and maybe talk a little bit about what I see might be happening in 2020. So let's start with a couple of general things—and I think were, to me, sort of two highlights that happened this year in the IT press as opposed to something specific within the IBM i community. Earlier in the year eWeek published an article called, if I remember correctly, IBM i is The Most Amazing IBM Product You're Never Heard Of. This was a piece that when I read it, I asked the question how much IBM had paid to have the article published, but apparently not a cent. It was a reporter who was at a conference—I think it was the Think conference—and came across IBM i and was just wowed by what he saw and wrote the article. The other one thing was one of the Gartner reports, and I think this was in December—or maybe November, December. It was published where they warned people about the danger of migrating away from their traditional platforms. Excuse the cynic in me but I'm sort of preaching to the converted here. It's something we've been telling people for years, but it was quite interesting to see Gartner who have been sort of telling people how great migration is for a number of years and how you should be keeping with the latest and greatest technologies suddenly seeing the light and warning about those dangers.

There were a couple of other big IBM i things. IBM i is now in the Cloud and it's one of IBM's Cloud offerings. I believe next year that's probably going to be rolled out to Google Cloud as well. One of the other big things of course was that IBM bought Red Hat during the year, and that's something that will have I think a lot of repercussions within the Power community—especially obviously on the Linux side. Towards the end of the year a lot of us got palpitations and heart attacks when we went in on developerWorks and saw that little announcement that said the site would be gone at the end of the year. I think panic is what ensued for most of us because this is a resource that if you're a developer you use—you use quite a bit. After the initial panic and, you know, people being contacted, etc. etc. IBM have guaranteed that none of the material will be lost and it's in the process of being migrated to other places, so—but it was kind of worrying just the way it was done that when you go in, you see this announcement going "by the way yeah in a couple of months all of this will be gone." But such is life.

So let's see. What else did we have? Oh well IBM got a new product marketing manager, Brandon Pederson, and I hope pretty soon to be doing an iTalk with Brandon to get his input in that. This is going to be one of the good things, I think, for the community. I've had the pleasure of having had dealings with Brandon over the last couple of years on different things and that. He's a good guy and understands the community well, and I'm sure is going to be doing great, great things for us over the next few years. Oh, well—so one of the things I do know that Brandon was behind at one stage as well was the introduction of the community badge program. And by the way, I recommend everybody check this out. It's one of the complaints I had about us in the community ourselves over the years is that we don't sing our own praises enough. I think we're used to in our work environments the—you know we'll sit back and quite happily just do our work and got on with you know looking after the software that runs 80 percent of the business whereas the other teams that are out there that are looking after the other 20 percent of things are constantly shouting at management about how great they are and the great things that they do. By the way, I happen to think they're right, that you should shout about the great things that you do and that. And I think this community badge program is something that offers an opportunity for people to shout a little bit about what they've done. So I think that's something you should go and check out. Speaking of badges, one of the other things that happened during the year was that RPG finally got a badge. It got a logo—and this is something that I'm happy to say that System i Developer—that's myself, Jon Paris and Susan Gantner—had a small hand in. By the way I also had a hand in the initiation of it because the original suggestion for this came from the CEAC, which is the Common European Advisory Council, of which I'm a member. So yeah, that was one I was kind of glad to see.

Okay to more specific things that occurred during the year then. I think the—well probably the big one that was in there of course was the 7.4 announcement. And 7.4—well I'm just like, wow. As releases go, it's just quite incredible. What can I say? It's—well let's talk about the big thing that was in there. So the big thing that was in there of course was Data Mirror—or sorry, Db2 Mirror, to give it its proper name. This is something that behind the scenes they had been working on feverously for quite a while and I think it has a fairly major impact in how the—in sort of a lot of inners of that of the operating system itself. So to me this is sort of one of the big changes that came in on the system. So if you look back at things like the introduction of the IFS many years ago, things like that, I think it is something of that scale. As to the usability of it, for a lot of us—you know I think this remains to be seen. I think it's very obvious that if you are a large company or if you are a 24/7-365 days of the year operation as to the benefits of something like this. For the much smaller groups, you know, a little bit of a question and remains to be seen but it doesn't take away from what the technology itself is or how impressive it or just how downright incredible it is. Having seen it operate, it really, really is impressive.

Now the thing is as well I think with something when you get a new release and there's something big in it like Db2 Mirror, it's sort of hides a lot of the other things that were in there, but of course there were other things in 7.4. So for example we got yet another new programming language on the system. We got R, and R is a programming language that's used a lot for statistical analysis. I suppose that's something which ties in a little bit with the whole cognitive side and big data and all of that is that you now need tools that will help you do better analysis of big data and areas like that. Within RPG, we had a couple of cool enhancements in there. There were many but two really outstanding ones in 7.4. The first of those was to have dynamically sized arrays, something we've needed natively for quite awhile. There have of course—I mean you could code your way around dynamic arrays, you know, using pointer math and all sorts of stuff like that, and C functions, memory allocation and things like that. But it was a painful thing to do—great that we can do it natively and just always nice the little key words that sneak in. One that I quite liked was the same pause keyword snuck in there as well.

Of course later in the year then, we got TR1 for 7.4. We got the technology release in the second half of the year—and again, a couple of big things in there. We had the introduction of an ODBC driver, and this is a native ODBC driver. In other words it runs on IBM i and it's quite key this, because instead of that if you're using you know this plethora of open source languages that we have available. Instead of having to use some sort of an internal ODBC driver that's specific to that language so you can access your Db2 database, we now just have a standard ODBC driver that can be used by all of these different languages. So it gives you sort of a one access point that runs natively on the system, which is really, really kind of cool. In RPG we finally got something that I have been crying for for years and I really, really do thank Barbara [Morris] for finally releasing this. I know it's been hanging around back in there in the labs in Toronto for quite a while and that was overloading of subprocedures in RPG. So hurray, hurray on that one.

One of the other things, even though not directly tied to the technology release, was the ongoing development of ACS, Access Client Solutions. To me ACS has been one of the great success stories on IBM i over the last few years, and I think one of the big things about it is that it is not something that is tied to the technology releases, and it is something that you can just download from a website to get it working. The neat thing is that the development team working on ACS is when they have new cool stuff ready, they just release a new version of ACS so—which is—which is great. The big, big thing of course that came in ACS this year, I think in 2019, was in Run SQL Scripts, and that was the introduction of content assist. So the thing that had been sort of lacking in Run SQL Scripts was the equivalent of what used to the F4 option back in the old Run SQL Scripts in Navigator, which those of us who remember back that far was something terrible. It just took so long and when it prompted—you know, when it finally prompted—really at times wasn't that helpful. The new Content Assist is absolutely great.

Okay, there are kind of the outstanding bits of 2019 for me. One of the things I would say is that I think in 2019 the whole cognitive thing sort of was a little bit quieter than it had been before after the hype in the previous couple of years, but just because it was quieter doesn't mean there weren't things happening. I think the same could be said a little bit about open source, but I think that would be unfair. Because again, I think when you look at what's in the 7.4 and the technology releases, again there is an incredible amount of stuff going on there with open source.

So what are we going to see in 2020 with our better 2020 vision? I'm sorry; you just knew I was going to do something like that at some stage. Well I think we're going to be seeing a lot more talk about Cloud as IBM i becomes available on more and more Cloud platforms. We will be hearing ongoing more about cognitive as cognitive itself develops and takes shape. One of the things I think you will definitely be hearing a lot more of, and just starting to hear about in 2020, is the word quantum coming into play. There is a lot of work going on in this area at the moment—and believe it or not, there's a lot of work going on it on IBM i. And I might be able to coerce Jesse [Gorzinski] to maybe doing an iTalk with me about that some time during the year.

So since I always end this things on a personal thing, I think probably one of the big personal things for me in 2019 was that finally, after 25 years, I finally married the love of my life who I've been living with for most of those 25 years. But we finally got around to tying the knot. So yeah, that was quite a happy event and was a really fun day, and I think a fun day for everybody who was there as well.

So let me take this opportunity to thank all of you who have listened in to the iTalks over the last year. I hope you've enjoyed them and I hope you continue to listen in over 2020. Let me just take the opportunity to wish you all a happy, prosperous, successful—and above all, joyful, 2020. Talk to you all again soon. Bye for now.

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