Last fall, IBM announced IBM i 6.1.1 and has now followed up with a bigger release, IBM i 7.1. The new release is packed with both handy and ground-breaking new features. While we’re on the new offering trail, IBM has also announced new POWER7-based blades. Here are the highlights, plus a handy features and benefits chart.
DB2 for i Enhancements
The big new feature in DB2 for i, which IBM says required a significant investment, is support for XML.
“The XML support in the database is a highlight of the release,” says Ian Jarman, manager of Power Systems Software. “It opens up a whole new range of possibilities for application integration with the XML data type that’s widely used for document and data interchange—it’s very significant, and it will also, in conjunction with OmniFind text search, really simplify searching the database. If you note that XML often holds unstructured text data, this will be of great benefit for searching.”
There’s more, though, for DB2 for i. IBM has added column level encryption that will let you encrypt a specific column in a database table accessed through SQL or native—without application changes. Obviously this will be handy for security and compliance efforts.
For application developers, IBM’s new MERGE, Array support, Global Variables, and consuming result sets in RPG allows for more powerful and efficient programming. New Adaptive Query Processing features can modify a query plan while the query is running to significantly improve performance, and an advanced SQE query optimizer now supports native logical files.
On the management side, IBM has added new tooling for monitoring long running operations, implemented an SQL_CANCEL procedure to cancel long running queries, and added random or sequential I/O statistics to identify tables that can benefit from Solid State Drives (SSDs).
The big new feature for PowerHA SystemMirror for i is the addition of asynchronous geographic mirroring support. “Typically, PowerHA, which previously was synchronous, would be used in a data center or a metro area, where as asynchronous support will let you have much further distance—cross country or around the world,” Jarman notes.
The new features will let customers asynchronously mirror disk writes to a target system, with support for automatic failover, so that customers can use PowerHA for a more robust multi-site DR solution. It supports IASPs on integrated disk, SAN, and virtual disk. IBM also made enhancements with LUN level switching for local HA solutions. While we’re at it, customer might notice that IBM has changed the packaging to standard and enterprise editions that match the same packaging and price per core that IBM offers AIX customers. The products aren’t exactly the same, but the packaging and pricing is now consistent, Jarman says.
Rational Open Access: RPG Edition
For developers, IBM’s new Open Access feature enables RPG applications to easily reach new devices and new users with new interfaces.
“This Open Access function is a dramatic new option for RPG applications—if you want to bypass the 5250 requirement, this lets you write applications for the first time without outputting them to a 5250 data stream, and this will really open up a wide range of new application possibilities—output to mobile devices and web services and so on,” Jarman explains.
“When I talk to many customers and ISVs, they want to use RPG where it performs extremely well. RPG is probably unmatched in transaction processing applications, the business logic, but obviously you can’t say the same about 5250,” Jarman notes. “The best place to display applications today is through a web browser or a web device or a web service, and this new I/O handler gives you a more direct access to optimize for those new devices,” he adds.
Rational Open Access: RPG Edition requires IBM i 7.1 or 6.1 environments.
IBM has created almost dizzying new set of ways customers can utilize partitions. Now an IBM i 6.1 partition can host IBM i 7.1 and 6.1 partitions, AIX 5.2, 5.3, 6.1, and SLES and Red Hat Linux partitions, and support iSCSI attached System x and BladeCenters. An IBM i 7.1 partition can host IBM i 7.1 and 6.1 partitions, AIX 5.2, 5.3, 6.1, and SLES and Red Hat Linux partitions, as well as support iSCSI attached System x and BladeCenters. PowerVM VIOS can host IBM i 7.1, 6.1, AIX, and Linux partitions, plus VIOS supports advanced virtualization technologies including Active Memory Sharing and N_Port ID Virtualization (NPIV).
“The reason you would want to host IBM i 7.1 is it would let you test out the new release on a current 6.1 machine,” Jarman explains. “The second option is to let you move up to 7.1 but keep a partition on 6.1 for say, a small application that is not ready yet to move up to 7.1.”
Solid State Drives
While IBM previously added support for SSDs, with 7.1, IBM is making it easier than ever to achieve performance gains. “We already have a signification lead in the industry with solid state drives with IBM i because of single level storage,” Jarman explains. “In IBM i 6.1, you can manually pin data to an SSD drive, but with 7.1 you can do that automatically—you can set the system to manage the hot data to be stored on your SSD drive. This is something that nobody else in the industry offers, and it’s particularly useful for IBM i customers because of the batch runtime environments most of our customers are running with the IBM i database—batch environments are very read-intensive and are particularly advantaged by our SSD implementation.”
Wondering if SSDs can help you out? IBM offers an SSD Analyzer Tool that take the guesswork out of implementing SSDs in an IBM i environment.
IBM Systems Director Navigator for i now can be used to manage target servers running IBM i 5.4, 6.1, or 7.1 from a single browser environment. IBM says Navigator’s performance management and investigator capabilities are enhanced with additional storage and tape metrics, plus disk response time and Java memory perspectives. In addition, IBM Systems Director management server is also enhanced to monitor and manage target IBM i environments, including management of program temporary fixes (PTFs).
Zend PHP Enhancements
On the PHP support front, IBM will replace Zend Core with Zend Server Community Edition for i and preload it at no charge with IBM i 7.1 6.1, and 5.4, which includes one year of Silver support from Zend. Zend Server for i replaces Zend Platform and provides advanced functions and is available from IBM with advanced support offerings or from Zend. Zend Studio for i is an Eclipse-based development environment that integrates with Rational Developer for Power; Zend Studio for i also comes with a year of Silver support from Zend, though advanced support offerings are available. Overall, the new Zend solutions boast simplified set up and management as well as performance improvements.
New Application Run Time Tool on the Way
In addition to the new IBM i 7.1 deliverables, IBM is also introducing statement-of-direction plans to deliver a new capability for IBM i “to verify application run time attributes to ensure consistent performance and deployment of new workloads.” IBM says it will cover it at the COMMON conference in Orlando in early May in its “Sneak Preview — Application Runtime Expert” session.
The new tool will verify runtime attributes of an application to help resolve situations where application is not start- ing or working properly, as well as create a template for well-running applications. It will perform health checks against the current environment, identify differences between the template and actual runtime attributes, and then provide an option to fix many of the differences found. Some of the attributes include file/directory authorities and attributes, attributes in property/http/xml configuration files, user profiles, PTFs, system values, products installed, TCP/IP network verification and configuration, environment variables, and ports in use.
While IBM previously announced three new POWER7-based midrange systems earlier this year, the Power 750, 770, and 780, IBM is also rolling out three new POWER7-based blades for its BladeCenters. The blades clock in at 3.0 GHz and range from 4-to-16 cores. Memory also scales from 4GB to a whopping 256GB of DDR3. These new blades will offer an SMB entry point that will also scale to handle demanding enterprise applications, IBM says.
IBM i 7.1 Education at COMMON
If you're going to COMMON, be sure to check out some of the sessions that focus in on the new IBM i 7.1 enhancements:
- IBM i 7.1 Overview
- IBM i 7.1 DB2 Update--XML, Encryption and More!
- Rational Open Access - RPG Edition
- Rational Open Access - RPG Handlers - ISV
- POWER7--An Insiders Guide I - Servers and Blades
- POWER7--An Insiders Guide II - I/O Technologies
- POWER7--An Insiders Guide III Threads, TurboCore and More
- Let's Swap Roles: PowerHA 7.1 for HA and DR
- Zend PHP Community Edition
- Simplified Upgrades with Network Install
- Be My Host--Run IBM i in IBM i and Test Apps Faster
- Sneak Preview--Application Runtime Expert
- Transform Your Batch Run Performance with SSDs and IBM i 7.1
In sum total, with IBM i 7.1 IBM is delivering a solid new release packed with at least some new features most IBM i professionals can put to use for their organizations. Even if you’re still on V5R4, IBM i 7.1 boasts some compelling new features, and get this: customers on V5R4 will have the option to skip 6.1 and upgrade directly to IBM i 7.1. Of course, look to future issues of System iNEWS magazine for deeper dives into these new enhancements.
Chris Maxcer is news editor for System iNEWS magazine. “In case you were wondering,” Chris notes, “If IBM sticks to its current IBM i operating system schedule—and I expect IBM will—the next major release of IBM i will hit in 2012, with some nice updates along the way.”