System i5 V5R4 Software Announcement Roundup
February 6, 2006 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Whenever IBM does iSeries platform announcements, it takes a little while to get all of the information together about what it has done. Consequently, we take some time to go through the announcements in finer detail. In last week’s announcements, which ran in Four Hundred Stuff because of an announcement embargo, I explained what the new i5 servers were all about and hit the high points of the i5/OS V5R4 announcements. This week, I want to cover a bunch of other interesting things IBM announced with the System i5 software stack.
With an integrated system line the i5, it gets hard sometimes to draw lines between the operating system, development tools, and middleware. (See the story in this issue on WebFacing and HATS integrated functionality that debuted with i5/OS V5R4 and you will see just how blurry the lines are getting.) There are a lot of programs that go into making up the OS/400 platform, and IBM changed a lot of them with the i5/OS V5R4 announcements last week.
First up, IBM says that WebSphere Development Studio for iSeries V5R4 will be the last release to ship with RPG II and COBOL compilers that are compatible with the System/36 and RPG III and COBOL compilers that are compatible with the System/38. IBM is recommending that customers who have deployed System/36 and System/38 applications in the S36EE or S38EE emulation environments to switch to ILE RPG and get it over with. IBM did say that these old compilers would be available as a non-warranted PRPQ in the next release of i5/OS, but this is not a place you want to go.
Equally interesting is the fact that IBM is going to create a version of its WebSphere Development Studio Client development tool, called WDSC Lite, that will include the RPG and COBOL compilers, no Java or WebSphere elements, and is aimed at providing “a lightweight edit/compiler/debug environment for developing native iSeries applications.” (When is the last time IBM said “native applications?”) IBM says that more than 80 percent of the iSeries and i5 machines that shipped out running V5R1, V5R2, and V5R3 had WebSphere Development Studio for iSeries on it. WDSC Lite is about getting that 20 percent who said, “No Thanks.” WDS and WDSC are way overkill if all you want to do is write RPG and COBOL programs. IBM did not provide pricing information on this WDSC Lite product, since it is a technology preview (which means you can expect it in a few months).
The big changes in RPG IV in this announcement cycle, of course, are the integrated XML features (which are also in COBOL) and the ability to do free format SQL database access in their applications. IBM has made lots of enhancements to CL as well, and our Four Hundred Guru editors, who can make a lot more sense out of this than I can, will be telling you what all of the RPG, COBOL, and CL enhancements are and why you should care. I have also asked them to take a look at the Web services and SOA enhancements that have been put into V5R4 and come up with some examples on how to use these functions.
IBM has tweaked the iSeries Access family of products. The iSeries Access for Windows V5R4 product has been enhanced with a new PC5250 emulator that is based on IBM’s Personal Communications Version 5.8. This emulator can associate printer sessions with display session and has a new printer configuration program that more closely resembles the host, printer, and page setup that we are all familiar with in Windows-based printers. The program also has new APIs so hybrid OS/400-Windows applications can reach in and see or modify page setup and printer settings. The data transfer part of iSeries Access for Windows now supports Microsoft‘s XML format for Excel. The .NET data provider for linking the Windows side of applications to DSB2/400 databases, which is called IBM.Data.DB2.iSeries, allows the .NET Framework’s XML protocols to access DB2/400 databases, and with this release, it supports system naming and library list, as well as providing support for LOB (short for large object), multiple active result sets per connection, and customizable string processing for Char for Bit Data, Date, Timestamp, Decimal, and Numeric data types. The ODBC driver has been improved so its distributed transaction feature can lock sharing for loosely coupled transactions. OLE DB now has system naming and library list functionality for the IBMDA400 and IBMDASQL data providers. All of the data providers embedded in iSeries Access for Windows have support for 128-byte column names, and with Service Pack 1 of i5/OS V5R4, IBM will do a better job of coping with library, table, or column names that have been delimited by double quotes. SQL statements can now be 2 MB in length or just over 1 million characters, whichever is larger. Conversion from Unicode to EBCDIC has had some bugs removed, too, so characters don’t get garbled. Oddly enough, SSL encryption is now enabled in 64-bit mode, but only on Intel‘s Itanium platform, not the 64-bit Pentium 4s or Xeons from Intel or Athlons or Opterons from AMD. Considering IBM’s allergic reaction to Itanium and the fact that there are no desktop Itanium machines, this is truly odd. Finally, IBM is offering a preview of a future feature that allows you to use the Windows Installer to add and remove iSeries Access features; you can get your hands on that preview by clicking here.
iSeries Access for Web is a Java-based access application that runs in a Web browser and is an alternative to the Windows product, and that Web version now supports the WebSphere Application Server security model, which means it can support single sign-on for WebSphere applications. The 5250 emulator in the Web version has a checkbox to automatically log into the i5, and now supports the OpenOffice open document spreadsheet format (.ods) for SQL queries and copying data to tables. iSeries Access for Web now includes external style sheets so you can make it look like your pages, not IBM’s. Various database functions in the Web version have also been tweaked and improved to make it easier, the most important of which is the ability to convert SQL statements and queries into a format so they can be launched from inside a Web browser.
While Linux has not really taken off on the desktop, it is beginning to get some traction, and that is why IBM continues to enhance its iSeries Access for Linux product. The program can run on X86 or Power processors, including iSeries partitions running Linux. It comes in two flavors: a 32-bit version that has a 5250 emulator and an ODBC driver for talking to DB2/400 and a 64-bit version that adds an Extended Dynamic Remote SQL driver. With this announcement, the 64-bit version of iSeries Access for Linux now has a 64-bit ODBC driver, which is functionally equivalent to the ODBC driver used in Windows. You can download these drivers from the iSeries Access site when it becomes available in the first half of 2006.
Finally, this item for iSeries Access: Host Access Transformation Services Limited Edition, or HATS LE, is no longer provided with any of the iSeries Access products. IBM is also extracting it from i5/OS V5R3, but if you order before May 1, you can get the rudimentary version of the HATS tool by staying one release back (which the new i5 Power5+ servers allow you to do). Any orders for iSeries Access V5R3 placed after May 1 will not have HATS LE.
Backup Recovery Media Services V5R4 has a lot of tucks and tweaks, too. It now has support for Write Once, Read Many (WORM) storage devices. WORM technology is used in both tape and optical disk technology. With so many government regulations requiring frequent snapshots of data and controls on who gets to change the data, WORM devices are a shortcut way to compliance because they can only be written to once. WORM technologies have been in the iSeries market for two years now, and the fact that BRMS supports WORM devices means that it has gone mainstream.
BRMS also includes a new feature called Virtual TCP/IP Interface (VIPA) for restricted state backups. This change will allow the SAVSYS command in i5/OS (as well as other kinds of saves) to be done within a control group to a 3494 tape library while the system is forced into idleness. (Which is obviously a requirement for most saves.)
As we divulged last fall and reported last week when it was finally announced, IBM has created a virtual tape server for i5/OS V5R4–a free feature of the operating system. The virtual tape support feature will be extremely useful, in that it will allow all SAV commands to back up data to virtual tapes stored on disks rather than on actual tapes (which are a lot slower). The virtual tape feature is enabled on system saves and can span multiple libraries; it will not, however, restore i5/OS licensed internal code or the i5/OS operating system itself. BRMS V5R4 can control this virtual tape server, which is normally accessed through iSeries Navigator. BRMS can also be used to control the save and restore of spool data files, which is important since when a system crashes, the spool files go with it and they have to be regenerated after a restore. (This, as I explained last week, is a new feature of V5R4.) BRMS also has a new backup process that allows you to save a subset of system data without requiring the system to be in a restricted state. Backup lists now support library lists, which means a collection of objects in a library can be saved with a single save command. This puts less overhead on the system, is easier for administrators, and ensures that Save While Active attributes are consistent across a whole set of objects in a library. IBM has also made restores from parallel media less baffling by improving the screen messages and reporting during the process.
With the XML V1R1 toolkit, which ships with V5R4, IBM is making a lot of updates to keep XML support on the cutting edge with the iSeries. The C++ (XML4C) and Procedural XML (XML4PR) parsers now support XML 1.0 and some associated alphabet soup of protocols, including DOM Level 1.0, DON Level 2.0, SAX 1.0, and SAX 2.0, with a smattering of DOM Level 3.0 thrown in for a bit of spice. The XML Transformer for C (XSLT4C) is consistent with the Apache Software Foundation‘s Xalan-C 1.9 project, and those XML parsers mentioned above are also consistent (notice how IBM didn’t say absolutely compatible?) with Apache’s Xerces-C 2.6 parser. IBM has added a Web Services Client for C++, which is a port of Apache’s Axis C++ version 1.5 tool, which will allow RPG to be a Web services requestor. The DB2 Extenders for iSeries Version 8.2 have also been improved so DB2/400 can better cope with XML documents (which can now be 100 MB in size) and the functions in the XML extenders.