The IBM i Sucks (iSeries, AS/400)

If I had a dollar for every time I heard the IBM i sucks.

Usually it comes from folks that don’t know the first thing about the platform, what it excels at and what it does not.

Time to dispel some myths and take a look at a few key areas where the IBM i platform can shine.

The IBM i operating system come with a slew of tools out of the box including a database system. And not just any database, but a full-blown DB2 database that is robust and scalable. The DB2 database is tightly integrated into the operating system, so you don’t have to worry about it crashing or silly connectivity issues that plague other platforms.

These systems are ready and primed for the next generation of enterprise web enabled apps that solve business problems.
People have a misconception IBM i systems consist of tired old terminal “green-screens” and outdated software. But the fact is you can run all the up to date web technologies and programming languages like PHP, Java, Apache HTTP services and web frameworks.

And green screens are a thing of the past. The interfaces can be run in fancy, stylish looking GUIs with clickable buttons that users are fond of working in.

Big Data… have you heard of it? I frankly think it is funny  to hear the term “big data” thrown around today because older
AS/400s from a decade ago handled big data. Storing very large data and tables with millions of records where not a problem for the system years ago and it is a non-issue today. In fact large organizations like Costco Wholesale on down to your local city utility trust data to the IBM i.

Innovation is alive and strong. IBM is investing in advancements to the platform and database engine called the SQL Query Engine or SQE. It is not at all uncommon for SQL queries to see drastic improvements by simply updating the SQE and without any changes to an SQL statement or requiring new indexes be built or maintained.

Finally let’s talk about security. As long as the system has been configured with a modicum of care security compromises are a non-issue. You also need not worry about forced weekly security updates, zero day exploits or any of the other garbage system administrators deal with when maintaining other server operating systems.

Now one of the drawbacks to using an IBM i is with staffing and programmers.

The IBM i has a bad rap, in no small part due to old school programmers that have not kept up with the pace of new technology… or even keep up with old technology. These tend to be the folks still cranking out programs exactly like they did in 1995. For example, I was working with a business in the mid-2000s and the programmer on staff was happily writing RPG II programs.

This was long after that language was past its prime and could not take advantage of new technology available for fifteen years.

I have culled my share of resumes for IBM i professionals and know it is rare to find a cutting edge programmer current with new technology. But they do exist and when you land one, the results can be dynamite.

About The Author: John Andersen is an irreverent and longtime IT manager of the IBM i platform. He writes a popular AS/400 and IBM i blog with practical tips, research and other musing at

(Image From IBM Press Resources, Copyright IBM)