What Is Happening With RFEs For IBM i?
October 29, 2018 Alex Woodie
IBM customers have been encouraged to vote on product enhancements for over a year as part of the Request for Enhancement (RFE) process, and a number of new features have actually made it into IBM i technology refreshes (TRs). What new or improved IBM i functionality will Big Blue work on next?
It’s hard to say exactly which RFE items will strike a chord with IBM product managers, since the requests can be all over the board and impact a range of components, from the IBM i OS itself and the Db2 for i database to Access Client Solutions (ACS) and the ILE compilers. While about 500 IBM i customers have voted on RFEs, it’s ultimately the IBM product managers who decide whether or not an RFE will be acted upon or declined.
All told, there have been more than 1,000 IBM i-specific RFEs submitted to IBM over the last couple of years. About 180 have already been delivered, about 180 are currently under consideration, and about 180 have been declined, according to a quick count of IBM status codes (IBM lets you download all the RFEs in an Excel spreadsheet, which makes analyzing the status of RFEs much easier). IBM has pegged 37 RFEs for future releases, while the status for nearly 400 RFEs is unclear.
This week we thought it would be fun to dive into the RFE webpage to take a look at what new features IBM i customers have asked for lately, how much traction they’re getting through the voting process, and how IBM is responding to them.
The hottest RFE in terms of the number of votes received in the past three months is to enable users to drag and drop IFS items in in the ACS user interface, similar to how Navigator for IBM i allows users to drag IFS files in IBM i Access for Windows. The RFE, which was submitted by IBM i systems engineer John Techmeier in August with a “medium priority,” received 48 votes. However, IBM declined it two weeks ago, saying “Drag-n-drop is already supported between IBM i IFS panels, but not between IFS panels and the PC.”
The second-most popular RFE in the past three months is a feature request for Control Language made by IT Jungle technical editor and Profound Logic consultant Ted Holt. By allowing expressions to be used in the PARM parameter of the CALL and CALLPRC commands, Holt says it would eliminate the need to declare single-use variables to serve as parameters. This “high priority” RFE has received 39 votes since it was submitted in September, and is currently open.
Number three on the list is a request to enable IBM i users to install PHP using the new RPM open source delivery method. “I believe to be fair to customers, the option of installing PHP without Zend Server should be available,” writes the submitter, Seiden Group consultant Josh Hall, who is a member of the new crop of “Fresh Faces.” “Python, Node.JS, Ruby, and other open source languages are available for installation, and I believe PHP should be treated the exact same way.” The “high priority” RFE has received 35 votes since it was submitted less than two weeks ago, and is currently open.
Another IFS-related request from Techmeier occupies the number four slot. Instead of automatically downloading IFS files to a default location in iACS, Techmeier would to see a pop-up box give users the option to place the file in a specific location. This would also eliminate the need to move files after downloading them, if they forgot to change the default location beforehand, he points out. This “medium priority” RFE has received 34 votes since it was submitted in September, and is currently “under consideration” with IBM.
A change in RPG – to have %SCANRPL replace only *FIRST or *LAST occurrence – is suggested in the fifth RFE. The submitter, who is from Italy, writes: “%SCANRPL is a nice and useful function but sometimes we need to limit the replacement to the first or the last occurrence. When we use long varying strings with placeholders some of them are repeated and we cannot use %SCANRPL.” The RFE has received 30 votes since being submitted in August and is currently open.
The sixth RFE is a request to bring IntelliSense functionality to ACS’s Run SQL Scripts component. The submitter, Rudi Van Helvoirt of The Netherlands, writes: “Customers keep using WINSQL instead of IBM i ACS Run SQL scripts, because what Microsoft WINSQL offers them outperforms IBM i ACS Run SQL Scripts functionality.” The “high priority” request has received 29 votes since it was submitted in August and is currently “under consideration” by IBM.
The seventh most popular on the RFE list concerns the ODBC driver for Mac computers in iAccess Client Solutions – or rather the lack of such a driver. Various customers have asked the anonymous Italian submitter why they can’t download data from the IBM i server to their Mac laptops to work with the data using Excel (which, considering the widespread popularity of MacBooks around the world, is an excellent question). The RFE, which dates from October 2016, has received only 26 votes, but is currently “under consideration.”
Number eight is a request “to have the /tmp directory cleared during an IPL, just like the library QRPLOBJ is cleared.” While IBM i provides a command to clear the directory, it takes extra steps to automate that during an IPL, writes Van Helvoirt, who submitted the request. IBM seems disinclined to add the requested feature. “While the open source community may expect /tmp to be cleared every time an IPL is performed on the IBM i, the traditional users will not.” However, IBM left open the possibility that some type of non-default mechanism could be added to clear /tmp. The “urge” request has received 25 votes in about two months and is currently “under consideration.”
The ninth most popular RFE is a request to be able to save filters, or have a list of “favorites,” when it comes to ACS printer output. Submitter Bruce “Hoss” Collins says every day, his IT staff must manually set up filters to ensure that spool files are moved, deleted, and downloaded appropriately. “Many of these filters are the same every day and it is very time consuming to change the information,” he writes. Being able to save those filters would be a big timesaver, and apparently so do 23 others who have voted for this feature, which is currently “under consideration” with IBM.
The IFS is back in the spotlight with the tenth most popular RFE, which deals with the lack of visibility into files stored in the IFS. Submitter Van Helvoirt writes that a developer should be able to see the source file name if a source was compiled from a file in the IFS. “When using sources from source files in libraries, this information is available,” he writes. “With the move of sources to the IFS, keeping track of changes is no longer possible.” IBM agrees with the request, which was made two months ago and has been voted on 22 times, and is planning to incorporate a fix in a future release.