Announcing IBM i 7.4 and Db2 Mirror for i
This post was originally featured in Systems Magazine.
Today is an exciting day for those of us who work to create IBM i and all of its related software. Today is Announcement Day! Of course, we have two of those each year (at least) when we announce technology refreshes. And, today, we are announcing a technology refresh – IBM i 7.3 TR6. But, the biggest announcements are related to a new major release, and a new product which requires that major release.
Today, we are announcing IBM i 7.4, and a new licensed program product called IBM Db2 Mirror for i. Some of you who watch the IBM i market closely have probably been expecting 7.4. Our IBM i roadmap has been populated with major releases every two to four years, and if you’ve heard me speak at any conferences recently, you’ll have heard me say that our customers think a two-year gap is too short, while IBM i ISVs think that a four-year gap is too long. IBM i 7.3 came out in 2016, three years ago, so it seems like this is a good time for a new release! Here’s the new roadmap with 7.4 right in the center.
IBM i 7.4 and Db2 Mirror Highlights
IBM i 7.4 has many new features, with the major themes being security, application development, and accessing IBM i. I’ll cover a few highlights below. The single most significant strategic announcement, though, is the Db2 Mirror for i product, so let me spend a few words on that first.
A strong and growing number of our IBM i clients have been making it clear that their businesses cannot afford any downtime at all; they need “continuous availability.” Banks, for example, are often regulated to a point where any downtime at all is unacceptable to regulators. As strong as IBM i is in reliability, and as many options as there are for high availability, clients with a “continuous availability” requirement need something stronger.
IBM Db2 Mirror for i (5770-DBM) is the answer. With this product, clients can pair two IBM i instances (probably on two separate Power Systems), connect those two systems using an ultra-high speed connection called RoCE (we pronounce it “Rocky”) and then the two systems present their Db2 databases as if they are one database spread across the two systems. This means that applications can actively be using Db2 on both systems at the same time, if the client wants.
This “active-active” configuration is achieved by Db2 for i, on each system, performing database operations synchronously – so that a table insert, update or delete performed by an application on System A, for example, only takes place on System A at the same time as it takes place on System B. That means that an application running on System B can also use that information, as if the two systems are sharing one database.
There are far more details than that, of course, but this is an overview announcement blog, so I’ll leave the description there for now.
Now, back to a few highlights about IBM i 7.4.
The IBM i 7.3 release introduced the capability called “Authority Collection.” Authority Collection essentially allows clients to turn on a “trace” that captures the actual authority required to perform an operation, and have IBM i report the minimum authority which would be necessary to perform that operation. The 7.3 version of Authority Collection was based on “Users” – that is, clients turned on the trace for a user or set of users, and IBM i would collect the information for every object used by the users while the trace was running.
IBM i 7.4 introduces a different flavor for Authority Collection – a “by Object” version. Using the new “Object” capability, clients can find out how any specific object is being used, by all users. Again, IBM i tracks the authority which the users had when they accessed the object, as well as the minimum authority which would have been required to do that operation.
The primary purpose of Authority Collection is to allow clients to “lock down” their objects while also allowing their day to day operations to take place uninterrupted. Clients can find, for example, when a database file is being accessed by someone whose authority is higher than it needs to be. The client can then safely change the user’s authority to the “minimum required” – which allows the user to continue to do their job but prevents them from doing something they shouldn’t do. Authority Collection by Object provides a more complete method of making sure a client has their system locked down according to the security policy they have in place.
IBM i 7.4 also has TLS 1.3 support in the base operating system, which is a requirement we clearly had to address as the older versions of TLS become less and less acceptable to e-commerce. Again, more information is available using the links I’ll provide below.
In the area of application development, IBM is delivering new capabilities for RPG and for COBOL. And, of course, we’re also actively engaged in the open source community. Some of these updates require IBM i 7.4, and some are merely being announced (or re-announced) along with 7.4 to ensure our clients are aware of them.
Accessing IBM i
This topic covers a wide array of enhancements, possibilities and offerings. Most people will expect that IBM i has new capabilities for our strategic access client solutions, and we certainly do. We also have strong web services and SQL services stories. And while announcements related to IBM i in “clouds” don’t come through the IBM i announcement letters, as we go out to conferences explaining the new announcements, we will also be speaking about announced offerings in the cloud space.
Speaking of General Availability, while these announcements are all happening at the same time, the GA depends on the offering.
- IBM i 7.4 GA: June 21, 2019
- Db2 Mirror for i GA: June 21, 2019
- IBM i 7.3 TR6 GA: May 10, 2019
Over the next several months, we’ll be talking about the announcements in more detail – on blogs, in articles, on webcasts (COMMON is hosting one on announcement day, for example, and a second two days later) and most importantly at conferences. Last time I wrote for this blog, I encouraged you to find a conference near you and attend. This announcement is one of the big reasons to do that. There are many, many new things to learn, and conferences provide great opportunities to learn them!
See you out there!
 RoCE stands for “RDMA over Converged Ethernet.” What “RDMA” stands for is left as an exercise for the reader to Google.