A Clear Path Through the Fog
Over the past few weeks I have seen a great deal of discussion and confusion on things like iAccess and Navigator. What is the real story? What are IBM’s directions and plans? What should I be using?
I am going to spend some time looking at these families of products and help sort out what you can do and what you should expect in the future. First, let’s define what interfaces I am going to cover.
- iAccess Client Solutions
- iAccess for Windows
- iAccess for Web
- iAccess for Linux
- IBM i Navigator (Web solution)
First point on ALL of these interfaces, regardless of how they are shipped, these are all ‘client’ interfaces. Meaning, each of these provide a client interface for managing your system regardless of how or where it is installed or deployed. Some of these are installed on an IBM i partition (iAccess for Web and IBM i Navigator), some deployed on a PC (iAccess Client Solutions, iAccess for Windows, and iAccess for Linux) and all can be used to access and manage multiple releases of IBM i.
Using the latest release of each product provides the capability of connecting to any supported IBM i release. For example, the latest release of iAccess Client Solutions (v1r1m3) and iAccess for Windows (7.1) are capable of connecting to any IBM i supported release including 6.1, 7.1 and 7.2 (and can actually still connect to 5.4 for that matter, not that its supported, but it connects fine to 5.3 too!). The 7.2 version of iAccess for Web can be installed on 6.1, 7.1 and of course 7.2. All releases of IBM i Navigator provide the ability to connect to other systems (via Set Target System) regardless of its IBM i release.
For ALL of these above listed solutions, we have been focused on updating only the newest versions. While there are ‘older’ versions for these interfaces, they are just that, older. Updates, fixes, and enhancements are only included in the latest version. Let’s dig into the specifics of each of these.
iAccess Client Solutions
This is a brand new product. It has only been available for a little over a year now. This is the strategic solution for all your 5250 emulation needs. ACS is a platform agnostic solution. It is NOT installed, but rather deployed. Meaning it will run just about any where. The dependency on an operating system has been removed and the dependency has been pushed up into a Java Virtual Machine. This means it runs anywhere that Java runs: Windows, Linux, Mac, IBM i, AIX, Windows Surface Pro Tablet, you sort of get the idea. If your device fully supports Java, ACS will run there.
ACS is your solution for all your 5250 emulations needs. It provides your normal 5250 emulator. It also provides full capability to connect to either a 5250 configured LAN or HMC console. In addition, we have included the data transfer capability and a spool file interface. This new product is a replacement for many of the key features that were traditionally delivered through the iAccess for Windows product.
In addition to the new core function, the ACS product has two additional installed components.
- iAccess Client Solutions – Windows Application Package
- iAccess Client Solutions – Linux Application Package
These packages contain the various connection drivers (.Net, ODBC, etc). Updates to these drivers will only be delivered in the ACS products in the future.
iAccess for Windows
This is the stately gentlemen of the group. It’s been around for a very long time and has included function like your 5250 emulator, operations Navigator and Management Central. While we are aware this product continues to be widely used, it’s not something that can go on for ever. This technology is based on Windows, which of course means that it can ONLY be installed and used on a Windows PC. In addition, this interface was built many years ago and is leveraging an older windows technology base. As we look to the future, what will be the end user platform? Windows? Linux? Something from Apple? Mobile devices? Smart Phones? Others? I think all of these are a possibility. Because of this rapidly changing landscape, we need to make sure that you have the tools you need both today and the future. So, what does all this mean to the iAccess Windows product?
Short term – Nothing. This interface continues to be supported today. And for some key areas like database within the Navigator interface, we continue to update with new function. From the perspective of the overall product, we are NOT going to be creating a new version. The latest and most current version is the 7.1 version. This 7.1 version supports both older and newer levels of the IBM i operating system.
Long term – certain areas will continue to be stabilized. This process has already started. For most areas of Navigator (again everything but database) we have not delivered any new function in a long while (nearly four years). For other areas, getting fixes and updates is going to become more and more infrequent (for example the PCOMM 5250 emulator). In addition, as new versions of Windows are delivered, there may be more issues encountered and function that will no longer work. Components like the connection drivers (.Net, ODBC, etc) will continue to be supported, updated and maintained and are also available as part of the iAccess Client Solutions – Windows Application Package.
For now, we will continue to support iAccess for Windows. But, it is no longer a strategic product. From a support perspective, yes the older versions of Access for windows are supported. Meaning, if you encounter an issue, you can call the IBM i support center. We will happily take your call and work with you to figure out what the issue is. For many problems, they have already been fixed in the newest version. And if this is a new issue, the fix for this problem will likely only be delivered in the 7.1 version. It is time to start transitioning to our newer strategic interfaces.
iAccess for Linux
This is another product in transition. In addition to the ODBC drivers for connecting to the IBM i, this product had also contained a 5250 emulator. This emulator is no longer being enhanced. The replacement for this function is the new Access Client Solutions support. With the new ACS product, you no longer need a specific client OS. (Besides, the new ACS has much more function!) Updates to the ODBC driver will only be available as part of the iAccess Client Solutions – Linux Application Package.
iAccess for Web
The Access for Web product has been around for a long time. Over the past few years, it has largely been in a ‘currency’ mode. It’s been updated to continue to run on the latest web containers but little new function has been added. Well, this has all changed in the last few weeks. With the incredible demand for Mobile solutions in the marketplace, we have breathed new life in to this tried and true product. With the new support that was delivered in late May 2014, the iAccess for Web now contains a new Mobile perspective! Simply install the 7.2 version (yes, this new version will install and run on your IBM i 6.1 & 7.1 systems), run a single command (http://www-03.ibm.com/systems/power/software/i/access/mobile.html) and you are off and running. You can now leverage your favorite mobile device (iPhone, iPad, Android phone, Android tablet, Windows Phone, etc) to access and manage your IBM i system! This new mobile interface has a great deal of function built in. No, certainly not as much function as an interface like Navigator, but you would likely not want to use your mobile device for some of those activities anyway. The IBM i 6.1 and 7.1 versions of iAccess for Web will become stabilized (and do not have the 7.2 mobile enablement mentioned above). All new function and updates will be delivered through the newest level.
IBM i Navigator
The web based Navigator has been around since IBM i 6.1. That was our first attempt at delivering a Web based interface to give you a modern method to access and manage your IBM i partitions. For the first few years, this web based interface was not all that good if we are honest about things. Well, this has all changed starting about 18 months ago. The world of web technology has been rapidly changing over the past few years. There are many new components that have been added to the web space as well as significant enhancements to the browser technology. The IBM i web navigator has been enhanced to leverage these new advancements. We started this process in Jan of 2013 and have continued to ‘re-invent’ the web interface since. What we have today resembles little of the slow and cumbersome interface of a few years ago. Since this interface does not require any client install as it is shipped with the IBM i operating system, it works on pretty much any web enabled device greatly simplifying your ability to access and manage your system from anywhere. The latest updates for this OS function are delivered as part of the HTTP Group PTF. Install the latest level on the IBM i OS and you have the latest support. We deliver a single level of code across all releases.
There are many solutions for accessing and managing your IBM i. Just like the world we live in, technology does not remain still. The IBM i tools have also continued to mature and change to help meet this rapidly and ever changing technology landscape.