IBM i 7.3 Arrives April 15; 7.2 TR4 Follows in May
April 12, 2016 Dan Burger
It’s here. Today is IBM‘s announcement day for i 7.3, which becomes available Friday, April 15. The Technology Refresh, TR4 for i 7.2, arrives May 20. A new OS release is a glimpse of the future. For some of you, the future is now. You’re the early adopters–the people who put the bug in IBM’s ear several years ago about expanding analytical capabilities and help getting a handle on the security problem that is crying for attention.
This release fits into the long-term strategy of Chief Architect Steve Will by providing more options for those who want to develop on the platform. It expands open source support and brings RPG enhancements.
“We know the reason people use the platform is because of the data,” Will says. “Workloads have changed. Customers are interested in OLAP. We are working on data-centric enhancements. And the biggest dilemma in security is that many users have much more authority to see sensitive data than they should have and it has been complicated to match the correct authorization with users.”
The top three enhancements–DB2 for i temporal support, enhancements to the OLAP capability for SQL, and security authority collection–are exclusive to i 7.3. To load and go with 7.3, you’ll need to be packing Power8, Power7+, or Power7 iron.
“There’s always a number of people asking for the features that have been put into a new release. They have been asking and waiting for them for a long time. They jump on new releases right away,” says Alison Butterill, product offering manager for IBM i. After that, the upgrades are expected to move at slow pace for a couple of years. For i 7.2, now two years past its debut, our best estimate is that less than 20 percent of the installed base have made that jump.
Will and Butterill discussed the new OS with IT Jungle Friday in a 30-minute pre-announcement briefing.
“DB2 is excellent for keeping track of transactions,” Will points out. “Everybody has that. It’s what databases are about. But temporal support is for comparing current data with data at selected points in the past. Keeping track of data from the past is not typically what a database does.
“Some have tried this in the past by taking snapshots of data and putting that data someplace where it could be examined. There has to be space for that data and that data has to be managed. This enhancement builds that capability into the database.”
It’s happening across all the DB2 databases. Microsoft SQL and Oracle have added temporal support. There’s no temporal support in the open source databases.
Online Analytical Processing
A few IBM i users might have used Cognos to get these types of questions answered, but the operator would have accomplished this by writing a program that pulled data off the system and then the operator would have performed the calculation himself.
With the OLAP functionality built into the database, questions can be asked of the data in real time and no data gets pulled off the system. SQL programmers will write their own queries ad get answers to questions like how do our product sales this year compare to the past three years.
IT Jungle’s Alex Woodie will be getting into the analytics topic much deeper in an article to be published Wednesday in The Four Hundred newsletter.
Security Authority Collection
“An operator should be able to run a job, but not modify data,” Will explains. “The policy is there, but the company is not sure it’s implemented. Fifteen years ago, it was not uncommon for companies to grant authority to all users. It was done “to be safe.” So that no one who needed authority was locked out. Now there is concern that some may have too much authority and it could be misused.”
It comes down to knowing what the authority level needs to be to get the job done, and that is what this enhancement is about. The new capability traces the work being done by a certain user and determines the various programs, data, objects touched and what authority the user needs to do the job. It also determines what authority the user actually has. The end result is identifying when more authority than necessary has been granted to an individual.
Will expects the feature will be very popular with IBM i security vendors. One reason is that it’s a complicated process. Companies with small staffs are not likely to tackle this analysis themselves.
The tool traces at the object level and uses Navigator and SQL to do its work.
TR 4 for IBM i 7.2 joins i 7.3 by sharing the remaining enhancements.
Git is used for collaboration, tracking development, change management, and source control.
Orion is an open source software development environment.
“We see a lot more components being introduced around the world that are based on open source,” Butterill says. “The volume of customers asking about open source has increased dramatically over the past two years.”
“There’s a whole lot of data associated with MySQL and Maria DB, the follow on to MySQL,” Will notes. “Some shops have brought MySQL data onto IBM i, but there’s a lot of data not hosted on i, but still important to business.”