Big Blue Unveils Spring 2021 IBM i Technology Refreshes

April 12, 2021

Alex Woodie

IBM tomorrow will announce the latest round of Technology Refreshes (TRs) for the current versions of the operating systems. With IBM i 7.4 TR4 and 7.3 TR10, IBM is focusing its efforts on extending automation across various components of the operating system, including the database, security, and high availability. But a surprise also awaits IBM i enthusiasts who are visually inclined.

IBM gave IT Jungle a preview of the announcements that will go public tomorrow, and (very kindly) gave us permission to cover them in today’s issue of The Four Hundred. That means that the announcement materials will not be made public until tomorrow. So we do not have all of the nitty gritty details as yet.

Automation is the name of the game for IBM i 7.4 TR4 and 7.3 TR10, the PTFs for which will ship this Friday, although many of the database-related enhancements (and there are a bunch of them) will not ship until the database PTF is released on May 14.

“Most of our announcement is about simplifying automation, making things easier to use and manage,” says chief architect for IBM i Steve Will. “It’s kind of a theme that we’re going to be emphasizing.”

In subsequent articles, we’ll dive into specific enhancements and provide greater details on the capabilities that IBM unleashed with these TRs. In the meantime, here’s a high-level overview of the new releases:

IBM i Services: IBM is delivering 10 new IBM i services and enhancing seven existing ones with this release. IBM i Services, which used to be called SQL Services, are database functions that replace CL commands and APIs. They’re part of IBM’s strategy for simplifying operations and management tasks on IBM i, so it’s not surprising to see that IBM i Services are a primary focus with the new TRs.

One new IBM i service functions as a “fuel gauge” for NVMe drives. Another returns data about active jobs. We’ll cover all the new and enhanced IBM i services in a future story.

Db2 for i Services: These are services that are specific to the database (so they’re separate from IBM i Services, although they’re technically the same). IBM has added three new Db2 for i Services, including one that directs the output of a SQL statements into an IFS stream file, and two that deal with the SQL Plan Cache.

Query Supervisor: The is a new tool in the Db2 for i database that allows database engineers to not only monitor how resources are consumed by the SQL Query Engine (SQE), but also control them (through user-supplied exit point programs).

This is arguably the biggest enhancement that IBM has made to the operating system (well, the integrated database, anyway). Runaway queries will be quivering in their boots when they see what the Supervisor has in store for them.

“It’s going to be the dawn of a new era, I imagine, for how database engineers manage the database,” says IBM’s Business Architect Scott Forstie. Be on the lookout for Wednesday’s issue of The Four Hundred, which will explore the new Query Supervisor in greater depth.

SYSTOOLS: IBM is delivering new functions in its SYSTOOLS library that will boost security automation, specifically around making en masse changes to user profiles and gathering details from the audit journal.

Rational Development Studio: IBM is delivering new features in the RPG compiler, including a new built-in function (BIF) for converting the contents of a char variable from lowercase to uppercase; a new BIF to split a string into an array; and a new command to return the index of the maximum or minimum element of an array.

Db2 Mirror: The continuous availability solution is getting three enhancements, including: multi-node awareness in the Analyze Profile Activity (ANZPRFACT) command that prevents active profiles from becoming disabled; support for replication of user index and user space objects; and internal tweaks that boosts data replication performance.

PowerHA SystemMirror for i: The HA product gets a new “progress bar” for failovers and simplified FlashCopy operations, among other enhancements. IBM also made changes to the underlying clustering technology to enable the failover progress bar.

Backup, Recovery, & Media Services (BRMS): The integrated backup and recovery utility gets several enhancements, including improved cloud support; a SQL equivalent of the DSPLOGBRM command; and support for full-system backups using iSCSI devices.

Save/Restore: The new TRs include a recent PTF enhancement that was already delivered to improve restricted state processing when performing GO SAVE and GO RESTORE menu options 21, 22, 23, and GO LICPGM menu option 40.

Cryptography: IBM is now supporting Release 5.6.x of the Common Cryptographic Architecture (CCA) for the IBM 4767 Cryptographic Service Provider (CSP). To be delivered (via IBM i Option 35) with a PTF on June 30, 2021.

Hardware: IBM is also supporting new hardware and I/O offerings for Power Systems, including support for more Power9 systems; support for IBM i as a client of Virtual I/O Server (VIOS) for new Fibre Channel adapters; and new SAS-based SSDs. There is apparently a 12-core Power9 option for some entry servers, too. TPM will cover these hardware announcements in a separate story in next Monday’s issue of The Four Hundred, when all of the details are out and he has had time to chew on it a bit.

New Logo: Finally, IBM is rolling out a new logo for IBM i. It’s not officially part of the TR announcement, but the introduction is being timed with the TRs. According to Will, the new visual is part of a broader IBM-wide rethink of brand logos used in marketing materials. “It’s not technology, but it’s a big deal for us,” he says. You can see the new logo in his “You and i” blog tomorrow on the IBM i Community page for more of his thoughts on this. You will also be able to find more technical details on the TRs at the IBM Support site. We have also talked about the evolution of IBM i logos and the idea that “good design is good business” promulgated by Big Blue since 1956 and how this new IBM i logo is based on a deep history. See a separate story in this issue for more on that.

Finally, Will and Forstie will be hosting a COMMON webinar on the new TRs, which is scheduled to take place Tuesday at 9 a.m. Central time. You can register for that webinar at this link.


How The Latest TRs Bolster The Core IBM i OS

The Fall Technology Refreshes Are Almost Here

Here’s What’s In the Latest IBM i Technology Refreshes

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