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POWER9 for IBM i and the Announcement of 7.3 TR 4

February 13, 2018

Today, February 13, 2018, is announce day for the Technology Refresh 4 (TR4) of IBM i 7.3 and TR8 of IBM i 7.2. In line with our IBM i communication strategy, this blog will cover highlights of the announcement, and further information will be found starting today on the IBM i site on ibm.com, the Power Systems site, in Knowledge Center, and on developerWorks. We’ll have more information in blogs and articles to be rolled out over the next few weeks. So, lets’ get started!

POWER9 Systems

The biggest part of these TRs is the introduction of POWER9-based Power Systems. As usual for the past few technology roll-outs, IBM is starting the “main line” Power Systems roll-out with the “distributed” systems, which for most of our IBM i clients, just means the smaller systems they use to run their businesses.

The specific models we’re announcing that IBM i will support are IBM Power S914, IBM Power S922, IBM Power S924, IBM Power H922 and IBM Power H924. The systems are named, as they were in the previous generation, to describe the components of the system. An S914, for example, is (S) Scale Out, (9) POWER9 based, (1) one socket, (4) a 4U form factor. The announced General Availability for these systems is March 20, 2018. The TR PTF Group, and the associated PTFs which deliver other related function become available on March 16, 2018. The links for these enhancements are here and here

To get IBM i support for these POWER9-based systems, you will need the latest TRs—i.e., 7.3 TR4 and 7.2 TR8. These are also going to be generally available on March 16.

Also, as usual with a new family of systems, there are new I/O, storage and virtualization capabilities—and more will roll out over time. I highly recommend that people who adopt POWER9-based systems also plan to move to IBM i 7.3 fairly quickly, as 7.3 will be the better release to take advantage of the future enhancements to those systems and the associated technologies.

The IBM i team has a good starting point for the detailed information associated with these new systems and the associated technology. The link is here

RPG DATA-INTO: Support for JSON and More

IBM i is a data-centric operating system, meaning it provides data-related function within the features of the OS and its associated languages and tools. This function makes it easier for a programmer to work with data, taking the burden of consuming data-related technology off the programmer (and administrator) and putting it on the system. Over time, of course, new data-related technology gets invented and adopted. When it’s clear that these new technologies are going to be widely used, IBM invests in integrating it. This happened, for example, when XML became a strategic and widely-used mechanism for describing data: We incorporated XML support in Db2 for i, and in RPG.

JSON has quickly become yet another example of such data-related technology. In previous announcements, we’ve had a progressively stronger set of function related to Db2 and JSON. In this announcement, we address the requirement for JSON use in RPG.

However, rather than make something specific for JSON, the architects made a more general interface for describing data. It’s implemented using DATA-INTO.

You’ll find more details about it in the RPG CafĂ© and I am assured that Jon and Susan are going to be writing about it in their iDevelop blog. My opinion: It’s a powerful new tool for doing data-centric programming on IBM i.

IWS, CL in IFS, ACS and More Alphabet Soup

This announcement also covers enhancements in several application development and system management areas. Each of them gets described in its own part of developerWorks, (start here for the overview page) but to hit a few highlights:

  • The Integrated Web Services Server (IWS) allows the Web Services job on IBM i to run using the authenticated user that was passed on the HTTP request. This allows the program to leverage things like the library list associated with the user, as well as ensuring that the job only accesses objects to which the user has authority.
  • You can now compile CL source code that’s stored in IFS, just as you can with RPG source code. This further integrates CL with modern tools like Git.
  • ACS has a number of new features. One I particularly like is the ability to bring in examples of Db2 for i Services. For a couple of years now, we’ve been adding a whole library of “SQL Services” to make managing and accessing the system easier. Now, using ACS, you can bring in examples of each of those services, organized by type of function you’re looking for—Application Environment Variables, for example, or Group PTF details. If you want to use these cool services, ACS helps out by providing easy-to-find examples.
  • The ARCAD converter, available from IBM, has new features which make it even simpler to move from fixed format RPG to the more modern free format.

IBM i and AI—Watson Connectivity

One final thing you may see if you attend one of the POWER9 announcement presentations is a mention of IBM i and its ability to connect to and use AI/Cognitive capabilities. While this is being announced as part of the POWER9 announcements, observant readers will know that the ability to use standard interfaces (such as SQL and HTTP) as well as open source technology (such as node.js & python) to extend IBM i applications is something we’ve been talking about, and demonstrating at conferences and in articles for about a year now. I’ve covered it before in the blog, “Why is it part of the announcement?”

The simple answer is that the audience for an announcement like this is far larger than the audience for my standard blog, or our combined attendance at all IBM i + Watson presentations over the past year. Our IBM i brand and marketing teams want to make sure that the wider audience has a chance to hear about it. So, while there is no specific item in the POWER9 announce which is required to make IBM i and Watson work well together, that’s a good thing! You have what you need now, and when you get a new Power Systems server, you’ll still have it.

When the rest of the Power Systems world says, “Hey, did you hear about IBM i & Watson” you can smile politely, knowing that you were in on the news before it was Big.

So, there we are—the latest announcements in a nutshell. As I mention every time—this is the overview. More details are available in the related online resources. I hope this is helpful to you, and when you need more in-depth information, I am confident you can find it.

Posted February 13, 2018 | Permalink

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