App Dev, Database Top IBM i TR9 and TR1 Enhancements
October 13, 2014 Dan Burger
IBM midrange shops that have upgraded to the i 7.1 and i 7.2 releases of the IBM i operating system have a new batch of enhancements as the latest round of Technology Refreshes was announced last week. Application development, database management, security, and support for the new enterprise-class Power8 machines will grab the attention of most IBM i advocates. The two releases–TR9 for i 7.1 and TR1 for i 7.2–are almost identical.
Programmers and software developers will get the most out of these latest upgrades to the operating system and support for REST-based services tops the list of OS enhancements. REST services are supported on the Integrated Web Services Server and the WebSphere Liberty server, where developers can either deploy programs or service programs.
“Overall, application writing in the industry has become highly modular, highly service oriented,” says Alison Butterill, product marketing manager for IBM i. “So we make it easier to use common technologies because it is critical to do so. There are many people writing to that interface today. It’s important to support that modularity of function that is evolving. For many years, that’s the way Java was written, but it hasn’t been that way for RPG and COBOL. We are seeing more interest in modularizing code as we move into the world of mobile and social and the need increases to support that front end.”
Butterill and IBM i Chief Architect Steve Will spoke with IT Jungle last week during the IBM Enterprise2014 conference.
The interests in mobile and cloud are huge and software, including that written by the ISVs and the IBM i customers, is a large investment, Will says. You don’t want to have a big software investment and then make it difficult for people to access it from a cloud or from mobile devices. Part of our objective is to keep the data, the core business processing, on i. To accomplish that, access must be easy.
“REST-based services are the industry preference,” Butterill says, while stopping short of calling them predominant.
“Requests through the advisory councils led to this support, but also our Web team does a really good job of identifying where the industry is with regard to technologies. If they think it’s a good idea and the clients are asking for it, it’s going to go in [the operating system]. But the bottom line is that we are seeing the industry switch over from traditional Web service to REST-based Web services.”
Butterill keeps watch of the IBM i application market twists and turns. As mobile and social applications get written, they are most often written with a modern Web services front end.
“Application writing has become highly modular, highly service oriented. So we make it easier to use common technologies because it is critical to do so. There are many people writing to that interface. It’s important to support that modularity of function, which is evolving. For many years, that’s the way Java was written, but it hasn’t been that way for RPG and COBOL.”
“Web services are one of the ways mobile devices are calling into servers,” Will notes. “If we are going to be successful in mobile and cloud, we have to have those interfaces that everyone else is using.”
IBM i Node.js includes extensions to operate DB2 for i and access native i objects such as programs, commands, data queues, spool files, jobs, system values.
Support for Ruby, another server-side scripting language was added with IBM i 7.2.
The DB Never Sleeps
Whenever there’s talk about operating system enhancements, whether it’s a full version or a Technology Refresh, the database is going to be mentioned. With IBM i, database is part and parcel of the operating system and is the biggest area of the operating system and there are more people devoted to the database on the IBM i development team than any other topic.
There has been an on-going effort to build data-centric security for IBM i data for the past several releases.
“In the old days, we secured data through the applications. That is not the case anymore. There are many ways to get at data outside of applications. Application security is still a good idea, but it is better to secure data at the database,” says Butterill.
In i 7.2 TR 1, you’ll find advanced SQL capabilities as is the norm. Database programmers will get some time off from application deployment tasks that were traditionally required because of a new SQL alternative called pipelined functions, which take the place of external user defined table functions. There are also built-in functions that can search and find data that is not coded correctly, which is often a time-consuming pain for application developers. This is a favor done by the people who are steering developers toward data-centric development.
If automating database management is your thing, the collection, import, and removal of SQL Plan Cache Snapshots and SQL Plan Cache Event monitors provide management of database operational data. That feature was added to make the designing and customizing of database objects easier and less time intensive.
Governance of business-critical data has grabbed some attention and found its way into this Tech Refresh. IBM i shops monitoring database activity in a production environment get some help from a filter that collects information on SQL activity.
Also in the mix is an SQL Performance Monitor that helps programmers balance the protecting sensitive data with the enabling of application development and database performance analysis.
Updated database features within Navigator for i are will be covered in IT Jungle next week along with iAccess for Windows.
Power8 Enterprise Server Support
To get support for the Power8 enterprise servers, IBM i shops have to be at either IBM i 7.1 TR9 or i 7.2 TR1. These larger boxes have up to 48-core capability, which triggers the underlying microcode that works with the virtualization layer to scale differently when it’s running over 48 cores. The smaller Power8 boxes do not require this level of support and are supported by i 7.2 and TR8 of i 7.1.
“There are hundreds of clients that have gone beyond 32-core partitions and they are eager to get on Power8,” Will says. “Also on the hardware side, we are now supporting live partition mobility on the Power8 boxes. Until TR1 or TR9, this could not be done on any Power8 boxes.”
New enhancements to the operating system are only applicable on IBM i 7.1 and 7.2. IBM i 6.1 which is in its final year of support, does not benefit from any of the Tech Refreshes from this point forward. IBM software, in some instances, continues to support 6.1 in their new releases.
Both Will and Butterill recommend the IBM developerWorks website for additional details.