IBM Bolsters ACS with Database and Administrative Goodies
May 15, 2019 Alex Woodie
Amid the many enhancements that IBM has delivered with IBM i 7.4 and IBM i 7.3 TR6 is a new release of Access Client Solutions (ACS), which has become the go-to client interface that many IBM i professionals use to access the system for a variety of tasks. Database engineers and system administrators are the big winners with this release.
There’s no denying that IBM delivered a whopper of release with IBM i 7.4 and its sidekick, IBM i 7.3 TR6. There’s been so much news – starting with the availability and security enhancements in Db2 Mirror and Authority Collection enhancements – to keep the IT Jungle news team busy that we haven’t gotten to ACS version 126.96.36.199. Until now, that is.
ACS, in case you forgot, is IBM’s strategic desktop client for accessing IBM i. The Java-based product, which IBM unveiled in August 2012, brings several handy components, including a 5250 emulator, 5250 printer emulation, data transfer capabilities, IFS file viewing, spool file management, and a virtual console for LAN and HMC management.
Getting up to speed on ACS is even more important now that IBM i Access for Windows was withdrawn from marketing on April 30. So let’s go through the enhancements in ACS version 188.8.131.52 by functional area, starting with Run SQL Scripts, enables users execute SQL queries against Db2 for i, and which is one of ACS’s most popular functions.
For starters, users can now open and save SQL scripts to the IFS and stream files, which IBM says “extends the options for how scripts are maintained and used.” The software will also remember which database you prefer to work with and retain iASP connections, both of which will save time.
IBM provides a host of example SQL scripts that workers can use with the software. From this point forward, IBM will include any new SQL examples with its “insert from examples” functionality. Getting the SQL syntax perfect will also be easier thanks to a new design in the Formatter portion that “enables it to understand SQL syntax,” IBM says. If there is a problem with the SQL syntax, the new Formatter will highlight the error, including the line number and the issue.
Authorized users can also now access and update data values in Db2 for i fields directly from within the Run SQL Scripts interface, a powerful feature that could be a real timesaver — or a security liability if not properly secured. Lastly, in the JDBC Connection dialog, IBM is including the capability to assign alternate server names and other attributes.
ACS has printer emulation, allowing users to print directly from ACS. Normally, the printed output contains the system name. With version 184.108.40.206, administrators are given the option of removing the system name on printed output download path, providing for a cleaner look.
In addition to the IFS-related Run SQL Scripts function mentioned above, IBM included two other IFS updates with this release. For starters, when downloading a new copy of IFS to a computer (PC, MacOS, Linux, or any JVM-compatible system), the software will prompt the user with the location of the current IFS download location on the target PC.
Secondly, when querying data stored in the IFS via ACS, IBM is now including an “include” filter, which it says will “improve performance by limiting the data returned from the server when viewing directories with a large number of files.”
In addition to system administrators, ACS is used by database engineers. One new feature in ACS that will appeal to database engineers is the ability to copy and paste database schemas when creating a new project.
There is also big enhancement to the ODBC Driver that’s included with ACS: IBM has ported the IBM i Access ODBC driver. IBM says this will allow any standard ODBC client to be able to communicate to the local database on IBM i. It also says that this will allow any application to be developed using the IBM i Access ODBC driver for Windows or Linux and deployed to IBM i using the same ODBC driver.
There are various general enhancements with ACS’ system configuration, including several shortcuts that will save time and keystrokes.
First, the System Configuration screen can be set as the primary location for launching ACS activities. IBM has also included keyboard shortcuts to menu options, which should bolster the experience for keyboard-loving users. The mouse-loving folk will be pleased to hear that they can pull up a menu of contextual options by right-clicking the System Configuration panel.
The Hardware Management Interface received a few new features. IBM says that a customized list of possible interfaces has been added to the screen. It’s also now possible to specify more than two options, IBM says. The information shown on the main ACS panel will also reflect the configured Hardware Management Interface for the selected system, IBM says.
Various other administrative enhancements were made with this release, including the capability to exclude ACS components when importing an ACS configuration to a target machines. Also, when importing an existing ACS configuration, it’s no longer necessary to have a user profile associated with that configuration preloaded on the target.
ACS has also been updated to reflect the set of data and time services that supports the new Japanese era that started May 1. The old era was Heisei, and the new era is Reiwa.
Finally, IBM made improvements to how users find and download ACS via the Entitled System Support (ESS) delivery method. From now on, feature 6290 will be automatically defaulted for users who are downloading ACS from the ESS website. Feature 6290 becomes viable on June 11.