editor's desk: Building for the Future

The last issue of the year is often used as a time to reflect on the past year and look forward to the next 12 months.

I don't want to spend too much time looking back at 1998 -- News Editor Dennis Callaghan has already taken care of that with his comprehensive year in review cover story. It is enough to say that the AS/400 Brand delivered on its promises and the market responded. Now more than ever, I look at the AS/400 and wonder why anybody would want to do business on any other platform.

While the AS/400 Brand ripped through 1998 at a torrid pace, 1999 is looking to be another strong year. With the announcement of V4R4 early next year, IBM will deliver Logical Partitioning (LPAR), fault tolerant clustering, a TCP/IP-only version of Client Access and increased GUI management capabilities in Operations Navigator.

Later in the year, IBM will deliver on its promise to bring DB2/400 more in line with the object-relational extensibility of DB2 Universal Database. This will give AS/400 relational database users the ability to store multimedia files like audio, video and graphics.

On the hardware side, IBM will reportedly add faster-performing models into the 170 and 650 product families, while the IPCS will get a much needed upgrade with the addition of a 333 MHz Pentium II CPU.

Yet despite all these AS/400 enhancements, next year will really boil down to two trends. The first is the effort to fix the problems of the past, while the second is about exploiting the potential of the future. Of course, I am talking about the Year 2000 and Java.

The Year 2000 remediation and contingency planning efforts will take center stage as the race against the clock begins in earnest. The popular press will fan the flames of hysteria in pursuit of the story of the century, while your company’s executives will be buried by an avalanche of Year 2000 disclosure requests from both customers and suppliers.

Hopefully, your organization is well ahead of the curve and the Y2K bug is just the Darwinian harbinger of an increased competitive advantage. The “fittest” know that the Year 2000 crisis is an opportunity.

While the Gartner Group estimates that only 5 percent of all IT projects are completed on schedule, I also hope that this time next year calm heads are prevailing.

With the aid of a federal judge, it also seems that calmer heads are prevailing on the Java front. A month ago, U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte sided with Sun Microsystems in its Java lawsuit against Microsoft. Sun is accusing Microsoft of attempting to undermine Java by introducing its own incompatible variant – called J-Direct – into the Windows market.

This ruling will ultimately benefit the AS/400 as Java’s promise of “write once, run anywhere” takes a step closer to reality. As the industry’s best Java platform, the AS/400’s future is tied to the fortunes of Java.

During 1998, MIDRANGE Systems devoted a lot of “ink” to coverage of both these stories. While the Year 2000 story draws to a close, Java is proving its staying power, and its star continues to rise. The story is also just beginning for the AS/400 as it enters its second decade.

From all of us at MIDRANGE Systems, have a safe and happy holiday season. All the best in 1999.