New Round Of Enhancements For Access Client Solutions
August 15, 2016 Dan Burger
With every Technology Refresh there are new features and functions added to IBM i Access Client Solutions (ACS) that make the official announcement list. But in reality, ACS upgrades also occur in between TRs with their announcement held off until the next TR. On July 31, the latest batch of ACS enhancements became available as a download on the IBM i Access webpage. ACS replaced the legacy Access for Windows several years ago.
Like the traditional Access products, IBM i Access Client Solutions is primarily used for 5250 emulation, but is also popular for accomplishing data transfers, printer output, console support, and many common use tasks for managing and accessing the IBM i. Its capabilities are constantly expanding. Some of these capabilities replace what was available on the now unsupported Access for Windows and some add new features and functionality. Most notable in the latest release–Version 1.1.6–are database management enhancements.
Tim Rowe, IBM i business architect for application development and systems management, paused from his development duties to cover the ACS highlights with IT Jungle. He began with the features designed with database engineers in mind. You may not have anyone in your shop with the database engineer title, but it’s one of many hats worn by a lot of system admins.
IBM’s interest in creating an SQL-based database is as old as the genealogical ancestors of the IBM i. The concept is not new, but the evolution of the technology certainly is. And it seems that recently more IBM i shops are becoming interested in upgrading their grey-bearded databases.
Run SQL scripts support has been one of the development priorities. So to keep ACS in line with that, Rowe jumped at the opportunity to note the addition of Visual Explain, a tool used to investigate and improve the performance of SQL statements. Users can highlight an SQL statement, click on Visual Explain and get a visual explanation of SQL as well as query optimization information. Visual Explain has been a feature of Access for Windows for many years. For many folks, it was a good reason to keep using Access for Windows despite its functional disabilities and performance weaknesses. ACS gets a boost by adding this overdue feature. Additional enhancements are found in the JDBC Configuration Manager and the Job Log Viewer.
Another convenience item for the database administrators/engineers is an SQL formatter that converts poorly written SQL into universally readable code that is nicely indented and contains the correct case sensitivity based on specified user preferences. This should be a recommended tool for those who write or explore database code.
Also noteworthy is the capability to show and compare statements within the SQL Plan Cache. Monitoring the plan cache is an everyday chore at enterprise-level shops and an occasional checklist item at smaller shops. Navigator for i has this capability, but users complained about the performance and operational convenience.
Outside the database realm, Rowe says the IFS object mover will be greatly appreciated. It provides an interface to the IFS that allows users to drag and drop files from one directory to another and from one system to another system (including IBM i partitions). Again, this is not a new frontier, but it is a quicker, easier option to what users are accustom to. Take this feature and compare it to anything anyone else is using and test it out while uploading and downloading IBM i IFS files to and from a Mac, Linux, or Windows client.
One last highlight is the ACS capability to connect a smart card that allows client authentication when establishing 5250 connections over a secure certificate. Rowe says this feature comes as a result of requests by IBM i shops in the financial industry, although he expects the two-factor authentication security mechanism to be useful to IBM i shops in multiple industries. For now, it is only supported for Windows. Mac and Linux users will have to make some noise before they are supported.
All the ACS Version 1.1.6 enhancements come bundled in one package for download. It’s up to the end user or administrator to turn off unwanted features after downloading. A wizard guides users through the deployment process.
All features are supported by IBM i 7.1, 7.2 and 7.3.
ACS uses the same IBM i host servers as the other IBM i Access Family of products and requires the same IBM i Access Family license (5770-XW1) to use the 5250 emulation and data transfer features.