Big Blue Launches IBM i 7.1 TR8 As 7.2 Looms
April 14, 2014 Timothy Prickett Morgan
It looks like IBM did not want for IBM i 7.1’s Technology Refresh 8 update to get lost in the shuffle of various Power Systems, operating system, and systems software announcements that are no doubt on the way with the impending launch of Power8 processors and systems that use them. Last week, IBM put out TR8 without nary a warning to the usual gang of suspects, including those of us here at the Four Hundred stack of newsletters.
As you can see from announcement letter 214-097, this is the first of what will be two TR updates for IBM i 7.1. This time around, the Technology Refresh is only available on IBM i 7.1, not the earlier 6.1 release. That doesn’t necessarily mean there will never be any more TRs for IBM i 6.1, but it also doesn’t mean there will be, either.
While IBM is announcing TR8 now, the code will not actually be available until June 6. There are a number of Web application server, database, and development tool announcements. We will walk you through the first two, and Alex Woodie will cover the Rational Developer for i enhancements in a separate story. The update also includes native drivers for a whole bunch of hardware that was previously only supported through the Virtual I/O Server, which many IBM i shops put up with but do not really like all that much because it means running I/O through an AIX partition and, in many cases, sacrificing some I/O performance because of this.
The Integrated Application Server embedded in IBM i 7.1 is now based on the WebSphere Application Server V8.5 “Liberty” profile, which was launched last fall and which allows for WebSphere to only turn on the components of the application server that are necessary for a particular application stack. So, for instance, if all you need is a Java servlet engine, that is all that loads. The idea is to minimize the memory footprint of WebSphere and also to speed up the time it takes to load it. The Web Administration for i graphical user interface has been tweaked so it can be used to create, start, stop, and deploy applications and tune for performance for WebSphere. This functionality will be added through the HTTP PTF Group.
There is a slew of database enhancements, and you can drill down into them at IBM’s developerWorks documents. There are five different DB2 for i performance enhancements, two functional enhancements, three database management enhancements, plus a few security and availability enhancements. Most of these are very technical and you need to be a database expert to understand them fully. (I am certainly not that, and hence if you manage DB2 for i, you need to read the developerWorks documents.) Our Four Hundred Guru experts will take a gander at these and walk you through why they are important. These updates will be available through the DB2 for IBM i PTF Group.
On the hardware front, where I am far more comfortable (if I get too far away from the processor, I get dizzy), IBM i 7.1 can now participate in Power Enterprise Pools, which IBM announced last October for clusters of high-end Power Systems iron. These pools allow for processor activations to be transferred from one machine to another, with a predetermined price ahead of time to take into account the relative cost of different machines. With the TR8 update, Power 770+ and Power 780+ enterprise-class servers, which are based on Power7+ chips, can splash in the pools.
IBM has also improved the write performance of IBM i setups that use VIOS to link to the EXP30 Ultra SSD I/O drawer (feature 5888). The update also includes native IBM i support for 16 Gb/sec Fibre Channel adapters for linking to SANs and for up to two EXP24S small form factor Gen2 drawers (feature 5887) hanging off the EXP30 Ultra Drawer (feature EDR1). IBM has also jacked up the number of virtual disks per virtual SCSI adapter in an IBM i partition (set up with either Integrated Virtual Manager or VIOS) to 32; I have no idea what it was before, but I would guess 16 or 8. IBM is also adding support for Single-Root I/O Virtualization, or SR-IOV, with IBM i 7.1 TR8, which allows for Ethernet adapters to be shared by logical partitions without having to bring VIOS into the equation. IBM says that SR-IOV will allow better performance and control when VIOS is used, and adds that this SR-IOV is similar in concept to the Integrated Virtual Ethernet (IVE) that was part of the OS/400 stack way back when logical partitioning first came to the Power platform. (Remember that OS/400 had logical partitioning way ahead of AIX. Technically, VIOS might have been better to have been based on OS/400 with a shell layer to make it look like AIX. But what do I know?)
Here is an interesting note added at the bottom of the TR8 announcement:
“Full native I/O support by IBM i 7.1 is provided, but IBM i 6.1 I/O support of Power7+ servers requires all I/O to be virtualized by either IBM i 7.1 or by VIOS. Also note that not all I/O can be virtualized, including asynchronous communication adapters and cryptographic adapters. Alternatively, hardware feature EB34 may be purchased to allow IBM i 6.1 I/O support to run natively on Power7+ servers. IBM i 6.1 is orderable on PureFlex systems as an MES. IBM i 6.1 is not orderable on initial orders of PureFlex hardware.”
IBM i 7.1 TR8 will run on any iSeries, System i, Power Systems, or PureSystems machine with Power5, Power5+, Power6, Power6+, Power7, or Power7+ processors installed.