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In the Wheelhouse: IBM i 7.1 Technology Refresh 8 Announced

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On the cusp of the expected IBM i 7.2 announcement, IBM announces IBM i 7.1 Technology Refresh 8, which contains updates for hardware, DB2, the Integrated Application Server, and specifically IBM i HTTP Administration.

 

While it's the last bullet point of the entire TR8 announcement, don't think that the Integrated Application Server on IBM i 7.1 now being based on the WebSphere Application Server 8.5 Liberty Profile is a less-important announcement than the others. Liberty is an ultra-lightweight and dynamic application server environment that allows applications to run with bare minimum support from the underlying Java architecture. In layman's terms, when a Liberty application runs, it loads only what it needs to do the job at hand and then loads anything else it needs on-demand.

 

The idea is to be efficient in memory allocation, thereby ensuring leaner, less-resource-intensive application serving. I just had to check to make sure we were still talking about WebSphere. We are. If you're used to running IBM Sametime, Portal, Web Content Management, or other WAS-based applications, then you're used to the memory requirements required by such workloads. For each Sametime server, you're talking at minimum 6 GB RAM on IBM i. Imagine if those applications could take advantage of Liberty, minimizing the amount of memory and making WAS instance applications fly in terms of performance. I should really reach out to someone at IBM Software Group about that....

 

I get excited about Liberty compared to traditional WebSphere for a few reasons.

 

For starters, changes to default server configurations are acknowledged automatically during run time. It's as simple as altering a server.xml or any other XML file included in the server.xml. If you've ever made a WAS change, then you've most certainly waited hours or maybe days or maybe even longer before you could afford the application downtime to give WAS a restart. This makes administration of traditional WAS far more difficult than it needs to be. Even if you needed to restart a Liberty-based app, which you don't, but if you need to, the startup times are apparently seconds.

 

Simple management, modular design, low memory footprint, integrated and lightweight developer tools are what's needed in today's largely web-driven application environments.

 

As part of Technology Refresh 8, IBM has updated the IBM Web Administration for i (http://yourserver:2001/HTTPAdmin) to allow you to graphically create and manage Liberty-based application servers.

 

These Liberty Profile updates to the Integrated Application Server and IBM Web Administration for i will arrive in probably the next IBM HTTP Group PTF.

 

Other software updates included in the IBM i 7.1 Technology Refresh 8 announcement are to DB2 on i and free-form RPG enhancements to Rational Developer for i (RDi) 9.0.2.

 

Hardware components of the announcement are as follows:

 

IBM i 7.1 TR8 improves support for the latest POWER7+ servers and includes options for increased capacity, higher-performing configurations, and new technology that allows options for Ethernet adapter sharing across partitions. Among the highlights:

  • New SR-IOV technology for NIC allows native sharing of Ethernet adapters without VIOS in the configuration and allows increased performance and quality of service control when VIOS is in the configuration.

  • Native (non-VIOS) configurations with 16 Gb Fibre Channel adapter support is added.

  • Native (non-VIOS) SAS configurations can now support up to two EXP24S SFF Gen2-bay drawers (#5887) cascaded from an EXP30 Ultra Drawer (#EDR1).

  • The number of virtual disks allowed per virtual SCSI adapter in an IBM i server partition is increased.

    IBM i 7.1 TR8 PTF Group is required for native support. Planned availability is June 6, 2014.

 

The last line mentioning native support is necessary because otherwise these features would only be possible with VIOS.

 

According to IBM Chief Architect Steve Will, the adoption rates for Technology Refreshes have been steadily climbing. That's good news because it shows that the IBM i community is very interested in keeping their assets current. The myth of a community dominated by old iron perpetrated by community outsiders not worthy of a name mention still remains a myth. There are many POWER7 and POWER7+ with IBM i 7.1 systems out there. With the upcoming launch of IBM i 7.2 and POWER8 right around the corner, I'm assuming customers who have held off on updating to POWER7+ will be moving to POWER8 once it becomes available.

Even Our Documentation Is Modernizing

I remember the days when I'd get a new version of IBM i and then copy the IBM Information Center from the shipped CD onto my big, thick-as-a-phonebook IBM ThinkPad. You know, for "mobile" documentation. My, how times have changed.

 

The IBM Knowledge Center is now the replacement for the IBM Information Center. Actually, it's a replacement for the very, very many Information Centers across multiple products and versions, not just IBM i 7.1 and its predecessors. The link above directs you to the IBM i section, but the other sections are simply a mouse-click away by selecting "Back to All Products" in the top left.

 

Compared to the Information Center, the IBM Knowledge Center is blazingly fast for search result retrieval and has a much more modern-looking and interactive interface.

 

The really cool thing about the Knowledge Center is the ability to save the results of your searches inside "collections," which allows you fast retrieval of information you find relevant and want to access often. You don't just save pages; you can also save any sub-content associated with that page. Collections are available on the bottom left side of the page, and your collections are associated with you via your IBM ID.

 

I find that I reference the same material repeatedly, so rather than rely on my browser history or bookmarks, the ability to use collections makes it easy for me to find the information I need whether I'm using my laptop, iPad, or large-screen devices. Unfortunately, the website is not designed with smartphones in mind. A smartphone app to offer mobile-friendly interaction with this data would be very useful.

 

While the ability to comment and "like" pages in the Knowledge Center is certainly more social-conscious than the old Information Center, what I'd like to see is the results of those (e.g., most commented, most popular, what I like, what I've commented on, etc.). For instance, if I spot an error in documentation and want to comment on it, then I can easily return to that to see if it's been rectified. I want to know if other people have commented on my comments.

 

A couple of constructive criticisms aside, the Knowledge Center performs well and is a much more modern and effective replacement for the old Information Center. But you can't use it if you don't know about it right?

Upgrading Sametime to Version 9 on IBM i

Are you planning to be at the COMMON Annual Meeting and Exposition in early May? I'll offer a shameless plug and ask you to come join Kim Greene and I as we talk about Upgrading Sametime to Version 9 on IBM i. The Sametime 9 upgrade has a few challenges, so we're going to tackle them one by one to ensure your migration is as easy as possible.

 

Our session is on Monday, May 5, 2014 at 9:30 a.m.–10:45 a.m. in the Pacifica Ballroom 11 (Loew's Royal Pacific Resort). Hope to see you there.

 

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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