IBM’s Information Management System (IMS) celebrated its 40th birthday last year. You might be forgiven for thinking that a piece of software that’s been around for that long must be coming to the end of its useful life. You might think that perhaps only a few older sites that haven’t updated their software and hardware for years are using it, and that most people would want something newer with more up-to-date facilities and features. This view couldn’t be further from the truth.
According to sources at IBM—the people who know how their software is being used—90 percent of Fortune 1000 companies currently use IMS. The same sources say more than $3 trillion of transactions go through IMS daily. So IMS is alive and well and an important part of the business for many organizations.
But just because IMS is currently a valued resource doesn’t mean it will remain so. It’s important that any piece of software adapts and changes to meet a company’s emerging business needs. This article considers the ways IMS can be used to satisfy the latest IT needs a company may have; it offers insights from actual IMS users.
IMS is composed of a database management component and a transaction management component. Although IMS first appeared in August 1968, it was developed from a 1966 bill of materials program originally written to ensure Saturn V rockets and the Apollo space program had all the necessary components to be successful. Some cynics suggest IBM really developed IMS to sell more disk space. Perhaps both explanations are true!
IMS is a hierarchical database system, as opposed to relational database systems such as DB2, Oracle, and SQL Server. The hierarchical structure can make the database more rigid than a relational database, but IMS has been used successfully for decades at large financial institutions and other large organizations because it lets users retrieve stored data exceptionally quickly.
IMS users who are members of the Virtual IMS Connection user group (www.virtualims.com) were asked to describe the importance of IMS to their organization. Here’s what they said:
• “It is critical, the central repository.”
• “The benefit of existing IMS applications exceeds the cost to replace.”
• “IMS provides high throughput and caters to growth at minimal cost to the business.”
• “The core engine of our major application is written in IMS DC/DB. The application supports business of around $90 billion. There are a number of satellite systems, mainly written in VB, and a DB2 database for various external functions. IMS continues to be critical since the entire day-to-day operation of the business is supported by IMS.”