IBM Moves to Technology Refreshes and Offers TR4

Following the GA of IBM i 7.1, IBM replaced point/modification releases with a new release delivery mechanism called a Technology Refresh. A Technology Refresh may provide support for new hardware and firmware (for example, new I/O devices or newly announced models), support for new virtualization functions, performance improvements and/or new function enablement. It’s a collection of operating system software that’s developed, packaged, tested and delivered together as a single PTF Group for a base release.

The Technology Refresh process lets IBM deliver new function and support quicker and more frequently than was possible with point releases. Moving up to a Technology Refresh should be simpler and cheaper than qualifying a point release, so clients can take advantage of new function and support sooner than in the past. It’s a simple way to keep systems up-to-date with PTFs, and avoid rediscovery of problems that have already been fixed, unnecessary downtime and calls to support.

Technology Refreshes also provide an easy way to keep a group of systems in sync. And while “backing out” a point/modification release requires a scratch install of the system, with a Technology Refresh, you can return to an earlier level of IBM i with a slip install of the LIC.

Technology Refresh Versus New Release

A Technology Refresh isn’t the same as a point/modification release. Rather it’s an update to an existing release as a PTF Group, containing PTFs within the set of fixes for that release. It won’t change the release level of the IBM i operating system. Also, a Technology Refresh is smaller and the content is more limited than a point/modification release, so the qualification and testing sometimes required for a new release may not be necessary for a Technology Refresh.

Moving to a Technology Refresh process doesn’t mean that IBM won’t ship major releases in the future. In fact, IBM i developers are already working on the next release of IBM i and architects are looking at possible content for the release beyond that. Some large and complex projects are better suited for an actual release, where the entire body of code in IBM i is rebuilt together.

In contrast, a Technology Refresh is deliberately kept small, and only the changed parts required for the new hardware or firmware support or function are recompiled and included. Also, at present Technology Refreshes include only Licensed Internal Code (LIC). Enhancements for other parts of IBM i, or for products on top of the operating system, sometimes have to wait for the next major release. However, with IBM’s emphasis on delivering new capabilities in between releases, some enhancements are delivered in separate PTF groups, such as those used by DB2, or are delivered by individual PTFs. These updates are announced at the same time as the Technology Refresh. Visit the Technology Updates page on developerWorks for a great starting point to find out what new functions have been announced, and whether the functions are delivered with the TR PTF Group or through some other mechanism, such as the DB2 Group.

Tami Deedrick is the former managing editor of IBM Systems Magazine, Power Systems edition.

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