IT Jungle Readers Respond To Tech Refreshes
February 28, 2018 Alex Woodie
IBM took some people in the IBM i community by surprise when it unveiled the latest Technology Refreshes for IBM i 7.2 and 7.3 two weeks ago. Support for new Power9 servers obviously headlines the news, but several other notable new features are worth mentioning. We asked IT Jungle readers to chime in on the parts they liked best.
Birgitta Hauser, a developer with Toolmaker Advanced Efficiency in Germany, says she likes the productivity enhancements that TRs bring, and the latest TRs are no different.
“Because I’m at first an IBM i programmer, with the main focus on RPG and SQL, I’m very interested about the latest RPG enhancement DATA-INTO,” Hauser tells IT Jungle. “It provides a way to let the average RPG programmer consume JSON data or *.csv files without special know how. So you need only a single programmer who is able to write the handler program.”
She also likes the latest JSON capabilities, including the capability to generate and consume JSON data in Db2 (which was delivered with a previous TR). “The more we open i applications, i.e. the more we have to provide or access Web services or communicate with Web applications, the more we need to be able generating and consuming JSON data,” Hauser writes. “We already use these SQL functions as well as the SQL functions for generating and consuming XML in several Web services written in RPG.”
Bruce Guetzkow, a programmer/analyst at Liebovich Steel & Aluminum in Wisconsin, also highlighted the new RPG functionality as a highlight from the TR. “DATA-INTO looks like it could be very useful. I’ve used XML-INTO in the past . . . great to see the expanded capabilities,” he writes.
He also brought attention to the new capability to compile CL code from an IFS file. “Compiling CL from an IFS file is long overdue, and very welcome,” Guetzkow says. “Anyone using Git or similar tooling should find this a great addition.”
The last piece that caught Guetzkow’s attention was the enhancements in Access Client Solutions, the new Java-based UI that IBM is pushing as the default interface for the platform. “I’ve been using ACS for several months now and continue to explore its capabilities,” he says. “The Printer Output makes working with spooled files from a remote location much easier as I can download to a PDF and print locally if I need to.”
Torbjörn Appehl, an IBM Champion for Power Systems who works with ARCAD Software Nordic AB, identified Power9 support as the highlight of the release.
“The DATA-INPUT perhaps the one least expected (in the way it was implemented) but that might be a game changer just like RPG Open Access (that still way too many clients never heard of),” the Swede says. “This is typical IBM to not just make a feature for a specific language, but to open up IBM i to future technologies as well.”
While open source wasn’t a big focus for the latest TRs, Appehl is appreciative of the work IBM has done to bring open source tech to the platform. “The continuous strong support for open source is always nice to see even if companies are still a bit slow in adopting it,” he tells IT Jungle. “I’m looking forward to the next IBM i version also. I’ve heard that will be the largest update of the OS since 20+ years.”
Daniel Devoe, a senior systems analyst and IT manager at Boston Warehouse Trading Corporation, is looking forward to using the latest enhancements in IBM i 7.2. “I’m actually quite pleased with how many enhancements have been made to the OS, both via TR, and with new releases,” he says. “I absolutely love the idea of TR, and am embracing the latest enhancements to RPG (**free).”
His company is running on an old Power6 machine that started out on i5/OS V5R4. “I have it up to 7.2 (it cannot run 7.3), with the latest CUM & TR,” he says, adding that the integration of more open source languages “is also something that I’ll be looking into in the future.”
Bob Losey, CEO of Source Data Products, had nothing but positive things to say of the leadership out of Rochester. “My sense is that [IBM i chief architect] Steve Wills and his team do an incredible job for IBM i,” Losey says, “particularly for the large users.”
As an IBM business partner based in Southern California, Losey is looking forward to the coming upgrade cycle sparked by the availability of Power9 servers, including the Power S914, Power S922, and Power S924 servers, which are anywhere from 30 percent to 50 percent more powerful than their Power8 predecessors, according to TPM’s February 14 article.
IBM has settled into a comfortable pattern of releasing core operating system updates twice a year via the TR programs, with major operating system refreshes ever two or three years. However, considering how IBM sublet two-thirds of the Rochester factory and is sub-contracting out the development of key products (including for the BRMS backup software, for Domino, and for Cloud Solutions for i), there are some who want IBM to do more.
“I think IBM is already doing a lot — the latest enhancements were huge,” Hauser says. “But we will never be content.” Instead of expecting IBM to automatically give IBM i shops what they want, Hauser encourages customers to get involved.
“We need to help IBM to decide what is needed or important,” she says, “for example by opening RFEs or voting for them.” That’s great advice for anybody who values this platform.