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Announcement Time: IBM i 7.4 TR3 and 7.3 TR9

Steve Will blogs about the latest IBM i TR.

Illustration of people working together around a table.

It’s announcement day again! Does it seem to anyone else like the last announcement day happened just last week?  Last month?  [Time is really moving strangely lately.] Well, no matter what it feels like, it is, in fact, time to do another IBM i announcement.  So let’s get to it!
But first: if you have not yet participated in the annual HelpSystems IBM i Marketplace survey, do it! (Please?) The link is:

Announcement Themes and Avenues 

The IBM i announcements often have themes. Sometimes we highlight them, sometimes we don’t.  And sometimes, like this time, there are so many potential themes it’s hard to select just a few.  Fortunately for me, I have multiple venues for discussing the announcement.  In particular, I have this blog post and I also have a webcast (sponsored by COMMON, as part of the series at this link. So, I can focus on different themes in each of them, and cover more.

Satisfying Client Requests

A clear theme for this set of announcements is “satisfying client requests.” The semi-annual delivery strategy allows us to select valuable requests from our community and satisfy them.  This time, the satisfied requests are spread throughout the announcement.  I’ll mention a few.
Db2 Mirror is the IBM i Continuous Availability product that debuted with IBM i 7.4.  One of the first design points of Db2 Mirror was its distance limitation, i.e., the two systems which were involved in a mirrored pair are required to be close to each other—100 meters, or 200 if a switch is involved. Many clients wanted us to make that distance longer, to allow for a mirrored pair to be in different parts of the same metro area, for example. This announcement includes a statement of direction which will allow the two systems to be separated by as much as 10 km.
But that’s not the only client request satisfied by Db2 Mirror. Early use has shown that clients want to be able work on multiple mirroring rules at once, so the team provided that option. And clients want more options for which security profile gets used in configuration, so the product has that capability. And in the “application evaluation” tool, users wanted more help determining which objects are really just “work files” and don’t need to be replicated, so the tool has been enhanced to help determine that.
But don’t think it’s only Db2 Mirror which is addressing client requests!

RPG has several new additions which add simplicity to RPG programming. I expect other blogs will cover them in detail, so I’ll mention just a couple.  
FOR-EACH has been added as a looping opcode, allowing simple loop definition with many different kinds of operators.  And the coolest (to me!) thing is not a new opcode, but the ability to see and/or change the return value from a procedure when you’re debugging.  Very useful!  And something programmers have wanted!
PowerHA and BRMS focus their new functions on requests sent in via the RFE (Request for Enhancement) tool.  Both of these products have a long list of new enhancements. I’ll pick one.
In BRMS, the following values for *LNK Backup Control Group Entries on the Save While Active attribute have been added: *ALWCKWR, *ALWCKSY, *LNKALL, *LNKALLS.  Why does this matter?  It allows for a checkpoint to happen while backing up IFS data without locking the file.  It’s a request many clients have made.

Open and Cloud 

Another set of enhancements falls clearly in the theme of “Open and Cloud.”  
Jesse Gorzinski has his own “Open Source” webcast, so I won’t steal his thunder, but I will say that the open source world has been asking for “man pages” for quite a while.  And others have wanted certain open source relational databases to be supported on IBM i, in order to more easily support popular packages.  (MariaDB, PostgreSQL). [Oh, oops, maybe I did steal a little thunder there. Well, go hear Jesse talk about it and act surprised, OK?]
For cloud-related announcements, well, there are many ways to look at cloud, and there are many announcements that can be considered “cloud-related” but are also useful to people using IBM i as their “system of record” rather than as part of a hybrid cloud.
IBM i Services (aka “SQL Services”) for example, are very useful in a hybrid cloud environment, for helping manage IBM i from diverse platforms, but they are also extremely useful if you are IBM i-centric.  And the team has delivered “a whopping 29 of them” (I’m quoting Scott Forstie here).
IBM i is very integrated into the Ansible story, as we continue to deliver new modules to be used in Ansible playbooks.  Just as with IBM i Services, these are exceptionally useful when managing a cloud environment which includes IBM i, but can also be used simply to automate IBM i functions.  What kinds of functions?  Well, CI/CD (Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery) is a key use case which Ansible is built to serve, and we’re doing work there.  But we can also help you submit jobs, call programs, get status of users and so on.
Also in the “cloud” arena, you may or may not be aware, but IBM i is now available in IBM Cloud data centers around the world, and the number of locations is growing all the time.  IBM has a Power Virtual Server offering in its cloud, and you can sign up easily in most parts of the world.
We’re even offering key strategic software in those offerings, including Db2 Web Query, which has its own new function in this set of announcements, including the EZ-Report which allows you to automatically generate synonyms and reports from SQL.  It’s a fast way to get a new report, when you’re starting with a Table/File, IBM i Service, or SQL statement.

So Much More—the Links

As usual, there is much more than I can talk about in one post.  So, remember to listen to the webcasts, and also bookmark the “landing pages” for the TR announcements:
I’m pretty sure everyone will find something they can use in these announcements—at least, everyone who is on IBM i 7.3 or 7.4. If you aren’t there yet, please read about the new features anyway. You’ll get even more motivated to make the move!
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