IBM Is Dropping Support for IBM i  7.1 – Here’s What You Should Know

Posted by Larry Dube

ibm business partner.pngAfter a recent announcement, the word is slowly rippling through the IBM user community: IBM will be discontinuing support for IBM i 7.1 on April 30, 2018.  

In the scheme of things, IBM’s latest announcement should come as no big surprise. IT Jungle’s Timothy Prickett Morgan says it best in a recent blog when he mentions, “IBM i 7.1 is the longest supported release of any IBM i midrange platform in the history of AS/400 and its progeny, so IBM cannot be accused of cutting its life short.” 

So what are we to make of this latest announcement? In this blog, we’ll take a quick look at some lessons learned from past IBM i releases, what has changed along the way – and potential steps to take to prepare for next spring. 

Challenges with Past IBM i Upgrades

Over the last several years, we’ve seen IBM offer longer-than-usual extended support programs. This was in response to the difficulties that users experienced when upgrading from a pre-6.1 release to 6.1 and above; difficulties that were largely attributed to an architecture change in IBM i that caused application incompatibilities. 

Such upgrades required a significant amount of work, delaying upgrade efforts and leaving many companies stuck at IBM i 5.4, the release before 6.1. Many companies didn’t make the move and just paid IBM the extended support fee until newer OS levels were released and they felt they were falling too far behind. Many of those companies jumped directly from 5.4 to 7.1. So while 7.1 has been out for a while, many companies upgraded within the last year or so – only to find that it will no longer be supported by this time next year. For larger companies, an OS upgrade is a project that could take just about that long to plan let alone execute. 

Promising Signs for Future Upgrades

The good news is this: For companies needing to upgrade from 6.1 and higher to any OS level above that, the process promises to be much easier. There are no large architecture changes, so most of the applications running on 6.1 and above should work well at the new OS levels.  

A Few Words of Caution

Yet even with the promise of a smooth upgrade, keep in mind that several application companies may not certify their older releases at the newer OS levels. And that means your organization will need to do its homework to make sure you will be running supported versions of your applications on the newer OS. Also, when looking at application upgrades, know that some releases may require certain OS levels to take advantage of newer OS functionality.  

Finally, because of the work required to upgrade from a V5R4 and older releases, IBM recognized the need for extended support offerings – and we can probably expect to see extended support options for 7.1.  However, IBM has not announced any pricing on these options and we doubt the extension will be offered more than once, unlike previous releases. 

5 Steps You Can Take to Prepare

While most of us feel assured that it this upgrade cycle won’t be anything like that from V5R4, that’s not to say we should dismiss the newly announced April deadline. This upgrade still warrants planning and preparation. Here are some steps you can take to make sure you’re ready:  

1. Start with a matrix showing all your applications. Next, identify whether the application release you are running is supported on your target OS.

2. If the application is NOT supported, develop an upgrade plan for it. Large, mission critical applications require a comprehensive plan that might involve re-training, new business processes and testing. Be sure to involve your user base to build that list of mission critical applications.  

3. Perform a review of the changes in the OS level you are upgrading to. You’ll want to look for changes that affect any of the functionality you have built in-house. This will help ensure that your internally developed applications will run on the new OS. There may be functionality you’ll want to take advantage of in your custom applications. 

4. Upgrade your test environment first if possible. This is where you can ensure your own internally developed products and confirm that vendor applications run as they should.  

5. Allow enough time. If you have a single partition on a small system, your time requirement will be quite different than a company with 10 partitions working to support multiple time zones across the world. April 2018 will come faster than you might want when you are trying to squeeze in an upgrade for a large system with many moving parts and stake holders. 

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Tags: IBM i Platform, Managed Services