iNext Revealed As IBM i 7.3
February 22, 2016 Dan Burger
As psychological thrillers go, the IBM i strategy and roadmap falls short of entertaining movies like “Gravity” and “Chinatown” or good reads like “The Andromeda Strain” and “In Cold Blood.” But there’s always an element of suspense when a new release of the IBM i operating system is lurking in the shadows. Chief Architect Steve Will provided a heads up last week that what’s coming is more than the typical cloak and dagger Technology Refresh.
To the casual observer, a new release of IBM‘s best camouflaged operating system isn’t due to arrive for another two years. It was 2014 when i 7.2 emerged four years after i 7.1 came to light. There were 11 Technology Refreshes between 7.1 and 7.2. There have been only three TRs since 7.2 became available. Also worth noting, however, is that the time span between i 6.1 and i 7.1 was only two years.
For those who are good at connecting the dots on IBM i roadmap graphics, however, you probably saw this coming: iNext is i 7.3.
Here’s what Chief Architect Will had to say on this topic in his “You and i” blog last week:
“Ever since the introduction of the Technology Refresh capability, we’ve had a mechanism for putting new function into any part of the OS (well, almost) and we’ve used that capability in our strategy of making it easier for customers to adopt new technology faster. We settled into a twice-a-year pattern for both TR-capable releases. But that was never intended to last forever on every release for as long as it’s in service. Eventually, we need to let our oldest release get closer to ‘fixes only’ mode. On October 1, 2015, 7.1 became our oldest release, when 6.1 end of service arrived. So, there won’t be more TRs for 7.1. We might put a few enhancements back into the release, but it’s pretty well stabilized at this point.”
There’s no mention of i 7.3 here, but Will is pointing to a dark room and saying “something’s coming.” Hints, like a session he is presenting at the COMMON Annual Meeting and Exposition in May called “IBM i Next Overview,” are unmistakably transparent when combined with a developerWorks wiki page updated by DB2 for i Business Architect Scott Forstie that’s titled IBM i 7.3 – Base Enhancements. Will mentioned that as one of his hints, too.
It seems as though Forstie has the keys in the ignition of a car that isn’t allowed out of the garage. His eagerness is understandable given that new releases of the operating system and the Technology Refreshes are always packed with database enhancements. At the last TR announcement, TR11 for 7.1 and TR3 for 7.2, IBM’s DB2 for i team delivered a variety of services related to operating system details, which Forstie explained was part of an ongoing program that would continue into the future. It’s as close to a certainty as you can get that more SQL services will be added with the i 7.3 release. My email to Forstie soliciting comment went unanswered. (Probably an indication that he doesn’t have enough arms to do his database job and respond to emails from reporters with questions that he’s not allowed to answer. I suspect the DB2 for i development team works their butts off, although I’ve seen no visual evidence that is true.)
Based on a conversation I had with Kevin Langston, the principle enterprise system architect at the Power Systems Academic Initiative data center, the increased demand for analytics capabilities at PSAI data center puts DB2 for i in the middle of their big data plans.
“From an operational management aspect, we love it,” Langston said about IBM i in the multi-tiered environment. “I’d say that for 80 percent of what we do, my preference would be to put them in an i partition doing database stuff. It is a very efficient way to manage users and the resources. We have a lot of tiered environments where the database might be on IBM i, the portal on a Linux system, and a data warehouse and applications on AIX. We put it together so that all systems talk with one another.”
It seems reasonable that the IBM i roadmap takes this multi-tiered, big data approach into account as it continues its DB2 for i enhancements.
One other quick peek into what will be packaged into the i 7.3 announcement is not operating system related. It comes from the iAccess Client Solutions (ACS) area, which commonly slides product enhancements into IBM i announcements. ACS is continually pumping out enhancements that, in some cases, predates the TR announcements. There are upgrades to the iAccess for Web mobile software and the Integrated Web Services support that will be generally available prior to the OS announcement, but included in the 7.3 announcement.
And as long as we are talking about i 7.3, it’s worth noting where the IBM i community stands on current IBM i operating systems. The IBM i Marketplace Survey, based on information collected last fall from 834 IBM i shops predominantly in North America and Europe, indicates the following pattern:
Those are the kind of adoption numbers we are used to seeing when a new OS is released.
IBM’s designated executives for explaining the IBM i strategy and roadmap, Chief Architect Steve Will and Product Marketing Manager Alison Butterill, declined to discuss the topic of i 7.3 with IT Jungle at this time. Loose lips sink ships, I presume. An exact date for lifting the curtain has yet to be disclosed, but late April, just before the COMMON Annual Meeting and Exposition in May seems to be a good guess.