New IBM i Technology Refreshes…Sort Of

IBM i (OS/400, i5/OS)
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Confusion aside, the functionality of IBM i 7.4 TR 2 and 7.3 TR 8 is here.

Since IBM i 7.1, IBM has released a new Technology Refresh each spring and fall. The TRs coincided with both a cumulative PTF package and the announcement outlining it as such. Furthermore, they coincided with the spring and fall conferences as it would make good sense for IBM to be out communicating with many customers at events.

But when the spring announcements were released few weeks ago, there were no Technology Refreshes for IBM i 7.3 and 7.4, although the announcements for 7.3 TR 8 and 7.4 TR 2 were labeled as such. Not surprisingly, people were a little confused.

What happened?

Well, it’s important to discuss how Technology Refreshes are actually put together.

A Technology Refresh is really a group PTF. It usually contains features and functions like firmware and hardware support formerly requiring an operating system upgrade to take advantage of them. A Technology Refresh allows IBM the ability to deliver more functionality without requiring their clients to upgrade. This time around, there just weren’t any features delivered that met the Technology Refresh criteria. Does that mean it’s the end of the road for Technology Refreshes? Not at all.

The confusion begins as many features in a Technology Refresh announcement are actually viewed as part of the Technology Refresh by the general public. They’re actually not, but they’re certainly marketed that way because of the traditional spring or fall timing. Updates to IBM i Access Client Solutions (ACS) are a prime example of that. If ACS gets a major update, it may even become available to download, but IBM will discuss those features as part of the Technology Refresh announcement. There’s no ACS functionality delivered by a Technology Refresh group PTF…period. There’s literally nothing on an IBM i partition you need to install!

It’s the same thing for IBM i-specific features like a DB2 group PTF. IBM’s database team has been producing excellent technical updates on a regular basis, and they get discussed on the Technology Refresh announcement. Again, those enhancements are delivered outside the TR group PTF.

Most of these features and functionality are already here or will be delivered by way of PTFs before the end of June.

Now, this may be a little confusing for people. Personally, I would’ve wanted IBM to just ship a Technology Refresh group PTF that did absolutely nothing. It would be business as usual and there would be no confusion.

As far as the features of the announced versions of 7.3 TR 8 and 7.4 TR 2, there are a bunch of highlights that I’ll discuss rather than belabor the point about the name.

Sharing Virtual Tape Libraries

This is a cool one. Essentially, it’s support to allow you to share a virtual tape library (VTL) across partitions without the requirement of VIOS, multiple adapters, or a SAN switch. It’s facilitated by way of a network-server description (NWSD), so you can now share a VTL the same way you can share a tape device.

Db2 Mirror Support for Direct Attach Storage

Previous to this announcement, the only way to get Db2 Mirror for i working was with an externally attached SAN. This made the price of entry into the Db2 Mirror world a little cost-prohibitive. Db2 Mirror originally used the FlashCopy feature of a SAN in order to get things started at an equal data playing field. Now, it’s been adjusted to get that starting point by way of standard IBM i save/restore.

The great thing about this is that it opens up Db2 Mirror to smaller shops that need continuous availability but do not have the pockets of larger counterparts.

Security and Db2

Yeah, I’m going to lump them together here.

I’ll do that because there’s a slick new Db2 Service called QSYS2.IFS_OBJECT_PRIVILEGES() that allows you to determine the object permission of an IFS object. More specifically, it will return one row for every user profile that has explicit authority defined on an object.

IBM has released 28 new or expanded Db2 Services in this announcement. They keep doing this every few months, so you really need to be reviewing them.

Other notable Db2 Services released or enhanced as part of this announcement and delivered by 7.4 Db2 Group level 7 and 7.3 Db2 Group level 18 are:



















Below is a little bit of code for you to show the power of QSYS2.IFS_OBJECT_PRIVILEGES(). Open up your Run SQL Scripts and launch this code on your system. If the result that comes back is *RWX, then you have a security problem. If it doesn’t work, you need to update your PTFs. What it’s doing is checking the root directory of your IFS and bringing back the authority of user *PUBLIC. Now, *PUBLIC *RWX is the shipped value of the root directory, but it doesn’t mean it needs to stay that way. Fair warning: You can only really lower the root authority for *PUBLIC down to *RX, and you must do it safely. Do not set it to *PUBLIC *EXCLUDE lest you want things to start falling apart.

SELECT data_authority

So while the announcement was a little funny this time around, IBM does plan on releasing more Technology Refreshes in the future. I would expect the next batch to arrive in the fall. I can only imagine them being 7.4 TR3 and 7.3 TR9. I mean…imagine an announcement for 7.4 TR3 and getting the Technology Refresh PTF for TR2. I feel it’s safe to say IBM is just going to skip to the next number.