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Exploring Open Source on IBM i: The PASE Environment

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If you want to run open source solutions on IBM i, you need to know PASE. Follow this guidance to get started

Editor’s note: This article is excerpted from chapter 2 of Open Source Starter Guide for IBM i Developers.

PASE is an acronym for Portable Application Solutions Environment (after being initially called the Private Address Space Environment). In my book, it’s the Pretty Awesome Software Environment, where it seems like just about anything is possible.

PASE is important because it’s like Oz in The Wizard of Oz, where you suddenly leave the black and white world of RPG and then land, sometimes with a thud, into the color-filled world of open source. But what the heck is it? It’s an integrated runtime environment that allows you to run most AIX programs unaltered, right there on IBM i! It isn’t an emulation environment, nor is it interpreted. It is simply an AIX runtime with access to the full range of IBM i resources. It’s designed for accommodation, particularly for C and C++ programs, but also a full range of others.

PASE and ILE

There are really worlds that live in complete harmony on IBM i (for example, the ILE world and the PASE world). And the remarkable thing is that these worlds peacefully coexist, sharing many resources across what would seem to be an impenetrable wall. Here is just some of what is shared in these environments:

  • User/group profiles
  • Process structures
  • Thread structures
  • Database (DB2)
  • Integrated File System (IFS)
  • System Licensed Internal Code (SLIC) kernel, below Machine Interface (MI)
  • PowerPC machine instruction set (no emulation)
  • Most everything ... even “underwear”—such as hardware resources (disk, memory, CPU, and so on)

The IBM i really does have quite a unique architecture, and you are welcome to grub around on the Internet for more information, but I think the success of the architecture and the reason that PASE and ILE live so comfortably together is that the operating system lives well above the hardware; so much of what goes on with processor changes has little to no effect on the existing running applications. Sure, they run faster, but they also still run.

When was the last time you ran a DOS program from 1985 in Windows 10? OK, who would want to? Sometimes I hear complaints that folks make the latest POWER8 system look like a dinosaur because they are still running apps written in 1990 (or earlier) on IBM i. “Pshaw,” I say! Move some applications that run in PHP, or Ruby/Rails out of the constantly patched environments of Windows and get settled in on PASE or ILE on IBM i. Free up some admin time to have some fun, for goodness sakes. Life is too short to spend it patching security holes …, but let’s not go there right now. Classic buffer overflow exploits that fall over into some privilege-escalation bug just don’t happen in the PASE Garden of Eden. You are safe and secure there.

The beauty of sharing in PASE and ILE makes it the perfect place to leverage rock-solid business apps with nice, cutting-edge Web technologies like Node.js. What are the differences between the two? Let’s look at Table 1 below.

Table 2.1: Differences Between the PASE and ILE Environments

PASE

ILE

/QOpenSys/IBM

LIB/FILE.MBR

Debuggers “unlimited”

Debuggers “very limited”

Allows code generation

No code generation

Uses syscalls to kernel

Uses MI to kernel

ASCII

EBCDIC

Float, double, int, char

Adds packed, zoned

Main program (/PATH/mypgm)

ILE *PGM

Shared objects (lib.a, lib.so)

ILE *SRVPGM

Use env vars (PATH, LIBPATH)

Uses *LIBL

Shells (qp2term, ssh, bash …)

QSH (*PGMs)

Call ILE (_PGMCALL, _ILECALL)

Call PASE (Qp2RunPase, Qp2CallPase, QP2SHELL)


Even with these differences, there is much similarity. What I find in common particularly within each environment is the way you can leverage programs to work together. ILE allows for multiple languages and program objects to play well together. The same applies to PASE. Combined, PASE and ILE take advantage of the power of IBM i and maximize the flexibility in which you can approach building solutions. And, as much as I love to play within that garden of flexibility, the real value is that when it comes to running a business, you have a broad world of programming and solutions at your fingertips.

Installing PASE

No biggie here. You install using the Install Licensed Programs menu or command (you choose). The product is 5770-SS1 Option 33. It is a free licensed program, and actually this thing should come installed with the base OS, in my humble opinion. It seems to be an increasingly essential component of everything I run into. Keep it current with PTFs. Actually, as a runtime, I really never gave it a second thought after I installed it. Like the IBM i OS, it just runs.

PASE Applications

Remember that 5733OPS ships with a bunch of PASE-ready applications. They are already compiled for PASE, most likely for AIX version 5.1, which is the lowest common denominator for all currently supported versions of IBM i.

Theoretically (remember this is technology, not science), you can take binaries compiled for the corresponding AIX release and drop them into PASE, and they might work. Several websites have binaries ready for download and installation. The Young i Professionals website (http://yips.idevcloud.com/wiki/) is one, and the perzl.org website is another.

You can also compile your own binaries if you have an adventurous spirit and a lack of good common sense. I can’t remember exactly what year it was, maybe 2004 or so, that I was compiling PHP in PASE during the Thanksgiving holiday. It was an excruciating learning curve for a “seat of the pants” RPG programmer like me, but the gleeful happy dance that resulted from a clean compile was worth the effort. Nothing like trying something new and finally getting it to work! I just love this stuff. So, if a hack like me could figure it out from scratch over a decade ago, you certainly can do it today. There is plenty of help from many very good minds that know the PASE environment and can steer you through the ins and outs of compiling C code (it’s mostly C with some C++). The GNU compiler is now included as part of the 5733OPS license code offering. It’s practically begging you to try!

PASE apps can be written in C, C++, Fortran, or PowerPC assembler (!). PASE apps use the same binary executable format as AIX PowerPC applications, which is cool and very compatible. Those PASE binaries run in an IBM i job, and as I mentioned, PASE programs use IBM i system functions, such as file systems, security, and sockets. So, again, this is not an operating system within an operating system. The AIX runtime isn’t emulated; it is running on top of SLIC, just like RPG or COBOL, so not only do you have the full range of AIX APIs available, but they run fast. The best of both worlds. There is a broad subset of AIX technology available in PASE, including:

  • Standard C and C++ runtime (both threadsafe and non-threadsafe)
  • Fortran runtime (both threadsafe and non-threadsafe)
  • pthreads threading package
  • iconv services for data conversion (handy and available in ILE)
  • Berkeley Software Distributions (BSD) equivalent support
  • X Window System client support with Motif widget set
  • Pseudo terminal (PTY) support


You have your choice of shells, so you can be opinionated about such things (I'm a BASH guy myself). And if you happen to spend a bit of time in Linux distros, like I do, it eventually becomes as comfortable as that overstuffed chair you lounge in. You can enter the PASE world from the IBM i command line by calling QP2TERM, but why would you want to run a terminal emulator from within a terminal emulator? And the shell is terrible (OK, see, now I am opinionated about shells). Typically, you’d have a happier experience using SSH to access the PASE environment, and I highly recommend you do so. The open source Secure Shell (SSH) and Telnet client PuTTY is what I use, but there are several, and any of them will do the job.

Using PASE

You can call PASE programs from the ILE world, and vice versa. Table 2 shows a list of the commands that take you from one world to another (although the jump really isn’t that far).

Table 2: PASE to ILE and Vice Versa

PASE to ILE

ILE to PASE

_PGMCALL—Call *PGM

Qp2RunPase—Run PASE program (main)

_ILELOADX—Load *SRVPGM

Qp2dlopen—Load PASE module (*.a, *.so)

_ILESYMX—Find export symbol (proc)

Qp2dlsym—Find export symbol (function)

_ILECALLX—Call export procedure

Qp2CallPase—Call PASE function

_CVTSSP—Convert space pointer

Qp2dlclose—Close load

_CVTTS64—Convert teraspace addr

Qp2dlerror—Get last error dl operation

_GETTS64—Get teraspace addr

Qp2malloc—Alloc PASE heap memory

GETTS64SPP—Get teraspace addr

Qp2free—Free PASE heap memory

_GETTS64M—Get multiple teraspace

Qp2SignalPase—Post signal to PASE

_SETSPP—Set space pointer

Qp2EndPase—End PASE

SETSPPTS64—Set space pointer

Qp2jobCCSID—Get PASE job CCSID (last)

_SETSPPM—Set multiple space pointers

Qp2paseCCSID—Get PASE CCSID (last)

systemCL()—Run CL command

Qp2ptrsize—Get ptr size running PASE job


It’s actually pretty simple. Take a look at this CL program that runs the ls program in PASE (ls is the “list files” command similar to dir). It’s the “cheater’s” way to do it because I am just invoking the PASE shell and running the command within it.

PGM                                            

DCL VAR(&CMD) TYPE(*CHAR) LEN(20) VALUE('/QOpenSys/bin/ls')

DCL VAR(&PARM1) TYPE(*CHAR) LEN(10) VALUE('/')

DCL VAR(&NULL) TYPE(*CHAR) LEN(1) VALUE(X'00')

CHGVAR VAR(&CMD) VALUE(&CMD *TCAT &NULL)

CHGVAR VAR(&PARM1) VALUE(&PARM1 *TCAT &NULL)

CALL PGM(QP2SHELL) PARM(&CMD &PARM1)

ENDIT:

ENDPGM

The flip side is to invoke an ILE CL program from PASE. That takes a C language program, compiled in PASE:

/* sampleCL.c

example to demonstrate use of sampleCL to run a CL command

Compile with a command similar to the following.

xlc -o sampleCL -I /whatever/pase -bI:/whatever/pase/as400_libc.exp sampleCL.c

Example program using QP2SHELL() follows.

call qp2shell (’sampleCL’ ’wrkactjob’) */

#include <stdio.h>

#include <stdlib.h>

#include <errno.h>

#include <as400_types.h> /* PASE header */

#include <as400_protos.h> /* PASE header */

void main(int argc, char* argv[])

{

int rc;

if (argc!=2)

{

printf("usage: %s \"CL command\"\n", argv[0]);

exit(1);

}

printf("running CL command: \"%s\"\n", argv[1]);

/* process the CL command */

rc = systemCL(argv[1], /* use first parameter for CL command */

SYSTEMCL_MSG_STDOUT

SYSTEMCL_MSG_STDERR ); /* collect messages */

printf("systemCL returned %d. \n", rc);

if (rc != 0)

{

perror("systemCL");

exit(rc);

}

}

You may not be a C programmer, but I bet you can follow the coding here. You have a standard set of C header files—such as stdio.h, stdlib.h, and errno.h—and then some PASE-specific headers that reference the APIs and constants needed to make the CL call. In this case, you aren’t “shelling into” the IBM i command line and back out. The results will be piped directly back to the C program and displayed on the command line.

These examples, and a host of others, can be found in the IBM Knowledge Center PDF, IBM PASE for i (https://www.ibm.com/support/knowledgecenter/ssw_ibm_i_71/rzalf/rzalfmstpdf.htm). My preference is for agonizing detail, explaining stuff that even the author thinks the audience should know, but this document is a little light on details in some places. If you can get the examples to compile, though, that learning curve alone should be a good grounding.

PASE is where all the action is in the IBM i open source software world. It’s a lush garden of goodness! Enjoy!

Peter Helgren

Peter Helgren is programmer/team lead at Bible Study Fellowship International. Pete is an experienced programmer in the ILE RPG, PHP, Java, Ruby/Rails, C++, and C# languages with more than 25 years of system 3X/AS400/iSeries/IBM i experience. He holds certifications as a GIAC certified Secure Software Programmer-Java and as an MCSE. He is currently executive vice president on the COMMON Board of Directors and is active on several COMMON committees. His passion has always been in system integration, and he focuses on open-source applications and integration activities on IBM i. Pete is a speaker/trainer in RPG modernization, open-source integration, mobile application development, Java programming, and PHP and actively blogs at petesworkshop.com.


MC Press books written by Peter Helgren available now on the MC Press Bookstore.

Open Source Starter Guide for IBM i Developers Open Source Starter Guide for IBM i Developers
Check out this practical introduction to open-source development options, including XMLSERVICE, Ruby/Rails, PHP, Python, Node.js, and Apache Tomcat.
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    Profound Logic Software, Inc.Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application. In Part 2, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Attend this webinar to learn:

    • Different tools to develop Node.js applications on IBM i
    • Debugging Node.js
    • The basics of Git and tools to help those new to it
    • Using NodeRun.com as a pre-built development environment

     

     

  • Inside the Integrated File System (IFS)

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericDuring this webinar, you’ll learn basic tips, helpful tools, and integrated file system commands—including WRKLNK—for managing your IFS directories and Access Client Solutions (ACS). We’ll answer your most pressing IFS questions, including:

    • What is stored inside my IFS directories?
    • How do I monitor the IFS?
    • How do I replicate the IFS or back it up?
    • How do I secure the IFS?

    Understanding what the integrated file system is and how to work with it must be a critical part of your systems management plans for IBM i.

     

  • Expert Tips for IBM i Security: Beyond the Basics

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

    Don't miss this chance to take your knowledge of IBM i security beyond the basics.

     

     

  • 5 IBM i Security Quick Wins

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn today’s threat landscape, upper management is laser-focused on cybersecurity. You need to make progress in securing your systems—and make it fast.
    There’s no shortage of actions you could take, but what tactics will actually deliver the results you need? And how can you find a security strategy that fits your budget and time constraints?
    Join top IBM i security expert Robin Tatam as he outlines the five fastest and most impactful changes you can make to strengthen IBM i security this year.
    Your system didn’t become unsecure overnight and you won’t be able to turn it around overnight either. But quick wins are possible with IBM i security, and Robin Tatam will show you how to achieve them.

  • How to Meet the Newest Encryption Requirements on IBM i

    SB PowerTech WC GenericA growing number of compliance mandates require sensitive data to be encrypted. But what kind of encryption solution will satisfy an auditor and how can you implement encryption on IBM i? Watch this on-demand webinar to find out how to meet today’s most common encryption requirements on IBM i. You’ll also learn:

    • Why disk encryption isn’t enough
    • What sets strong encryption apart from other solutions
    • Important considerations before implementing encryption

     

     

  • Security Bulletin: Malware Infection Discovered on IBM i Server!

    SB PowerTech WC GenericMalicious programs can bring entire businesses to their knees—and IBM i shops are not immune. It’s critical to grasp the true impact malware can have on IBM i and the network that connects to it. Attend this webinar to gain a thorough understanding of the relationships between:

    • Viruses, native objects, and the integrated file system (IFS)
    • Power Systems and Windows-based viruses and malware
    • PC-based anti-virus scanning versus native IBM i scanning

    There are a number of ways you can minimize your exposure to viruses. IBM i security expert Sandi Moore explains the facts, including how to ensure you're fully protected and compliant with regulations such as PCI.

     

     

  • Fight Cyber Threats with IBM i Encryption

    SB PowerTech WC GenericCyber attacks often target mission-critical servers, and those attack strategies are constantly changing. To stay on top of these threats, your cybersecurity strategies must evolve, too. In this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

     

     

     

  • 10 Practical IBM i Security Tips for Surviving Covid-19 and Working From Home

    SB PowerTech WC GenericNow that many organizations have moved to a work from home model, security concerns have risen.

    During this session Carol Woodbury will discuss the issues that the world is currently seeing such as increased malware attacks and then provide practical actions you can take to both monitor and protect your IBM i during this challenging time.

     

  • How to Transfer IBM i Data to Microsoft Excel

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_Generic3 easy ways to get IBM i data into Excel every time
    There’s an easy, more reliable way to import your IBM i data to Excel? It’s called Sequel. During this webinar, our data access experts demonstrate how you can simplify the process of getting data from multiple sources—including Db2 for i—into Excel. Watch to learn how to:

    • Download your IBM i data to Excel in a single step
    • Deliver data to business users in Excel via email or a scheduled job
    • Access IBM i data directly using the Excel add-in in Sequel

    Make 2020 the year you finally see your data clearly, quickly, and securely. Start by giving business users the ability to access crucial business data from IBM i the way they want it—in Microsoft Excel.

     

     

  • HA Alternatives: MIMIX Is Not Your Only Option on IBM i

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericIn this recorded webinar, our experts introduce you to the new HA transition technology available with our Robot HA software. You’ll learn how to:

    • Transition your rules from MIMIX (if you’re happy with them)
    • Simplify your day-to-day activities around high availability
    • Gain back time in your work week
    • Make your CEO happy about reducing IT costs

    Don’t stick with a legacy high availability solution that makes you uncomfortable when transitioning to something better can be simple, safe, and cost-effective.

     

     

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  • Backup and Recovery on IBM i: Your Strategy for the Unexpected

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates the routine tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:
    - Simplified backup procedures
    - Easy data encryption
    - Save media management
    - Guided restoration
    - Seamless product integration
    Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Try the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Manage IBM i Messages by Exception with Robot

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Managing messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events?
    Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated message management
    - Tailored notifications and automatic escalation
    - System-wide control of your IBM i partitions
    - Two-way system notifications from your mobile device
    - Seamless product integration
    Try the Robot Message Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Easiest Way to Save Money? Stop Printing IBM i Reports

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing.
    Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

    - Automated report distribution
    - View online without delay
    - Browser interface to make notes
    - Custom retention capabilities
    - Seamless product integration
    Rerun another report? Never again. Try the Robot Report Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Hassle-Free IBM i Operations around the Clock

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413For over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i.
    Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated batch, interactive, and cross-platform scheduling
    - Event-driven dependency processing
    - Centralized monitoring and reporting
    - Audit log and ready-to-use reports
    - Seamless product integration
    Scale your software, not your staff. Try the Robot Job Scheduling Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • ACO MONITOR Manages your IBM i 24/7 and Notifies You When Your IBM i Needs Assistance!

    SB DDL Systems 5429More than a paging system - ACO MONITOR is a complete systems management solution for your Power Systems running IBM i. ACO MONITOR manages your Power System 24/7, uses advanced technology (like two-way messaging) to notify on-duty support personnel, and responds to complex problems before they reach critical status.

    ACO MONITOR is proven technology and is capable of processing thousands of mission-critical events daily. The software is pre-configured, easy to install, scalable, and greatly improves data center efficiency.