On February 5, 2013, IBM announced a slew of new Power7+ systems and, like divine clockwork, IBM i 7.1 Technology Refresh 6.
Since most of us can take advantage of IBM i 7.1 TR6, let's jump right into that, shall we? But first, I want to clear up something. I caught wind of a conversation the other day in which one person lamented something like IBM "should release IBM i 7.2 already. IBM i 7.1 has been out for three years!"
Why? Does the number matter? Not really. What matters is that IBM is delivering plenty of new features in these Technology Refreshes. In my mind, they're like mini-version releases. We get oodles of new and exciting features, not just "fixes." The main thing I appreciate as a customer is that I don't need to wait for my software vendors to test and support individual releases of the operating system. The more features we get with the least amount of hassle is what counts to customers. Release numbers add more hassle. Point taken? OK, that's off my chest. Let's talk TR6.
USB Flash Drive Support
Haven't you always wanted the ability to use flash drives with IBM i? Well, you can now. IBM i supports USB3 flash drives that mount as virtual optical media devices. Very handy if you're a consultant as you can now keep cumulative and group PTF images or other software on a flash drive rather having to download it or burn it to lower-performing media like DVDs. Since it's a virtual optical drive, you can mount it and use any command that you would use on a regular optical drive or you can browse contents via the Integrated File System (IFS) under /QOPT.
Statement of Direction for IBM Connections and IBM Notes Traveler
Two very interesting directional statements are in this set of announcements. I previously covered the first one, which is support for IBM Notes Traveler on IBM i in the forthcoming IBM Notes and Domino 9 Social Edition, so please read about it here.
The second directional statement is that IBM intends to support IBM Connections natively on IBM i. Based on word of mouth at Connect 2013, this support may be coming in Connections 4.5, but I'll be sure to spread the word once IBM has made a formal declaration of intended support dates. IBM Connections is the leading enterprise social platform for three years in a row. It allows an organization to connect with internal and external resources, post and share content, and innovate and integrate with enterprise solutions on the fly via the familiar activity stream format popular in today's social realms. In short, this appears to be IBM's vision for collaboration now and in the future. If you'd like to learn about what's coming in Connections 4.5 and get a flavor of what Connections can do for you, please have a look at this IBM Connect 2013 session by Luis Benitez and this session by Jeff Schick, IBM's Vice President of Social Software.
Updates to Zend Server
IBM i 7.1 TR6 includes Zend Server 6, which includes granular management of PHP applications, including dashboards and performance monitoring, plus scalability, high availability, and runtime performance improvements in both on-premises and cloud configurations.
Tim Rowe, Business Architect Application Development and Systems Management for IBM i, covers this in his Modern-i-Zation blog in which he says, "The really exciting enhancement is the new mobile development support that's now within Zend Server 6. Built into Zend Studio (the client development environment), Zend has added support to help you create your own mobile applications. The support has a palette to help you easily drag and drop controls to create new, rich mobile applications and then tie them into your existing IBM i back-end objects and programs. The new mobile support is a great advancement for the IBM i community because you now have access to create, publish, and run true mobile applications on your IBM i system, leveraging your existing back-end IBM i programs, applications, and objects. In the past, you would have had to purchase additional tooling in order to accomplish mobile development for your IBM i applications. With Zend Server 6, you now have access to mobile. If you're looking to create some mobile interfaces for your IBM i applications, this support might be just the answer."
What's an IBM i Technology Refresh Without Our Integrated Good Friend, DB2 for i?
I'm not a database expert. I'll admit that. I'll forward you to Mike Cain, Team Leader for IBM's DB2 for i Center of Excellence. Please have a look at the TR6 highlights and examples on his blog here.
When these Technology Refreshes are announced, there are usually very functional, hands-on, "I can use this now" types of improvements updated into our beloved DB2 for i. TR6 is no exception. The announcement letter lists the following updates:
- To ensure that table-specific security policies can be deployed efficiently, a new control on the Database open exit program can be chosen to limit exit program scope to cases where *ALL object auditing is being used.
- IBM i Navigator is improved to operate more efficiently with larger data sets, making it easier to use the advanced tooling capabilities within the DB2 for IBM i OnDemand Performance Center.
- New and improved advice appears for Index Advisor in the form of OR predicates, making it easier to fine tune an index strategy.
Programming and command interfaces
- SQL triggers are extended to handle insert, update, and delete events within a single trigger. This new capability can reduce the number of trigger programs, deploy triggers more quickly, and realize improved business controls with triggers.
- Direct control over table, view, and index system names makes it simpler to manage the database using the FOR SYSTEM NAME clause.
- The new system naming capability for DB2 Connect users makes it easier to use library lists as a technique for library transparency.
- To improve efficiency of applications using database files/tables, the reorganize physical file member command is enhanced to target a starting point within the table, making it easier to target and eliminate fragmentation.
- The DB2 Health Center will now demonstrate automatic tracking of system limits, an important health indicator and capability to understand and identify dangerous workload trends.
- There are many additional enhancements for DB2 for i in Technology Refresh 6.
The one thing that stands out to me is the IBM Navigator for i blurb where it mentions performance improvements with larger data sets. The Web-based Navigator for i is continuing to evolve. If you're still using the thick client, then please (please please please) check out the Web-based Navigator. It's already a very useful tool, and we're going to see improvements continuing.
PowerHA New Features and Storage Device Support
IBM PowerHA SystemMirror for i now supports SAN Volume Controller and Storwize V7000 and V3700. In addition, we have the following new features:
- All DS8000 , SAN Volume Controller, and Storwize V7000 PowerHA functionality is now available through the new PowerHA GUI, which is available under IBM Navigator for i. (Author's note: Again, more good stuff inside IBM Navigator for i!)
- A new command interface, Work with CAD Monitored Resource Entries (WRKCADMRE), has been created, offering improved sorting, filtering, and searchability for large number of MREs.
- Administrative domain entries can be added or removed when not all nodes are active in the cluster.
- Administrative domain, FlashCopy, and copy services functions are now fully cluster enabled so that all work can be initiated from any active cluster node.
- Geographic mirroring synchronization priority can be changed while the IASP is varied on.
- PowerHA submitted jobs are now associated with the QCSTJOBD job description instead of the QBATCH job description.
These particular enhancements will be available via PTF by March 30, 2013.
IBM Mobile Database? Huh? What's That? Oh really? Coooooool...
With mobile being as hot as it is, IBM is offering you the ability to synchronize your data to one of the most widely deployed mobile operating systems: Android. As per the announcement, "IBM Mobile Database is a full-featured, small footprint database for mobile devices. The IBM Mobile Database is an IBM solidDB data server that is optimized for mobile use. IBM DB2 for i can be used as a source for the data.
IBM Mobile Database is a relational database currently supported on an Android device, typically used as an embedded database accessed through an application. Together with IBM solidDB and its advanced replication and Universal Cache capabilities, data can be synchronized between the mobile devices and IBM DB2 databases such as DB2 for i."
IBM solidDB is a high speed, in-memory relational database and is required by IBM Mobile Database. Here are the specs from the product page:
- Extreme Speed: solidDB relies on relational, in-memory database technology to achieve throughput of tens of thousands of transactions per second with response times measured in microseconds.
- Extreme availability: solidDB delivers extreme availability because it maintains two copies of the data synchronized at all times. In case of system failure, applications can recover access to solidDB in less than a second without loss of data.
- Low cost: solidDB is easy to deploy and administer, with the ability to be embedded directly into applications and run virtually unattended for lower total cost-of-ownership.
- Universal Caching: solidDB Universal Cache feature accelerates leading relational databases by caching performance critical data stored in these databases into solidDB Universal Cache.
- Adaptability: solidDB is highly adaptable to meet a wide variety of different application and deployment needs. It provides powerful schema mapping and data transformation capabilities and scales both vertically and horizontally.
- Robustness: solidDB Universal Cache feature preserves data durability by persisting data to disk using checkpointing and transaction logging. It also offers high availability and instant failover from one instance to another if deployed in a two-node, hot-standby configuration.
The Mobile Database component is free, and the solidDB component looks to be at a $212 PVU, so you can do the math for your system.
And Last but Not Least...the New Power7+ Iron
I'm not going to go too in-depth with the hardware here as others have covered it very deeply elsewhere, but I really like what I see happening with the lower-end boxes, namely IBM taking on x86-64 directly and with much enthusiasm.
Starting at $5,947 for a low-end (but comparatively high horsepower) Power7+ model, IBM is aggressively making a push further into the SMB market. Optimized for analytics and cloud, with integrated memory and virtualization by design, plus more processing power, stability, and scalability, these new systems are targeted to take a bite out of the Intel-based server market.
The new systems are the Power7+ enabled Power 710 Express, 720 Express, 730 Express, 740 Express, 750 Express, and 760 models. The speeds and feeds can be found on their individual announcement letters I've linked to above. And they're all supported under IBM i 7.1 Technology Release 6.