Systems Management Is a Breeze with IBM Navigator for i

IT Infrastructure - Other
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Next time you train someone in IBM i administration, you should try Navigator for i as the default interface.


Not too long ago, IBM effectively stabilized the IBM i Access for Windows product. The rationale was to focus development efforts on one product that would satisfy everyone, rather than have to maintain different flavors for different operating systems. The new IBM Access Client Solutions is the modern answer to the most-often-used user functions of Access for Windowsnamely, 5250 emulator, printer emulation sessions, and data transfer to and from an IBM i partition. Its Java architecture means it will run on just about anything that allows Java. I'm actually logged into a 5250 interface from my laptop, which runs Linux Mint. The "write once, run anywhere" (WORA) mentality makes sense. I don't know about you, but I'd rather have IBM spending development dollars as effectively as they can on IBM i rather than spending it on maintaining different versions of client software.


The same rationale has been used in reimagining the IBM i systems management interface, IBM Navigator for i.


IBM Navigator for i is the strategic direction for systems management on IBM i. That's where the development focus is, and that's where most, if not all, new features are going. While IBM i Access for Windows has been stabilized, Navigator has been getting many updates by way of PTFs over the last few years. Although the Access for Windows fix packs have been updated as recently as June 2015, the number of fixes is negligible compared to the amount of features and fixes added to Navigator and Access Client Solutions. This is the new and current interface, so when I say Navigator in shorthand, you'll know I mean the web-based IBM Navigator for i and not the old System i Navigator thick client.


While there are still pieces of the old thick client that still need to be migrated to Navigator for i (such as database), I encourage you to use Navigator for i simply because it offers you much more than the thick client in other areas. Furthermore, Navigator for i can give you more options than traditional green-screen interfaces. You can pick the tool to best suit your purpose. There's a time and place for traditional command line and shell. However, if you're training a new IBM i administrator, I'd argue it would be far easier to train a person in Navigator than green-screen, especially on an IBM i partition that's been kept up to date with Technology Refreshes and group PTFs.


Fast Search

In many areas of Navigator, IBM has implemented a Fast Search field. The Fast Search on the top left corner of Navigator is a global search, while the search field on the top right corner of tables searches exclusively within that table.


For the global Fast Search, you can search by traditional command namefor example, WRKACTJOBor 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.


The fast search within a table is incredibly powerful. It will filter the result set in the table based on what you type. For example, if you're viewing a list of spooled files and you type the spooled file name, it will filter spools by the file name. If you type the user profile who owns the spooled file, then the result set will adjust to all spooled files owned by the user. Of course, there's an advanced search that will allow you to set up something sophisticated, which is handy if you're looking through a very large table result set. You can click on any of the column headers to sort the result set, making it easy to find what you're looking for faster. This isn't only for spooled files. Any item delivered by way of a table is searchable and sortable. Very handy for QHST or the System Operator queue.


Speaking of the System Operator queue, this is one of my favorite tips about Navigator. I've lost count of the times I've heard someone say, "Someone cancelled the backup job. I wish I knew who it was and when they did it." Navigator allows you to do this! You can tell exactly who responded to what message and when they did it. Now you can find out who's been cancelling the backup with a "C" for "Continue." And yes, that's a true story.



Favorites are an incredibly practical feature that will shave hours off over the course of a year, especially if you work with files on the IFS often. You can bookmark key files or directories and get to them quickly without the need to drill down through many levels of an IFS file structure. Just one click and I have what I want to see.


Similarly, if you know a path that's a few lines deep, you can now type the path (e.g., "/domino/mydomserver/data") into the global Fast Search field instead of drilling down. Then you can "favorite" the path for later!


Also, with regard to working with files in the IFS, Navigator for i offers a great file editing utility that allows for...well, file editing. If you've ever tried to edit a file and had to page right three or four times, then you can appreciate an online file editor. Also, using the text editor is much more functional than viewing a log file on a green-screen interface. You have the ability to download those files for quick upload to IBM for a Problem Management Record (PMR). You can't do that from a green-screen.


System Values

With respect to on-boarding new administrators, while we all might look at IBM i system value QQRYDEGREE and be able to decipher the differences between *NONE, *IO, *OPTIMIZE, and *MAX ,the average tech geek off the street won't have a clue what you're talking about. In Navigator for i, system values are laid out in a logical fashion as Auditing, Date/Time, Devices, etc. Underneath Performance > Database, your options related to Parallel Processing for Queries and Indexes (i.e., QQRYDEGREE) are as follows:


Do not allow parallel processing

Use multiple processes for input/output

Use multiple processes for input/output, queries, and indexes

Use all active memory in memory pool


It's plain English and easy to understand. It takes the complexity out of a relatively advanced concept like DB2 Symmetrical Multiprocessing.


Program Temporary Fixes (PTFs)

You now have greater management of PTFs via the Web-based Navigator with the ability to view, install, apply, and delete them. You also have the ability to clean up PTFs, meaning to delete PTF save files that may not serve much purpose after they've been applied.


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 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. In 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 easier than 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 adding the ability to include PDI reports in the fast search feature, allowing you to search for report names or search by keyword, like "Java" or "memory." This makes the ability to find what you want by area of interest, rather than having to browse through everything. Again, these little improvements are timesavers.



Again, naming couldn't be more clear and easy for on-boarding. If you're looking for your network options under Windows or Linux or Xbox, you're going to look under your Network menu. The same is true for IBM i underneath the (you guessed it) Network menu.


What I like about this is the ease of finding what you want. I have 28 IP interfaces on one of my IBM i partitions. I have each IP interface named by way of the Description field. The problem is, when I look at my interfaces via CFGTCP option 1, I don't see a Description field. I press F11 for more options and don't see it. I have to go into each one to see the Description on the IP interface. In Navigator, the description is right in the table on the right side. Now I can identify my interfaces very quickly.


Disk Management

IBM Navigator for i gives you the ability to manage physical disk drives, select hot spares, enable remote load source mirroring, add units, and more. The feature I really like is the graphical representation of physical disk on your system. Getting this information from a green-screen is much more time-consuming than from Navigator. Just click Actions > Graphical View under the All Disk Units screen. If you need to replace a failed drive, you can quickly see which drive needs to be replaced and what physical location the drive is in based on the graphical map.


Rapid Fire Admin!

These are just some of the cool things available with IBM Navigator for i. I'll be talking about these and more at the COMMON Fall Conference and Expo in my Rapid Fire Admin session. I hope to see you there!