What to Know About IBM i 7.3 TR7 and 7.4 TR1

Laurie LeBlanc, iTech
By Laurie LeBlanc

IBM i 7.3 TR7 and 7.4 TR1 were announced during IBM Tech U and will be generally available on November 16, 2019.  This refresh includes many enhancements to improve further the reliability, availability, and security of your IBM i environment. Some of the major enhancements are focused on DB2 Mirror for IBM i, enhancements to help developers modernize, increased security, and support for new hardware.

I’m going to highlight some of the features that improve the security and administration of your system.  There are also many enhancements for RDi that will improve developer productivity and allow you to modernize with additional support for Open Source languages and tools. I don’t plan to get into the details of those enhancements in this article,  but I will touch on them. You can get more details about all of the enhancements here.

It’s important to note that all of the functionality in 7.3 TR 7 is included in 7.4 TR1. If you are interested in any of the features in the 7.4 TR1, you will need to upgrade to 7.4.

IBM i 7.3 is supported on POWER7, POWER7+, POWER8, and POWER9 servers.  If you are still on a POWER6 you can not upgrade to 7.3.

IBM i 7.4 is supported on POWER8 and POWER9 only.  If you are still running POWER7 or POWER7+ hardware we can help you migrate to 7.4 during your migration to a POWER9.  It requires additional steps, which we have the experience and knowledge to perform.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the enhancements in each Technology Refresh.

IBM i 7.3 TR7

IBM i 7.3 TR7 was announced at the same time as 7.4 TR1 and will be available on the same date. This TR is packed with new enhancements that address everything from the OS and LPPs to the hardware and firmware. IBM made improvements to the performance and functionality of SQL, included support for new tools and enhancements for open source, including a new language, RDi enhancements, and support for Domino 1.0.1 and Traveler, just to name a few.

To read the full Memo to Users click here.

DB2 for i

This release includes lots of enhancements for SQL in DB2. DB2 is powerful and being able to use SQL over the data provides even more benefits.  IBM is committed to IBM i services, and several were added that provide an easy way to get additional system data, which is helpful for system administration.  If you’re not familiar with these services you should check them out.

Access Client Solutions (ACS)

This Technology Refresh includes a new version of IBM i Access Client Solutions (ACS) V1.1.8.2, which has many new features for system administrators and database engineers.  Improved support for Run SQL Scripts to make it easier for Administrators to maintain their work and more easily identify errors in the source code.  With more SQL examples, it makes it easier for Administrators to write code to improve their tasks.

There are also enhancements for the System Configuration option, which makes it easier to use and navigate.  With support for keyboard shortcuts and a new context menu, you will be able to find what you need faster.  The ability to sort data in the panel allows you to view things the way you want to see it.  The Hardware Management Interface has also been improved, with more customization and the automatic update of the main ACS panel based on what is in the HMI for the selected system.

Improved support for Schemas, IFS, ODBC Driver for i and Printer Output are also included in this refresh.  Japanese support was also added to this release.

Administrative Runtime Expert

Administrative Runtime Expert is a great tool for helping administrators to review things like the current PTF levels across LPARs or use snapshots to help with auditing.  This update includes added security based on the role of the user, the ability to attach zip files to an email notification, the formatted view is now displayed in the history view, and added support for call centers allowing for users to have their own worksheets.

Backup, Recovery, and Media Services (BRMS)

We are fans of BRMS because it makes managing your backups easy and more important helps you when you need to do a restore.  The enhancements to BRMS includes support for custom control groups in a cloud deployment, the ability to change control group settings via the green screen, the default for SAVLIBBRM has been changed to OBJJRN(*YES), backup all spool files with the new *OBJ list named QALLSPLF, enhanced log data and support for additional media.

Firmware and Hardware

FW930 is the most current version of the firmware for Power9, and it enables some additional I/0 support.  This version enables support of the new 387 GB, 775 GB, and 1.55 TB Enterprise-class SSD’s and 931 GB, 1.86 TB, and 3.72 TB Mainstream SSD’s.  There is also support for the new PCIe3 6-Slot Fanout Module for the PCIe3 expansion drawer and the associated optical cable cards for the expansion drawer to the Fanout module.  Dedicated and native SR-IOV is now supported on the Network Interface Card (NIC) for the PCIe Gen4 dual-port 100 GB Ethernet adapter.

For the Developers

While the focus of this article is on the features that I think will be of interest to the System Administrators, I know there are lots of developers who read our newsletter, so here is something for you. There have been several enhancements to Rational Development Studio for i (RDS) to allow RPG developers to modernize their business applications. The new updates provide new PSDS subfields, new built-in functions, a new operation code for structured data, and changes to commands.

There were also lots of enhancements in Rational Develop for i to provide developers with more efficiency in writing business applications and provide increased reliability and security for the business.  Improved code coverage, additional changes to PDM perspective, improved SQL formatting, a new API and the ability to zoom with command keys will improve your productivity.

If you’re interested in open source, this release does not disappoint.  There are several enhancements related to Node.js and Phyton and support was also added for R, a statistical language. Support has also been added for new developer tools such as Apache ActiveMQ, vim, and Midnight Commander.

IBM i 7.4 TR 1

IBM i 7.4 provides enhancements that improve security, allow for active-active availability of DB2 data and enhancements to PowerHA (which I’m not going to talk about in this article).

Security Enhancements

Security matters to everyone…or at least it should.  IBM i is one of the most securable platforms but, it doesn’t come out of the box that way.  It’s up to you to configure your user’s access properly and to maintain the system to ensure that your data remains protected.  For this reason, I wanted to start with some of the security enhancements first.

Improvements to the Digital Certificate Manager make it easier for administrators to manage their certificates through a new modern user interface. With the ability to sort certificates, users can quickly identify expired ones or ones that are about to expire, improving the management of certificates.  It’s also easy to assign certificates to application definitions.

To access the new GUI requires you to apply the appropriate PTF’s and enter http://hostname.2001/DCM into your browser.

System Transport Layer Security improvements to ensure TSLv1.3 is compliant with changes in industry standards and improvement to TSLv1.2 were also included. You can get a full list of details in the announcement letter.

Integrated Web Server

Improvements to the Integrated Web Server support the use of REST APIs and provide administrators with better management capabilities and control of system resources.  These enhancements allow you to deploy the IWS server into user-created subsystems, which give you better control over the allocation of resources within the IWS environment.  You can now automatically deploy IWS servers using a scripting interface.  The required property file is automatically generated.

Backup, Recovery and Media Services

Backups should also be high on your priority list.  Everyone needs a backup, even if you have high availability. Having regular backups is critical to your business continuity.

There were several enhancements made to BRMS including removing the restriction of *ALLUSR cumulative incremental backup in the user-space support, which allows you to backup more libraries with a single save command.  A new API  to change Control Groups Attributes allows administrators to assign programmatically the devices and media used for a backup. Improvements were also made to the management of the virtual image catalog for backups that use a virtual device. The volume selection process has been enhanced to prevent scheduling conflicts of concurrent backups.  In the past, sharing a tape resource has caused tape collisions, this has been fixed.

There are a few more items in BRMS that were updated which you can read more about here:


Improvements to SQL make managing systems easier.  With additional examples that can easily be added to your code with the click of a button. The user experience was improved to display results faster by doing a partial load of the records.  Additional enhancements improve the viewing and execution of SQL.

Firmware and hardware

Support for firmware level 940 enables the most current POWER9 capabilities.  There are many enhancements to improve operations and flexibility with hardware configuration. The firmware and hardware enhancements include:

  • A new generation of SSD’s with 3D NAND technology is now supported.
  • Direct support for select PCIe3x8 SSD NVMe adapters an alternative to SAS Storage. Also included is support for the VIOS virtual SCSI that is using the NVMe devices.
  • A new 11-core or 22-core configuration on an S924.
  • Add license keys IBM i LPARS from the HMC or Novalink Command-line interface.
  • Dynamic LPAR (DLPAR) support which allows you to assign SR-IOV logical ports to LPARS running with restricted IO. This is needed to be able to support RoCE for IBM i.

DB2 Mirror for i

DB2 Mirror for i is not supported in 7.3 and is a new feature that provides active-active clustering of IBM i data. The new features simplify access to the Db2 Mirror environment and add support for the S922 and Live Partition Mobility.

Statement of Direction

In addition to all the enhancements that were introduced in this TR, IBM also included a statement of direction regarding the use of DB2 mirror for i.  They announced that they intend to extend this feature to the internal disk.  There is no timeframe, just an intention at this point.  Given that we were promised support for NVMe and we have it in this release is a good indication that this is something we can expect to see in the not too distant future.

More for the Developers

IBM 7.4 TR1 includes some additional benefits for the developers too. With additional enhancements to support the openness of the platform,  additional improvements to SQL and support for ZeroMQ and Redis.

There are a lot of things I didn’t get to address in this article.  You can read the full announcement letter for IBM i 7.1 TR1 here.

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