IBM i 7.1 TR5 Updates Come Out, Like Clockwork
October 8, 2012 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Last week at the iBelieve NY event hosted by looksoftware, Allison Butterill, the IBM i product offering manager, was hinting about as strongly as she could without getting into the Big Blue doghouse that Technology Refresh updates for the IBM i operating system were going to be on a regular pattern, like the ticking and tocking of a clock, on a April-October bi-annual cadence.
So it was not much of a surprise to all of us that IBM i 7.1 got Technology Refresh 5, or TR5 for short, right on time as part of the October 3 announcements last week.
Interesting aside: Technology Refreshes are in the same April-October pattern as Canonical‘s Ubuntu Linux and the OpenStack cloud controller, an interesting bit of synchronicity that probably says a lot about when companies are ready, willing, and able to absorb software changes. And something that we should expect other software stacks to align. Red Hat is on a March-November cadence, and seeing as though it wants to be an OpenStack distributor, it will probably stick there, following by a month or so. But this seems to be the new way of things, and it is probably a lot healthier than just throwing code over the wall to the IT department when it is done.
As you can see in announcement letter 212-379, the TR5 update includes support for the new Power7+ machines that Big Blue just added to the product line and that are due to ship on October 19, 10 days after TR5 itself becomes available on October 9. But TR5 is about more than the Power 770+ and Power 780+ boxes and new disk and other peripherals that have been added to the Power Systems lineup. TR5 has a little something for everyone, and as Butterill promised last week, has a substantial number of enhancements for the DB2 for i database integrated within the IBM i operating system.
Because the database enhancements apply to all customers, they are probably the most important aspect of TR5. These are very technical new features and many of them are way over my head. But you can drill down into the DB2 for i wiki at the IBM developerWorks to RTFM. In the meantime, I will give you an overview of some of the features, which generally focus on either boosting performance or enhancing the usability of the database. DB2 for i is now using Encoded Vector Indexing, or EVI, which has been around for more than a decade now and which made its debut on OS/400 platforms, to speed up certain SQL constructs such as ROLLUP, CUBE, and Grouping Sets to boost their performance. System Navigator for i, the system admin tool for the platform, is now smarter about indexes and how they ought to be used to boost the speed of SQL queries. The update also has a slew of new database APIs and commands, and supports JTOpen Lite, a new Java toolkit and class of Java libraries that lets mobile devices like smartphones and tablets using client-side Java access with a smaller footprint and better performance than other Java client code. The point is, JTOpen Lite can hook into DB2 for i databases, just like other databases, so you are not at a disadvantage. A bunch of database management commands have been enhanced, too, thus:
The database updates are in the SF99701 DB2 PTF Group Level 18 or later patches for IBM i 7.1 and in SF99601 DB2 PTF Group Level 28 or later for IBM i 6.1.
IBM Navigator for i, which was previously known as Systems Director Navigator for IBM i and before that System i Navigator, is getting a user interface refresh, with the static tables in the tool being replaced with dynamic ones coded using a toolkit called Dojo. There are a bunch of nips and tucks here, so, for instance, as you hop from tab to tab in Navigator the entire screen doesn’t have to refresh or that users can update their expired passwords from the same screen they were trying to log in from. The navigation bar on the left of Navigator (hence its name) is also now dynamic and updates as you roll into and out of different layers of the tool, making it less cluttered. These Navigator updates are coming on December 15 through a follow-on set of patches. Specifically, for IBM i 7.1, you will need SF99368 HTTP PTF Group Level 16 or later and for IBM i 6.1 you need SF99115 HTTP PTF Group Level 28 or later to get the updated functionality.
Those same PTFs available on December 15 will also include an XML service for IBM i, which is open source RPG code created by the Young i Professionals or YiPs, that allows XML scripts to call IBM i services such as the PASE AIX runtime or SQL for DB2 for i, among other features. You can access this XML Service though RPG, Java, PHP, Ruby, or other languages that know how to kick out or talk to XML.
With the TR5 refresh, WebSphere Application Server V8.5 is supported, as is WebSphere Commerce V7 Feature Pack 5. IBM is also updating the Web Administration GUI that is used for WebSphere Application Server V8.0 and V8.5, as well as with WebSphere Portal V8.0, which has a new installation manager for these programs that can cope with interim patches as well as uninstall the program. The Apache-derived integrated HTTP server that is part of the base WebSphere that is bundled with the IBM i operating system now has a plug-in module that can support files that are larger than 2 GB in size.
And InfoSphere Guardium V9.0, which is the latest release of Big Blue’s database security tool (acquired by IBM in November 2009), can accept DB2 for i as a data source. Prior Guardium releases had supported DB2 for i databases, so don’t get the wrong idea about Guardium, which monitors online transactions and tries to root out anomalous stuff. But in this case, IBM is allowing Guardium to sniff native database accesses as well as those through SQL, and doing so in real-time and, if you want, with filters that only capture the information that auditors want to see rather than the whole firehose.
Backup Recovery and Media Services (BRMS) is tweaked as well with TR5, creating a new construct called an enterprise hub, which is an uber controller for backups and recoveries that can control enterprise nodes. The idea is to let you manage BRMS from a one hub machine at the IBM i 7.1 level and reach out to i5/OS V5R4 or IBM i 6.1 machines and control them from this hub, cutting down on the sneakernet.
IBM has also announced service provider pricing for IBM i and AIX so they can get cloudy without going broke, and I am getting a little more information on that before I tell you how it works. But this is something we have all been clamoring for.
You can see the hardware-operating system compatibility matrix here if you are not sure you can run IBM i 7.1 and therefore be eligible for the Technology Refresh mechanism and the cumulative TR5 update.