martes, abril 05, 2011

Refutando la "obsolescencia del iSeries/AS400

Pat Botz, sobre la supuesta obsolescencia del iSeries/AS400, o como se lo llame el año próximo:
So why does the AS/400 have a reputation as being old technology? Maybe it is because the people who managed and programmed them understood their business processes and needs better than they understood computer technology. They could afford to focus on the business because the AS/400 allowed them to focus on business requirements rather than the technology requirements of their computers. By contrast, the folks managing all of those PCs in the local area network, by necessity, and then their successors managing racks and racks of servers, had to understand how much of the underlying technology worked just to keep those systems and the LAN up and running.
And why, pray tell, was this a problem? It wasn't. At least not until the AS/400 (and the applications that run on them) had to be integrated into local area networks with other non-AS/400 systems. This integration was, more often than not, driven from the PC side of the IT shop. They came asking things like, "Does your system support NetBIOS or SMTP?" AS/400 administrators had rarely, if ever, had to deal with their systems at this level. They just configured the mail server and were done with it. They didn't need to know about SMTP or POP or any of that other gorp. So, often times, the answer to the PC folks was, "You can't do that on the AS/400."
Ironically, the AS/400 was able to support most of these requests. But it wasn't immediately obvious to most AS/400 administrators. Some of the confusion was just miscommunication due to differences in terminology. Many of the requests could have been supported by writing utility programs that used system APIs; i.e., by using the technology directly rather than system commands. But AS/400 administrators were, by and large, not aware of this. And rightly so, they didn't need have to know the technology involved when it was just the AS/400 or AS/400-to-AS/400 networking. In those cases, they focused on what they were trying to accomplish (i.e., send mail) rather than the technology needed to actually send mail (gorpy software). The AS/400 may have even used the same technology under the covers, but AS/400 administrators were able to be blissfully unaware of it!
So, why is the AS/400 market declining and perceived as old technology? I believe, literally, that because it was so far ahead of its time that many of the shops using it were unable to understand how to integrate the system with the changing environment around it. This led to the misconception of old technology and the need to move on to "newer" more "flexible" systems.

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