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System i no longer the stepchild of IBM's world

Learn about PHP, VoIP and server consolidation with iSeries in this tip from System i programming expert Andrew Borts as he explains how iSeries is the gift that keeps on giving.

So it's now time for the iSeries to give back to you in ways you never thought of. I'm going to tell you things about your system you may not know, but would love to include in your bag of goodies that you can use to make your IT shops more efficient and green, believe it or not.

VoIP with 3Com
IBM has been specializing in the SMB (small and medium business) market for a while and they have partnered with 3Com to deliver a voice over IP (VoIP) solution on your iSeries for SMBs. So yes – your system can now answer your phones. VoIP is where the communications of the digital call is traveling over your existing Ethernet networks, rather then running a traditional "phone" wire to your desks. The only difference is, the phones need to get some power from either a converter box, or "Power over Ethernet" where the power is transmitted to the phone. 

In this technology, a partition inside your iSeries is created to serve as a Linux server. Because a typical VoIP phone system contains no legacy devices, the phone system is another server within your iSeries. So now you have one reliable box. But wait, there's more…

Server consolidation and green
Welcome to the beginning of the green age. What we really want is server consolidation. Why? If it's under one roof, it's easier to power that roof. IBM is handed challenges from around the world, and systems are installed typically where they can't produce enough power just to run the systems. As of right now, all IBM offerings can be placed within an easy-to-consolidate rack. But how many systems will we need? Enter the iSeries again.

So we may find we need an AIX software package for one application, an xSeries or Windows application for another application, and possibly a Linux application for another. The iSeries is equipped to handle all of these operating systems within LPARs. Now you're powering one big system, not lots of little systems. Each system is independent of the main system, but managed under one comfortable roof. Starting from AIX running the same platform, you can't do the same thing – so if you have a need for AIX and iSeries – manage them under the iSeries for more flexibility. One system -- many servers within.

Typically within an i5 system, you have many servers that run and take care of the needs of the users all under one roof and electric bill. You may ask, "Why would I need Linux?" We can run applications normally found on Linux systems right from the comfort of our iSeries. But wait, there's more…

PHP and MySQL on System i
PHP and MySQL are not an experiment on the iSeries – they are a statement of direction. IBM has brought one of the most popular Web languages to the iSeries – but IBM also has built AIX into the iSeries operating system. So now you can run almost anything that has AIX binaries within i5/OS.

Ruby is a hot upcoming language, and has a Web version called Ruby on Rails – which is becoming more and more popular as far as Web programming languages go. Ruby is an interesting language because they wanted quick acceptance, so they designed the language with many of the same logic constructs you already use with other languages.

Speaking of PHP on the iSeries, if you are considering creating a Web portal – usually on an Intranet for your company where your employees can see forms they need or communications about certain things ("Tuesday after work is the picnic" or "Next week is the class on how to fill out your health care forms in under five hours!") – consider creating a Web server on your iSeries, and load up any one of the hundreds of freeware PHP software packages that can manage the content. I've written about Expression Engine and how it can organize this content, and delivery time for this solution is hours, not weeks of programming and setting up. The latest version of the PHP core now can connect to Microsoft SQL – giving another advantage to this growing language on the iSeries.

No longer the IBM stepchild
We're no longer in an era where people are avoiding the iSeries as the stepchild of the IBM world. Typically IBM performs its research and development on the iSeries, and spreads the technology to the other servers, and eventually to other servers, such as Sun and other high-speed servers. The iSeries has many treasures under one hood – you simply have to think: "What do I want to do today?"

Let's get lazier in 2008 with more tips to save you time and keep you as the deserving couch potatoes you really are. Happy holidays and make it a safe new year!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Andrew Borts is webmaster at United Auto Insurance Group in North Miami, Fla. He is a frequent speaker at COMMON and is past president of The Southern National Users Group, an iSeries-AS/400 user group based in Deerfield Beach, Fla.


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