Latest IBM i TRs To Ship Next Month
August 15, 2018 Alex Woodie
IBM unveiled a pair of out-of-bound technology refreshes (TRs) for the IBM i operating system last week. In addition to supporting the new Power Systems E980 server, IBM i 7.3 TR5 and 7.2 TR9 bring a set of enhancements to the platform’s database, development tools, and the administrative interface.
The IBM i installed base has grown accustomed to seeing operating system updates in the spring and the fall. This twice-a-year pattern has been with us, more or less, since IBM shifted to the TR approach several years ago. But IBM broke with that tradition last week when it announced that IBM i 7.3 TR5 and 7.2 TR9 will ship on September 14.
The two TRs bring largely the same set of new features. However, customers IBM i who plan to adopt Power9 hardware should be making the move to IBM i 7.3 “fairly quickly,” according to Steve Will, the IBM i architect at IBM.
Here’s what the new TRs bring to various components of the IBM i operating system:
Db2 for i
IBM is delivering various enhancements to the core database that ships with the operating system, starting with new ILE RPG controls that will yield “improved RPG programmer productivity” when using embedded SQL.
This release also brings “new and enhanced” built-in functions (BIFs) that will help developers push more business logic into SQL statements. IBM has also improved its code generation process for procedures, BIFs, and triggers, which will yield better performance when the objects are recompiled. Enhancements to the JTOpen JDBC driver should make it easier to build highly available applications, IBM says.
System, administrators will also get something out of the Db2 for i enhancements. Instead of typing IBM i commands, admins can use a pair of SQL statements, including ACTIVE_JOB_INFO UDTF and JOB_DESCRIPTION_INFO, to get useful information from the database.
Database engineers are the big beneficiaries of a series of other enhancements, including a new SQL procedure — the eloquently named QSYS2.GENERATE_SQL_OBJECTS() – that “analyzes dependent objects to produce perfectly ordered generated SQL,” IBM says.
IBM will deliver the database enhancements through Db2 PTF Group SF99703. You can read more about the Db2 for i enhancements in IBM database guru Scott Forstie’s developerWorks article on the topic.
IBM i Access Client Solutions
The ascendance of IBM i Access Client Solutions (ACS) as the primary user interface for multiple audiences on the platform is one of the big IBM i stories of the past five years. With the new TRs, the ACS story gets better.
One of the big enhancements with ACS version 1.7 resides within the 5250 emulator, which is one component of the product. IBM says it will support Java Print Service (JPS) for the 5250 emulator, which will bring a range of print-related capabilities to ACS.
With this release, the 5250 emulator for ACS gains support for new features, such as: setting characters per inch (CPI) and lines per inch (LPI); specifying page size and font size scaling (i.e. double-width, double-height); support for SBCS and DBCS text; support for horizontal and vertical positioning; support for grid lines, barcodes, and fonts; the capability to set orientation (portrait and landscape); and scaling features (i.e. fit-to-page or not).
Database engineers are also beneficiaries of enhancements in ACS. IBM says it’s giving engineers a host of new features for managing database schemas in ACS, including the capability to work with locked rows and the capability to lock holders. They also get the capability to cut, copy, and paste tables and indexes; to change schema text and schema properties; and to take action to launch in Journal View Entries, the announcement letter says.
IBM also mentioned in the announcement letter that it will be providing a new interface for managing open source software with ACS. As we previously told you, IBM is moving away from the 5733-OPS product and instead is embracing Yum and RPMs for delivering open source to IBM i. As part of that transition, IBM is providing a GUI in ACS that lets users select which open source components to download and install to their IBM i, avoiding the confusing PTF process entirely.
The one caveat to the new ACS functions is that the software will now require Java 8.
On the open source front, the shift to Red Hat Package Manager (RPM) and Yellow Dog Updater Modified (Yum) brings significant changes to the way that IBM i users will consume and use open source software going forward. IBM shipped a tech preview of RPM and Yum on IBM i earlier this year. With IBM i 7.3 TR5 and 7.2 TR9, the technologies will become standard parts of the OS.
IBM is planning to ride RPM and Yum to shift its open source delivery into high gear. To that end, IBM i users now have access to the latest versions of popular open source languages, including Node.js version 8 and Python version 3.6.
IBM is also updating its cryptographic libraries via RPM. IBM says that, by supporting OpenSSL 1.1.1, it “brings TLS 1.3 capabilities to any technology that uses OpenSSL.” TLS 1.3 is much-anticipated follow-on to TLS 1.2, which has identified security holes, and was finally released by the IETF just last week. IBM also is offering the nginx HTTP server via RPM, which is important because nginx was built to take advantage of OpenSSL 1.11 and therefore TLS 1.3, IBM points out.
New commands are also coming to the platform through RPM. IBM says users can find a host of industry-standard GNU commands, including: less; grep; ls; awk; sed; find; patch; tar; iconv; and sort. (We’re sure these commands will find their way into the IBM i vernacular in short order.)
Other open source packages riding the RPM wave onto the IBM i include GNU C Compiler and associated toolchain, which will let developers create apps that run in PASE; LFTP a “sophisticated” file transfer program that can serve as a command-line FTP utility and can be used to create mirror sites or perform multiple tasks in parallel; and GNU nano, which delivers a basic file editor in a terminal session.