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Latest iSeries Software Release Has Much to Offer

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When IBM announced its System i5 models last week, it also unveiled new releases of i5/OS and development tools that support those models and older iSeries servers. The computer giant also previewed a dramatically enhanced Windows integration capability that it will deliver on POWER5 models later this year. Taken together, these enhancements should make it easier for customers to modernize their applications and integrate Windows workloads on the iSeries.

As I mentioned in my article last week, IBM was intent on using V5R4—its new release of i5/OS and development tools—to make it easier for companies to develop and run modernized applications on their servers. This article focuses on the V5R4 enhancements that deliver this benefit. Realize, however, that there are many more enhancements in V5R4 than the following ones. Over the coming weeks, my MC Press colleagues will examine these other enhancements in numerous articles. That said, let's dig into V5R4 to understand its application modernization capabilities. Here are the enhancements that augment those capabilities.

  • A new 32-bit Java Virtual Machine (JVM)—For years, the iSeries has offered a 64-bit JVM that performs better than the 32-bit version that most servers use. The only problem is that the 64-bit version often requires Java developers to modify their code before it can run on the iSeries. To address this, i5/OS V5R4 includes both the 64-bit JVM and an industry-standard 32-bit version that supports the Java Developer Kit 1.5. The 32-bit JVM makes it easier to port Java applications to the iSeries. It also enables Java applications to run in a smaller memory footprint, an important benefit for users of entry-level iSeries boxes.
  • Web services and XML enablement for RPG and COBOL—Last week's announcement included the debut of WebSphere Development Studio Client (WDSC) for iSeries 6.01. This point release includes a wizard that can transform ILE RPG and ILE COBOL programs into Web services. Moreover, i5/OS V5R4 includes a Web services client that enables services to communicate via programming interfaces derived from an Apache Software Foundation implementation of Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP).

    In addition, the V5R4 release of RPG IV includes functions that will make it easier for RPG applications to access and parse XML documents. My colleague Robert Cozzi wrote an excellent article about the XML functions last week, so be sure to check it out. The Web services and XML enhancements should make it easier to extend native iSeries programs to the Web and integrate them with other applications via open industry standards.
  • Enhanced 5250 application modernization—One of the most exciting enhancements in WDSC for iSeries 6.01 involves the two 5250 modernization tools that come with the product: Host Access Transformation Services (HATS) and the WebFacing Tool. In previous WDSC releases, HATS transformed 5250 data streams into browser-based interfaces, but the applications still required 5250 interactive capacity to run. The new WDSC release eliminates that requirement. This means that converted 5250 applications can now run as batch workloads. Since batch workloads cost less to run (consider the difference in cost between Enterprise and Standard Editions of any iSeries model), customers now have a new financial reason to use HATS.

    The new WDSC release also includes an enhanced WebFacing Tool that can access 5250 applications and i5/OS system screens that are transformed using HATS. This should make it much easier for developers to boost the functionality in WebFaced applications. The offering needed to deliver this benefit—known as the WebFacing Deployment Tool with HATS Technology—will ship on March 3.
  • Enhanced SQL functionality—The latest i5/OS release can also help companies that are incorporating Structured Query Language (SQL) into their RPG applications. Under V5R4, developers can embed free-format SQL statements into RPG applications. The latest release also enhances DB2 for iSeries with support for SQL functions that are available in other releases of DB2. These functions include Intersect and Except predicates, RowNumber, Scalar Fullselect, and Recursive Common Table expressions.

Improved Intel Server Integration

Besides making it easier for users to modernize their applications, IBM used last week's announcement to beef up the iSeries as an Intel server integration platform. For i5/OS V5R4, IBM made the following enhancements to the iSeries' Intel server integration functions:

  • IBM xSeries servers running Linux that attach to the iSeries via an Integrated xSeries Adapter (IXA) can now be part of an iSeries Virtual Ethernet.
  • Windows backup applications running on an IXA or Integrated xSeries Server (IXS) can now use the Windows Server 2003 Volume Shadow Copy Service.
  • An enhanced iSeries Navigator lets administrators manage Integrated xSeries resources with the same types of interfaces they use to manage logical partitions running Linux and AIX 5L.
  • The size of a network server storage space can be extended.

In a much-anticipated announcement, IBM also unveiled a Product Preview of a powerful new Windows server integration offering that it intends to ship in the middle of this year. The offering will enable any POWER5 model running i5/OS V5R4 to connect to IBM xSeries and BladeCenter servers via the Internet SCSI (iSCSI) networking protocol. The connection will be made possible by a new iSCSI Host Bus Adapter (HBA) that resides in the i5. The HBA will connect via Gigabit Ethernet links to either PCI-X cards in xSeries systems or I/O expansion cards in BladeCenter servers. The HBA will initially support Intel-based servers and blades running Windows Server 2003.

These technical facts do little to explain the substantial benefits that the iSCSI-based integration offering will deliver. According to IBM, the offering will make it possible for companies to connect many more Windows servers to the iSeries at a lower cost per Windows server. It will allow companies to do so using industry-standard components instead of the more expensive High-Speed Link (HSL) currently used by the IXA. It will be less technically challenging to install and manage because it will run over standard Ethernet networks. This will make it easier for administrators to work with the integrated servers using skills they already possess. The HBA will also enable the iSeries to integrate with BladeCenter and densely packaged (that is, 1U thick) xSeries servers for the first time.

In short, the iSCSI offering should effectively answer most of the cost and complexity objections—not to mention the technical limitations—that customers have leveled at the IXS and IXA offerings. It could spur significant growth in the number of Windows servers that attach to the iSeries. If your company is interested in the iSCSI offering, be aware that IBM will launch a beta program for the offering this spring. For more information, contact your IBM account representative or Business Partner.

About What I Said Last Week...

Before I close, I want to correct and clarify a handful of statements that I made in last week's System i5 article. First off, I was wrong when I said that all of the new Model 520 Value and Express Editions come with L3 cache. It turns out that the 1200/60 CPW configurations do have an L3 cache, but the 600/30 CPW configurations do not. Second, when I said that the new POWER5+ models are the first that can run without I/O processors, I should have said that they are the first that can run without IOPs within the system unit. IBM already offers "IOP-less" cards that can run in older iSeries models, though not in their system units. Third, I misspoke when I said that upgrades must take place between like editions. It is possible to upgrade an iSeries Standard Edition to an Enterprise Edition, though it is expensive to do so.

I also want to clarify that the Accelerator for System i5 does not give the Model 520 the same level of Capacity on Demand (COD) capabilities that are found on n-way models. Once you turn on the Accelerator, you cannot turn it off like you can with a COD processor. By the way, the Accelerator for System i5 essentially releases non-usable logical partitions on the Model 520 Value and Express Editions for use by the customer. Some IBMers objected to my characterization of these non-usable partitions as a "governor" on the server's performance.

Now that I've amended what I said last week, allow me to make some final statements about this week's article. According to IBM, i5/OS V5R4 will be the last release that can run on the iSeries Models 270, 820, 830, 840, SB2, and SB3. The next release will support the iSeries Models 800, 810, 825, 870, and 890 as well as all 5xx models. With the exception of the WebFacing Tool enhancement discussed earlier, all V5R4 functionality will ship on February 14, the same date as new System i5 hardware. For customers that are serious about modernizing their iSeries applications or integrating Windows servers, the new release will be a much-welcomed option.

Lee Kroon is a Senior Industry Analyst for Andrews Consulting Group, a firm that helps mid-sized companies manage business transformation through technology.

Lee Kroon
Lee Kroon is a Senior Industry Analyst for Andrews Consulting Group, a firm that helps mid-sized companies manage business transformation through technology.
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