On April 23rd of this year, IBM announced a new version of the IBM i operating system, IBM i 7.4, containing all kinds of new capabilities that the IBM i faithful have been waiting for. IBM i 7.4 has a planned release date of June 21, 2019.
According to IBM, the new release focuses on three major areas: Security, Application Development, and Accessing IBM i. Let’s look at what’s new in i 7.4 and see where it can affect the average shop.
New features in application development for RPG, COBOL, node.js, Python, and introducing R for IBM i
There have been several enhancements to ILE RPG, including
- Varying-dimension arrays, which can be automatically increased when there’s an assignment statement to an element greater than the current number of elements
- New PSDS subfields for internal job names and system name
- Allowing the ON-EXIT section to run every time a procedure normally or abnormally ends
- A new DATA-INTO operation code to read data from a structured document (such as a JSON variable) into an RPG variable
- The %PROC built-in function now returns the external name of the current procedure
- New built-in functions %MAX and %MIN that can be used in definition statements and calculation statements
ILE COBOL also has several updates with new formats and enhancements to the INITIALIZE, EXIT, and SORT statements; new ALLOCATE and FREE statements for dynamic storage management; and new compiler directives that support conditional compilation.
Several Python package, which provide more options for security, application development, data science, and machine learning, are now available in RPM form. These packages can be installed via the yum package manager.
The R programming language is now available on IBM I, allowing Db2 to be accessed from R when you install the RODBC package.
Rational Developer for i, 9.6.x is also being updated with this release, bringing new features that provide more reliability, productivity, security, and currency.
7.4 Expands Authority Collection to include object collection
i 7.3 introduced a new Authority Collection function which uses a “trace” to determine the minimum authorities a user (or users) needed to perform operations on different objects. While i 7.3 Authority Collection focused on tracing and collecting object access information by user, i 7.4 Authority Collection collects object access information by object.
Both flavors have the same goal: to understand and lock down object access by identifying the minimum user authorities needed for object operations. With i 7.4, Authority Collection can now gather data for object access on both the user level and the object level.
i 7.4 adds the following updated networking capabilities to the base operating system for these industry standard protocols.
- Transport Layer Security version 1.3 (TLS v1.3) IBM is also providing a Retrieve TLS Attributes (QsoRtvTLSA) API for retrieving System TLS current default properties.
- Simple Network Management Protocol Version 3 (SNMPv3) enhancements. Securely send, receive, and forward SNMPv3 Trap and Inform messages.
- Simple Mail Transport Protocol (SMTP) enhancements. Longer subject lines (up to 255 characters) and longer main body text lengths (up to 5,000 characters) for the Send SMTP E-mail command (SNDSMTPEMM). i 7.4 also features new CL commands for working with *SMTP and *SMTPMSF distribution lists.
- Server Message Block version 3 (SMB v3) Although it’s unclear from the announcement which SMB v3 version that i 7.4 will officially support, SMB v3.0, SMB v3.0.2, or SMB v3.1.1. i 7.4. SMB v3 features end-to-end encryption capabilities, longer read and write sizes of 512KB, QNTC share names longer than 15 characters, and improved NetServer support for macOS shares.
- New Digital Certificate Manager (DCM) APIs to automate certificate management.
Service tools user IDs can now adhere to system password composition rules
Password composition rules can now be created for service tool users, similar to the password composition rules allowed for system user profiles, including minimum and maximum password lengths, minimum and maximum digits required, limiting repeating characters, mixed case passwords, and special character requirements. Service tool user password composition rules can be configured using DST, SST, or by using these new System Security Tools configuration commands.
Change SST Security Attributes (CHGSSTSECA)
Display SST Security Attributes (DSPSSTSECA)
New exit points for submitting jobs to a job queue
i 7.4 added new exit points for submitting jobs and changing jobs, allowing you to track newly submitted jobs and perform extra processing steps when new jobs enter the system or jobs are changed in the system.
New product: IBM Db2 Mirror for i
IBM introduced a new IBM i licensed program product (LPP) called IBM Db2 Mirror for i (5770DBM). For POWER8 and POWER9 systems, Db2 Mirror for i allows shops to “pair” two IBM i partitions together in an active-to-active configuration. The paired system databases can mirror each other, meaning database changes made to one partition are immediately paralleled to the other partition. Mirrored pairing creates duplicate databases, in which applications on each partition are able to use the same data. For example, one IBM i partition can run order production processing, while a second partition runs a data warehouse using the same databases. Other possible uses include load-balancing production processing over two systems and allowing for uninterrupted processing during database backups.
Db2 Mirror for i uses a directly wired, ultra-high speed connection called RoCE (pronounced “Rocky”) between two local partitions. Since it uses a direct connection, Db2 Mirror for i will only be used to connect two local partitions, either on the same machine or two machines in the same rack or Data Center. It can’t be used as a high-availability (HA) or disaster recovery (DR) solution, where both systems reside in different geographical locations.
Another intriguing point in the Db2 Mirror for i announcement is that Support for Integrated File System (IFS) data is now included in a Db2 Mirror for i environment.
Leaving IBM i in restricted mode after system saves
i 7.4 provides a new parameter for system SAVE and RESTORE menu options 21, 22, 23 saves (full system backup/restore, system backup/restore only, user data backup/restore only) that allows you to keep your system in restricted state after these operations complete. You can now specify whether the controlling subsystem restarts after restricted save or restore operations.
IBM i Access Client Solutions (ACS) V188.8.131.52 updated for IBM i admins and database engineers
The newest version of IBM i Access Client Solutions (V184.108.40.206) has many new enhancements including:
- Enhancements for running SQL scripts, including Open and Save support to the Integrated File System (IFS) and stream files; a new Insert from Examples capability to include pre-coded examples; new JDBC connection properties; and new formatter options
- The ability to copy and paste schemas for new projects
- More enhancements for the ODBC driver for i
- Enhancements for the System Configuration panel
- Japanese new era support
And the rest of the new items…
In addition to the items mentioned here, some other notable changes to i 7.4 include:
- IBM Domino 10.0.1 and IBM Traveler 10.0.1 are now supported on i 7.4
- Additional firmware upgrades for POWER9 support, along with new support for I/O adapters, devices, and PCIe3 6-slot fan-out module
- More capabilities for the following products: IBM PowerHA SystemMirror for i 7.4, Backup Recovery, and Media Services (BRMS), Administration Runtime Expert, ARCAD Observer for IBM I, ARCAD Converter for IBM i, and IBM Db2 Web Query
- More SQL enhancements and capabilities
- Improvements to IBM i workload groups, QHST support at IPL, and the Retrieve Processor Multitasking information (QWCRTVPR) API
- Additions to the clustering technology inside the IBM i operating system, which are also integrated into PowerHA SystemMirror for IBM I 7.4
- Enhancements to the Integrated Web Services (IWS) APIs to create REST and SOAP APIs based on SQL statements
The right time to move to i 7.4
It’s worth checking out IBM i 7.4 when it becomes available on June 21, 2019. i 7.4 is supported by selected IBM Power hardware systems running POWER9 and POWER8. Check with your local business partner to make sure your system is capable of supporting i 7.4 before you decide to upgrade.