What Words Describe This Thing We Call IBM i?

I_information_blanc_rouge_Editor’s note: I suspect Joe isn’t being entirely serious here

( First published 3-13-12. Reposted and slightly updated with a little spritz on 11-7-13)

Steve Will, Chief Architect for IBM i, recently cleared up a question many literal minded IBM i enthusiasts have been asking.

Is IBM i an Operating System or an Operating Environment?

The answer is Yes. It’s both.

In his March 13, 2012 You and i column in IBM Systems Magazine, Steve sets out the very clear case that IBM i satisfies all the requirements for fitting into both categories.

Which is what I’ve always thought. The IBM i operating system/operating environment does so many things so well that it defies easy classification.

What’s fun is that he also makes a point of saying that “…a typical pure UNIX is not [an operating environment]”.

Ooooooh, SNAP!!!! On no he didn’t??? In your face, UNIX, even if you do run on a Pow…

Oops…Sorry, got a little carried away there. Of course, what’s UNIX going to do if it doesn’t like IBM dissing on its abilities? Call IBM i an AS/400?old timey thumbs up picture

However, Steve doesn’t go so far as to say Windows, also, is not an operating environment, though I suspect there’s an argument to be made for that one. He does also pull out Ian Jarman’s interesting quote that “IBM i is not an operating system. It’s a database,” but he doesn’t quite seem to totally agree with it.

So now I’m confused. Steve Will says that IBM is an operating system and an operating environment while Ian Jarman says it’s not an operating system, it’s a database. But Ian’s quote also remains strangely quiet as to whether it’s also an operating environment.

So what the heck is this thing we call IBM i? Is it so zen-like that it can be several different things at one time…and yet be none of them. What is the sound of one disk arm flapping, and if a spanning tree falls in a forest of servers, would anyone care? Is the IBM i a quantum machine that spans forever in every direction but only shows itself as a coherent whole when you focus on a small piece of it?

If you have any ideas on how exactly we should describe an IBM i (operating system, operating environment, database, stupendous engine of awesomeness, the anti-UNIX, etc), feel free to either email me at mailto:joe@joehertvik.com or post a comment here. The best ideas will be included in a future post. The worst comments, well I’ll deal with those when I see them.

In the meantime, you can still read Steve’s You and i column.



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Joe Hertvik is the owner of Hertvik Business Services, a company that produces White papers, case studies, brochures, email campaigns, and other on-line marketing material for Tech companies. If you need professionally written marketing content for your next campaign, email Joe for a free quote.

About Joe Hertvik

Joe is the owner of Hertvik Business Services, a service company providing written white papers, case studies, and other marketing content to computer industry companies. He is also a contributing editor for IT Jungle and has written the Admin Alert column for the past ten years. Follow Joe Hertvik on Twitter @JoeHertvik. Email Joe for a free quote on white papers, case studies, brochures, or other marketing materials.
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