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IBM i’s Role in Enabling Business Innovation Three Decades Later



It’s hard to believe it’s been 30 years since the birth of IBM i, a revolutionary operating system within the IBM family of products meant to accelerate data-driven business growth.

What started as a simple idea has evolved into a robust business solution utilized by organizations of all sizes. Thirty years ago, IBM gambled on developing a unified application system for mid-sized businesses, combining the System/36 and System/38 series into one operating system. Originally called ‘Silverlake’ before being renamed the OS/400, this new solution created a market for running applications within the AS/400 line of computer systems that was entirely independent of its underlying technology. 

What a game changer this product was for organizations of all sizes, allowing companies to run business as usual, even if the technology they used changed over time. Once it migrated to the IBM Power Systems in 2008, the OS/400 was renamed to what we know it as today: IBM i.

Used by over 150,000 companies in more than 115 countries, IBM i supports critical business applications and helps companies design and support modern operating models. Industries like wholesale distribution, retail distribution, manufacturing and local governments traditionally used IBM i for things like transaction processing workloads, warehouse management and retail banking. As IBM i underwent its own digital transformation, new industries like financial services, insurance, healthcare and more have jumped aboard the IBM i bandwagon.

Much of IBM i’s current success is attributed to how it was originally conceived back in the 1980s. Early IBM systems contained built-in subsystems to provide backwards compatibility with older business systems to simplify migrations from legacy processors. Designed as a “turnkey” operating systems, IBM i requires little to no on-site attention from IT staff or hardware personnel. This means companies can make immediate software upgrades without separate installations and disks can be replaced online without interrupting business workflows.

Running on an IBM Power System server, IBM i offers highly scalable, robust architecture to help organizations deliver new value to their businesses. Companies can also deploy applications faster and maintain them with fewer employees, saving companies time and money associated with legacy OS maintenance. The latest software upgrade to IBM i, version 7.3, was released in April 2016 and designed to simplify insight, provide intelligent security and offer the power of integration. 

Through several transformations over a three-decade period, IBM i continues to remain robust, secure and reliable in the eyes of its diverse user base. Small, medium and large businesses all benefit from IBM i’s lowered total cost of ownership (TCO), helping companies better utilize their IT assets because they have fewer servers to manage. Unlike other Windows-based solutions, IBM i is able to run multiple business applications securely so IT teams only have to manage one server. Similarly, industries can rely on IBM i’s secure operating system to protect sensitive business information as the frequency of cybercrime rapidly grows year after year. IBM i on Power Systems utilizes object-based architecture, providing isolation for business-critical systems and making it rare for users to experience malware infections and other security incidents.

With the IT environment growing increasingly complex, IBM i has evolved to meet the immediate needs of businesses while also thinking about the potential future needs of IBM clients. From its humble beginnings on IBM’s AS/400 line of computers to its home today on Power Systems, IBM i enables businesses to pursue rapid growth and innovation on a secure server that has sustained multiple decades of digital transformations.  Happy Anniversary IBM i. I’m looking forward to your evolution over the next 30 years in continuing to meet future business critical needs

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