TR6 Brings Assorted Tech Goodies To IBM i
February 11, 2013 Alex Woodie
On February 5, IBM unveiled IBM i 7.1 TR6, the sixth Technology Refresh since IBM shifted to the agile development model for the OS in 2010. TR6 introduces a range of new technologies, including DB2 for i enhancements, support for USB flash drives, and support for the latest SSL standard, among others. Better manageability, high availability, and set-up capabilities round out the release.
During the much-anticipated announcement day, most eyes were on the new Power7+ servers, including the sub-$6,000 Power Systems Model 710, the Power 720, the Power 730, the Power 740, the Power 750, and the Power 760. You can read about the new entry hardware in this story: Invader II: New Power7+ Machines Take On Entry X86 Iron, and peruse the feeds and speeds of the new midrange iron in IBM Beefs Up The Power7+ Midrange With Double-Whammy Sockets.
But IBM i eyes also turned to IBM i 7.1 TR6, which will start becoming available February 26 via PTFs. There’s a bunch of stuff that made it into the official TR6 announcement that doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the OS itself, such as the new release of Zend Server for IBM i, the capability to use IBM i data with the SolidDB-based IBM Mobile Database offering, and the statement of direction to support IBM i with Lotus products, including Lotus Traveler and IBM Connections. These are good and important enhancements, but let’s first focus on the core OS enhancements.
New Database Functions
True to its nature as a database server, the biggest new features in TR6 come in the form of DB2 for i enhancements. In terms of functionality enhancements, TR6 gives developers direct control of system names for tables, views, and indexes, which will make it easier to manage the database, since developers won’t have to rename objects to replace the cryptic names that are automatically generated.
DB2 for i also gains better trigger functionality. With TR6, a single SQL trigger program can handle multiple SQL events, including INSERT, DELETE, and UPDATE events. This will improve the management, installation, and maintenance of database programs.
In the performance category, IBM has added new capabilities to the Index Advisor to handle OR predicates, which should result in better fine-tuning of database indices. The functionality will be added to both the Windows and Web versions of IBM i Navigator on June 30.
IBM’s database reorganization command (RGZPFM) has also been enhanced, in several ways. For starters, there’s a new command that allows re-orgs to start from any record in the file, providing better bang for your buck. Better handling of record re-orgs also reduces the possibility of conflicts with applications. Finally, users will get better info on what actions the RGZPFM took.
Database security will be improved as the result of a new control that DB2 for i enforces on exit programs. The control limits exit programs to working only in cases where ALL object auditing is being used. Also, a new health indicator has been added to DB2 for i that’s designed to show the user when the system is approaching limits that increase the likelihood of an outage.
For a complete list of DB2 for i enhancements with TR6, see the developerWorks IBM i page.
USB Flash Drive Support
USB Flash drive support gives users the capability to move save data and IFS-resident on or off the IBM i server in a fast and easy manner. With 32GB drives selling for $20, this feature gives users a way to move a lot of data off the IBM i server in a hurry–up to MB per second, according to Dawn May’s informative blog entry on the topic.
The new feature requires Universal Disk Format (UDF)-formatted drives, and won’t work with NT File System (NTFS)-formatted drives. If you plug a new drive into an IBM i server, it will be automatically formatted using UDF. This provides portability, as UDF is also supported on Windows, as it is on most other OSes, including OS/X, Linux, and many flavors of Unix.
Enabling people to move files on or off the IBM i server could provide another avenue for security breaches, along the lines of FTP, ODBC, or email. But Flash USB drive access shouldn’t be a concern IBM i shops with good security practices, IBM i chief architect Steve Will tells IT Jungle.
“If a system administrator or security administrator hasn’t locked down their system, this is another way they can be exposed. But if they’ve been locking down their access to their devices and data, it won’t automatically give anybody authority to do something they didn’t have authority to do before,” Will says. “In instances where people are doing security the right way, they might have to grant security to somebody that they haven’t thought before, ‘Oh I need to give them the authority to do this.'”
Don’t expect to give your IBM i server a quick and cheap memory boost by plugging in lots of USB flash drives, a la Microsoft Windows’ ReadyBoost feature. “That’s not what it was designed to do,” Will says. “Because we can treat solid state disk drives as an extension to our single level storage, we gained some performance benefits from that. To treat USB drives similarly, that would be an interesting thing. But I’m not sure you want to put your memory there. When somebody pulls something out, your single level store is entirely hosed.”
TR6 also brings support for the new Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption protocols, including TLS version 1.1, TLS version 1.2, and Online Certificate Status Protocol (OCSP). TLS is the successor to Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) network encryption protocol, and brings newer and better encryption algorithms that many organizations will soon be forced to use.
Support for TLS will enable organizations to remain compliant with government security requirements, in particular the requirement to use the new SHA-256 hashing algorithm, which replaces a weaker algorithm in SSL. “Many institutions are saying, if I’m going to allow SSL, I want it to have the stronger hashing technique in order to be able to protect my data better when it’s flowing across an SSL encrypted line,” Will says.
“It’s something our SSL architect has been watching,” Will continues. “He was seeing that the government was likely going to require this. He told us a year-and-a-half ago that it’s going to happen, but it hasn’t happened yet so let’s make sure we deliver this before our next major release, so that or customers who have adopted 7.1 can do that.”
TR6 contains a few other items, including a new Web console for IBM Content Manager OnDemand for i feature and a new GUI for Hardware Management Console (HMC). The new Web console for IBM Content Manager OnDemand allows administrators to mange all aspects of the content management product from the comfort of IBM Navigator for i, eliminating the need to install anything on the Windows-based Navigator product. Meanwhile, HMC version 7 release 7.7.0 introduces a new graphical screen for provisioning the Virtual I/O Server (VIOS), which simplifies the setup process compared to provisioning VIOS with IVM.
IBM also announced enhancements to PowerHA SystemMirror, its hardware-based high availability software, and Systems Director, its cross-platform system monitoring and management tool. We’ll cover those, as well as the mobile enablement announcements, in upcoming issues of the newsletter.
For more information, see IBM United States Software Announcement 213-020.