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IBM i 7.3 Adds Data and Security Enhancements

IBM i 7.3

Data is the focus of most business-critical workloads. Its scope gets broader every year as new sources, such as social and mobile, arise. Companies are looking for ways to more easily access data yet keep it secure.

IBM is always paying attention to changing demands and client requests for product enhancements. The company announced the release of IBM i 7.3 on April 12, 2016, showing its responsiveness to client requests as well as adding enhancements that will take data access and security to new levels. The new version was made generally available on April 15.

“IBM i 7.3 is demonstrating our commitment to our clients,” says Alison Butterill, IBM i product offering manager, IBM Power Systems*. “It’s also an example of IBM’s commitment to ongoing investment and to meeting the needs of a changing industry.”

Regular readers of IBM blogs, such as You and i by Steve Will, chief architect, IBM i, may have noticed oblique references to the 7.3 announcement. IBM, like other companies in the industry, is testing the waters for clients and generating excitement via social media and other channels. It gets them thinking about what might be on the horizon. “Clients might not have been expecting another major release because it’s only been two years,” Will says. “We wanted to get them thinking about it so that when it came out they’d be ready to learn new things.”

While just two years have passed since IBM i 7.2 was introduced, changing needs for database and security required OS features that only a new release could accommodate. While IBM i 7.3 builds on the previous release and subsequent technology refreshes that added functionality, it adds many new enhancements.

Simplifying Data Insights

Temporal tables, one of the enhancements in 7.3, give business users the ability to query data in a DB2* data repository to get meaningful results regarding trends over time for clients, regions and products. “We’re essentially keeping track of every time a piece of data changes,” Will explains. “We have that history stored within the database, so it’s really easy to ask a question like, ‘When did this change?’ ‘What did it look like before it changed?’ ”

Before temporal tables, clients built their own tools on top of a DB2 database to answer those questions. Doing so created a complex combination of programs and data that needed to be monitored and changed. It also meant producing multiple copies of the data and managing all of them. Using temporal tables, clients no longer must figure out how to manage complicated, multisource complexities within the database. “All you need to do is use a query, and the system can give you an answer,” he adds.

Making OLAP Queries Easier

For decades, business database transactions have used online transaction processing (OLTP). During all of those years, IBM has helped clients keep track of business transactions using OLTP, making the system scalable, fast and accurate.

However, today’s business intelligence and business analytics workloads are focused on large sets of transactions−not just one particular transaction. For instance, a client might want to know the average sales numbers for its West Coast businesses. Questions that require large sets of data to be analyzed are best answered using online analytical processing (OLAP). IBM i clients often don’t realize they can use the same data on their system to do both OLAP and OLTP. Instead, they copy data off of IBM i and run it on another database to answer OLAP queries. It’s important for clients to know that, over the years, IBM has built many ways of enabling them to keep the data on IBM i and get answers to their new workload queries, according to Will. He adds that IBM i 7.3 contains a host of new capabilities that will help clients keep the data on IBM i and ask OLAP queries, thanks to SQL and DB2.

Take, for example, IBM’s Cognos* business analytics and intelligence product. While it doesn’t run on IBM i, many clients have copied their data onto another platform Cognos runs on while continuing to run their business on IBM i. Thanks to the work of the Cognos team and the new capabilities of IBM i 7.3, newer versions of Cognos can be run on a Linux* partition, which can query the data contained on IBM i. “There’s no reason to move the data to query it,” Will explains. “DB2 on IBM i can handle all of these queries.”

This reduces the complexity of moving the data, eliminates the possibility that data could be different when you’re analyzing it, and trims the amount of time and effort that go into performing the query. It also mitigates the risk of having multiple copies of data or running the data on a less secure environment, Butterill adds.

Streamlining Authority Protocols

IBM i 7.3 is simplifying authority protocols to assist in keeping data secure as well as available to those who must access it. This new feature is called Authority Collection.

IBM i is known to be one of the most securable OSes in the marketplace. But until now, the process of ensuring complete security has been complex. As a result, clients may have provided too much access and authority to their employees, which can cause problems, particularly when systems are audited.

Authority Collection simplifies an administrator’s view to the authorities users have. It helps determine who needs authority to certain parts of the system, set up the security and allow users to have just the level of authority they need. “This makes it easier to prove to auditors that systems are secured properly,” Will says. “It also protects companies from rogue employees.” Many of IBM’s security partners are writing tools that will help clients customize user authorities.

Making the Move

Companies that want to take advantage of the enhancements in IBM i 7.3 will discover that moving from 7.1 or 7.2 is not complicated. “We’re hoping that people will be encouraged to move forward,” Butterill says.

Additional updates include RPG enhancements specific to IBM i 7.3 and new open-source languages. The release also contains features that help with open-source development and debugging. “We raised some limits, improved commands and added more parameters for some commands,” Butterill says.

Clients moving to IBM i 7.3 must check the memo to users to determine if they have any unsupported hardware. Further, larger companies must run a full suite of validation testing; IBM encourages clients with 24-hour uptime requirements to do those qualification tests. Smaller companies should have few problems moving from a previous release to IBM i 7.3.

If you’re curious about IBM 7.3, be sure to attend COMMON North America in May (see “COMMON Top Picks” on page 26 for more information on the conference). Labs on the latest technology, as well as a 75-minute introduction to the new release, are planned for the conference.

IBM’s Commitment

IBM i 7.3 underscores IBM’s commitment to the platform. Power Systems* General Manager Doug Balog outlines the long-term goals for the system in a recently released strategy whitepaper (ibm.co/1N455mr). Besides reviewing IBM i and all of IBM’s solutions, the whitepaper looks at the company’s strategy for those components as it moves forward. The document demonstrates IBM’s support of IBM i and its dedication to develop and deliver functions and functionality for the system, Butterill says.

Enabling clients to run their businesses on a system that is easy and less expensive has long been IBM’s goal. The enhancements in IBM i 7.3 help clients do just that by protecting their business and their data.

Shirley S. Savage is a Maine-based freelance writer. Shirley can be reached at savage.shirley@comcast.net.


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