Software Vendors Prep For IBM i 7.3, Applaud PDP for Testing
April 25, 2016 Alex Woodie
It’s been only 10 days since IBM i 7.3 became generally available, and customers are just starting to play around with it. While we don’t expect many 7.3 environments to go into production right away, a surprising number of software vendors already support it. And you might be interested in learning about the innovative new way that IBM is helping vendors get current on new releases, namely the Power Development Cloud (PDP).
There’s a lot of good stuff in IBM i 7.3, which IBM announced on April 12 and shipped three days later. In addition to the neat new analytic functions in the DB2 for i database, such as the new temporal table and advanced OLAP capabilities, the upgraded i OS brings new security features, RPG enhancements, and expanded support for open source tools, like MariaDB, Orion, and GitHub.
IBM has done its part, and now it is time for the community of independent software vendors (ISVs) to do its part to support IBM i. To gauge the readiness of ISVs, IT Jungle conducted an informal survey of about 40 of the most active vendors in the community, and nearly all of the 22 vendors who responded by this publications deadline said their software already supports IBM i 7.3.
And thanks to IBM’s new Power Development Cloud (PDP)–a new program that gives developers access to new OSes via a hosted Power environment for development and testing purposes–many vendors are well on their way to supporting IBM i 7.2 Technology Refresh 4 (TR4), which IBM announced April 15 and ships May 20.
Ready for 7.3
Nearly all of HelpSystems‘ considerable lineup of IBM i products run on the new OSes, the company announced last week.
“HelpSystems has over 80 products between the Robot, SEQUEL, PowerTech, Safestone, Halcyon, Bytware, and CCSS product lines that have been fully tested and supported,” HelpSystems Marketing Manager Erin Hofstrom says via email. “The only products that are still in progress are those in the VISUAL product line that we recently acquired with Tango/04, though we expect those to be fully tested and supported soon.”
Another big IBM i vendor who’s on top of the new OS is Vision Solutions, which owns three of the most popular IBM i high availability products, including MIMIX and iTera. “Our team of architects and developers have been exploring its new functionality, enhancing our products as necessary to take advantage of that new functionality, and testing with the new OS for months,” says Vision Director of Product Strategy Becky Hjellming via email. “Vision products will roll out with support for IBM i 7.3 beginning with MIMIX in May 2016. Testing with IBM i 7.2 TR4, or any TR, is part of the ongoing process for all of our IBM i products for IBM i.”
Quadrant Software, which owns BCD Software, is also ready for IBM i 7.3. “All BCD and Quadrant products will run on IBM i 7.3 and on TR4 when it’s GA,” Quadrant VP of Corporate Marketing Marcel Sarrasin tells IT Jungle via email. “Our key products now work on 7.3 and we’re testing the rest of our products now.”
Micro Focus, which develops the Reflection and Rumba line of terminal emulators, doesn’t support the new releases yet, but plans to support them with new releases of its products this fall. “Micro Focus continues to prioritize its deep, long-standing partnership with IBM, and we remain committed to providing and supporting a strong ecosystem around IBM platforms,” Micro Focus Senior Product Manager of Host Connectivity Kris Lall says via email.
IBM i security tool vendor Cilasoft has been working with IBM i 7.3 since the beta release, and is well on its way to supporting the new OS. Customers can expect that to occur by the end of June, says CEO Guy Marmorat.
JD Edwards shops who are eager to adopt the latest IBM i release may want to petition Oracle to move faster, because the software giant isn’t planning on supporting the new release until late 2016 or even early 2017. “If specific customers have issues, [they] should call Oracle Support,” says Denise Grills, Oracle’s VP of content and communications engineering.
By contrast, VAI‘s suite of IBM i-based ERP software, called S2K Enterprise, already run on the new OSes. “VAI currently supports both operating system release and technology refresh levels,” CIO Kevin Beasley tells IT Jungle. “We would expect customers to begin deploying over the next six months. This is dependent upon other applications that might be on their server, and when those applications are supported at IBM i 7.3 and 7.2 TR4.”
Raz-Lee Security is ready for the new operating systems when its customers are. “We already fully support 7.3,” VP of marketing Eli Spitz says via email. “Actually all customers who downloaded our software in the last two months already received this support. When our software detects that it is running on 7.3 appropriate additions become available.”
Support for IBM i 7.3 is well on its way at CNX, creators of the Valence development tool for IBM i-based Web and mobile applications. “Yes, we’re planning to support IBM i 7.3 / IBM i 7.2 – TR4 with our next Valence release [Valence 5], which is to be announced next month at COMMON,” says Rob Swanson, a senior partner with the company.
InterForm is ready for the new releases. “We have developed our solution in a way where we are not dependent on the OS version,” says InterForm CEO Peter Sørensen. “We believe having a software that is OS-version dependent is risky and it require a lot of work with every release. . . . We of course utilize the features of the OS, but only at time we are sure that it will remain in future versions.”
Midrange Dynamics is looking forward to new business opportunism with the new releases of the OS. “We plan to provide strong change management for the open source offerings in 7.3 as well as utilize the Git functionality,” says Mary Langen, a principal at Midrange Dynamics’ North American partner, Synergivity Software. “We don’t anticipate any issues with supporting the new OS release immediately. In fact, we already have a Git interface in our current MDCMS release.”
The performance gurus at Midrange Performance Group are ready for the new release. “We currently support V7R3 as of the announcement,” says MPG’s Randy Watson. “Every release we have to recompile our performance data reduction job. We also take the opportunity to take advantage of new information that might be in the collection services.”
Business intelligence software provider New Generation Software is also ready for “V7R3.” “Our partnership with IBM enabled us to thoroughly test our products and ensure their compatibility with IBM i 7.3 in time for last week’s GA date,” NGS’ Director of Marketing Bill Langston tells IT Jungle.
Props for PDP
Lots of the vendors reported good success with the PDP, which IBM actually launched two years ago. “We have used PDP for our WebSmart Node.js development and have been very happy with the program,” Quadrant’s Sarrasin says. “We plan on using it for TR4 testing with the pre-release.”
Change management provider Remain Software was one of the first to sign up for the PDP. “It is a very interesting proposition for focused ISVs like Remain Software. If we can get rid of the hassle of maintaining hardware while still being able to do back-up and recovery and have full access, that will be a big value,” Remain CTO Wim Jongman says via email.
Raz-Lee isn’t currently using the PDP, but will start using it in April. Its use was delayed due to the Passover holiday, Spitz says.
But some of the biggest vendors aren’t using it, including Vision Solutions. “We maintain our own lab in order to have explicit control of the hardware and OS configurations we require for our testing,” Hjellming says.
HelpSystems also didn’t use it. “It turns out that 7.3 was not yet available on the new Power Development Cloud when we went through compatibility testing so we used the IBM Innovation Center,” Hofstrom says. “We have had good experiences working with the IIC in the past so working with them again on this release was a good option for us.”
Cilasoft also took the IIC route to functional and compatibility testing its software against the new OSes. “As an Advanced Partner, we are using remote access to IBM Innovation Centers,” Marmorat says.”
Midrange Dynamics doesn’t need PDP, and instead relies on iTech Solutions to run a development server. “Pete Massiello keeps us current with the latest IBM releases, so we don’t have any plans at the moment to use PDP,” writes Midrange Dynamics’ Langen.
Buh-Bye, Java 6
Few vendors expressed any concern with the lack of support in IBM i 7.3. IBM i 7.2 is the last version of the OS to support Java 6, with Java 7 and Java 8 being the currently supported versions.
There was some concern that the decision to pull support for that old version of Java, which debuted in 2006 and reached end of life (EOL) in 2013, would create system incompatibilities due to the dependencies that some ISVs have on the antiquated programming language.
“We don’t really understand the turmoil surrounding the discontinuation of Java 6 support,” Remain CTO Jongman says. “It has been EOL-ed for several years and frankly if you rely on Java 6 for core business needs then you have a problem that you should face now. People knew years ago that this was coming. It is time to get rid of code and vendors that do not allow you to run on Java 7 and Java 8.”