• August 17, 2022

AS/400: Ready for New Challenges

There’s an old adage about how a fish can’t see the water — just as we can’t see the air. It’s there, it keeps us alive, and we don’t give it much thought until it’s missing.

The same is true for legacy systems like AS/400. It’s there, it’s keeping the business alive, and it’s definitely an emergency if it goes down.

AS/400, IBM i, IBM eServer iSeries — whatever you call it, this platform is the often-invisible central element of many IT shops. Over 30,000 companies around the world rely on this incredibly robust, resilient platform to run their core business. A better, cheaper, smarter alternative hasn’t emerged for decades, so this legacy box continues to deliver.


First, it’s a workhorse. Many sites have a single machine that keeps on ticking year after year. Distributed systems are built for redundancy and failure, which is an admirable architectural model, but IBM i is built to last. 

Second, it runs the core applications of the business. Whether it’s the ERP or a homegrown app specific to a business or industry, these applications were painstakingly written and implemented and business processes were organized around them. Newer alternatives are either painful to implement, or totally nonexistent. Why change when there’s little benefit?

Finally, there are other priorities. When something “ain’t broke,” and about 100 other things definitely need fixing, most IT groups leave well enough alone.

But is it well enough?

I think it’s time to invest more in air quality: stop taking these systems for granted and see what other amazing things they can do for the business. These are core applications with critical business data. Why is the AS/400 just maintained and not thriving? 

  • Aren’t there operational benefits to integrating the application with x86 apps? 
  • What kind of reporting could you get by unlocking that intelligence?
  • Are there features, if they were easy to build, that would make the application better for a broader set of users? Development doesn’t have to be tricky.
  • Is it time for a facelift? Employees prefer GUIs to green screens (go figure!), and that’s a straightforward usability improvement that really changes the game.

The air around us doesn’t just keep us alive. We know it is powerful when compressed, lifesaving when its pure, and amusing when it’s captured in balloon animals. Instead of taking these amazing systems for granted like the air around us, maybe we should ask ourselves how best to leverage its skills, data, and strength. 

If there’s one thing I know about this system, it’s always ready for the challenge.

Lilac Schoenbeck 7 Posts

Lilac Schoenbeck is the Vice President of Go-To-Market Strategy in the Power Systems Division at Rocket Software. With two decades of experience in enterprise software, data center technology and cloud, she focuses on the IBM i and IBM Power and how Rocket can best meet the unique needs of these core IT markets.


  • John K. Reply

    March 5, 2020 at 9:51 am

    A lot of DEC enthusiasts (and journalists, such as yours truly) scoffed at the AS/400 and IBM’s contention that it would be a “VAX-killer.” But as they say, predictions are difficult… especially about the future, and here we are!

  • softech Reply

    March 30, 2021 at 3:34 am

    Thank you author for such a nice post.Please keep it up.

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