TechTip: IBM i Access Client Solutions Update

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Integrated File System support leads the way with this important new update.

As of today, there’s a new version of the highly popular IBM i Access Client Solutions (ACS) product. If you’ve already downloaded the April version of ACS, you can easily upgrade using the new Check for Updates feature underneath the Help option in the title bar. Otherwise, click here and download the latest version. If you want all the ODBC features, those are included in two separate Application Package downloads (one for Windows, one for Linux) found on the IBM ESS website. 

I had a chat with Tim Rowe, Business Architect Application Development and Systems Management for IBM i, about the new features in ACS. Considering this will be the 9th update to ACS since May 2015, it’s evident that IBM is putting a lot of effort into building and enhancing this product on a regular basis. (Editor's note: The update will be available July 31.)

Steve Pitcher: Tim, I’ve been working on a pre-release version of ACS for a few weeks now, and I’m a big fan of the new IFS interface. Can you explain why it went into ACS instead of Navigator for i?

Tim Rowe: When I talk about accessing the system, I’m thinking on three levels: the user, the system administrator, and the database administrator. The user needs a tool to do a user’s job, such as the emulator or printer output. The other thing in our discussions with users is that they need access to IFS files moved around from system to system and system to workstation, so because of that, we wanted one place for a user to go to get things accomplished. ACS gives them the emulator, spooled files support, and now IFS as well. That’s why we put it there. With IFS, you can drag and drop between partitions. You don’t have a drag and drop to the desktop, but you can download/upload.

SP: Where Navigator is primarily a system administrator tool, is there any plan to expand the IFS functionality into Navigator?

TR: Navigator is being enhanced all the time in many ways—for this particular enhancement, by putting it on the client, because of the ease of use and availability. All three groups need IFS, so it made sense to put it there.

SP: You’re seeing big uptake of ACS, so it’s probably best to put it in there anyway just from a visibility and accessibility perspective.

TR: Absolutely. And it wouldn’t have met the use case I was trying to accomplish with all three types of users.

SP: What else is in the July 22nd version?

TR: In addition to the IFS stuff, we made a bunch of enhancements to our Run SQL Scripts. The biggest thing there is we’ve added a formatter. So if you slap a whole bunch of SQL into the window and hit Ctrl+F, it will rearrange everything for you as formatted code. There’s a JDBC management interface we’ve added as well. The other big thing that we’ve added is Visual Explain.

SP: Visual Explain looks very familiar.

TR: We wanted the user experience to be exactly the same between the Windows Navigator product and ACS. We didn’t make any changes to the imaging. Will we do that in the future? We might. For this iteration, it was very intentional. The goal is to have the end user experience exactly the same, other than making it faster. It launches 10 times faster by the way. But, yeah, the usage needs to be the same.

SP: The aesthetic remains the same in order to maximize familiarity.

TR: Another new thing in ACS is Smart Card support. In the business of tightly controlled financial data, verification of identity before using the system, this support is very important. We have a large segment of our market in the financial sector. They’re implementing tight controls on security of systems. You can’t sign on to a system without two-factor authentication. If you have a card to get into the building and your office, it identifies you as you. You plug that card into the computer and you can now sign into IBM i because the computer recognizes you.

SP: PCI compliance requirements in 2018 require two-factor authentication, so this is timely.

More to Come

With the new version of Access Client Solutions, IBM continues to build upon the new standard for accessing IBM i. We’ll keep you updated with each new release.

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