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In the Wheelhouse: How Many Updates Did IBM Squeeze into IBM i 7.1 Technology Refresh 5?

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Really, it's that full. Overflowing even. Within the last two weeks, IBM announced new PureSystems offerings, new POWER7+ iron, and IBM i 7.1 Technology Refresh 5. I'll touch on the hardware but focus on what everyone can take advantage of: IBM i 7.1 TR5.

 

IBM Announces IBM i 7.1 Technology Refresh 5

 

On October 3, 2012, IBM announced IBM i Technology Refresh 5, which will be available for download on October 19. Some of the features you can get right now and others not until December. The IBM i 7.1 TR5 announcement is chock full of features, so we'll break down some of the highlights in parts.

 

Support for New Hardware

 

We can't leave the big iron out as the sheer horsepower is hard to ignore. IBM i 7.1 TR5 will support the new POWER7+ 770 and 780 systems as well as the RDX Removable Media Devices and the 80GB/160GB DAT160 USB tape drive.

 

USB support is an interesting topic all on its own, so I may delve into it deeper at a later date. As stated in the announcement, the 80GB/160GB DAT160 USB tape drive's "performance is the same as the existing SAS DAT160 drives (#5619), but it does not use the integrated SAS controller and thus may offer an overall performance advantage to the system by potentially avoiding bandwidth contention."

 

IBM i Navigator

 

I like simplicity. I'm also a big proponent of Web-based tools for any platform. The ability to manage IBM i via a Web interface is such a powerful thing. There's no heavy client to install. It's portable. What more could you ask for?

 

The product once known as IBM Systems Director Navigator for IBM i (ugh!) is now known as IBM i Navigator. I haven't been happier with the name since the heavy desktop client was called Operations Navigator, which most people ended up calling "Navigator" or "Ops Nav" anyway. The simplicity of this rebrand also eliminates confusion with IBM Systems Director, which is an all-encompassing IBM systems management tool. It's IBM i Navigator—officially and in the schoolyard.

 

 

With that aside, you'll be happy to know that there are many new improvements in IBM i Navigator:

 

  • Navigation pane on the left—Now you can drill down very quickly on the left side to find the functions you want, rather than clicking a link, waiting for the page to load, clicking on another link, waiting for another page to load…ad nauseam. How awesome is that? This feature will save you so much time. Actually, these improvements to IBM i Navigator alone would make me want to get TR5.
  • Dynamic tables with filter support—My favorite new feature gives you the ability to dynamically alter tables. What's that mean? Well, for instance, if you're looking at the list of active jobs, you can type in the search field and the ensuing result set will be dynamically generated on the screen for you. Slick! This table support is powered by the Dojo toolset.
  • Independent tab support—In the previous version, if you opened a tab, it would refresh the entire page. Also, you can take a tab and have it open in a new window.
  • Overall performance and usability—While many have bemoaned the speed of IBM Systems Director Navigator for i and its predecessors, IBM has listened and improved the performance and usability of the product.
  • User profile management from the sign-on screen—If users' passwords expire, they can now update their password from the sign-on screen.

 

IBM i Navigator enhancements, while technically part of IBM i TR5, will be available December 15, 2012, via the following PTFs:

 

  • IBM i 7.1: 5770-SS1 SF99368 HTTP PTF Group Level 16, or later
  • IBM i 6.1: 5761-SS1 SF99115 HTTP PTF Group Level 28, or later 

 

WebSphere Application Server and IBM Web Administration for i

 

Also released on December 15 via the same HTTP Group PTFs as IBM i Navigator are improvements to WebSphere Application Server (WAS) and IBM Web Administration for i. As an administrator who uses and abuses WAS and Web Administration for i on a regular basis, I'm truly excited about this one.

 

Before this update, you had to install WAS using the Qshell command line. Not anymore! Enhancements to IBM Web Administration for i now allows us to actually install WAS using a graphical user interface (GUI). If you're not impressed, then you've never had to install WAS via a Qshell command line with the oh-so-many switches and IFS paths. I'm a bit of an old hand at Qshell, so I'm ecstatic about the ability to move to a GUI management tool.

 

Why? The new Web Administration for i gives you an integrated place to install, manage, and update, from top to bottom, your WAS infrastructure and WAS servers. I'm going to shake someone's hand for this one when I find out who was responsible for adding it in.

 

IBM HTTP Server

 

Tim Rowe, Business Architect Application Development and Systems Management for IBM i, recently reported in his Modern-i-zation blog that "HTTP server is delivering a rather important, yet interesting, change. The plug-in code that is used today to facilitate communication between the HTTP Server and other servers has a limitation. The code will fail when it encounters files larger then 2GB."

 

He went on to say, "Unlike most updates we make, this change actually requires the plug-in to be recompiled. We have worked closely with internal groups to ensure the plug-ins have all been recompiled for other servers like Domino and WebSphere and the integrated servers and included in the corresponding fix packs. If you use WebSphere, you must update your WAS fix pack when you update to the HTTP PTF Group that is scheduled for mid-December. The HTTP server will handle all the necessary reconfiguration to use the new plug-in, but because the WAS plug-in is only shipped with the WAS fix pack, you need to manually install it. For details, please see the web integration section in the IBM i zone for developerWorks."

 

I can't sum it up any better than that.

 

DB2 for i

 

What would an IBM i update be without some improvements for the beloved integrated DB2 database? Have no fear.

 

DB2 has been enhanced with performance and management strongly in mind. From query optimizations for encoded vector indexes to security to new commands to generating data from a remote DB2 table into your local system, saying there are a few things to think about is an understatement. For a detailed explanation, I'll point you directly to the source: Mike Cain, Team Leader for the DB2 for i Center of Excellence, has summed the enhancements up nicely in his DB2 for i blog.

 

 

XML Service for i

 

Who likes open source? I do. It demonstrates the true spirit and benefit of community and collaboration. The Young i Professionals have worked with IBM to deliver an open-source toolkit enabling, according to the announcement, "the read/write of objects such as programs, procedures, data areas, data queues, message queues, commands, spool files, DB2 for i (both SQL and Native), and much more" by way of programs that work with XML such as RPG, PHP, Java, Ruby, and others.

 

This is available on the HTTP Group PTFs I mentioned above due out on December 15, but if you want it right away, meaning you just can't wait to get your hands on some very cool stuff, you can download it immediately.

 

JTOpen Lite

 

Similar to the JT400 and JVOpen Java toolkits, JTOpen Lite is a lightweight library of Java classes (under 420K according to DeveloperWorks) geared toward IBM i development for mobile devices.

 

It's lightweight by design, addressing the basic needs of accessing DB2, the Integrated File System (IFS), jobs, users/groups, and commands.

 

Backup, Recovery, and Media Services (BRMS)

 

BRMS received an injection of new as well, with the added functionality of monitoring backups on systems called Enterprise Nodes from a central Enterprise Hub server. IBM added this feature to be managed, not from the 5250 command line, but once again either from IBM i Navigator or IBM System i Navigator, further emphasizing, in my opinion, a continued move toward GUI for new functions.

 

Additional Software Group Product Support Added

 

InfoSphere Guardian is an enterprise auditing tool able to audit information across relational and non-relational data sources. In IBM i 7.1 TR5, DB2 on IBM i is now supported, meaning that you can audit information about DB2 access from native access or via SQL.

 

Also, IBM WebSphere Application Server V8.5 and IBM WebSphere Commerce V7 FP5 are supported on IBM i.

 

But Wait, There's More

 

Please read the announcement letter for more details. There's so much in this TR that I may have to spend a little time in the next "Wheelhouse" to go over more features, such as the PureSystems offerings, HMC updates, SmartCloud Entry for IBM i, and IBM i in the cloud.

 

Steve Pitcher
Steve Pitcher works with iTech Solutions, an IBM Premier Business Partner. He is a specialist in IBM i and IBM Power Systems solutions since 2001. Feel free to contact him directly atspitcher@itechsol.com.
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