The iSeries Blog


April 17, 2008  3:13 PM

T-shirt kickin’ it AS/400 old school

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

Ken Jack, a software engineer at trucking software company TMW Systems, has created the T-shirt you see to the right. He has it on his personal CafePress website called iWhatever.

Jack reflects the anguish of many System i users — er, users running i on Power Systems — who have a hard time figuring out what to call the server platform on which they run all their business applications. In a recent story on feedback of the System i/p merger, one user told me that he spent a long time trying to convince everyone in his organization that the server and platform should be called System i and i5/OS, not AS/400, iSeries, or OS/400.

Now that IBM has renamed it again to Power Systems and just “i,” expect some folks to just say forget it and start calling it AS/400 again.

That’s how Jack feels, as is apparent by this T-shirt he’s selling. He’s been selling a similar shirt for a while now, just adding on whenever IBM decides to rename the platform again.

“It’s honestly to the point where if IBM changes the name one more time, I’m going to have to put ‘continued on other side…’ on the front of the T-shirts,” Jack wrote in an email to me. “Just last month somebody bought a shirt that stopped at ‘System i.’ I bet he’s pissed.”

What are they calling it at TMW Systems? Jack said that “everybody at our shop still calls it ‘The 400.’ ‘Power System running i’ is just too much of a mouthful.”

By the way, in addition to buying the T-shirt, you can also buy other merchandise with the logo on it: mousepad, coffee mug, baseball cap, etc.

April 16, 2008  6:11 PM

Nortel, IBM release VoIP for i

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

Last year IBM and Nortel announced that it would collaborate on a Voice over IP product targeted for smaller customers — 1,000 users maximum. This would compete with 3Com’s IP telephony product on the i somewhat, although the only overlapping would be at the high-end of Nortel’s product and the low-end of 3Com’s.

Needless to say, about nine months after the initial announcement, Nortel will ship software for the IP telephony product starting Friday.

The software, called the Nortel Software Communication System (SCS) 500, runs on a Linux partition on the System i. The SCS500 provides its own Linux distribution, but it also requires that users have i5/OS V5R4 or IBM i 6.1 (i5/OS V6R1) as well. Customers can use the computer’s microphone and speakers, a headset plugged into the computer, one of four hard preconfigured hard phones provided by Nortel, or their own hard phones that have been configured to work in the IP telephony system. The system is connected to voicemail, email, instant messaging, and other computer programs, which is why IBM and Nortel are fond of calling it “unified communications.”

According to IT Jungle, licenses for the SCS500 will start at $220 each with maintenance costing $34 per user per year.


April 16, 2008  5:32 PM

System i revenues down 21% in first quarter

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

This may be the last time IBM reports System i hardware revenues on their own. Seeing as the platform is now officially merged with System p into a new Power Systems, future hardware revenue figures will probably reflect that.

It’s probably a good thing.

System i revenues dropped 21 percent compared to the year-ago period. That compares to increased or flat revenue numbers from the other platforms — System z was up 10 percent, System p up 2 percent, and System x flat. Aside from a small blip at the end of last year, hardware revenues for the System i platform have been dropping steadily for a while now. Let’s take a look at the last three years per quarter:

  Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4
2005 +1% +10% +25% -18%
2006 -22% -7% -22% -10%
2007 -13% -15% -21% +2%
2008 -21%      

Compare that to System p revenues in the same period:

  Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4
2005 +12% +36% +15% +4%
2006 -9% -10% +10% +4%
2007 +14% +7% +6% +9%
2008 +2%      

Are there anymore questions about why IBM decided to merge the two platforms? Aside from the benefits of having a single hardware platform on the Power processor, the merger will eliminate those ugly-looking, often double-digit revenue decreases that System i was experiencing quarter after quarter after quarter.


April 14, 2008  3:43 PM

Singing the System i security song

Jbeltran Jeannette Beltran Profile: Jbeltran

A recent PowerTech Group study of System i shops concludes that many companies are lagging behind when it comes to implementing proper security measures on their systems. Rich Loeber, president of iSeries security product provider Kisco Information Systems Inc., shares his thoughts on the study.

Over the years, IBM has done a good job of selling the public on the idea that the System i is “the most secure processor available today.” However, the company has not done nearly as good of a job explaining how to make the system secure. Doing that takes work, some of which is not necessarily intuitive. Someone needs to be put in charge of the security setup of the system and design an approach to security for the installation. Often, security takes a back seat to other more pressing needs for the company … until a disaster happens.

Another observation I have is that security efforts are very much focused on the network and keeping outsiders out of the system. But studies clearly reveal that nearly as many security breakdowns happen from inside sources as from outside hackers. Too often it is the insider with too much access to the system who compromises sensitive information. With the advent of convenient storage media, some that you can pass off as a fob on a key chain, the inside threat cannot be ignored.

The system is only as secure as the implementation of the security features. I5/OS may be the most secure operating system around, but if it is not used correctly, you might as well have any OS in place. I have customers who’ve purchased our network security product, SafeNet/400 and have had it in place for years without activating it to control access. They’re just logging activity, when the software has the ability to control activity and prevent unauthorized access attempts. When I hear of one of these accounts, I try to chide them into taking the software up to the next level of protection, but I’ve had little success with these attempts.

One of these days, there is going to be a TJ Maxx or Hannaford security breakdown that’s tracked to System i, and all those who’ve been touting the box’s strong security are going to be back-pedaling like mad.

I don’t really know what to do about this except to sing this song over and over again. I write a monthly column on System i security for Search400.com and I regularly raise these basic issues with my readers. I think that may be my small contribution — educating System i users on what they have and how to use it.


April 14, 2008  11:14 AM

Adding data from DB2 to Excel

Leah Rosin Leah Rosin Profile: Leah Rosin

On Friday, I saw an unanswered iSeries-related question posted to IT Knowledge Exchange, and thought I’d shoot the question straight to one of our experts at Search400 to see if they could help.

Ljjk122 posted this question on ITKE: I want to add data from a DB2 file to an Excel template that has a header row and totals certain columns without overwriting the header row or the totals.

I sent the question to Kent Milligan at IBM, who said:
It’s not clear what mechanism you’re using to get the DB2 data into the Excel spreadsheet. If you’ve purchased the iSeries Access Data Transfer, there is a solution. The iSeries Access Data Transfer Excel Add-in has the ability to download data to a user-specified range of cells of a spreadsheet, overwriting only the data within the selected range.

If you don’t have a license for the iSeries Access Data Transfer solution, then you may also want to consider evaluating DB2 Web Query, which offers excellent integration with Excel.

We encourage anyone with an iSeries question to submit it to Search400’s Ask the Experts, where all of our experts are available to answer your questions.


March 20, 2008  8:32 AM

The enhanced DB2 inside V6R1

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

Along with i5/OS V6R1 is the DB2 that comes with it, and as there are enhancements in V6R1, so there are for DB2, IBM’s relational database management system. Let’s go over some of the details of those enhancements.

Usability

Many features have been added to System i Navigator, the user interface to System i servers, that enhance DB2 usability.

  • DB2 On Demand Performance Center, which helps tune SQL performance on your System i, now includes customized reports that can be exported to more formats such as spreadsheets so users can more easily review and share SQL performance data.
  • The DB2 Health Center, which reports on database performance and availability, now allows users to track their database environments against system limits.
  • Fast Summary Compare, which allows users to look at a summary of captured data to determine which detailed data should be captured in the future.

Extended support for industry and DB2 standards

SQL Call Level Interface (CLI) is often the interface used when porting application data to DB2 on i5/OS. Now that interface can support wide-character APIs to increase the portability of certain SQL CLI applications.

The DB2 for i5/OS .NET provider now provides tighter integration with Microsoft Visual Studio development environment by adding support for Visual Studio database interfaces and Server Explorer, a server management console for Visual Studio.

The new DB2 provides enhancements to SQL Query Engine (SQE), a technology that IBM says improves queries for database access and is easier to use than the existing Classic Query Engine (CQE).

Application Development

IBM wanted the enhanced DB2 for i5/OS V6R1 to make it easier to use SQL within RPG applications. Included in those improvements are better pre-compilers, the ability to create a SQL statement “shell” that can be automatically copied into an application’s source code, and making coding SQL statements into RPG apps easier using WebSphere and Rational development tools.

DB2 Development Center has been renamed to DB2 Data Studio and offers an area to develop and deploy stored Java or SQL procedures, as well as wizards to help developers create web services based on DB2 data.

Support for data warehouse and BI applications

DB2 Web Query provides the ability to query and build reports from DB2 through browser-based interfaces. With V6R1, it now has licensing changes so users have more options and can save money.

The SQL Syntax support for DB2 now allows a user to group more kinds of data into a single query to reduce the amount of coding necessary for application developers.


March 20, 2008  7:51 AM

Getting those System i apps to the Web

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

IBM has published a Redbook paper on its Express Runtime Web Environments for i5/OS, a nifty and free way to help System i users to install and configure a Web environment for their System i applications.

The product is an embedded part of i5/OS and has been since V5R4. In addition, users can also download it from IBM’s site. The 20-page paper gives an overview of the product in addition to detailing line-by-line commands on how to get it up and running.

What the product does is install a bunch of programs — such as V5R4 iSeries Access for Web and WebSphere Application Server Express — and configures them to get users started. It also includes a few sample Web applications to play around with, all of which modernize flght400, a common sample RPG application that does flight reservations.


March 19, 2008  11:50 AM

MoshiMoshi — say hello to a new Bytware ad campaign

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

Bytware, the System i security software company that brought you the i5virus game, has another ad campaign in the works that will include some interactive Flash games.

MoshiMoshi (“moshi moshi” is a traditional telephone greeting in Japan) will be launched at the Common conference in Nashville later this month, and will follow the trials and tribulations of the various characters in a fictional corporation. As the different characters come across various dilemmas involving IT security, users playing the game can decide what the characters will do. Some of the characters have humorous names — the accountant’s last name is “Sudoku,” for example, while the boss’s last name is “Ono.” As people play the game, their decisions for what the characters should do will affect how the game continues and ends.

The games will take place in eight episodes over eight weeks — one a week — with prizes awarded each week to users who play the game. Some potential prizes will include educational literature, free software licenses, and free security consulting.


March 6, 2008  8:37 AM

Managing System i Ethernet cards

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

Joe Hertvik, a system administrator for a midrange System i shop, recently wrote about the issues around migrating Ethernet line descriptions on the System i.

As you all probably know, Ethernet line descriptions allow i5/OS partitions to speak to one another over a sort of virtual network. Hertvik listed three reasons why someone would want to move line descriptions from one System i to another: to restore i5/OS to a new system during a hardware upgrade; to do failover processing for testing or real-world scenarios; or to restore your System i configuration on a DR machine.
But Hertvik explained that doing this Ethernet line description migration can cause them to not work properly:

In all three cases, the end result is that after the migration, you will have two machines containing the exact same Ethernet line descriptions, complete with all the same configuration parameters. Depending on how your lines are configured and what state each machine is in, this situation could prevent the Ethernet cards on both machines from broadcasting correctly in the same network.

Hertvik described two situations in his own shop, one when he was moving processing from a production box to a Capacity Backup (CBU) machine, and another when they were migrating an i5/OS partition from an old box to a new system. In both cases, Hertvik wrote that the target system’s Ethernet lines “froze up like Minnesota in January.”

As it turns out, the reason for it is that the Ethernet cards in the old systems do not necessarily shut down or stop broadcasting just because you put them in a restricted state. Hertvik goes into a lot more detail about the problem and its resolution, including line commands that he used, so it is worth reading the whole thing.


March 5, 2008  2:30 PM

How the Common town meeting should go

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

This is by far my favorite illustration by Norman Rockwell, one of the Four Freedoms he did that helped raise money for war bonds during World War II. This one, called “Freedom of Speech,” depicts a regular Joe standing up at a town meeting to speak his opinion.

First off, the town meetings that I went to when I was a newspaper reporter were nothing like this. Rockwell was pretty good at depicting an idealized version of reality, with the keyword being idealized. The open town meetings I attended were usually in a cramped school gymnasium in the middle of August, and everyone poured buckets of sweat in the humid weather while some crotchety old man complained for 45 minutes about a line item in the school budget. Ah, the memories!

But here’s the thing. As much as I disliked that old curmudgeon, I could at least respect that he had studied the budget and found something to quibble over. So when Common holds its meeting in Nashville later this month, I hope there are plenty of you out there who have something to quibble over during the Common and IBM town meeting. I won’t be able to make it to the event because I’m traveling to a different conference that same week. Which is unfortunate because it looks like they’re going to be announcing something at the town meeting around “The New Power Equation.” Not sure what that is, but it’s another incentive to go.

I will tell you one thing that old curmudgeon didn’t complain about: the name of the town. The IBM midrange server platform has been called the System i5 for a while now, for good and bad. Some of you still call it the iSeries and the AS400, and I certainly have no problem with that. But during the town meeting, the best questions to ask are around the future of the platform’s technology, and not its marketing push and nomenclature. If you get a chance once the conference is over, drop me a note to let me know how the town meeting went — mfontecchio@techtarget.com. I would be curious to know.


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