Tooling Around With IBM i Access Client Solutions Announcements
February 21, 2018 Dan Burger
Access Client Solutions (ACS) received several feature/function enhancements when the Technology Refreshes were announced last week with a little something for end users, system administrators, and database engineers. Although nothing stands out as a major item, this is an incremental release fulfilling user-requested features.
The 5250 emulator is a good example. It’s a key technology that is likely the most used component in ACS, but it’s been around for so long it’s easy to think there’s nothing new in emulation. But users never seem to cease to ask for something new: support for Chinese CCSID 1371 is one of those things. In terms of development time, it doesn’t compare with the support for emulator archive support in the previous release, but does represent the constant stream of added functionality that we see in ACS based on user requests.
The Integrated File System (IFS) is another area where enhancements were delivered as a result of user feedback. Permissions now allow users to view the contents for selected objects within the IFS, which is an improvement over moving objects and folders without a view of the action.
The Db2 for i database always has a place in TR announcements. And SQL Services are one of the noteworthy enhancements. There is a library of SQL Services that have improved system management and system accesses. ACS now adds access to examples of each of those services and organizes them by functions.
Other database-specific enhancements in ACS include the sorting of show statements in the SQL Performance Center; the support for properties, start/end, and swap receivers in the journal section; and within Visual Explain, a new legend was included to help user better understand what is being viewed.
IBM Access for Web, considered to be the core of the IBM i mobile system access and management support, was also updated to run on the latest versions of WebSphere Application Server V9.
“This is a pretty short runway between announcements,” says Tim Rowe, business architect for IBM i application development. “These enhancements address missing features in the existing support and are a response to requests and requirements we get from our user community. During the past two years, we’ve typically run three to four ACS deliveries per year. Usually twice a year there is something large delivered — a key piece of function that one of three main user groups–system admins, database engineers or end users — need. This release is many smaller features. We are working on some bigger things [top secret, of course] that will be delivered this year.”
Rowe was happy to note that ACS downloads have increased 4.5 times than a year ago. Much of that increase is attributable to the enterprise migration from Windows 7 to Windows 10, which pushes users away from the old IBM i Access for Windows product and into ACS.
Rowe also suggests that ACS has developed into a product with more features than its Access for Windows predecessor. He also noted that a significant number of IBM i users have switched from Windows to Mac and Linux (thanks to the Java-based, platform-independent interface) and that managing IBM i from those systems also boosted ACS adoptions. ACS is the tool that consolidates the most commonly used tasks for managing IBM i.
“Will we ever be done enhancing ACS? Maybe. But I see us continuing to make enhancements for the foreseeable future,” he says. “ACS affects so many people. The database engineers need a tool to help manage the database. The system admins need things to help them with their jobs. The end users are on the machine day in and day out. They need tools to help them be more productive.”
IBM i consultant Jim Oberholtzer says the pace of development and improvement exceeds his expectations. “I would not want to see it moving much faster; that’s when problems occur,” he said. “I would like to see the Java environment packaged like the System Planning Tool, so the desktop Java environment does not become a problem.”
Support for Java 8 will be required to take advantage of the latest round of enhancements. IBM i currently supports Java 7 and 8. In case you were wondering, there is no IBM i support for Java 9.
Oberholtzer also suggests IBM put a stop to iSeries Access clients clinging to old code. IBM should force folks to the new code, he says. “I have customers still running V5R4 iSeries Access code, and they won’t change because ‘it works.'”
Forcing desktop users to Java 8 is a good thing, he says. “However, that will stop many customers from using the new releases because they are removing Java as fast as possible [which is, in reality, very slowly] from the desktops due to the expense of maintaining it and the vulnerabilities that come along with Java.”
ACS enhancements can be obtained from the Access family product web page.