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Announcing IBM i 7.4 TR2 and 7.3 TR8

Steve Will previews the contents of the latest IBM i Technology Refresh.

Image of people collaborating around a table; text saying You and i blog.

It’s Tuesday, April 14, 2020, and it’s announce day again. There are other things going on in the world, so you might not have time to read this on April 14, but that’s no issue—it will be here whenever you get around to it.
 
As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the IBM i team has been busily working (mostly in home offices) to finalize the latest set of enhancements to the OS and its related deliverables. Today, I’m here to give you an overview of the announcements, and to point you to other important information.
 
As usual, the IBM i development team made updates to the IBM i pages, which describe the announcements in more detail if needed.  The links for those are:  
The big-picture IBM i Roadmap looks the same as it did when 7.4 was announced (because we don’t list all the TRs) but you can see we continue to deliver new function twice a year, and we deliver it on the two most recent releases. That means we have new capabilities in both 7.4 and 7.3.

Announcement Highlights

One of the problems I always have when writing these announcement blog posts is that there are so many things I could talk about. This time, there are announcements in a variety of areas, including:

  • Clustering
  • Db2 Web Query
  • PowerHA 
  • BRMS
  • Hybrid Networking
  • RPG
  • Access Client Solutions
  • Db2 SQL support and 
  • Open Source 

They’re all excellent additions to our capabilities that deserve your attention, but I won’t be describing them in detail here. Many of them were done in response to RFEs (Requests for Enhancement) submitted by the IBM i community.

I’m going to highlight updates in virtual tape library support, new options for setting up Db2 Mirror for with direct attached storage, SQL Services, Security and Rational Developer for i.

Virtual Tape Libraries: Easier Configuration and Use

With the movement of many clients to using virtual tape, either exclusively or at least as part of their overall storage/backup strategies, our team has had a goal of making virtual tape libraries (VTL) easier to set up and to use. When the early VTL support debuted, there were complexities introduced because of the variety of virtualization options, and the support made sharing the VTL difficult.

The support was partially done in response to RFE 127631 - NPIV Tape support for IBM i Hosting, by enabling a non-VIOS method of virtualizing a fibre channel-attached tape library.

This announcement includes enhancements that make it possible to share between multiple IBM i partitions—without multiple adapters, a SAN switch or a VIOS partition.  

It is accomplished via an NWSD and is now as easy as sharing a stand-alone tape device. Both server and client partitions can be running any combination of IBM i 7.4, 7.3, or 7.2! It’s only for specific hardware (see the links above for details) but it’s a big step forward.

Db2 Mirror Direct Attached Storage Support—and Save/Restore Setup

As we indicated in our last announcement, we have been working on allowing the Continuous Availability product, IBM Db2 Mirror for i, to be used on systems which use direct attached storage, rather than requiring a SAN. This announcement fulfills that statement of direction.

The key to allowing direct attached storage was to find a good way to do initial setup. With SAN, we had the ability to use “flash copy” to ensure that the two partitions becoming the mirrored pair started off with the same data and objects. With this announcement, we now add the ability to set up a mirrored pair with a process based on Save/Restore.

This capability not only allows direct attach storage, but also makes it possible to mirror two systems where one or more of them has storage that does not match closely enough. For example, if the SAN on one system is different enough from the storage on the other that a “flash copy” is not possible.

This support opens Db2 Mirror to be used in many, many more IBM i shops. And that’s great, because we’ve received inquiries from many, many clients who are interested in the “rolling upgrade” capability provided by a Db2 Mirror configuration, even if they don’t specifically need “continuous” availability all the time, and the vast majority of those clients have direct attached storage.

Security—Specifically 7.3 Support

In the 7.4 announcement, IBM i became capable of doing TLS 1.3, and we added a new, powerful, easy-to-use Digital Certificate manager interface.

The announcements we’re making today include bringing that support back to 7.3. So, while my announcement blog posts typically focus on the most recent release—IBM i 7.4 in this case—for this announcement, it’s important to note that IBM i 7.3 is getting some much-requested (and in some clients required) function.

SQL Services

At every announce, the team makes new SQL services available. Using SQL to get information from the system is a great alternative to using CL commands and APIs. The first SQL services, years ago now, were chosen by our development team. More recently, the SQL services we deliver are based on requests we get from clients, and they fall into many categories. This time, as Scott Forstie said when we prepared for this announcement, the team really overachieved. They created or enhanced 28 SQL services.

The largest category of new/changed services is work management.  But one of the most noteworthy services is related to IFS.

In the announcements last fall, a significant SQL services was delivered, which allowed the discovery of objects in IFS subdirectories. In this announcement, we’re delivering the IFS_OBJECT_PRIVILEGES SQL service, which allows you to … can you guess? Yes! … get the object privileges of those IFS objects!

This is a good point to point out another way our team is helping you learn about new features. Scott Forstie and Tim Rowe have a new short-video series called “iSee” hosted on the IBM Systems magazine website. They’ve made a video that shows you this new service.

We have heard from many people in our community that short “how to” videos are today’s preferred method for learning things, so we’re giving it a try.  I think you’ll like learning from Scott and Tim!

Rational Developer for i 

As the last topic for this announcement blog, I want to highlight Rational Developer for i (RDi). As with so many other components, the RDi team did more than one thing, but the one I want to highlight is a new capability that helps in refactoring code.

What is “refactoring?” Well, many of you know, but for those who don’t: 

In the long-distant past, software was often written in very, very large single programs. That software is often still used by business to implement key business processes. Over time, rather than rewrite the software, new features were added by sticking even more function into the very, very large program. But ultimately, in order to start using more modern technology—web interfaces, mobile devices, web services, etc.—the best path forward is to “refactor” that huge program: find parts of it that provide function which can or should be written in one place and used in many. Refactoring is a step in the process of moving from a monolithic program to modules.

Well, there is a new function in RDi that’s built specifically to make it easy to extract code and create a new procedure with that code! It’s very simple, intuitive and built in. Check it out!

OK, I really need to stop writing this and move on to my next task—creating charts I can use for the webcast we’re doing in cooperation with COMMON, so we can get this information out in as many ways as possible.  

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