Open Source on IBM i is Now Oh So YUMmy…
Many of you are familiar with the PASE runtime environment that IBM i has had for many years, if you have licensed program 5770-SS1 option #33 (Portable App Solutions Environment) installed then you have It running on your system. The PASE environment is the secret sauce that enables AIX/Linux apps to run on your IBM i. One very common misconception is that PASE on IBM i is an AIX/Linux “emulation” environment, but, it is not. PASE supplies a collection of AIX shared libraries that run directly on the same IBM Power processor that IBM i runs on. Because it is a true AIX/Linux environment interacting directly with the Power-based processors and not an emulated one, PASE on IBM i runs apps at the same performance level as if they were running natively on an AIX/Linux system. PASE on IBM i is significant in that it opens-up the IBM i to the vast world of free Open Source applications that are out there now in the mainstream.
Now, you have this really neat PASE architecture running on your IBM i that allows you to run all these cool open source apps, so how do you get the apps? Well, in 2015 IBM started providing open source software via the 5733-OPS licensed program product (LPP), you could get open sourced goodies like Node.js, Python, etc. via the familiar IBM i PTF delivery methodology by obtaining PTF’s for that licensed program. The problem with getting open source apps via 5733-OPS is that it was a clumsy way to distribute/install open source packages to run in your PASE environment on IBM i. So, what did IBM do to make it dramatically easier to obtain and install open source apps on IBM i? Well, they decided to make things Yummy!
“Yum” is a horrible acronym, it stands for “Yellowdog Updater Modified”… Huh…?? In plain English, it is simply an automated command-line tool that allows you to install or maintain or remove open source software. On the IBM i, the “Yum” facility has been ingeniously GUI-ized and very conveniently embedded within the Access Client Solutions (ACS) product, this functionality first became available with version 188.8.131.52 of ACS that was released in June of 2018.
Now, specifically, what does “Yum” install? Yum was designed to work with the “RPM” application packaging methodology. “RPM” is yet another open source acronym that we longtime IBM i’-ers need to understand and it stands for “Red Hat Package Manager”. The RPM packaging standard is nothing new, it has been around for many years and a simple definition of its function is that it allows open source developers to package their software in a neat little box along with all its dependencies. The Open Source Package Management function in Access Client Solutions (which is basically the “Yum” tool with a pretty GUI on it) allows you to work with RPM packages (files with an .rpm extension) enabling you to easily and rapidly install/maintain/remove open source software running within your IBM i’s PASE environment. To access the Yum capability in ACS open the IBM i Access Client Solutions Main User interface and from the “Tools” menu select the option for “Open Source Package Management”, which launches the tool, you must have the Secure Shell Daemon server (SSH) started first which can be accomplished by executing the STRTCPSVR SERVER(*SSHD) command.
It has a very simple interface that presents a single UI dialog with 3 tabs that are intuitively labeled Installed packages, Updates available, and Available packages. Figures #1, #2, and #3 below are examples of what the interface looks like. If you want to remove or reinstall an open source package then highlight it on the Installed packages tab and simply click Remove or Reinstall. If you want to update an open source package then highlight it on the Updates available tab and click Upgrade. If you want to see all open source packages available for installation then click on the Available packages tab and scroll through the list and highlight a package you want and click Install.
All of the PASE/AIX Open Source binary packages that have been packaged using RPM can be found at the IBM AIX Toolbox RPMs FTP site at this URL:
Thanks to Yum and RPM, installing Open Source packages on your IBM i is now as simple as highlighting it in a list and clicking on an Install button, it just doesn’t get any easier than that. The original PTF-based methodology of installing Open Source code via the 5733-OPS licensed program paradigm now seems foolish by comparison.
The ability for organizations to easily and quickly run open source applications within their IBM i on Power environments is critical for the long-term viability of the IBM i platform, and the introduction of Yum and RPM open source tooling and standards represent a gigantic leap towards that objective.