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Out With the Old, In With the New

As IBM i 5.4 support ends, IBM advises moving to 7.1 now

Thanks to technological advances, the lifecycle of every release faces a day when support for it ends and clients are forced to upgrade. Businesses using IBM i 5.4 face such a prospect. IBM announced support will end for IBM i 5.4 in 2013. Clients can choose to upgrade to either IBM i 6.1 or IBM i 7.1.

In discussing the choices with Ian Jarman, manager of Power Systems* category marketing for IBM and Steve Will, chief architect of IBM i, it’s evident that 7.1 has the edge over 6.1 in terms of longer life, flexibility and business capabilities. While choosing 6.1 will give your business a stable, supported operating environment, moving to 7.1 is the smarter choice over the long term and can help access new technologies that propel your business forward.

IBM Systems Magazine: IBM i 5.4 is nearing the end of support. When will that happen?

Ian Jarman: As we introduce new releases, we withdraw support for old ones. This is the natural lifecycle. In the case of 5.4, we’ve already extended the lifecycle and will continue to support it until September 2013. We announced the end-of-support date in February 2012 so customers would have 18 months to plan and execute an upgrade to one of our latest IBM i releases.

ISM: What factors are considered when deciding to end support?

I.J.: We consider a wide range of factors in planning release lifecycles. These include ISV readiness for new releases, client community readiness and the availability of new releases. Typically in the past, after a new release has been out for approximately a year, we’ve withdrawn support for the N-minus-two release.

Several factors affected our decision to extend the life of 5.4 to 2013. One of them is the worldwide economic recession, causing clients to delay upgrades to new releases. Now that we’re coming out of the recession, we’re seeing clients move up to 7.1 and POWER7* technology. We’re confident clients can now make the move to the new releases as part of their normal upgrade cycle. Another factor was the longer period it took for our ISVs to fully support 6.1 and 7.1. We wanted to be sure we had strong support for these new releases before withdrawing support for 5.4.

ISM: What’s the “big picture” for IBM i in the next few years? How do i 6.1 and 7.1 fit in that picture?

I.J.: Since introducing the Power Systems platform, we’ve continued to deliver on our strong investments in IBM i. In 2008, IBM i 6.1 was introduced, and IBM i 7.1 was launched in 2010. We’ve since enhanced 7.1 with technology refreshes that provide additional hardware support as well as additional virtualization support.

Going forward, our IBM i strategy for 2012-15 has four elements. First is the focus on ISV enablement, which recognizes the importance of ISVs in the IBM i marketplace. We’re working with ISVs to develop new capabilities for the operating system and database that they can exploit in their ISV applications. The second element is focusing on simplified management. This includes further integration of new virtualization capabilities such as the virtual I/O server, for example, with our performance tooling on IBM i. The third element is resiliency. We’re focused on enhancing our PowerHA* SystemMirror clustering product, which is used in clustering for high availability and disaster recovery. The fourth area is continuing our focus on cloud computing and virtualization, virtual image management, Live Partition Mobility and automation of virtual images.

Shirley S. Savage is a Maine-based freelance writer. Shirley can be reached at



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