IBM i Access to Support Windows 7 on December 1
October 19, 2009 Alex Woodie
IBM will support its IBM i Access (formerly iSeries Access) suite of products on the new Windows 7 operating system starting December 1, company officials said. On that date, IBM plans to have a service pack available for download that allows the version of i Access that shipped with i 6.1 to run on Windows 7, although AFP drivers will take a little longer to support. Customers running older versions of the i client will be encouraged to upgrade to i Access 6.1.
Microsoft is set to formally launch Windows 7 this Thursday, October 22. As is the case with any new Windows operating system, thousands of developers around the world have been working to ensure that their software supports Windows 7 by the big launch date.
IBM won’t be offering Day One support for the new Windows OS with its i Access suite of products, which is used by the majority of System i shops. But the company is aiming at fully supporting the new Windows OS within 40 days of the launch, which is likely good enough for most customers.
Windows 7 support will be delivered in the regularly scheduled service pack for i Access 6.1 slated for December 1, says Linda Hirsch, who works in i Access development in Rochester, Minnesota. There will also be a number of related PTFs released that day.
“Over the last couple of weeks, the development team has finished up their testing, and we’re ready to make a support statement and state the fact that they are going to be supporting the 6.1 client on Windows 7,” Hirsch told IT Jungle.
IBM will be encouraging System i shops on older releases of the operating system to upgrade to the i Access for Windows client that it shipped last year with i 6.1.
“If customers want to stay at i5/OS V5R4, and they’re software maintenance customers and have already purchased any IBM i Access family licenses, they can acquire version 6.1 IBM i Access Web and Windows products,” Hirsch says. “That’s available to them for no charge.”
In addition to working with i5/OS V5R4, the i Access client that shipped with i 6.1 will also work with OS/400 V5R3, which is no longer supported by IBM. IBM’s plan for the 6.1 client is to have it work with plus or minus two i OS releases, Hirsch says. So that means customers can stay on the i Access 6.1 client until for the next two releases. (The word on the street is that the next one will be called i 7.1, and it is due next year.)
The fact that IBM is making the 6.1 client available to customers who want to keep their System i servers running at i5/OS V5R4 has “alleviated a lot of the worry,” Hirsch says. “We are getting a ton of questions from the field about [Windows 7]. Our customers are wondering what’s going on.”
There will be no official support for the System i Access client for i5/OS V5R4 on Windows 7, according to Hirsch. However, that doesn’t mean that it won’t work. “It sounds like the functions should work, we just haven’t tested it,” she says. “Customers can try running their 5.4 clients on Windows 7. It’s just that if they call us for support, the support line is going to tell them to upgrade to i Access 6.1 for Windows 7.”
There are some caveats to Windows 7 support for the i Access client for 6.1. For starters, the AFP Driver and AFP Viewer components of i Access won’t be officially supported on Windows 7 until sometime next year. These components are not developed by the Rochester lab, so it’s out of the IBM i group’s hands, Hirsch says.
The second caveat to Windows 7 support is a repeat from Windows Vista. Namely, users may have to change settings in the User Account Control (UAC) security facility of Windows 7 to get the necessary permissions to run i Access. This should come as no surprise, considering that Windows 7 is basically a reworked version of Windows Vista, with the same security facilities, although it’s supposed to run quite a bit faster than Vista.
Much of the development work to support Windows 7 in i Access can be borrowed from IBM’s work two years ago, when Windows Vista support was brought to System i Access “They really looked a lot alike” from a development perspective, Hirsch says. “The security related, user access control aspects were the same for our Windows client between Vista and Windows 7.”
The third caveat to Windows 7 support has to do with the IBM i NetServer and QNTC components, which aren’t really part of i Access, but which are important for Windows compatibility nonetheless. IBM expects to have additional PTFs available on December 1 that address issues with iNetServer and QNTC.
Despite the PTFs, there may still be restrictions to using iNetServer and QNTC, but IBM has come up with a workaround. Users may have to change an authentication setting in Windows 7 to open up access with NetServer and QNTC. The problem stems from the fact that QNTC currently does not support NTLMv2 authentication, which is the standard authentication method in Windows 7. IBM developers ran into the same problem with Windows Vista, according to Hirsch.
For more details on all of these issues surrounding i Access support for Windows 7, see the IBM i Access planning Web page.