What’s New With Db2 Web Query?
May 11, 2020 Alex Woodie
Db2 Web Query, which is IBM’s strategic business intelligence tool for IBM i, doesn’t follow the same release cycle as the operating system itself. But as part of activity surrounding the latest round of Technology Refreshes (TR) for IBM i 7.3 and 7.4, IBM discussed the recent updates that it’s made to Db2 Web Query, along with new features that are due very soon.
To get the lowdown on the new Db2 Web Query features, we tuned into a recent presentation made by Doug Mack, IBM’s Db2 Web Query product manager. Mack presented a session with Db2 for i architect Scott Forstie called “The Latest Updates to IBM Db2 for i and Db2 Web Query” during the COMMON 2020 iNSIGHT virtual conference last week. (COMMON presented over 100 sessions during the three-day event, by the way, and there’s a ton of useful information there for the modern IBM i professionals. It’s highly recommended that you check it out.)
IBM recently shipped an update for Db2 Web Query called PTF Group 7. IBM hasn’t released a new version of Db2 Web Query since 2017, but it has periodically updated it with PTF Groups. In his session, Mack discussed the updates in PTF Group 7, as well as what’s coming up in PTF Group 8, which is due out this month.
There are three main new features in PTF Group 7, including a new synonym editor, the capability to easily change the sort order in a prompt, and new reports in the EZ-Install Package, which is the way that IBM prefers you install Db2 Query and update between releases (just don’t use it to apply the PTF Groups).
The new synonym editor should make it easier for users to work with synonyms, which are the representations of data that Db2 Web Query uses to create reports and dashboards. “If you’re new to Web Query, we don’t build reports directly over your file. We build a representation of your data. That representation is called a synonym,” Mack says.
IBM changed the look and feel of the synonym editor, including new fonts, a new ribbon interface, a sidebar, and a wizard-like “next steps” user interface element that walks the user through additional steps. Taken together, the changes should present a cleaner and more user-friendly UI, Mack says.
“This synonym editor . . . is the first of an ongoing project that you’ll see consistently across all our different components within the platform,” he says. “It should be fairly intuitive to work with this. All of the same concepts, all of the same function from the previous interface [are still there].”
The next new feature – the capability to change the sort order in a prompt – may seem like a relatively minor enhancement, but it will swing above its weight with the users, Mack says. “This is a big enhancement in a little package,” he says. “It could have been done previously, but you had to jump through a few hoops to make it work.”
For example, say a Db2 Web Query user is prompted to enter the years for which the query should be run. If there was 50 years’ worth of data, that user would be scrolling for a while to get to a recent year or years. But now, with a little dialog box on the UI, the user is able to choose whether the order should be ascending or descending.
IBM is also updating the reports that come with in EZ-Install. These are reports that aren’t available if users just go with the traditional installation method for the licensed program product, which is one of the reasons why users should choose the EZ-Install option. “It has a bunch of goodies over and above just what’s included in the product,” Mack says.
The EZ-Install package already included reports that give the Db2 Web Query administrator better insight into how her users are using the product. For example, she can learn who’s running the longest reports, when was a report last changed, and who owns which report delivery schedules, Mack says.
Now, at the behest of customers and their requests, IBM is adding new reports to the mix. That includes the capability to ask more targeted questions, such as “What are all the reports that use a specific derived field called ship status?” Mack says. “I would love to have a report so I can find out who used the ship status in their reports.”
Administrators can also discover what files, fields, and derived fields are used with which synonyms. This makes it easier for customers to identify where they should start when they start building reports, Mack says. “We did have some impact analysis tools previously,” he says. “But this makes it way easier to provide these functions for both the reports and the synonyms.”
Mack also provided some insight into new features that were slated to ship this month with PTF Group Level 8. The update was scheduled to drop last Friday, May 8, but Mack was unsure exactly what would actually be included.
One of the new updates is a new EZ Install Package. This particularly EZ Install Package will be loaded with PTF Group Level 8, so any IBM i users or business partners will get the latest, greatest content by going with the EZ Install Package (but again, it’s just not the recommended way for users to upgrade PTF Group Levels).
IBM will be including a new EZ-Report function with PTF Group 8. According to Mack, this feature will offer a quick and easy way to build a report over a table or file. It also lets users build a Db2 Web Query report quickly over IBM i services, or over any existing SQL statements, without first building the synonym.
“The first time through, it’s really not that difficult to create synonyms over your files,” Mack says. “But as you start working with them, there are times when you say, ‘Gee, I know I have a file, but I just want to quickly create a synonym and report over it.’ Or there are these great IBM i services and system tools. I’d love to get an SQL example from ACS and just paste it in and automatically have a report.”
The next release will also feature a governor to prevent queries from running amok. While Db2 Web Query sports guardrails that are intended to keep users on the straight and narrow, they occasionally run off the rails with their queries. The governor would allow an administrator to take some action based on some threshold, such as auditing a query if it takes over 10 minutes, or just killing it.
PTF Group 8 will also feature a report conversion tool for importing Showcase Strategy reports into Db2 Web Query, which IBM built at the request of a customer. “We actually built this auto-generate program specifically to be able to do that en mass,” Mack says. “So if you have 1,000 Showcase queries, you could hit the easy button, basically, and automatically create synonyms and FEXes and reports over those SQL queries.”
Finally, IBM is also including new reports, including cross-system file compare report that automatically compares reports on two systems or two LPARs.