In the Wheelhouse: IBM i 7.1 Technology Refresh 6 Packs on More Muscle

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IBM i 7.1 gets even more awesome with augmentations to the February TR6 announcement. We're talking IBM i Access Client Solutions and the frighteningly cool Liberty profile for WebSphere Application Server 8.5.5. Plus, there's the 25th anniversary promotions for Power 720 and 740 servers.


IBM i 7.1 Technology Refresh 6 Gets Enhanced

IBM recently announced that IBM i 7.1 TR6 has been updated with usability, integration, and support enhancements.


First, we have IBM i Access Client Solutions, which is the Java-based application that gives customers a platform-independent option for the most-often-used components of IBM i Access for Windows, such as 5250 emulation, LAN console, and virtual control panel among others.


Customers get two solid values in this product: platform independence and a lightweight, pre-packaged build that can be run from just about anywhere. IBM i Access for Windows can't be run on a Mac with the code on a Windows, Samba, or IFS shared drive...but this can. IBM i Access Client Solutions can replace the bulk of IBM i Access for Windows installations, especially if they're only doing rudimentary functions like 5250, data transfer, and the like. Where's the value there? Time savings. You can push a preconfigured imageor even simpler yet, a link to a preconfigured imageto user desktops and have each ready to roll within minutes. Compare that with the thick Windows installer, where you may spend the better part of an hour getting a single client updated.


Plus, the fact that you're entitled to the product via the IBM i Access Family speaks to the overall IBM i value. I wrote about it back in July 2012, and I received many enquiring emails. Even just last week I had someone mention to me that the "technology preview" is the only thing available to download. You won't have to wait much longer as it's available on June 14, 2013.


Customers using IBM i 6.1 or IBM i 7.1 can acquire IBM i Access Client Solutions by downloading it from the Entitled Software Support (ESS) website under 5761-SS1 or 5770-SS1. Or if you want physical media, you can order 5761-SS1 or 5770-SS1 refresh feature number 6288.


The IBM i Access website states the following updates for the 1.1.2 version of the Client Solutions product:


5250 emulation enhancements:

  • Full migration support for .ws, .bch, .kmp, and .pmp files from IBM i Access for Windows
  • Import colors from IBM i Access for Windows
  • Keyboard support for Hex mode
  • Single button to combine disconnect followed by reconnect
  • Keystroke buffering allowing users to key-ahead while input is inhibited
  • Certificate authority detection with optional download
  • Command line option for starting in full-screen mode
  • Customization for column separators
  • Option to disable menu bar updates
  • Macro conversion from IBM i Access for Windows (beta)


Data transfer enhancements:

  • Full migration support for .dtf and .dtt files from IBM i Access for Windows
  • Integration with active spreadsheet for Excel and OpenOffice


Other enhancements:

  • The Data Transfer OpenOffice extension available in Version 1.1.1 has been removed
  • Password management for multiple systems
  • Customized package support so administrators can limit available functions
  • Import configurations from IBM i Access for Windows
  • Export configurations to IBM i Access Client Solutions - Windows Application Package or to IBM i Access for Windows
  • Hover text for SRCs in Virtual Control Panel
  • Additional command line options including the ability to send remote commands
  • Option for new configurations to default to SSL
  • Support for TLS 1.2
  • Support for recognition of FIPS compliance
  • Application enablement for Mac
  • Desktop application enablement for Linux
  • Optional cache for reducing memory foot print and startup time
  • Additional language support for all features


Also included with IBM i Access Client Solutions is the Windows Application Package and Linux Application package. The Windows Application Package provides customers with ODBC, .NET, and OLE DB connectivity to DB2 for i, the Programming Toolkit, TLS/SSL support, and AFP driver. The Linux Application Package allows 64-bit ODBC driver connectivity to DB2 for i.


Moving on down the list of enhancements to TR6 is the announcement of IBM WebSphere Application Server (WAS) Express 8.5.5, and in particular updates to the Liberty profile, "a highly composable, fast to start, and ultra lightweight profile of the application server that is optimized for developer productivity and web application deployment."


Fast? Ultra lightweight? While performance has drastically improved over the years, we're still talking about WebSphere, and those adjectives have never really been associated with it.


There's a nice article on DeveloperWorks called "Introducing the Liberty Profile." In it, author Ian Robinson explains Liberty as "a dynamic profile of WAS that enables the WAS server to provision only the features required by the application (or set of applications) deployed to the server. If an application requires just a servlet engine, then all that starts is the WAS kernel, the HTTP transport and the web container. Which is lightening fast to bring up (a few seconds) and has an incredibly small footprint. Need a JPA provider to access relational data? No need to go hunting around to find one, just add in the JPA feature and persistence configuration and we'll switch that on. Dynamically." So how dynamic is it? Configuration changes to Liberty won't even require a restart. How lightweight is it? If you were to download the Liberty profile, it's a whopping 41MB. That's pretty darn lightweight.


Why is this important? I'm not a WAS developer, but from what I can tell, there could be staggering performance improvements for WAS applications in the future with the advent of Liberty. I do a lot of administrator work with Sametime and most recently IBM Web Content Manager and IBM Connections. WAS requires resources. It loves memory. It takes more time to load than I'd like. It's the IT version of a tank: a sight to see on the battlefield and has immense power, but it just doesn't fly down the highway at 200 MPH. If developers are able to harness the benefits of Liberty to make WAS applications load and deploy faster while decreasing the footprint, then it would make a WAS administrator's job much, much better, regardless if they're running it on IBM i or not. If you do custom WAS development in-house, then this may be the next big thing to take a look at. Actually, you need to look at it.


Plus, I don't know if Sametime, Connections, Portal, WCM, or other enterprise-level solutions can use Liberty in the future (I have questions into people who may know), but I'm hoping they're at least looking at it. I can just imagine loading all Sametime Standard servers in seconds instead of minutes.


With regards to TR6 and Liberty, the WAS 8.5.5 features include:


  • Certification to the Java EE6 Web Profile, assisting applications leverage standards-compliant programming models.
  • Additional programming models such as Web services that enable the expansion of Liberty profile applications beyond web applications. New messaging capabilities, including support for Java Messaging Service (JMS) and message drive beans (MDB) and a new single-server message provider.
  • Ability to add Liberty features through a new system programming interface, enabling the customization of Liberty profile capabilities to meet your business needs.
  • Enhancement to security supportsuch as federated repositories, custom user registry, and encryption of passwords in server configurations to enable improved security for Liberty application deployments.
  • High Performance Extensible Logging (HPEL) for Liberty servers to enable better administration and serviceability.
  • New Liberty administration features.


IBM i 25th Anniversary Edition Announced


Happy Birthday, IBM i!


What better way to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the 1988 launch of the AS/400 than with a promotion for the Power 720 and 740 Solution Edition?


Here's the gist. You get three redeemable service vouchers. One voucher equals 16 hours of remote services or 1 day on-site, performed by IBM Lab Services or a qualified IBM Business Partner. So if you're purchasing this Solution Edition, it will help pay for installation and implementation costs.


Also, the promotion includes some no-cost IBM i 7.1 processor license entitlements. If you order a 720 with one IBM i license (one being the minimum), you get it free. If you order two, you get one of them free.


If you order a 740, you must order a minimum of four IBM i licenses. If you order four or more licenses, you get three free. That's pretty awesome value.


Because it's a Solution Edition, you're required to purchase an ISV solution; however, the ISV participation has been expanded in that they don't have to be a part of the Solution Edition program. As per the announcement:


  • Must purchase new or upgrade software licenses or software maintenance from an ISV. Any ISV software purchase can qualify (ISV does not have to be a participating member of the IBM i Solution Edition program).
  • The combined value (software, maintenance, services, and training) of the ISV purchase must satisfy the following thresholds:
    • For an IBM i Solution Edition 720 (4-core), US $6,500 or greater
    • For an IBM i Solution Edition 720 (6-core or 8-core), US $25,000 or greater
    • For an IBM i Solution Edition 740 (6-core to 16-core), US $60,000 or greater


Starting in the same month as the actual anniversary date (June 21), when you order one of today's existing IBM i Solution Editions (see features below), the 25th Anniversary Edition feature (#EU28) will be added to your order, and as a result, all of the new benefits and values will be included:

  • IBM i Solution Edition feature 4928 identifies the 8202 model E4D for a Power 720 4-core.
  • IBM i Solution Edition feature 4927 identifies the 8202 model E4D for a Power 720 6-core or 8-core.
  • IBM i Solution Edition feature 4929 identifies the 8205 model E6D for a Power 740 6-core to 16-core.


This promotion comes at a great time, given support for V5R4 is running out this September.


PowerTech State of IBM i Security Study Released


A related, alarming statistic outlined in the just released 2013 PowerTech State of IBM i Security Study is that 41% of polled customers are actually running V5R4. Truth be told, the study acknowledges that this is not a random sample of IBM i customers. "The security officers or other staff at these companies were concerned enough about IBM i security to request an assessment. This may have resulted in a sample that is either unusually security-conscious or, at the other extreme, knowingly deficient. Our experience leads us to believe the latter is closer to the norm." That's a good thing. If many are knowingly deficient, they're at least investigating what their options are.


I'm going to delve deeper into this study in my next article because there's plenty to discuss. Probably the most concerning issue is the amount of systems with FTP server active with no exit point protection. Yikes. IBM i security can be why take off your flak jacket? If you want to take a look at it yourself, download a copy for free.