What does TR3 for 7.2 (TR11 for 7.1) have to offer? Lots of good stuff, but don't take my word for it. Although, I guess if you read this article, you are.
For many of us, fall is a time to rake leaves and pull out dead summer plants, but for IBM it's time to release another Technology Refresh for the i.
At this time of the year, I try to reserve the lion's share of my attention for the baseball playoffs and the always important weeks 4 – 8 of the football season. But I really should be a bit more well-rounded because this is one of the times of the year (November 20) when IBM releases the latest Technology Refresh to the current operating system. And who would want to miss that?
Let's start with my least favorite area: hardware.
It's not that I think hardware is unimportant; it's just that I have a deep and ongoing distrust of anything real, and you can't get much real-er than hardware.
PurePower for IBM i
The first thing that should be mentioned is that the IBM i will now support a PurePower environment. Or maybe it's more appropriate to say PurePower now embraces the i.
PurePower is an example of a "converged infrastructure," which to me sounds like something that's collapsing in on itself and will subsequently explode, but a number of people have assured me that the chances of that happening are less than 40 percent. Rather, it is a single set of hardware and software solutions that are packaged together and optimized for a specific set of environmental conditions.
In my opinion, PurePower is more of a branding term than an actual thing. It's basically prepackaged hardware, software, and infrastructure that's tuned to the specific needs of your work environment. It's mentioned often when talking about cloud computing environments but really can be applied across the board.
If you want more information on PurePower, I suggest checking this out from IBM. It looks positively dreadful to me, but you might really get into it. You know how you are.
S822 Server Support
Although PurePower supports a pretty large number of different hardware options, one of the big boys on the block is the S822 server, also known as "The Mondo," and the big news forTR3 is that this server will now run IBM i.
For those of you who don't hang with the hardware crowd, the S822 server is a heavyweight server, featuring up to 20 cores of Power8 chips at 3.42 Mhz and up to 8 concurrent threads per core.
It's designed for a virtualized environment and seeks opportunities to support multiple applications and workload consolidation. If you want more info on it, check this out.
It wouldn't be a Technology Refresh without some stuff for RPG, and this time it's a big one: removal of the 80-column restriction from RPG /free.
This affects only /free. You can't very well do this same thing to positional, so it's another reason to go /free.
It allows you to enter code in any position from 1 to the end of the source member line—that is, no more starting in column 8. You can start right at the beginning of the line. If you're using a file in the IFS, there's no limit to the length of each line.
The one caveat is that you have to start the code with **FREE in position one (not six, not seven, not eight, but one). Once this is entered, any positional code that's required will have to be done using a /COPY statement.
One more thing: you can also start any embedded SQL in column one by using this enhancement.
Every Technology Refresh seems to have a whole slew of enhancements for DB2 on the i, and this one is no exception. In fact, generally, there are more enhancements in the DB2 area than anywhere else. Makes you wonder what Scott Forstie and his team are up to. Nobody just does stuff to help others unless there's a little something in it for them. I just can't figure out what his angle is.
Anyway, there are a ton of things out there, including enhancements to DB2 itself, enhancements to SQL (including LIMIT and OFFSET), an update of the SQL precompiler so that it keeps up with ILE RPG, and many others. Especially interesting to me are the enhancements to IBM i Services. This is a fairly new product and is quite possibly one of the coolest things to come along in awhile. Basically, it's a set of SQL queries that build tables, many of them related to performance issues, and then query against those tables to quickly produce the kinds of information that it would normally take you awhile to come up with using individual IBM i commands.
But rather than have me talk about them, I am going to refer you to Scott's excellent article What's New in DB2 for i with TR3.
Some changes have also been made to the Backup, Recovery, and Media Services (BRMS).
One of the nice features of this software was the ability of the administrator to do storage tiering—that is, to take a library that's used very heavily and move it to SSD or HDD disk for greater access speed. Similarly, if something was not being used very often, the administrator could move it to an older, presumably slower (and cheaper) storage spot.
The change now is that this has been automated. Instead of just being done manually by an administrator, you can now set up a schedule that is time based and, for example, if a week goes by and you don't access that resource, then BRMS would move it to a lower-tiered storage area. And, if the data is being accessed more frequently, BRMS can move it the other way, to a faster drive.
This is similar to the Easy Tier option within the IBM storage products except that, instead of acting on just small pieces of data as Easy Tier does, BRMS acts at the file or library level to balance information so that the most commonly used data items end up on the fastest device.
Integrated Web Services
If you're using any of the languages supported on the IBM i to access the web, then you're using some form of the IBM Integrated Web Services product. This product provides a bridge from the normal languages that we use (normal, of course, being a relative term)—like RPG, PHP, C+, Java, etc. —to the services that are used on the web to access and manipulate resources and services.
Generally, there's a set of updates to this package, and often they are ignored, but not this time. Let's face it: I have a very low excitement trigger.
Traditionally, web services on the i were delivered via a SOA or SOAP method. This involved a very structured and somewhat complex format and the use of XML to carry the data. Recently, REST was added to the list of supported service types.
TR3 has enhanced the processing on both sides with some things addressed to SOAP and others just to REST. Most of the changes occurred in the middle, things like enabling Java-based web services, supporting nested output arrays, preserving case integrity on input, allowing RESTful services to return user-defined media types, allowing more efficient handling of really big character fields, and stuff like that.
The good news? The good news is not that this or that is in the list. Rather, the good news is that IBM continues to update the i twice a year (fall and spring) with a wide variety of enhancements, both large and small. And as long as we continue to see this kind of investment, we know the i is still alive and kicking.