AS/400 Crystal Ball

Analysts ask the questions. Sages scratch their heads. What is the future of the AS/400? What marvels await the next midrange millennium? And why do RPG programmers still go for over $85 an hour?

If you want to answer these and other questions, you've come to the right place. I am a 400 futurist. I can foretell the top trends. The promising products. Below I have listed the upcoming advances for next year's product line. If you're like me, you're dying to see the new equipment for 2000. In fact, I'd be glad to see Iany equipment, since we ordered a whole bunch of stuff off the Web last September, paid in advance, and haven't heard one word from the reseller since.

Handhelds
A stunner. IBM will rock the hardware world with a handheld AS/400, an incredible 24-ounce box with the power of a 9406! Incredible speed; runs the latest OS/400; yet lightweight and fits in the palm of your hand. Only catch: To comfort long-time 400 customers, it only comes with a full-sized 5250 monitor, which is likely to rip your arm right off at the shoulder.

BCISC or RISC?
Next year, you won't need to choose. Complex Instruction Set Computing will be history. Reduced Instruction Set Computing will be yesterday's news. IBM will offer just one, new platform for everybody: Further Reduced Instruction Set Computing (FRISC). This will soon evolve into Barely a Handful of Instructions Set Computing and will eventually wind-up as Just Three Instructions Set Computing, those instructions being, "Stop!," "Call the Help Desk," and "Go grab me a beer."

Languages
At long last! Once Y2K comes and goes, COBOL will die. So too will RPG. AS/400 programming will finally move out of the Stone Age! From now on, all development will be in JOY: a new, universal, leading edge, almost-learnable language that combines the best of Java, Object Oriented and Yiddish.

Data
It's out of control. Warehouses are wreaking havoc. Storage is running out of steam. How can you manage flat files, relational databases, graphics, sound clips and video across your overworked network and downsized DASD? SANs to the rescue! Next year, Storage Area Networks will be mainstream on the midrange--high performance, scalable, and able to store, move and retrieve huge amounts of data. The benefits will be incredible, except for maybe the productivity hit you take when you discover the entire IT department is running the uncensored version of Tommy and Pamela Lee's home video in the lower right corner of their screen while nobody's looking.

Internet
Yes, the AS/400 is for e-commerce. And next year you will be waist-deep in Web-enabled front ends, Intranet-enhanced back-ends, and e-verything in between. Everyone will spend a boatload of cash on the hottest 400 hardware, the slickest 400 software, the fanciest 400 firewalls and the most expensive e-business initiatives...only to fire-up the whole thing, get the entire enterprise online, then immediately crash and burn while trying your first transaction with some System/34 in Spokane.

Michael Cohn lives in Atlanta and is considered an expert on midrange systems...at least by the guys on his bowling team.