IBM i Community Reacts to IBM i 7.5
May 11, 2022 Alex Woodie
With the first new version of IBM i in over three years, IBM has certainly captured the attention of the IBM i community. But what do users think of the new release? What’s catching their eyes? We queried a few members of the community to find out.
IBM Merlin, a new licensed product that stands for Modernization Engine for Lifecycle Integration, appeared to capture the bulk of the initial attention around the launch of IBM i 7.5.
Consisting of VS Code IDE, DevOps and CI/CD software from Git and Jenkins, and IBM i-native tools from ARCAD Software — all bundled in containers running in Red Hat OpenShift — Merlin is all about providing a path forward for IBM i shops to start creating new smart applications or modernizing their existing applications.
“New release announcements always please the developer side of me. IBM i 7.5 has done just that,” says Charlie Guarino, the president of Central Park Data System. “Surely the advent of Merlin is a marked paradigm shift in how modern source code can be maintained and deployed, bringing optimal CI/CD methodologies to the forefront. It firmly puts this technology within grasp of developers who have come to expect these fundamentals, looking for a comprehensive out-of-the-box experience.”
That sentiment was echoed by Jim Buck, the president of inPower Technologies. “Anytime, we have a new IBM i OS is exciting but, the new Merlin development environment could be a game changer!” Jim says. “I cannot wait to hear more about it — just another reason to attend POWERUp 22.”
Another IBM i professional looking to learn more about Merlin is Paolo Salvatore, an RPG developer in Italy. While Merlin looks promising, Salvatore is concerned about the complexity of the software and hardware requirements. “I’d like to know the costs of this implementation and the knowledge [required] to implement it,” he tells IT Jungle.
Several users in online groups expressed concern the requirement for a containerized Red Hat Linux environment for Merlin. While Merlin doesn’t create applications that run in containers, it does need one to run the VS Code IDE and other DevOps and CI/CD software. The software created by Merlin is pushed to IBM i, where it is compiled and executed.
“The idea is to flatten out the road to modernization, give us everything we need that previously has taken lots of leaps of faith into figuring out what components and packages to install,” one IBM i professional wrote.
“Transformation into yet another Linux now visibly in progress,” posted another IBM i professional. “I believe the only use vis a vis Merlin for Red Hat is to be able to install OpenShift,” wrote another. (The official line from IBM on that matter is that Merlin’s requirement for an OpenShift environment is just a “side benefit” of the launch. Small nudges from Big Blue.)
Liam Allan, who offers his own VS Code IDE for IBM i development, has to be pleased that IBM is finally giving users a lightweight alternative to Rational Developer for i (RDi). However, did they have to pick VS Code?
“I’m happy for IBM and their launch,” Allan says. “I hope to see Merlin prosper.”
Guarino was also looking forward to some of the new SQL functions, including those that hide the complexity of the underlying APIs. He was also pleased to hear that IBM offers full support for the 2016 ANSI SQL standard.
“This approach facilitates broader usage of performance enhancing techniques, such as user indexes,” he says. “Moreover, while I believe most shops will be very happy of the full support for the SQL standards, they will be happier still with the performance improvements due to of SQE optimization improvements.”
The security enhancements in IBM i 7.5 also drew applause from various security professionals in the IBM i community. For more about the security enhancements, check out “IBM Delivers More Out-of-the-Box Security with IBM i 7.5” in this issue of The Four Hundred.)
Marinus van Sandwyk, the CEO of TEMBO Tech Lab, is a big fan of modernization, in particular database modernization. But he’s also a supporter of traditional ILE RPG development.
“We are happy with the new RPG messaging opcodes SND-MSG and in particular ON-EXCP and all of the additional DB2 for i announcements,” he tells IT Jungle.
“IBM’s commitment to IBM i is evident and we are very happy about that,” van Sandwyk continues. “If only they will invest more effort in marketing and educating the users on the characteristics and abilities of IBM i that differentiates the platform, and how to leverage that to maximum benefit.”