Top Five New Technologies On IBM i
June 29, 2015 Alex Woodie
One of the great things about the IBM i server is it adapts to the times. While the platform often gets tagged with the “legacy” name, that’s merely because there’s still a lot of vintage iron running antique software in the real world. But the little elves way up north in IBM‘s Rochester toyshop have been hard at work bringing new capabilities to the platform.
Here are the top five new things that IBM brought to the IBM i platform in 2014 and 2015:
1. Native Flash Storage
IBM added support for native flash storage in the latest round of technology refreshes, which were IBM i 7.1 TR 10 and i 7.2 TR 2. This enables native use of solid state drives (SSDs) based on flash technology.
Prior to this, getting flash storage running on an IBM i-based Power Systems server was accomplished by way of the Virtual I/O Server (VIOS). Not all IBM i shops are thrilled with VIOS, which is an AIX program and can muddy the troubleshooting of performance issues. Thanks to VIOS and the overall adoption of virtualization in the IT world, there are rumblings from the natives that we’ve gotten too far away from the data.
But thanks to native support for flash, IBM i shops can now benefit from the ridiculous performance boost that NAND technology can deliver, especially for busy IBM i applications that are I/O bound with traditional DASD. And it can do so without going down the VIOS/AIX rabbit hole, which still looks intimidating to smaller shops.
2. Row and Column Access Control
This security feature was added with the release of IBM i 7.2 in 2014 to prevent unauthorized users from accessing huge swaths of data. As IBM’s DB2 for i guru Mike Cain explains, RCAC was added at the request of IBM i customers to protect sensitive data.
“Prior to RCAC, the security scheme was provided through the object-based security measure,” Cain says in this video on the RCAC Redbook landing page. “This really means that someone. . . could get access to all of the rows or records, or they would have no access to the row or file.”
Since there was no prior way for DB2 for i to subset the record access–absent defining it at the application level, which leaves the data vulnerable still to ODBC/JDBC–IBM built it, and that’s RCAC. “DB2 for RCAC provides a new and robust solution that allows for the governance and control of data through all interfaces, whether those interfaces are SQL or whether they’re native record-level access,” Cain says.
Simply put: If you need to dole out data based on a user’s specific role and don’t want to completely rebuild your database schema to prevent snooping, then you need RCAC, which means you need IBM i 7.2.
JSON is a lightweight, human-readable data format that’s become the default way that Web applications store and share data. Compared to XML–which 10 years ago paved the way toward self-definable data–JSON is both easier for programmers to use and faster to load.
The JSON Store Technology Preview that IBM shipped with the latest TRs allow JSON documents to be stored and retrieved using DB2 for i database tables. For a good primer on the three ways developers can utilize JSON, check out this recent developerWorks article.
IBM unveiled support for last October with IBM i 7.1 TR9 and IBM i 7.2 TR1.
The addition of Node.js is a good example of IBM reacting to changing trends in application development (the addition of support for Ruby is another example). To learn more about Node.js, check out Aaron Bartell’s LinkedIn story about his first experience with the framework.
5. REST Web Services
IBM’s support for Representational State Transfer (REST) Web services, which IBM shipped in December with the group PTFs for IBM i 7.1 TR9 and IBM i 7.2 TR1, can be grouped into the same vein as JSON and Node.js: Keeping the platform relevant to a new class of developers and a new programing style.
If JSON has become the defacto data integration standard on the Web (largely replacing XML), then REST has become the defacto program integration standard for Web-based applications–largely replacing the XML-based service oriented application protocol (SOAP) that came before it.
If you want to connect your IBM i app so it can talk to hosted cloud service, such as Salesforce or Netsuite, you’re going to be doing it via REST. IBM i developers who want to keep their apps current would do well to adopt REST, not only to partake of the rich ecosystem of REST-enabled services that are already out there, but to contribute back to it too.
That’s it! That’s our five! Think we missed something? Then give us a holler at Ye Olde IT Jungle Contact Page.