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Modernization Makes Strange Bedfellows

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted May 18, 2005


IBM and Microsoft don't bring to mind synergy, and at first blush neither do iSeries and .Net.

As .Net updates iSeries, IBM and Microsoft find a mutually beneficial union.

iSeries is home to a loyal (and vocal) end-user community. Many organizations came to the family by way of the AS400, and many of these systems are still in use. With the end of support for SEU and RPG looming large on the horizon, the days of inertia are drawing to close for many iSeries organizations.

They are, said Carson Soule, CEO of Computer Applications Specialists (an IBM Premier Business Partner) at the New York City stop of the Midrange Modernization Tour, looking to modernize and incrementally replace systems. Bulk migrations and screenscapers are not paths strategic-minded enterprises are considering.

iSeries systems, like all hardware, are bought because of the applications they can run, Tim O'Brien, group manager for Microsoft's Platform Strategy and Partner Group told ServerWatch. The problem, O'Brien said, is that the applications are going away. ISVs and tool vendors are no longer developing for the AS400.

Enter Microsoft, with .Net riding a white horse in the Midrange Alliance Program. In a nutshell, Microsoft is appealing to tools vendors to work .Net for iSeries into their Web services framework. The tools are, in turn picked up by the ISVs, which write the applications that will run on iSeries systems. The Alliance program markets directly to partners, not the user enterprises looking to purchase the apps for the AS400.

O'Brien emphasized that Microsoft is not looking to migrate organizations away from their beloved iSeries systems but rather to "resolve the short-term issues" by raising awareness of the choices and options available to them. With .Net, tools vendors and ISVs use a Web services infrastructure to modernize the front end and give enterprises a little more time to decide how they want to plan for the inevitable migration from iSeries. O'Brien believes, however, that eventually organizations will need migrate from iSeries, as the line's continually sluggish sales will likely lead to an end of support and a discontinuance of the line.

The trend toward .Net isn't so much about .Net as it is about using Web services to create a service-oriented architecture. .Net's success with iSeries merely mirrors its success in the Web services space as a whole. Since bursting on the scene three years ago, .Net has managed to steal much of J2EE's thunder. O'Brien emphasized that .Net is one of several choices open to iSeries tools vendors. iSeries systems that ship today run AIX, i5/OS, Linux, Windows (NT, XP, and 2003), and z/0S. Through Visual Studio, .Net supports 27 languages, J2EE supports all of the iSeries operating systems except Windows.

Collectively, the two are the foundation for enterprises building a 21st Century IT infrastructure house around their iSeries systems.

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