IBM Unveils Fall 2022 Tech Refreshes for IBM i
October 12, 2022 Alex Woodie
IBM yesterday announced Technology Refreshes for its two most current IBM i operating systems, including 7.5 and 7.4. Security continues to be a big driver of new functionality with 7.5 TR1 and 7.4 TR7. But the fall TRs bring a bevy of enhancements across all areas, including the database, IBM i services, open source, application development, and analytics, among others.
Security has been the number one concern for CIOs for a few years now, and IBM has responded with a number of new features in IBM i. Some of the new security features exist in IBM i Navigator, the GUI client for IBM i admins. Since the old version of Navigator is susceptible to the Log4j security vulnerability, IBM has been working to get all the functionality from the old product into the new version so users don’t have a reason to use the old one anymore.
To that end, the new version of Navigator has been bolstered with better support for audit journals. Users can now see daily or weekly views of audit journals from their Navigator screen. There’s also a new audit configuration screen that gives the user more information about the auditing controls, and also makes it easier to turn auditing on.
Using Web services via IBM i’s Integrated Web Services Server (IWS) is about to get safer, thanks to two new features. One is the addition of support for HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS), a Web security policy mechanism that requires HTTPS be used when requesting content from a server. The second is support for Cross-Organ Resource Sharing (CORS), a W3C specification that allows users to establish a secure connection when accessing content from outside their domain.
Protecting data stored on NVMe devices is about to get easier thanks to the new support for passwords. All NVMe devices used by IBM i are self-encrypting drives, but up to this point, the only way to encrypt and decrypt the data was with a key, which wasn’t protected. With 7.5 TR1 and 7.4 TR7, user can now use passwords, as defined by the Trusted Computer Group (TCG) Opal Security Subsystem Class (SSC).
IBM also updated the Common Cryptographic Architecture (CCA) Cryptographic Service Provider (CSP) for IBM i 7.5, 7.4, and 7.3, which will be dropped from support in less than a year. IBM says it updated this deliverable (IBM i Option 35) to support IBM 4769 Release 7.3.
The Db2 for i database gets several new functions, including the addition of something called Geospatial Analytics, which includes IBM Watson. “With these analytic functions that include projection free Ellipsoidal support and native geohashes, the IBM i client can easily use SQL to leverage Watson Geospatial technology,” IBM says.
The database also gets REMOTE TABLE support for executing user defined table functions on a remote IBM i server. There’s also a REPLICATION_OVERRIDE global variable for system-generated values, which will help change management vendors keep track of user-created tables. There’s also a trio of new built-in scalar functions for JSON, time stamps, and QSYS2 HTTP functions, among other functional database enhancements.
IBM also rolled out several Db2 for i enhancements specifically for database engineers. Tops on the list is SELF, or SQL Error Logging Facility. IBM has enabled comments on table function return columns, bringing them up-to-speed with tables and views. Engineers will also appreciate the fact that online reorganize physical file member (RGZPFM) commands will be able to spot active rows. Finally, engineers are equipped with a new control to automatically stop using parallel processing in the SQL Query Engine (SQE) when total system CPU usage reaches a certain level; by default, it’s set at 80 percent. This feature is only available in IBM i 7.5 TR1.
There are 15 new IBM i services for both supported releases, 7.5 TR1 and 7.4 TR7, including new commands for QSYS2 as well as SYSTOOLS. Similarly, both releases gain eight enhanced IBM i services, all of which are in QSYS2. Both releases gain a new Db2 for i service, the WLM_SET_CLIENT_INFO procedure, which makes it easier to change a subset of the SQL client special registers. Only IBM i 7.5 gets QSYS2.MTI_INFO(), which returns information about active SQE Maintained Temporary Indexes (MTIs).
Access Client Solutions has been enhanced for both operating systems. New features include the addition of column level statistics for varying length data types; new options when deleting journal receivers; and various enhancements to the Run SQL Scripts facility. There’s now an option to automatically update the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) on the client machine, as well. IBM has also updated the Access application packages, bringing support for TLS encryption for ODBC connections between Linux and macOS clients and the IBM i server.
The addition of the ZLIB algorithm to the “IBM i Main Storage Dump processing” will improve compression compared to current compression offerings. When used on Power10 machines, the performance will be even better, IBM says.
On the application development front, enhancements have been made to both Rational Development Studio for i (RDS) as well as Rational Development Studio for i (RDi) for all supported releases of the OSes. The RPG compiler has been bolstered with several new built-in functions, options, and parameters, and even COBOL gets some love with a CCSID enhancement in RDS.
On the RDi front, IBM is now shipping version 184.108.40.206, which brings enhancements in three areas, including general currency items; community driven enhancements; and developer productivity enhancements.
There is also news for Merlin, also known as the IBM i Modernization Engine for Lifecycle Integration. With this release, Merlin now includes a debugger, a necessary feature for developers to be productive with the new tool (the debugger was left out of the first release due to the accelerated timeline for development). Merlin requires IBM i 7.4 or 7.5.
As IBM is wont to do, it also improved its Backup, Recovery, and Media Services for i (BRMS) option. This release brings new SQL services, which will enhance BRMS reporting, as well as a new append to media volume option, which will prevent concurrent backup jobs from using the same volume.
PowerHA SystemMirror for i is also getting new enhancements in both the 7.4 and 7.5 versions. This includes a new Web-based GUI, better administrative capabilities thanks to synchronization with user profiles and user attributes, and FlashCopy-related enhancements.
Db2 Mirror is also enhanced with the ability to track and replicate jobs in the job queue, which is an important feature to have in the event of a disaster. There’s also the new capability to use geographic mirroring to replicate the IFS in a Db2 Mirror cluster (previously IFS replication required PowerHA), as well as support for a new RoCE adapter.
Finally, IBM has made a couple of moves on the open source front. For starters, it’s now supporting Node.js version 18 on the IBM i. Version 18 is a long-term support (LTS) release so it should be around for a while. IBM is also adding TLS support for the open source tn5250 emulator that’s available for PASE, thereby giving users the comfort of knowing their data is secure.
Both IBM i 7.5 TR1 and 7.4 TR7 are set to ship on December 2, with additional PowerHA SystemMirror functionality shipping two weeks later for both operating systems.
We’ll have more coverage of TRs in the weeks to come. In the meantime, you can access the announcement letter for 7.5 TR1 at this link and the announcement letter for 7.4 TR7 at this link. You can also read more specifics about 7.5 TR1 at this IBM Support webpage and read more about 7.4 TR7 at this IBM Support webpage.