More Database Tools Highlight Latest IBM i Access Client
September 18, 2017 Dan Burger
Remember IBM i Access for Windows? Many IBM i advocates do because they never stopped using it, despite its replacement by IBM i Access Client Solutions more than four years ago. Access for Windows hasn’t seen an enhancement since ACS arrived and ACS is on a continual enhancement schedule. The most recent round of upgrades arrived in mid-July without much fanfare, which is the way IBM seems to prefer.
SQL developers and database engineers (those that have the title and those that only have the responsibility) are among the professionals benefiting the most from the expanding ACS toolset that usually gets attention through educational sessions at tech conferences and notice during the spring and fall Technology Refresh announcements.
In March, IT Jungle reported the ACS development team would soon be adding additional database schema functions as part of the ongoing enhancement program. Schema are similar to libraries. The foundation of schema functionality has been included in ACS for the past year. The latest schema functionality includes journal view entries, filtering for tables and indexes, and all objects permissions. In mid-July that promise became reality with the availability of ACS Version 22.214.171.124. For those familiar with System i Navigator, the schema functionality has been in that product for some time.
A shopping list of incremental enhancements comes with the 126.96.36.199 release. Here are a few of the highlights.
The most heavily used database tools in ACS is likely the SQL interface suite. There you’ll find Run SQL Scripts, which were originally introduced in late 2015 with enhancements at nearly every version release since. Run SQL Scripts was a feature in the predecessor of ACS, and although the layout seems familiar the functionality easily beats Access for Windows. Faster start-up time, color coding, and a graphical debugger are a few of the advantages.
In the latest version, there’s an insert from example function within Run SQL Scripts that is useful to developers who try to avoid writing everything from scratch. There are also services that can be used for tasks such as querying disk usage and identifying the top consumers of spool storage using SQL.
The SQL Formatter is another new feature. It comes in handy when an SQL statement is written in one long line. The formatter will convert the statement into something easier to read and understand by using line indents and setting maximum line lengths.
Also of note is the JDBC Configuration Manager. It provides the capability to make different connection settings for different tasks on different systems. The Access for Windows tool had a single copy of JDBC configuration. You could change the configuration, but you often did not remember the settings from the last time you used the tool. Maybe you were using commitment control and you might have been using SQL naming instead of system naming. The JDBC Configuration Manager allows you to be more organized by keeping stuff coordinated and properly named, so when certain issues require certain configurations they can be easily found. Just another case of building something once and using it many times.
ACS Version 188.8.131.52 also includes some new features for users who are mostly concerned with emulation. There’s a 5250 display and printer emulation based on IBM’s Host-on-Demand; multiple language support for concurrent 5250 emulation sessions on the same client; and 5250 emulation for LAN and HMC consoles.
But as you can see from a review of the Technology Refreshes, the IBM i development is clearly database and SQL focused. IBM i shops not in alignment with that will not have their database tooling enhanced and their system management tools will similarly stagnate. You can continue to do things the way that you’ve done them for the past 25 years, but that’s not putting you on the road to the future. Some shops can live with that a while longer, but the inevitable can only be put off for so long.
ACS was written in Java, so it will run on Linux and MacOS in addition to Windows. That’s a benefit for a growing number of shops. Another benefit is its accessibility via a shared network drive on the IBM i server, which eliminates downloading and installing binaries on desktops and laptops. Simplified maintenance means more time available for something else – modernizing a 25-year-old database comes to mind. That would be a benefit.
The next ACS update is planned for October 2017 in conjunction with the next Technology Refresh. Expect more database and SQL enhancements when the TR announcement comes.