IBM has unveiled the next major release of IBM i—7.5—as well as IBM i 7.4 TR6 and a brand new product called Merlin.
On May 3rd, IBM announced the new Operating System for IBM i – version 7.5.
IBM i (formerly OS400, i5/OS) is a proprietary Operating System created by IBM to run on their midrange Power System server family (formerly AS400, iSeries) and favoured by finance, insurance, manufacturing and retail clients where reliability and resilience is of utmost concern.
IBM have a schedule of delivering a new Operating System every three years with functionality added along the way by means of Technology Refreshes.
Importantly, IBM i7.5 will not be supported on POWER8 hardware meaning users that wish to upgrade to this latest release will need to be running POWER9 or POWER10 servers, with the low-mid range Scale Out announcement for the latter due in June 2022.
The highlights of the IBM i7.5 release are:
Whilst IBM i has long been recognised as one of the most secure Operating Systems on the market with very few vulnerabilities identified, there is still a need to configure the environment correctly to avoid exposure. Enhancements in i7.5 include:
IBM has increased the power of encryption available to encrypt passwords to 512-bit SHA2 algorithm (up from 256-bit SHA1). There is a new API that allows users or password management tools to predetermine if a value would meet the configured password rules set by the company. Finally, i7.5 has removed the ability of hackers to tell whether they got the UserID or the password wrong when authentication fails.
Reduced default authority:
IBM has changed the default setting for many objects on the system. For many years, the default authority for public objects has been *CHANGE. Whilst this has not generally raised a security concern, it has been highlighted by external auditors. Changing the default authority to *USE from *CHANGE for Public objects is not expected affect functionality but is expected to ease security audits going forwards.
The Digital Certificate Manager (DCM) has also been enhanced in several ways to improve the user experience.
The ability to provide continuous availability between two systems in an HA cluster has been enhanced to allow for rolling OS upgrades across the cluster, and also to provide the option to reserve one system as read-only to keep reporting workloads separate from Production.
Short for “Modernisation Engine for Lifecycle Integration”, Merlin provides a lightweight, browser-based development environment for creating new applications or modernizing existing RPG-based applications. This is a key new functionality that IBM are looking for their users to adopt. With legacy RPG programmers becoming harder to find, Merlin provides a conversion engine to turn legacy RPG into the latest free-format RPG which uses a syntax structure that non-RPG developers can quickly adopt.
Merlin can also document existing code, providing developers with dependency tracking for changes and making recommendations of code that could be archived based on its last run time.
By removing the RPG skills barrier and providing vital knowledge of installed application code, IBM i users will be able to recruit new talent to support and develop their most critical applications.
The IBM i Operating System and software has always represented a large part of a client’s investment in the platform. This is partly because, unlike other Operating Systems, IBM i comes integrated with the DB2 Operating System and system tools that are charged separately on other platforms. In a new move to reduce the cost of entry for the smallest systems, IBM have released subscription-based pricing for the IBM i OS and Licensed Program Products to allow clients to realise full benefits of IBM i but spread the cost over a 1-5 year committed term.
Whilst this is initially going to be offered on the P05 systems only, IBM have made a statement if direction of expanding this subscription model further up the range with future releases.
Implications for businesses
I think the key focus is that IBM is identifying and reacting to the skill-shortage challenge that has caused some clients to reconsider their use of the platform, despite IBM i’s status as one of the most secure and reliable platforms out there.
By democratising the development platform with Merlin, IBM have opened up wide possibilities for new development talent to keep driving the platform forward.
More information can be found on Steve Will’s (Chief Architect for IBM i) “You and i ” blog. As with all releases, any clients looking to upgrade to i7.5 should first review the Memo to Users found here.
For any questions, or if you would like to learn more, please get in touch.