Monday, December 10, 2012

New Cumulative PTF for Zend Server for IBM i


Updates All in One!

Hot off the press, Zend Server Hot Fix 7 is a cumulative update for the Zend Server stack with almost all of the latest and greatest enhancements.  Folks who recently updated their PHP stack for Zend Server were probably getting annoyed at how many PTF's they needed to apply. Now in a single PTF update you can get all the following new enhancements to the PHP stack.

PHP Version 5.3.14

The PHP stack gets updated for PHP 5.3 users and this PTF is ONLY for PHP 5.3.  PHP 5.2 has been deprecated for some time and you'll notice from the download page that we reorganized the PHP 5.2 stuff to another page.  rest assured the 5.2 stuff will be around for a bit but the main download page was getting a tad cluttered.  

Zend Framework 1 & 2 

The Zend Framework stack for version 1 has been updated to 1.12.0 and Zend Framework 2 is now included.  The DB2 adapter is still undergoing some beta work and should be out soon, but for those who want to get going with ZF2 the code is there at 2.0.2.

PHP Toolkit and XML Service

We've updated the toolkit with a fresh copy of XML Service and the PHP code from the YiPs website but another version is coming soon.  Stay tuned. 

The PTF Process

When we introduced Zend Server we moved from an automatic update to a PTF approach as more and more IBM i shops were looking for a controlled environment.  So please get your PTF from the Zend Server download page and have an updated stack.  As always, please get your questions in early and often and feel free to ring up your account manager if your bandwidth is maxed out.  Our services folks would love to help!  Need some training?  Got that too!!!

As this will probably be my last blog of the year, please have a Merry Christmas and a Happy & Healthy New Year!  Wishing you all a Peaceful and Joyous 2013!  

Monday, November 5, 2012

ZendCon 2012 & Product Announcements

A funny thing happened on my way to ZendCon, Summit and LUG! 

So I figure a recap of the activities from ZendCon 2012 is in order as there was a lot of information shared especially about new product. 

Zend Server 6

Zend Server 6 was announced to a very enthusiastic crowd.  Some cool new features that were demonstrated include the ability to organize access to Zend Server by role, leverage LDAP authentication and generate statistics on application and web site usage.  The new UI was re-written in a lightweight JavaScript framework which makes it perform extremely well.   Add to that that the architecture that is API driven and now third party vendors will be able to plug into it!  The beta does not include IBM i but i do have an alpha copy loaded on one of my LPARs so it will be along soon.  Here is a video with more info.

Zend Studio

So Studio has some enhancements, as well.  The most prominent piece is the new Wizard that help a customer build an end-to-end mobile application in minutes.  Leveraging the open source PhoneGap library, you can literally build test and deploy in a project in Zend studio to any of the three major handhelds in their specific technologies: iPhone(i/OS), Android and Windows Mobile.  Zend Framework 2 integration has been enhanced along with greater PHP 5.4 support.  Check out the beta here and provide feedback in the Studio 10 forum!

Other happenings

BCD, IBM and Zend hosted a really happening reception where all the IBM i folks gathered on Tuesday evening.  Originally envisioned as a small dinner where the IBM i faithful could gather to network and share ideas (ala CUDS) this reception has evolved into a full blown party with about 45 people joining us from all parts of the community.  Folks had a chance to mingle with the authors of the toolkit, IBM’ers Ryan and Tony, one of the current developers of the BCD tools and many Zenders stopped by on their way to and from various events.  I think this was easily one of the most successful IBM i networking receptions we ever had and a special thanks to the marketing folks at IBM (Elaine and Andrea) for putting up with my badgering and allowing it to happen.  Also, a HUGE thank you for BCD who did a great job participating and sponsoring.  BCD is a great new partner and longtime friend of PHP on IBM i. 

And then there was the LUG

I had the privilege of addressing the IBM Large User Group in Rochester Minnesota the same week as ZendCon.  The crowd was excited as always about the solutions being delivered by Zend and the general direction of PHP.  But what was really telling was the interest in mobile solutions and how important mobile has become to this community. more and more IBM i customers are continuing to adopt PHP and it is always great to chat with these folks all over the world!  Here's to a great 2013 where the road work will be even greater!!!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

PLEASE, Let your "Top Concerns" be heard!!!

The folks at COMMON in Europe created an interesting survey that asks IBM i folks about what "concerns" them about IBM i.  (By the way, the survey is written in PHP using an open source content management system called Joomla and guess what OS it is running on?)  While I absolutely love this machine there are many things that concern me so I jumped at the chance the let my voice be heard and here's why.

Years ago I became a charter member of the COMMON Americas Advisory Counsel.  This group was created to, essentially, resurrect the old requirements process and provide direct feedback to IBM Rochester to make improvements to IBM i.  This came about as the result of a blanket email that went to all members of COMMON in North America.  In the application the email asked for a charter requirement.  In other words, what would you want IBM to do to IBM i to make it better.  Well, it is probably no big secret that my charter requirement was to ask IBM to either enhance Net.Data or bring a scripting solution like PHP to the platform.  Not only was my application accepted, but so was my requirement. I was thrilled to become part of an influential community within the IBM i community.

Over the next several years as I watched my PHP requirement evolve into the partnership with Zend and THOUSANDS of IBM i people around the world enjoying PHP running natively on IBM i, I also had the chance to provide input and requirements on many other aspects of IBM i.  Some of them include Blades, simplified interfaces, and even a confirmation screen for potentially dangerous commands like PWRDWNSYS and ENDTCP.   As you might have guessed, some requirements were accepted and some were not for various reasons.  However, while sitting in a keynote presentation by Steve Will at the recent OMNI Technical Conference I was commenting to someone sitting next to me about some of the many things IBM has brought to IBM i that were the result of mine and other peoples requirements.  This made me quite proud that our contributions were perceived as valuable and that proved that IBM was listening!

A couple of years ago I left the advisory counsel for a number of reasons, most notable was that my role had evolved from customer to ISV and that I found myself focused on other initiatives.  But this survey gave me what I was looking for in a fast and easy way to communicate some of my recent requirements.  You can always create a requirement at COMMON or by going online.  But when something is easy I just love it! 

It took me a whopping 5 minutes to fill out the Top Concerns survey and I encourage you to do the same.  The designers of the survey are also awarding a prize which you can choose to decline.  All responses are anonymous, unless you would prefer to include your name in the description field.  

This is a great opportunity for a great platform.  Please find some time to cast your opinion.  Even if it is just to say thanks for a wonderful operating system!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

PHP Growing Up on IBM i

The PHP community around IBM i is growing up and I couldn’t be more impressed.

As I get ready for the fall conference season I see plenty of travel in my future.  This is always a good thing as that means there is demand and sincere interest in PHP on IBM i.  What also seems to be chewing up my free time is our training programs.  Zend has two major IBM i centric initiatives.  First is the PHP I Foundation for IBM i.  This is the class where most IBM i customers begin their journey down the PHP road.  The class is taught online for 2 hours a day, every other day for three weeks by John Valance and occasionally by me.  There was so much demand for the course in the 2nd half of this year and now we are sold out for the rest of 2012. 

Building on the success of the foundations 1 course is our SmartStart which combines the system setup, Foundations I training, and a “Proof-of-Concept” type project for one low price.  One major advantage is that we let the customer decide the project!  These have ranged from iPad applications on a shop floor to Web services to Executive dashboards.  The concept is to compress the head pounding that many IBM i folks endure when learning a new technology from 6 months down to 2 weeks.  At the end of the engagement most customers have a solution they can show off and support!  In today’s “results oriented” society, this provides a big advantage for most IBM i shops.   A CIO can show REAL value for the investment and also make a VERY informed decision about the strategic value of PHP without risking the entire budget.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I would love to say the SmartStart has been a smashing success and in many ways they have all been successful.  But we have learned a lot about the delivery and services around IBM i and are in the prime execution mode of SmartStart.  In addition to delivering training a local company I walk away with new perspectives on businesses using PHP and the day to day issues developers struggle with when working with IBM i.  Some of these issues are self-inflicted like working with RPG II & III skills and code bases while others are still struggling with three environments on a single IBM i.  We at Zend ARE listening and in the next few months you will be hearing about the fruits of our labors.  The R&D group is hard at work on MANY new initiatives and we are working to address a number of the customer concerns raised over the years as we move toward the next major release.  I think that teases it nicely without committing to any details ;-)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Don't Suffer in Silence!

I have run in to a few customers over the last several months who were surprised to find out they had access to support.  One of the worst things an IBM i programmer can do when trying to adopt PHP is suffer in silence.  We have a ton of resources at that are designed to help everyone adopt PHP regardless of platform.  And even though our installer is fairly straight forward we have seen some customers have trouble because of old system configuration settings that they inherited.  Let’s look at some of these resources.


We have a bunch of webcasts where you can tune in to see just about everything from basic PHP to Zend Studio and Zend Framework discussions and examples.  Not all of these webcasts are geared specifically for IBM i, but that’s OK since they are all geared toward PHP.  And it’s the same PHP that runs on t Linux, Windows and IBM i. 


All of our products are fully documented in both online and PDF formats.  These materials talk about installation and configuration options for both version of Zend Server, Zend Studio and Zend Guard.  In addition to the standard documentation on our site we also host many white papers and case studies.  These tend to illustrate many of the interesting ways to leverage PHP and also discuss how many of our customers are deploying PHP based solutions in their own environments.

Sample Scripts

With Zend Server comes several sample scripts that illustrate basic PHP functions.  These samples are great for validating that Zend Server was installed properly and demonstrate basic PHP functions like database access and Zend Framework usage. They can be accessed from the Demo Applications subtab of the Monitor tab in the Zend Server Administrative Interface and the script code is in the default document root: "/www/zendsvr/htdocs/samples. 



Opening a support ticket is the best way for a supported customer to get help.  Cases are designed to help customers with issues during installation or why some feature sets might not appear to be functioning correctly.  There are several support levels available at Zend including the 1 year of free support thanks to our partnership with IBM which is available after registering your copy of Zend Server for IBM i.  The SLA’s for the various support models delineate what is available to whom.  Customers with Gold or Platinum support also get a phone number to call for support.  This number was sent to your primary Zend account holder immediately after purchasing Zend Server.  If you don’t have it or don’t know where it is please drop us a line or call your account manager.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Zend and MySQL:DB2 Storage Engine

Zend and MySQL…

On my travels through Europe as I visit many IBM i customers I am presented with wonderful challenges and opportunities.  One challenge had me stunned but I must say should not be terribly surprising.  It was about the DB2 Storage Engine for MySQL and support.

First, what is Mike talking about?  Well, MySQL is the world’s most popular open source RDBMS and it runs on nearly every platform including IBM i with the recent edition of the new Zend DBi product.  MySQL is architected in a special way in which the UI is separated from the data storage layer.  This allows MySQL to change the storage layer without having to rewrite the application.  Does this sound familiar?

The idea is that you would use an application that would store data in MySQL, possibly SugarCRM, Drupal, MediaWiki or something like along those lines. Even a home grown application talking to MySQL would work.  Then, you tell MySQL to store the data for those tables in DB2 rather than MySQL via the ENGINE SQL directive.  This lets your applications talk to MySQL while the actual data is being stored in DB2 on IBM i.  It is important to understand that this data is NOT replicated.  The actual data store is DB2.  Existing tables can be converted to DB2 by using the alter table statement as well.  IBM has a couple of great redbooks on the subject that are well worth checking out.

So someone asked if the DB2 Storage Engine is supported.  According to IBM, the answer is yes so long as they are current on their IBM Software Maintenance Agreement (SWMA).  If a customer is current, then that customer who deploys this solution and has who needs to log a support ticket a problem can, under SWMA, open a PMR regarding the DB2 Storage engine and IBM will work toward a resolution.  This is a good thing and proves that IBM will stand by their solutions. 

I developed a new presentation called Introduction to MySQL for IBM i.  This session has been getting some pretty good reviews and I have gotten some awesome feedback for updates.  As a result we are scheduling a webcast on the MySQL and IBM i in August!  There is no charge for the live and recorded  webcasts at the Zend website so like voting in Chicago – tune in early and often!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Why Upgrade IBM i?

or...the Rising Tide Raises all Boats...What has DB2 Done for me Lately? 

There are two sides – PHP and/or as important as PHP is the OS  You should examine your OS level and I will implore you to consider leveraging your current investment.  Upgrade to i6.1 or i7.1 today! IBM has done a nice job adding features to IBM i and the way they do that is with new releases and the technology refresh process.  And i6.1 or higher has new DB2 features that can dramatically improve the performance of IBM i and expand your abilities as an IBM I developer. 

One thing is clear, IBM is investing heavily in DB2 on IBM i.  I have been on the road now for two weeks of a six week road show.  (They let me go home on weekends to see how much the kids have grown).  As I visit all these events I notice there seems to be 2 guys from IBM Rochester talking about DB2.  This would not be so shocking if it weren’t for the fact that it’s rarely the same two guys!  It appears IBM has been hoarding an army of DB2 guys and now they are on the road talking about all the great new stuff!  This led me to a dramatic realization that makes perfect sense when you think about it.  If IBM invests in RPG, as they continue to do, then many RPG folks benefit, same for Java and COBOL, etc.  But, since we ALL use DB2, any investments IBM makes in DB2 benefits ALL OF US!  Yes, PHP gets faster and more powerful as IBM improves DB2!
Yep, PHP, RPG, COBOL, Java and all the utility vendors benefit from performance and feature improvements to DB2. Makes sense to me.  As I have no idea how much IBM spends on IBM i R&D and know even less about how they divide it up, I can only guess that the portion invested in DB2 is significant. Why?  Think about it.  Anything IBM changes in DB2 has to be rock solid and virtually bulletproof.  The main reason for this is that IBM themselves are using DB2 on IBM I to run parts of the OS!  This means the developers have added pressure of IBM management breathing down their backs as well as customer satisfaction.

IBM uses the carrot and stick approach to get customers to upgrade and update their systems.  In some cases, folks simply cannot cost justify an upgrade.  I am not looking to start a religious war about why a company should or should not go off maintenance.  But I do understand that these are tough times and every penny counts.  So if you are a company on maintenance and you have a machine that can go up, why haven’t you?  Time?   Experience?  Confidence?  Could be a myriad of reasons why you are holding off.
 I ask you to look at the benefits, however.  I have a customer who recently planned a hardware upgrade. Obviously, the upgrade would go smoother if they upgrade the OS from V5R4 to i7.1 before attempting the hardware, so they did.  There were so many performance improvements and opportunities to improve DB2 performance that they were able to cancel the hardware upgrade.  Think about that value!  A company was able to postpone a significant investment just by implementing a newer version of the OS that THEY WERE ALREADY ENTITLED TO thanks to their SWMA!

If you can swing new hardware, there are things like smaller footprints and lower power utilization.  We have a new Power 720 in our office with 9 LPAR’s and I am amazed at how powerful it is as well as easy to administer.  Now, I did get some help setting the machine up.  But once it was set up it has been great!   Which brings me to my last point, excess power? 

In many cases I have customers who have upgraded hardware to stay current on maintenance or simply to add a little capacity like disk, etc.  What some of these folks discover is that their machines have excess capacity at the end of the upgrade.  So what to do with that capacity?  I have a few ideas.  How about an open source CRM or content management system written in PHP?  By implementing something like Joomla, Drupal, MediWiki or SugarCRM, customers can take advantage of this excess capacity by leveraging PHP natively on IBM i and simultaneously avoid the investment in additional Intel infrastructure. 


Monday, April 16, 2012

Open Source Tools for IBM i

Tools anyone?
Rather than blather on about the new toolkit, once again, I was struck by an opportunity I saw recently in the open source arena. One of the things I love about open source is the idea that I can kick the tires before buying into a solution. There will always be those folks out there who refuse to pay for anything, regardless of the level of value they derive from someone else’s efforts. There are many ways to contribute to the open source community that do not require code and here is an article that highlights a few.

So as I was discussing the open source arena the other day with a colleague he mentioned another project. Like Zend Server CE that is distributed for no charge and has an optional support model. The is attractive in many ways, mostly by breaking down the barrier to entry to almost nothing. Also, it provides an insidious way for some derelict companies to modernize. It still shocks me to run into a company with apathetic management or “coasters” (those who have a couple of years to go before retirement and do not wish to risk anything new.)
I want staff to stand up and start skunk-works projects and here are a couple of way to do that. Managers are welcome to exploit these techniques, as well.

phpMyAdmin – comes pre-installed with Zend Server
This is an open source utility written in PHP that provides nearly every administrative function necessary for MySQL. The MySQL Monitor (command line interface) can seem a bit intimidating for the uninitiated and this interface really softens the blow. Getting familiar with MySQL makes like a lot easier and is required when ramping up on other open source projects like SugarCRM, MediaWiki, Joomla and Drupal, all of which I have installed and run on IBM i. Here is a helpful tip:When you first install MySQL, either as part of Zend Server or as part of the Zend DBi product just released by Zend you should realize the ROOT user profile (MySQL equivalent of QSECOFR) has no password. Immediately upon installation of the MySQL Server I create a powerful profile for myself and once I have verified that it is working I set the password to ROOT so that no one can hack my implementation.

Content Management with Drupal or Joomla or whatever…
Putting up a website can seem like a daunting task. Installing something that can manage the site might make more sense, especially if your company is contemplating a new Intranet. There are many open source content management systems (CMS) out there to consider. I have been a big advocate of Drupal since it has a VERY large and rabid following and seems to have many key features folks want in their sites. But truly any content management system will do. The folks at WMCPA and COMMON selected Joomla as their CMS of choice and have been very pleased with it.

A while ago I picked up a tip from Jon Paris of Partner400 fame. The idea was to take a wiki application and allow end users to build their own doc. Jon recommends PMWiki and while I am not terribly familiar with that solution I tend to advocate MediaWiki. MediaWiki has a great feature that is activated by default. This feature can be turned on to allow the IT staff and developers to build the end user documentations for programs and processes within the organization. AND for each page they build there is a corresponding end user documentation page that is fully annotatable. Meaning, end users can makes notes right on the page running in PHP and updating MySQL running directly on IBM i. Think of some of the added benefits to this approach like automatically backing up end user documentation with each SAV of the IFS or option 21. Also, think of disaster recovery scenarios where the end user doc is now immediately available after restoring the system. No need to recover a file server or windows/linux box.

There are quite a few interesting options out there and I would strongly recommend you check out the YiPs website for more details… or, let your fingers do the walking with Google.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Spring has sprung and so has conference season!

Spring has sprung here in Chicago and that means getting on the road! I’m coming to see you!
Actually, everybody at Zend is excited about all the new announcements and events coming up so I thought I would run some of them down for you. You can always get the latest on the most recent events from the Zend Event Calendar and the monthly newsletter. But a little nudge every once in a while doesn’t hurt.

While I love to run around the country and the world to spread the good news about PHP on IBM i, the real value for me is meeting a bunch of AWESOME people. These folks really understand systems if they have an IBM i we can instantly click. I spend a great deal of time in and out of sessions helping to marry these folks with that awesome infrastructure with a contemporary language like PHP. It is truly a luxury, but don’t tell my boss because he’ll think I am having too much fun. Plus I have an awesome collection on miniature shampoo bottles from hotels around the world.

This month I will be heading to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin for the annual WMCPA Conference on March 20-23. Here are some folks who not only understand the value of PHP (Their website is Joomla running on IBM i) they also support a fantastic educational event with headlining speakers like Jon Paris, Susan Gantner, Pete Massiello and PHP evangelist Alan Seiden, just to name a few. I’ll be doing a couple of presentations and a PHP workshop! Stop by the Zend booth.

Next, I follow Jon and Susan down to Ft Worth, TX for the semi-annual RPG & DB2 Summit. This event draws out some of the strongest RPG programmers I have ever met. Many of whom are interested in moving forward with PHP as well as RPG and that is just perfect. These folks will really appreciate the new open source toolkit bundled into Zend Server 5.6 to leverage legacy RPG business logic.

A quick trip to the bay area to stop by HQ and then I am off to Framingham(Boston), MA for the annual NEUGC conference on April 2-4. This is one of the biggest events in the Northeast that will focus on IBM i centric technology. This will be my first appearance at this event and I hope not the last. We will be running a hands on PHP workshop as well as several sessions on PHP content.

There may be a few pother events beforehand but let’s not forget the big one, the COMMON Annual Meeting in Anaheim on May 6-9. Zend will have a booth and I will be doing several sessions and maybe a biggie on Zend DBi, the new MySQL distribution from Zend Technologies. With over a dozen sessions on PHP and hundreds of sessions on IBM i and AIX content, this is sure to be the biggest event in the US. I have seen many great activities planned around the conference so make plans to be in Disneyland this week!

What about outside of the US? Well, Vienna is supposed to be very nice in June! Yes, COMMON Europe will be holding their annual event in Vienna Austria this year on June 9-12 and Zend will be there for the festivities. With presentations, a booth and several events we expect this to help COMMON celebrate 50 years in Europe!

Have I ever mentioned that all those website links in the previous text are pointing to PHP applications? The COMMON and WMCPA sites actually run on IBM i!

So hopefully I will be around your neck of the woods soon. If not, drop me a line and let’s see if I can swing by! I live for user groups and more!

Friday, February 17, 2012

How does PHP perform on IBM i?

Many folks who explore PHP on IBM i are very excited about a solution that works quickly, easily and efficiently. When you grow up from hello world to data inquiry to full blown CRUD you begin to pull a bit harder on the resources that the IBM i has to offer. And it happily accommodates you.

So there are many “myths” about the IBM i. Some will insist that Linux servers are “faster” than the IBM i. In part that may be true and false but for a variety of reasons. However, most of my customers do not have an IBM i because it is the “fastest” computer in the house even though these new Power 7 servers are pretty zippy. Most of my customers have IBM i because of the fact that they lived through the reality of TCO and they have legacy system investments that span decades that they simply do not wish to walk away from. Others will have you believe that the IBM i is not modern. To that I say you have not been to an IBM i event, lately. There are more advanced features in an IBM i today than ever before. With Virtualized everything, PHP, Java, MySQL and all the power of RPG Open Access the IBM i competes quite effectively. But I will spend a few minutes here speaking about the primary value prop of the IBM i: Consolidation.

All the eggs
Consolidation is all about many different workloads happily coexisting on a single platform. It reminds me of growing up on the Southwest side of Chicago in a 2 bedroom bungalow where my parents and three siblings “peaceably” coexisted for many years. Sure there was some tension when we were all packed into a small space. But it also brought about an intimacy that today seems impossible to duplicate no matter how often we “get together”. As we have scattered to the 4 winds we still maintain a closeness, but not nearly as strong as the days we were all together. So one would argue that at times having 6 people in line for the bathroom could slow us down. But at other times, when we wanted to install a new pool, many hands made for light work and would or could do things in a day that could never be accomplished by a single person. I see significant similarities between this life growing up and the data center that blasts apart applications by platform.

Getting back to PHP, when you have all these applications happily humming along on your IBM i there are bound to be conflicts, just like between me and my brother and sisters and so on. So what should we look for? The first thing to do is “don’t just throw hardware at the problem”. Even if you completely believe that hardware is your issue, you should still capture some metrics. There are several tool vendors that can gather these metrics as well as IBM. One partner I worked with had a relationship where they were able to “rent” the tools to create reports. These reports proved we need the hardware, but also confirmed exactly what hardware was needed, where and when we were i/o or memory bound, etc. So let’s pretend that you have resolved the hardware issues, where do you go next?

Working through the “work management” features of IBM can sometimes seem like a dark art. So do the right thing and get a little help. Maybe you go to COMMON and follow the iDevCloud guys, Larry Bolhuis and Jim Oberholtzer like groupies! Another good call is to call your business partner and they offer some services. It’s OK to Google the issue and lurk around for solutions too. But the worst thing you can do is throw hardware at the problem and assume it is fixed or suffer in silence.

PHP workload can be very diverse. One of the things I always tell my users in a demo is that DB2 performance improvements made in PHP applications help not only the PHP script response time, but it also reduces the load on DB2! And, just like the rising tide that raises all boats, every reduction in resources made by building better indexes in DB2 leaves more CPW for the rest of the server. CPW that drives RPG, PHP, Domino and all other kinds of workload. I have a customer who was planning a hardware upgrade. We recommended that they turn on some key features in Zend Server and then upgrade from V5R4 to i7.1. Once they did, new tools became available to indicate where there were performance bottlenecks in their server. No, the upgrade was for the right reasons Disk and RAM rather than “let’s just go to the latest hardware…” Please do not misunderstand me, if you need new hardware, processors, etc. then the investment should be made. But it should be made intelligently. Newer prices on Power7 hardware and maintenance can, in many cases, make the case for upgrading. Get your IBM BP involved and if you do not have an IBM BP or it is time for a change reach out to someone you trust. We have had good luck with the iDevCloud folks and you can too.

This was just a nugget of what we will talk about in the next IBM i webinar at Tune in for more so you too can benefit from the performance possibilities of Zend Server and IBM i.

Monday, January 23, 2012

New Toolkit, anyone?

Want a new, simpler way to access IBM i artifacts like HLL Programs and Spooled files? The new open Source toolkit is just for you!

Zend Server for IBM i 5.6 no longer ships with the old i5 toolkit. That much is true. And there has been some press about the expiration of the relationship with Aura, the authors of the toolkit we have used for the last few years. Zend’s official position can be found here. So with change comes the good, the bad and the downright awesome! What we are witnessing here is not just a new toolkit, but the dawning of a new era in software development.

IBM has been a primary engineer of the new toolkit as they have built XMLSERVICE. XMLSERVICE is IBM's first (as far as I know) official entry in the open source arena regarding IBM i. Sure IBM has contributed projects like Eclipse and contributed to projects like Apache and others. But XMLSERVICE represents IBM Rochester’s biggest investment in opening a new technology to the community that will drive IBM i workload for PHP and other open source languages to come. Yes, I said it, when the right group comes around to support Python or Ruby, IBM will be ready and waiting with XMLSERVICE to take care of their system integration needs! Special shout out to the YoungiProfessionals website for hosting the project up to now. the new home is a closely guarded secret, but will be made available very soon. And a GREAT BIG community shout out to Tony Cairns for the development work on XMLSERVICE, Sam Pinkhasov on the Toolkit API and Alan Seiden for the CW!

Zend is the first official consumer of XMLSERVICE by introducing the new Toolkit API classes into Zend Server. These classes represent the plumbing necessary to communicate with XMLSERVICE and return values important to the IBM i developer whether they be parameters from HLL programs or values from data areas. Oh, and we fixed a few things along the way. If you ever tried calling a sub-procedure from PHP you might have gotten frustrated with the fact that all you could get back was an INT. Well, not any more! The new toolkit can process goo-gobs of stuff and pass all kinds of data around the house.

But I have all those i5 function calls out there, what do I do? Well, as the FAQ indicates, we are also introducing the new Compatibility Wrapper classes in the new toolkit. These classes will deliver the ability to code i5 function calls using the procedural model and have the work completed by the new toolkit. This fills the last gap in the migration of the new toolkit. Customers who upgrade from previous versions of Zend Server for IBM i to Zend Server for IBM i 5.6 will still be able to use the old toolkit, if they so choose. But they also have the option to explore the new Open Source toolkit, as well. Kind of like having you cake and eating it too!

I just got back from Toronto where I introduced the new toolkit to TUG and it seems the enjoyed the presentation. I’ll be doing that at Omni in Chicago tomorrow and maybe at a local user group near you, soon! Drop me a line and let’s talk!