Future Proof Your IBM i Applications

ModernizationSecurityStaffing / Skills

Are you worried about the future of the IBM i at your company? Do users complain that it looks “old”? Are you losing IBM i experts to retirement and finding it difficult locate skilled replacements? If so, you are not alone. According to the latest Help Systems IBM i marketplace survey (https://www.helpsystems.com/resources/guides/ibm-i-marketplace-survey-results), three of the top four concerns of IBM i users are:

  1. Security
  2. Modernization
  3. IBM i skills.

Fortunately, there are several concrete steps many IBM i companies are already taking that can both protect your company from any negative impact from these issues while ensuring your company takes advantage of all the benefits new technology offers.


API Enablement

You can take advantage of the latest technology and innovations without losing the value of your existing IBM i applications by adding an API layer to your IBM i code. The API layer will handle the security and the translation between new technology like JavaScript, PHP, .Net and Python and your existing applications. The APIs have the security built in and they make it easy to maintain your applications on either side without worrying about breaking the connection.

Loosely coupled, secure, bidirectional APIs make it easy to call into the IBM i to retrieve data and perform business functions while also making it easy to call out from the IBM i to other platforms and technologies. The API layer can handle all the security, endpoint routing and data transformations necessary.



Modernizing your security infrastructure is critical whether or not you are adopting new technology for your IBM i. A recent article in IT Jungle highlighted some of the security challenges. APIs can provide a layer of protection around your IBM i to secure your data from attack by providing the latest in security technologies. You can use encrypted JSON web tokens to ensure your transmissions cannot be read, you can use third party verification technologies like OAuth to verify that the user is who they say they are and you can add multifactor authentication for an added layer of protection – all just by downloading the appropriate modules.

A JSON Web Token has three parts: The Header that says that it is a JSON Web Token and identifies the encryption method it is using, the encrypted payload (eg. who is the user and what is their role), and a signature that ensures the message has not been altered.



With APIs, there is no reason that your IBM i applications cannot have the latest web and mobile user interfaces. You can quickly build user interfaces to RPG and COBOL applications using modern UI frameworks like React, Angular, and Vue. You can download code to display images, handle file transfers and send emails or text messages. You don’t need to write the code by hand, just use your APIs to access readily available open source modules.

When you need new application functions, you can save a lot of time and money by plugging in an open source module rather than writing the code yourself.


IBM i Skills

We as IBM i professionals need to get out of our comfort zone – this is perhaps the most important and maybe the most difficult step to take. Future proofing the IBM i requires IBM i staff to aggressively learn new things. Rather than waiting for a problem that forces the adoption of new technology, look for opportunities in your current priorities to use the latest languages and techniques. This may seem obvious, but for too long we have made the comfortable choices. IBM in some ways has spoiled us by never requiring us to move to new technology (there are many IBM i shops out there still running System/36 code). That backwards compatibility is part of what makes the IBM i so special but it is also part of what holds us back. Take some time to learn about APIs. Take a JavaScript or Python course. Check out how security technologies like JWTs and OAuth can help you expand your business safely. This learning is key to future proofing our systems.

When you combine the low cost of ownership, the ease of operations, and the reliability of the IBM i with the new technology support coming out of the Rochester IBM i lab via APIs, you absolutely can future proof your IBM i. The IBM i can become the most valuable platform at your company. It is up to us to drive the change.




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