Jarman Flashes Clues on Future DB2 and RPG Directions
October 20, 2009 Dan Burger
A statement of general direction is a fine tonic for IBM Power Systems i users, some of which are confused about IBM’s intentions with the platform. Last week, Ian Jarman, manager of Power Systems software and keynote speaker at the RPG & DB2 Summit gave i-centric attendees a glimpse of the future. Knowing his crowd well, he highlighted RPG and DB2 enhancements in the pipeline and explained Power Systems positioning with the benefits that lie ahead for those thirsty for IBM attention on i.
As with any statement of general direction, details are limited, but they confirm details that appeared in The Four Hundred . On Wednesday (October 21), IBM is expected to formally go on the record with several announcements pertaining to operating systems enhancements built into the i 6.1.1 release and a statement of direction that includes some of the insights Jarman provided at his Summit keynote in Minneapolis. IBM was also expected to make a slew of Dynamic Infrastructure announcements on Tuesday (Oct 20), but that was before Bob Moffat, senior vice president and general manager of IBM’s Systems and Technology Group, was arrested last Friday and charged in an insider trading scam.
Exactly what will be in the i 6.1.1 release is officially a secret for now. Based on Jarman’s keynote comments–a portion of which you can see and hear on YouTube courtesy of Scott Klement–it appears that topics such as solid state disk and high availability might be ready to eat, while technologies relating to DB2 and XML, as well as RPG open I/O are more likely to be on our plates when i 7.1 is served next spring, perhaps in close proximity to the COMMON Annual Meeting and Expo scheduled for May 3 through 6 in Orlando, Florida.
For the 130 attendees of the RPG & DB2 Summit, Jarman revealed a few tidbits of information of interest and left quite a bit to conjecture.
Regarding DB2 and XML, the i 7.1 release will include the capability for DB2 to store and recognize XML files, which allows the documents to be searched. IBM’s OmniFind, based on the standardized SOAP protocol, would likely be the search tool. For instance, transactions that query the database could get the result as an XML document and pump it out in response to a Web services request.
This would allow users on other platforms–other environments–to exchange data using XML as the common denominator. One obvious advantage is that XML allows more ways to handle the data. But it also has the potential for programmatically parse data before it is stored in the DB2 for i database knowing that it is still searchable and has database operations (SQL statements, for instance) against it.
Compared to the current technology, DB Extenders for XML, which requires APIs to grab data and output it, this would be more direct and far simpler than writing programs that use a series of functions to accomplish the same thing.
When IBM introduced a native XML format in its “Viper” database technology for z/OS-based mainframes in March 2007, The Four Hundred mused when similar capabilities would come to the System i. (See So Where Is PureXML for DB2/400? for more on what native XML could do for the Power Systems i platform.) Viper allows XML documents to be stored without losing the hierarchical information that is inherent in them and still allows the elements of the XML documents to be queried. IBM introduced this technology in the DB2 V9 releases for Windows, Unix, and Linux in July 2006, by the way.
Jarman also mentioned column-level encryption and the always popular performance boost as enhancements on the way.
The topic of RPG and open I/O access takes us into the often discussed territory of native Web-type interfaces and the capability to talk with mobile devices such as the popular Apple iPhone, RIM Blackberry, and others. What this sounds like from Jarman’s keynote is that individual shops and ISVs will be able to write a device-type driver that will fit the characteristics of one of the more conventional I/O vehicles in RPG (a file, a display file or a print file, as examples) and allow the programmer to do reads and writes. But Rather than the conditional I/O logic being directed to the standard RPG routine, it will be directed to whatever library function has been used. It might be a simple feed to Twitter or something that generates an XML document, a feed to any thing considered an I/O screen.
And it wouldn’t necessarily have to be associated with a display-type device. It could also be a simplified way of putting things on data queues, or communicating with data queues or with RFID devices.
Jarman noted that IBM has been working with ISVs on this.
In addition to Jarman’s keynote, which was flavored with statements of direction on these topics, sessions presented by Mike Cain, IBM’s DB2 for i guru, and Barbara Morris, the lead RPG developer for IBM, provided references to these developments as well. YouTube video maker, Scott Klement, was also a session leader at the RPG & DB2 Summit, which is produced twice annually by System iDeveloper, a group of IBM i educators that include Susan Gantner, Jon Paris, Paul Tuohy, and Skip Marchesani.