Thursday, June 21, 2018

30th anniversary of AS400 launch

30th anniversary of as400

There has been a lot of fanfare about this year being the 30th anniversary of the launch of the AS400, the esteemed ancestor of the IBM i operating system. Many others have written tomes about what this anniversary means to them, and I thought I would add a few thoughts of my own.

On June 21 1988 the server and operating system that had be known by insiders as Silverlake was launched to the world as the AS400. It was the brain child of Dr Frank Soltis to create a system for midsized businesses.

There was not just one launch event, there were many each one in a different country. The video below is of the launch event held in the UK.

The platform and operating system evolved through a series of operating system releases and hardware enhancements the AS400 evolved. In 2000 it became the iSeries, and in 2006 the System i. With each operating system and hardware upgrade it became something more. It could do everything the first AS400s could do and more, so much more.

Family tree of the IBM i
Click to see larger image.

In my opinion the Power System server, released in 2008, became a real game changer. Rather than have one set of servers for AS400 and another for AIX, IBM's flavor of UNIX, a new server was built, the Power System, that could run both, and Linux too.

The beauty of the IBM i is that it still does everything that first AS400 did, and over these 30 years the operating system has been rewritten and enhanced to be that IBM i is no longer just AS400, it so a lot more.

Steve Will, chief architect did a wonderful video presentation about the evolution of this operating system. Alas, it is not on YouTube so I cannot embed it here. This presentation can be found here.

What of the future? IBM is committed to this operating system. At conferences I have seen charts showing a future that goes beyond the next ten years.

Click to see larger image.

And IBM has posted videos reiterating its commitment to IBM i.

Will the future IBM i continue to look like the AS400? Many have said that the AS400 is dead, and they are right the AS400 died in 2000. With the enhancements that have been made to IBM i, to its database (Db2 for i) and programming languages (for example totally free RPG), as well as the integration of PHP (Zend PHP) and other open source languages IBM has shown that this operating system has a strong and exciting future.

So raise a glass of your favorite beverage and make a toast to the AS400 for being the first, IBM i for being the current, and for whatever exciting new things IBM will bring to us in this operating system in the future.


Other interesting web pages I found:


  1. Excellent Post Simon, thanks for this

  2. GREAT ARTICLE... Thank you...
    I was invited to participate on the Toronto Language Lab Customer Advisory Council for the development and design of the rpgILE language, I guess this was 1987? I think we called it Silverlake back then, anyway, the machine was still in development and of course I accepted. I found myself on a panel of about 10 people from seven or so companies around the word, I recall that Nick Knowles of Synon was there, Charlie Massoglia, a couple few other names I recognized from trade publications and such. We spent a couple three days being exposed to what then were some amazing whiz bang things and were also allowed to weigh in and make suggestions for improvements, enhancements and whatnots to the ever evolving RPG language. It was probably the most fun I've ever had in my life with my clothes on, either at work or leisure, except for a few memorable fishing trips.
    Prior to the release of the AS400 then, I had the privelege of being able to stress test and evaluate a pre-release P10 AS400, at IBM Burlington Vermont, where for couple days we loaded up a S36 RPGII export logistics / shipping and documentation system written in RPGII with hopes of making one of the first AS400 sales. Burned midnight oil on that one as machines were scarce at the time if you can imagine, and at the time we had to load everything via a single 8 inch diskette slot, ha. Basic Exchange Format? I forget, a BOATLOAD of diskettes though. Loads of fun, but we were like in a candy shop. Not sure how much we contributed in the way of providing valuable statistical data and or performance measurement, but I do remember fondly that we blew the menu stuck, which we reported to Rochester and they subsequently fixed it, I think it blew up at 99? or maybe 999? That was exciting.
    Otherwise, the AS400 turning 30 for me is full of some of the best memories of my life, and I'm so lucky to have fallen into it being my main system for my career. I cut my teeth on a bit of S3 the S34, S36 and S38, but the AS400 was ALWAYS and still is what I consider the crowning achievement of reliability, rapid development, software life cycle maintenance and overall integration of operating system, relational database and development language(s) and tools ever offered to the business world. The S38 may have been just too hip for the room, but the 400 blew the rest of the world away.
    I'm semi-retired now and I find AS400 jobs scarce these days, but given the opportunity to work on a 400 or i or whatever you wanna call it, I'll always take that over anything but being paid to fish or play the guitar.


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