Friday, August 30, 2013

Zend Server 6.1 for IBM i – Woohoo!

Have you looked at Zend Server 6 which was released in April of this year?  Check it out at to see the latest in PHP stacks as we now support PHP 5.4.  The first thing you notice about Zend Server 6 is the login screen asks you for a user id and password. That is because we now include role based access to the user interface to Zend Server 6.  This allows companies that have a strict division between developers and administration to set and enforce these roles appropriately.  Enterprise customers can further enhance the experience by tying the admin interface into a LDAP server thus allowing folks to user their normal userid and password to access the interface and a full blown audit trail for changes to configuration files.  Otherwise the ADMIN and DEVELOPER user profiles will work fine.


Once logged onto the Zend Server administrative interface, you’ll notice that cleaner and more sleek UI.  The folks in R&D spent a lot of time on usability and focused aggressively on a cleaner interface.  The initial dashboard shows system statistics as well as events that have recently occurred.  And the responsiveness of the screens has tremendously improved over Zend Server 5.

One of the cornerstones to Zend Server 6 is the applications centric environment.  This gives the administrators the ability to fine tune the event monitor rules based upon application and not just at the server level.  One practical example of this is evidenced by an administrator setting up event notification at the application level thus allowing only the production applications to send event email and leaving the more nebulous applications alone.   No need to react of hours cause phpMyAdmin threw a PHP error.

Installation of Zend Server 6 is done in parallel with Zend Server 5.  This gives IBM i shops the ability to set up the environment of before going live.  Once the environment is ready for production all you need to do is flip around a couple of ports.  The default ports administration is placed at 10081 and for web serving is 10080.  These values can be changed in the Apache configuration file when ready.  This separation from UI and Admin brought the IBM i version of Zend Server in line with other platforms and enhances the security by allowing network administrators to block the port from the public.

Zend Server 6.1 is the current version available at Zend .Com and can be downloaded as a complete installable file or as a PTF to Zend server 6.0 which was released back in March of 2013.  Full documentation for Zend Server and the tool kits are available and documentation pages and Zend.Com

Monday, March 11, 2013

Who have you Mentored lately?

I’ve had a chance to visit customers literally around the world and they all similarly ask the same question as to how to get more people aware of the solutions available on IBM i.  In a phrase, educating the great unwashed.  Yes, the IBM i is a special animal in the world of computing.  High uptime, resilient object and file systems, integrated database and incredible native language for business in RPG is just the beginning of a radically different OS than Linux or Windows.  There is a lot to misunderstand about this platform and therefore education is essential. One customer who had been on the platform for over 20 years actually did not know what COMMON was!  Ouch!!!  By the way, we’ll be at the Annual Conference and Expo at the beginning of April with a booth and sessions and more!

Education of the team is the manager’s responsibility.  Another customer asked me about the kids today learning RPG and why there aren’t that many.  I mentioned Jim Buck’s program at Gateway and also we kicked around a number of anecdotal concepts.  So when we settled in to discuss what projects they were using for PHP they pointed to a very young member of the team who was primarily responsible for the PHP development.  He is a great guy with a good head on his shoulders for business, more on that in a minute.  But what struck me was that they were investing in his education of PHP and this makes perfect sense until I asked the question: “When do you start training him on RPG?”  You see, I thought after the previous discussion about bringing younger folks into the fold of RPG that this customer would have discovered this opportunity themselves.  They were a little shocked when I mentioned that having a younger person learn RPG until I reminded them of the previous discussion.  Once they considered what I had to say they acknowledged that it would make sense to help this young man learn RPG and that it could even make him more valuable as a resource in today’s economy.  

This brings up the primary position of my blog for the month.  What have you done to mentor someone today?  I remember when I was a budding RPG developer and I had two mentors who were essential in my success as an RPG programmer.  Sure I might have learned the same things over time, but not nearly as quickly or effectively.  In this day of “instant gratification” everyone is too busy to stop and help someone along the way like we used to in the 80’s and 90’s.  And certainly the Internet has come along way to make information much more available and easier to absorb.  But to hold someone by the hand and explain exactly why *INZSR is a useful subroutine or the different between packed decimal and an integer data type can effect storage is something I simply do not see that much of these days.  I challenge everyone out there who is responsible for the development team, in any role.  Go find an intern and teach them RPG.  

OK, so it will take time for them to learn RPG.  They may not like RPG once they’ve learned it (silly thought).  It’s not sexy like .Net or Java (so what!).  Then fuel the discussion with some other points like CASH, MOOLAH, DeNiro, COIN, Money, Geidis, scratch, and a myriad of other terms.  Folks, with nearly 8% unemployment (and higher when you consider those who quit looking) I gotta believe there is someone out there who is wiling to learn RPG in today’s shops.  But just as important, they must appreciate business.  Interns at local community colleges can come along with referrals from their college advisers.  Get in touch with the local college adviser and look for an intern who appreciates BUSINESS!  I have, somewhat provocatively, stated at several presentations that RPG programmers are not programmers at all.  They are business analysts who code RPG.  Therefore, it is essential that anyone you interview for a position to learn or work on IBM i that they understand and appreciate business.  That is not to say young developers who want to do cool, sexy things cannot help an IBM i shop.  But they will tend to get frustrated when you ask them the difference between a PO, a payable and a payment!  We are a VERY special breed as RPG developers because of the business influence and therefore we should be looking at this for future IBM i developers.  

One of the anticipated questions I run into is “well why would a younger person be interested in learning RPG?”  The obvious answer is they want a JOB!!!   But do you want to throw them into the deep end of RPG with no hope of leveraging any other technologies?  I think the reality is to get someone on deck who is will to learn RPG, but also leverage what they’ve learned in the college setting like HTML, JavaScript,  Ajax, PHP, etc.  Modernize your applications and leverage the more modern tools available in IBM i at the same time! 

See you soon!