Should I upgrade to IBM i 7.3 or IBM i 7.4?

Laurie Leblanc

Laurie LeBlanc, iTech Solutions

One of the most frequently asked questions we receive regarding the IBM i OS is, should I upgrade to 7.3 or 7.4? The answer is: it depends.  When it comes to deciding whether you should go to 7.3 or 7.4 you have to take dependencies, features and life expectancy into consideration.

Identify which versions of IBM i your hardware can support

Before you decide, you need to verify which IBM i versions your hardware can support. There are dependencies between the hardware you are running and what OS level it can support.  If you are limited by your hardware, then you don’t have much choice in the matter.  We suggest you upgrade to the highest OS level that is compatible with your Power System.

POWER7 and POWER7+ servers support IBM i 6.1, 7.1, 7.2 and 7.3, there are a few caveats on some models so be sure to check your specific model.  POWER8 can support 7.1, 7.2, 7.3 and 7.4, which means you have more choices with this hardware. POWER9 can support 7.2, 7.3, 7.4, and will support iNext.

You also should consider that IBM supports upgrades that skip one release.  For example, upgrading from 6.1 to 7.2 or from 7.1 to 7.3.  If you have to skip more than one release and you do not perform multiple upgrades you could find yourself in hot water.  There are ways to upgrade multiple releases without encountering issues, but this is not the IBM supported method.

Investigate compatibility between business applications and IBM i

Beyond hardware dependencies, there are software dependencies to take into consideration.  It’s critical to verify which IBM i versions your critical business applications can support. By now, any vendor applications should be ready to support 7.4.  You may need to upgrade to a new version of your applications, so be sure to check this too.

You also have look at the software dependencies of your applications with ancillary solutions like Java, and WebSphere.  Both of these applications need to be at the right version to support 7.3 and 7.4. Pete wrote several articles on upgrading to 7.3 and 7.4 which detail more about compatibility with Java and WebSphere.

iTech President Pete Massiello wrote a series of articles on upgrading to 7.3 and 7.4, which go into more detail about the things you need to plan for when upgrading.  You can access that article below, as well as an upcoming webinar where he’ll go through in more detail.

Features that offer value

Once you have identified any issues with compatibility with your hardware and software, you should then consider the features which are available and if there is something that would be beneficial for you to get implemented sooner rather than later. IBM i is constantly changing with new features being added not only in major releases but also in Technology Refreshes. Despite what the naysayers have said, this is a modern platform with features that provide business value.

One of the great things about IBM i is that the OS is modern and can do many cool things like continuous availability with DB2 Mirror for IBM i.  If you have a need for specific features, then this could be the basis of your decision.

Let’s look at a few of the things available in 7.3 and 7.4.

IBM i 7.3 offered temporal support, row and column access control, and loads of functionality for development including support for Node.JS, Python, Git, and improvements to RPG Free. All things that prove that our platform is modern.

Authority Collection by user was also implemented in 7.3. This allows you to compare the level of security the user currently has to the level that they need to run the application.  This is useful for compliance and ensuring your users have the least amount of authority necessary.

IBM i 7.4 made a splash with DB2 Mirror for i offering continuous availability.  One thing to note is that this is not high availability of your environment, it’s only about the availability of data.  That being said, if you have a need for continuous availability than going to 7.4 is the right choice for you.

The Authority Collection can be run over objects in 7.4, allowing you to look at security from another point of view.  Using Authority Collection for objects, you will be able to understand what authorities are needed to execute business functions.  This will allow you to tighten security around your critical processes to ensure that no one has excessive rights.

IBM i 7.4 doesn’t disappoint the developers either with lots of enhancements to things like Integrated Web Services, support for additional open source languages and improvements to Rational Developer for i.

These are just a few of the features that are now available on IBM i. It’s important that you read the documentation so you can see all the things available in each release to determine exactly which version is right for you.

The life expectancy of your IBM i OS

Despite what the naysayers have been saying, the IBM i is here to stay. We have a published IBM roadmap that extends to 2031; does Microsoft have that?  No, they don’t.

The final consideration is the life expectancy of the operating system.  If you’re like many of our customers, you’re not upgrading the OS as often as you would like.  If you tend to go long periods of time between upgrades, then it is in your best interest to get on the most current version possible.  This will give you the longest life expectancy.

IBM i 7.1 is currently under extended support, which means you are paying twice the SWMA in order to keep running an old version of the Operating System, which is no longer secure by today’s standards.

IBM i 7.2 is going to be reaching end of marketing on April 30, 2020 with end of support on April 30, 2021.

If you have to go to 7.2, it’s better than being on an unsupported release, however, you should have a plan to get to another release in the near future or else you be in the same position as the 7.1 users.

[ Sign up for a complimentary OS Upgrade Planning Session ]

IBM i 7.3 has no end of marketing or end of support dates today.  However, if you look at the road map you can make some assumptions about when you can expect this to happen.  If you can’t go to 7.4 because of hardware or software constraints, 7.3 is your best choice for longevity.

IBM i 7.4 has only been available since 2019, so this version has the longest life left in it.  iTech Solutions was a beta site for 7.4, and we performed over 25 upgrades to 7.4 before it was GA.  We see no reason to wait to get to 7.4 if you can do it.  The release is rock solid and has some great features.

We’re here to help

We know that you were hoping that the answer to this question was going to be easy, but the truth is like all things in IT, “it depends” is the normal response.  If you are overwhelmed with trying to determine which version your environment can support or just want to offload the whole OS upgrade project we can help. Sign up for a complimentary OS Upgrade Planning Session.

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