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6.1 and Your Vendor Applications


We recently blogged about getting ready for V6R1 (now renamed IBM i 6.1) and mentioned that recent traffic on various Internet lists suggested that many vendors were being a little “sluggish” in releasing i 6.1-capable versions of their software. This prompted us to do a little more exploring in this area. The result of these studies is that we find ourselves more confused than ever!

So just how many ISVs are ready for i 6.1? Turns out that’s a really tough question. We can't find the answer, and it appears IBM can’t either because we couldn’t find any consolidated list of i 6.1-ready software on any IBM site. In fact, we couldn’t determine the status of some IBM software, notably the PL/I PRPQ. Further, we couldn't even find if PL/I was still available**.

Here's an example of the kind of confusion that arises: In recent Internet discussions, it appeared that some vendors who were claiming to be 6.1 ready were still shipping programs that wouldn’t convert. It turned out the failing programs were “old” and didn’t require conversion. This arises when an ISV packages old modules into their distribution libraries so they can use a single distribution to target all operating-system release levels. Not a bad plan at first glance, but a little disconcerting for customers who run the Analyze Object Conversion (ANZOBJCVN) command against their supposedly 6.1-ready software release only to have it fail the validation test. You can probably imagine that the conversation with the help desk goes something like this:

Customer: “I just ran ANZOBJCVN on the 6.1 release you sent me and it tells me several programs won’t convert.”

Help desk: “Are you sure you restored the correct library, sir?”

Customer: “Yes, absolutely sure.”

The conversation continues like this over several phone calls (including the inevitable on-hold Muzak and reassurances that “your call is important”) before finally...

Help desk: “Sir, I'm sorry - it appears that the programs in question are no longer used on systems at your release level, so their failure to convert is not a problem.”

Customer: “That's reassuring, but it’s still somewhat of a problem because I now have to manually check the rejection list each time I do a conversion to make sure that no programs that do matter have snuck into the library!”

...And so it goes.

When we started this article, one thing we considered was to produce a list of widely used software packages that were 6.1 ready. That idea was short lived because we found that even those ISVs that we know have done a good job of being prepared for 6.1 have, for the most part, done a singularly bad job of advertising it. So poor, in fact, that at one point we were going to single out one company for being the only vendor we found who appeared to be proud of their 6.1 readiness – they’d included “i 6.1 Ready” in their Web advertising banners, among other places. This is the kind of “boasting” we’d expected - not the “hide it in a press release that no one will ever read” approach that’s the only trace of 6.1 readiness we can find on a great many vendor sites. So why aren't we publishing its name? Sadly, when we checked the Web site to see what other information they had available, we couldn't find any! Not even a copy of the Web banner that led us there in the first place!

Elsewhere, on the Web site of one very widely installed vendor package, we couldn’t find any reference at all to 6.1 readiness. We even tried using their own “Google appliance powered” search engine using both V6R1 and 6.1 notations. Nothing - nada - zip! That made us suspicious and so we ran a regular Google query specifying the magic incantation “Site:vendorURL.com.” It was only then that we found a couple of 6.1 references, but they were to Webcasts and still made no mention of 6.1 product support.

Another thing that came up during our investigations was the number of companies that still refer to their 6.1-ready software as a beta. Considering how long ago i 6.1 was announced, and that it’s been generally available for several months, this was a real shock to us.

Since most vendors don’t seem to be publicizing this information, we decided it would be unfair to name names. Instead we're going to be charitable and assume that they’ve done a much better job of directly informing their customers than they have of advertising the state of their readiness. Of the various Web sites we checked, and there were many, two companies that we feel do warrant some mention are Linoma Software and BCD. While neither makes a big splash, the necessary information is easy to find on their Web sites (without resorting to Google) and is clear and comprehensive. Good for them.

Why do we think it’s so important that 6.1-readiness information be available? Because in our experience, the person who receives direct communications from an ISV on such topics is often not the one who needs the technical information. Additionally, when information of this type is sent out, it may well happen months, or even years, in advance of the shop making the move to 6.1. It’s, therefore, critical that such information be available from the vendor's Web site without having to jump through hoops. For example, should it really be necessary to have access to the support contract sign-on for a vendor's Web site simply to locate such simple, yet vital, information?

So since we can't tell you which vendors are ready and which aren’t, here's a checklist of things you need to do:

  • Run ANZOBJCVN as soon as you possibly can, particularly on libraries containing vendor tools and packages.
  • If the tool indicates programs that won’t convert, start by checking the release level of the product concerned.
  • Check with the vendor to see if that release level is supported at 6.1.
  • If it’s not supported, find out if your current maintenance contract entitles you to the upgrade.
  • Regardless of the answer to that question, you’ll need to consider other upgrade costs (e.g., re-applying customizations, training end users, etc.).
  • If the upgrade is available to you, order it as quickly as possible, load it into a test library and run ANZOBJCVN to ensure that it really is 6.1 ready. You wouldn't be the first person to discover that a product isn’t as ready as you were led to believe.
  • In some cases (and this includes those of you who aren’t current on maintenance) the upgrade will only be available for a fee. If the fee seems unreasonable, be prepared to negotiate with the vendor. We’ve heard reports of fees being reduced when challenged.
  • If, at the end of the day, you can’t resolve the situation with your ISV, you can contact the IBM ISV support group, which may be able to assist you. You can reach them at iaic@us.ibm.com.

Some of these steps may take some time to complete. All the more reason to start today!

If you’d like more information on the whys and wherefores of the 6.1 changes, you can find it in the following articles, which in turn will link to the appropriate IBM publications:

Looking Ahead to V6R1 (Dec 2007)
Driving Into the Future (Feb 2008)
Preparing for i V6R1 (Mar 2008)

Additionally, the software link in the IBM release upgrade support planning document provides details of IBM software that was supported on i 5.4 that’s not available in i 6.1.

We welcome your comments, which you can leave on our new blog entry.

**Just before launching EXTRA, we received word from IBM Rochester's Paul Godtland that PL/I is indeed supported on IBM i 6.1. The new product number is 5799-HLG.

 

Jon Paris is a technical editor with IBM Systems Magazine and co-owner of Partner400.

Susan Gantner is a technical editor with IBM Systems Magazine and co-owner of Partner400.



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