IBM i 7.2 isn't short on cool features by any means, but IBM Navigator for i keeps getting smarter, better, and faster.
About two weeks ago, I was at the COMMON User Group Conference in Orlando, Florida, where I previewed some of the great stuff coming in IBM i 7.2 and beyond. "And beyond?" you may ask. I'm on the COMMON Americas Advisory Council (CAAC), and we're lucky enough to have great dialogue for two jam-packed days before the COMMON Conference with the IBMers who design and influence the future of IBM i and Power Systems.
I can't go into any details, of course, due to the non-disclosure agreement; however, I can tell you that the future is incredibly promising. There's some good stuff coming down the pike. A whopping 62% of customer requirements made their way into IBM i 7.1 and 7.2. "Blue sheets" at every COMMON Conference help bring in those requirements. If you can't get to COMMON, shoot someone on the CAAC an email and ask them to open a requirement on your behalf. So yes, you can email me and I'll help get your requirements to the right people.
Back to business.
IBM Navigator for i has got some great features coming as part of IBM i 7.2. Why should we care so much about Navigator for i? Well, part of the announcement letter finally confirmed that IBM i Access for Windows—otherwise known as the "thick client" Navigator—has been stabilized. IBM has been building up the web-based IBM Navigator for i and offered the low footprint, high impact Java-based IBM Access Client Solutions as their strategic direction. When "strategic direction" was announced, you could see the writing on the wall, which I talked about a couple of times in the past. IBM i Access for Windows being stabilized effectively means that new features will not be inserted into the product and there won't be a 7.2 version. It will be supported for some time, and I'd imagine any major security concerns will be rectified if they appear.
Integrated File System (IFS)
First, you can search by traditional command name—for example, WRKACTJOB—or start typing the plain English "active jobs" and you'll be presented with the ability to click and view the active jobs on your IBM i partition.
Second, you can bookmark favorites. This is an incredibly practical feature that will shave hours off for me over the course of a year. I had a presentation on IBM Connections on IBM i with Kim Greene on the last day of the conference. Among other things, we talked about the need to know where your log files are and touted some of the strengths of IBM Navigator for i for viewing them. For example, using the text editor is much more functional than viewing a log file on a green-screen interface, and you have the ability to download those logs for quick upload to IBM for a PMR. Without the bookmark feature, you'd have to drill down into the WebSphere Application Server IFS directories, which are sometimes 10 or more levels deep. I can now take all of those log files and bookmark them. Just one click and I have what I want to see. If you run any WebSphere in your shop, you've now got a bona fide admin rock star feature on your hands.
Similarly, if you know a path that's a few lines deep, you can now type the path (e.g., /domino/mydomserver/data) instead of drilling down. No different from a WRKLNK command, right? No. But you do get the graphical features once you get to the directory, something the green-screen counterpart is sorely lacking.
Program Temporary Fixes (PTFs)
I've had this one on my wish list for a while now. We now have greater management of PTFs via the web-based Navigator with the ability to view, install, apply, and delete them. The delete option isn't mentioned in the announcement letter, but I took that snippet away from a COMMON session. Also omitted in the announcement is the ability to clean up PTFs, meaning to delete PTF save files that may not serve much purpose after they've been applied. I tend to delete them when I can just to be a little leaner.
Also, you can use the multisystem PTF feature to compare and contrast the IBM i PTF install status on other partitions or machines and then optionally send and/or install them remotely.
IBM i 7.2 brings us the familiar message monitors and system monitors we've had in the thick Navigator client for many years. With system monitors, you can monitor performance attributes in Collection Services and then trigger commands or send messages based on thresholds you set. Message monitors allow you to trigger commands and send messages based on message queue entries. It may sound a little ho-hum, but it's just one more step to get people out of the thick client and into the web.
Performance Data Investigator (PDI)
PDI has improved navigation pretty drastically by enabling left-hand navigation, allowing you to drill down and find things much more easily than you could in past versions of IBM Navigator for i. Moving the navigation to the left brings PDI in line with the rest of Navigator's features, rather than having it on the right-hand tab.
Going above and beyond is the new ability to include PDI reports in the "fast search" feature, allowing you to search for report names or search by a keyword like "Java" or "memory." This enables you to find what you want by area of interest, rather than having to browse through everything. Again, these little improvements are time-savers.
Enterprise Identity Mapping (EIM)
I didn't see this anywhere in the announcement or at COMMON. I did find out that EIM "has been enabled in 7.2" on the IBM Navigator for i section of DeveloperWorks. I'm not sure how much of EIM has been enabled or whether the corresponding (and very necessary) components of Network Authentication Service are enabled as well, but when I do I'll let you know. I do know that this was my major stumbling block about leaving the thick Navigator behind as I've been a huge advocate of EIM for over a decade. With the addition of EIM, it looks like the last few remaining features are working their way into the new Navigator.
Not a part of the Navigator update, but it's in the same ballpark. IBM i Access for Web has been enhanced with a mobile solution that is now available as a technology preview.
Features include the ability to:
- View and manage jobs, messages, output queues, files, and printers
- View, add, insert, and update database records
- Build, run, and save SQL statements with an SQL wizard
- Start one or more 5250 emulation sessions with the ability to reconnect even after a device power down
- Extract data from a variety of IBM i resources into a table using optional column selection
- Distribute and manage files to other users from a common download location
This capability is provided as part of 7.2 IBM i Access for Web (5770-XH2), which can be installed on IBM i 7.2, 7.1, and 6.1.
I had a quick look at the product during COMMON and was quite pleased. The previous interface (7.1) looked good on a tablet but not so much on a smartphone screen. On the 7.2 version, the interface is designed for mobile and acts very much that way. If I remember correctly, you just need to point your mobile device to a /mobile address of your IBM i Access for Web server and it then renders the pages properly for your mobile device, be it a phone or a tablet.
The Must-Have Tool
IBM i 7.2 has really stepped up with new Navigator features. It's now not just the strategic direction but the must-have tool to manage IBM i and Power Systems. That's why I concentrated on that topic in this post-announcement and post-COMMON article.