IBM made a slew of Power Systems announcements on Monday including new hardware, an updated version of AIX and two Technology Refreshes for IBM i. Big Blue also removed free-form RPG’s 80-column limit.
IBM i OS version 7.1 got its eleventh Technology Refresh and the more up-to-date version 7.2 got its third. Both will be available from November 20. You can read the full announcement letter for the EMEA region here.
Some, if not most, of the new features have been heavily hinted at in recent weeks by IBM Rochester’s cadre of midrange execs as they tour the worldwide user group circuit. Monday’s announcements were timed to coincide with COMMON North America’s conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, which closes later today.
But what do IBM i experts closer to home think?
PowerWire recently posted an article by regular contributor Steve Bradshaw about IBM i Services, which have some new additions in TR3/TR11.
Bradshaw, who is also technical director of UK user group i-UG, says: “The first thing to catch my eye was the addition of an IBM i Service to detail lock information. There can’t be many IBM i administrators that have not had to hunt down issues with their application based on either record or object locks, and those that have know that it can be a long and tedious process to resolve. This service addresses that and with a single query you can get system-wide details on exactly which job has locked an object or a record and who is waiting for it.”
He points out that most PowerWire readers will probably be very familiar with the traditional WRKOBJLCK and DSPRCDLCK commands.
“In simple cases, they will most likely carry on using them,” he says. “But one thing that both of these commands lack is the ability to return the results to an output file so that you can do something useful with them, like beat up a bad programmer or even a problem user. Well, this restriction does not apply to IBM i Services, the result of which can be displayed, exported or piped into you own customer utility that does something with the information.”
“Nice one, IBM. But that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be an “OUTPUT(*FILE) option on the original IBM i CL commands.”
On the hardware front, Bradshaw highlights a reduction in RAID array start times, a new feature in IBM i 7.2 only.
He says: “For techies like me that regularly build systems, this reduced time to start up a new RAID array is fantastic news. This process can literally take hours even on a Power8, especially on the larger disks. It can be one of the most infuriating delays as, if this array contains your load source, you can’t do anything else on the system while you are waiting.
“Imagine telling that to a client in a disaster recovery situation: ‘Excuse me, Mr Customer, I know you’ve had no system for the last 12 hours. I can see that the new one has arrived and you must be desperate to get your applications back online but would you mind waiting another four hours before I start restoring your data as I’m just waiting for the RAID protection to start?’”
Another PowerWire regular, Andy Youens, highlights a number of new developments, including new and enhanced SQL capabilities for DB2 for i.
He says: “This time, IBM has introduced a couple of features that are not in the other zOS and LUW versions of DB2. The limit and offset feature on a SELECT statement is an excellent way to allow pagination into our applications. Beware, though, that if you do use this feature it is non-standard to other versions of the DB2 database. There is no support for this on our green screen STRSQL command.”
Youens welcomes the removal of the column restrictions in RPG that have been part of the programming language since its punch card days. He also notes that the RPG SQL Precompiler has been enhanced to remove the column restrictions.
He says: “Developers have been asking for this since IBM introduced total free-form RPG a couple of years ago. So the 8 to 80 column restriction has now gone but we have to code ***FREE on the first line to let the compiler know we are in free-form. Personally, I’m disappointed with this; if we are going to have free, let it be totally free-form.”
In fact, he has a suggestion: “I’m sure IBM could have added an additional keyword to the CTL-OPT keyword – the H spec for us old ‘uns. CTL-OPT FREE would have made more sense. Remember, you will still be limited by the length of your source files before you go coding into the oblivion of the right of your screen, unless you use the IFS for your source files. Which I’m sure IBM would like us to.”
Youens points out that latest version of the Rational Developer for i was released a couple of weeks ago. This catered for the column restrictions and included some other enhancements developers have been calling for like automatic indentation and improvements to code coverage.
He says that another good bit of news for developers is that Zend Server has now been updated to the 8.5 version. This includes Z-Ray which greatly enhances PHP debugging scenarios.
He also says: “A pleasant addition to IBM Access Client solutions, which should be out sometime this month, is the addition of database options that allow us to run SQL scripts and access the SQL Performance Centre [pictured, below]. The editor for running SQL scripts seems to be greatly enhanced, more along the lines of Notepad++ with colour-coding, bracket pairing and commenting lines.”