IBM Officially Announces i/OS 7.1
April 13, 2010 Alex Woodie
After months of speculation, IBM today formally made its announcement for the version 7.1 release of i/OS, which will become available Friday, April 23. The new release brings lots of goodies in a variety of areas, including enhancements to the PowerHA high availability software, native support for storing XML and column level encryption in DB2/400, and the new Open Access capability that will provide a new route for modernizing user interfaces for RPG applications.
Ian Jarman, IBM’s manager of Power Systems software, was kind enough to provide a last-minute briefing of the i/OS 7.1 announcement to IT Jungle. Jarman’s presentation covered many of the main highlights of the highly anticipated new operating system, and more details are expected to become available with the formal IBM software and hardware announcements that will be distributed later today.
Native support for XML data types within DB2/400 (formally known as DB2 for i) will allow developers to create more sophisticated applications that leverage XML. This “rich XML” support, as IBM calls it, includes the capability to store XML documents alongside relational data within DB2/400. It will also allow applications to decompose (or “shred”) those XML documents, and will also support the generation of XML from existing relational data sources, according to Jarman’s presentation.
This XML functionality was released for DB2 for Linux, Unix, and Windows (DB2 for LUW) and DB2 for mainframe years ago under the codename “Viper,” Jarman confirmed. “It’s essentially the delivery of that level of [XML] support for DB2 for i,” he says, adding that it “really brings it up to par.”
DB2/400 (the name most users continue to use) also gains new column-level encryption capabilities that will allow developers to encrypt large swaths of data within DB2/400, without getting their hands dirty with low-level programming. IBM is actually providing API hooks for encrypting the columns via native database-level access or via SQL, and the encryption algorithms themselves will be provided by third-party tool vendors.
Currently, Patrick Townsend Security Solutions and Linoma Software are the only third-party providers who have committed to delivering this encryption capability when i/OS 7.1 becomes available next week, although other tools vendors–as well as application developers–are expected to deliver them in the future.
“These [encryption capabilities] are not in the operating system itself, which means you sign up to get the updates from these other providers,” Jarman says. “This really simplifies how you would encrypt columns in a database without actually doing it within the application programming itself, which is how you would do it today. This should be very valuable to a lot of people.”
HA and Virtualization
High availability is another area of improvement and change within i/OS 7.1. With this release, IBM is now using the name “PowerHA SystemMirror for i” to refer to all of the hardware-based disk clustering solutions for the System i platform.
IBM is offering two versions of PowerHA SystemMirror, including a Standard Edition and the Enterprise Edition. The Standard Edition will provide basic capabilities required for data center-level HA, including things like centralized cluster management, heartbeat monitoring, and failover. Large enterprises with multiple sites will be pointed toward the Enterprise Version, which includes the Metro Mirror and Global Mirror products that work with the DS6000 and DS8000 storage arrays.
In addition to a new product name, IBM has introduced asynchronous Geographic Mirroring, which will enable System i shops to replicate data across greater distances than the previous synchronous-only version of Geographic Mirroring was able to provide. This will make Geographic Mirroring into a true disaster recovery (DR) product.
Other HA-related enhancements include support for LUN level switching and automatic failover of iASPs running on SANs, and a new release of the Flash Copy offering that reduces DASD requirements.
IBM will deliver several enhancements in the area of virtualization. The coolest is probably the capability to run an i/OS 7.1 LPAR underneath an i/OS 6.1 host. This will allow i/OS shops to test the new operating system within their current i/OS 6.1 environments, without dedicating hardware resources to that test environment.
Open Access for RPG
One of the most exciting (and potentially controversial) enhancements that IBM is delivering with i/OS 7.1 is called Open Access for RPG. According to Jarman’s presentation, this new offering will provide a new way to create Web and mobile user interfaces and XML and Web services integration points for existing RPG applications.
Under the IBM plan, third-party tools providers will create “handler” solutions that integrate with RPG applications at a low level. At runtime, instead of generating 5250 interfaces, RPG applications that have been re-compiled under Open Access for RPG tools will generate a “handler” interface in an XML, mobile, or Web services format.
i/OS shops will need to buy another product, called 5733-OAR in IBM’s presentation, to enable the Open Access for RPG functionality. They will also need to be using the new converged IDE for i/OS and AIX, called Rational Developer for Power, to write the code that invokes the handler.
“This is the capability to open up RPG to a wide range of different interfaces by removing for the first time the requirement to output 5250 from RPG,” Jarman says. “You’re separating out the strength of RPG, which is the transaction processing and the business logic, from its weakness, which was the presentation in 5250.”
There is much more in the i/OS 7.1 release that we will be covering in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for future issues of Four Hundred Stuff and The Four Hundred for the full rundown on the new operating system and new hardware that IBM is announcing this week.