Tim Rowe on the New IBM Navigator for i
In the latest iTalk episode, Paul Tuohy talks to IBM’s Tim Rowe about the all new IBM Navigator for i, the history of the IBM i OS and what it’s like to have a ninja in the family.
Tim Rowe: The abbreviated version is the architect of stuff.
Paul: Okay, that's a good one. Okay well today Tim what I want to talk to you is about—is a very particular stuff. I was—the—the last iTalk I did was with Rudi who I know you know well and we were chatting and it was before this was announced so obviously Rudi couldn't talk about it but Rudi described this as being a game changer and having seen a demo of it last week when I was attending IOG, you did a remote presentation on this. I'm kind of inclined to agree with Rudi.
Paul: You just—you heard it right. You hear it right. Rudy was right.
Tim: You? This is—this is—this is recorded even.
Paul: Yup. I'm going on record here.
Tim: Wow, I'm impressed.
Paul: I'm agreeing with Rudi so—so Tim, this is the new IBM Navigator for i. So you want to tell us just a little bit, just give people you know if you hadn't heard about it yet, just tell them what it is.
Tim: Oh absolutely Paul. So part of the operating system, we've had a web based interface for allowing you to manage the IBM operating system. It's been there since 2008. Unfortunately that particular interfaced sucked. I guess I can't really say it any other way. It was slow in performance. The UI—the user interaction wasn't the greatest but again it was handicapped pretty severely because 1. It was created so many years ago, the world of web technologies just didn't really work great for what we were using and then 2. How we went about getting the data, well we were using pretty antiquated ways to do that too so the world today needs—I mean our—the new generation, they want a web based way to manage and interact with the system so we needed to keep a modern user interface available so we undertook a project, started on it about—oh about a year and a half, two years ago to reinvent our web navigator from truly the ground up.
Paul: Yeah. Okay well—okay so I had been about to ask you why you did it but I think you just answered—yeah I think you just answered that.
Tim: Might have.
Paul: So—so there are and I said to you before this like I mean for a time here I could talk to you about this for about two hours Tim the amount of stuff that's in there and as I said what I saw in the demo and I've had a little play with it since right? I mean I have gone in. I've—I've—I've tried a couple of things on it but so I know this is going to be difficult for you but can you pick out maybe one or two of what for you are the sort of standout things of the new iNav.
Tim: I'm going to give you three. So two of them are quick. The first one is the web technology that we built it on is angular. It's the—one of the leading interactive web technologies so you know that's a—that's a double thumbs up in my book. I know we're doing something state of the art. Who knew? The second one is our SQL services back end. I mean Scott Forstie and I have been talking about services for years and we built this entire thing on that engine so it's a game changer from that perspective. The third one is we changed the paradigm. In the past when you went to the web navigator, you went there to manage that system that you connected too. Well new Nav, it's a dashboard. You can go to a system but then easily go off and manage any number of additional systems. It's truly meant to be that single place where you get all of your systems on a single pane and you can monitor them with some pretty interesting monitoring support that we've added as well as manage the different aspects of the operating system from one single spot.
Paul: Yeah so this—this was one of the things that I found quite amazing on it Tim and so—so correct me if I'm wrong here. So the idea of this is that obviously this is available through the technology refresh. So if let's say I've got five partitions on my system, I only need to install the PTFs on one system and theoretically I can know manage all five partitions..
Tim: Oh well except for the theoretical part. You can manage—
Paul: Okay I can. Okay.
Tim: All systems. Yes so and it's not the technology refresh. It's the HTTP/PTF group.
Tim: But otherwise you're spot on.
Tim: So the HTTP/PTF group on one system and honestly I mean this is one of those—you don't want this stuff running on production. I mean why interface—why mess around with your production site? Put it on some other partition and now you can then manage production because we're going through the host servers and the SQL services to get all that stuff.
Paul: Yeah and this was the other thing that I just love Tim is you guys have just started using your own technology. I mean what's up with that?
Tim: So—so true. I know. I know just total craziness but yeah so this was one of those processes where you know back—you think back what eight or so years ago, I can remember you know Scott and some others in the database team talking about table functions and it's all man, these are the best things ever. What do you do with them? I don't know. They're the best things ever. Well and then we came out with this SQL services for PTF compare. So like maybe we should actually start applying that technology to a useable entity and oh it was just amazing. Everybody was like this is the coolest thing ever. We've started to build upon that concept of using what we create. I mean who knew? It's been a building process so like when we did the Db2 mirror project, one of the design decisions we made at that point in time for that product was to create no CL commands.
Tim: It—it turned out—I mean it was kind of a radical decision and you know we had to fight some battles internally to—to get through that but it turned out to be a fantastic decision and we built the Db2 mirror GUI interface on top of that premise using SQL services with Angular and we saw how well that worked. That's when it was like okay we have a model. We have a technology stack. We absolutely need to get Navigator cleaned up and updated. We're going to run with this approach and so it's been a ton of fun and we've been building steam with these services. We're putting out more and more between updates that we need to support interfaces with Navigator and our users that are starting to use the SQL services in their day to day life, they keep asking for hey can I do this? Then Scott and I sit back and—well okay Scott mostly goes hmmm. Well no, not yet but we can and we come up with some you know new service and then aptly slam it into there. I mean I can't tell you how many things in this new Navigator. The only reason they're in there is because we have a SQL service that we can you know just plug in, wrapper it and whoo look at that, good to go.
Paul: It's one of the things that I love that anywhere that you are in there at any stage you can just click on that show the SQL button and you can see the SQL that's running behind it.
Tim: Absolutely. Absolutely and these SQL services like for like active jobs. I mean we are using an SQL service and that service now has—I don't know—it has probably like 60—70 metrics on it about a single job. It's just unbelievable the amount of data you can get if you want to look at that's now there and it's in the Navigator GUI.
Paul: Yeah, it's—and also then the fact that you can effectively take that—
Tim: Oh for sure.
Paul: And set up your own, set up your own service for it on that interface you know with a bit of customization and that.
Tim: Sure. Sure.
Paul: Really, really impressive. So—so is it a thing Tim that in the future then that the—is the support for this going to go along the lines of this sort of support we've been having on ACS which has been very, very agile if I can—much and all as I hate using that term but—but where changes are just coming at us basically at the speed of light.
Tim: Oh for—for sure. I mean this is an interface where we truly do have a single source of truth. We only have one code source so we are not OS dependent at all. The only thing that we do I mean we have to get it to you somehow so we happen to use the PTF processor. I mean in some respects I probably could have put this out as RPM for that matter but because we're running it in an admin server and trying to simplify that whole managing of the —the web interface for you as much as a possible we kept with the PTF process but yeah, we'll be coming out with PTF certainly for the next year likely on a you know once a month, once every other month yeah but it'll be a very regular and rapid update.
Paul: And I think just to emphasize that those PTF’s only have to be applied on one box.
Tim: There's—that's absolutely true so there's—but there's two things to be aware of right? There's the web UI and that only needs to go on your—on we call our GUI management node but if you want to manage different entities right we're using SQL services. What are those delivered with? The Db2/PTF groups.
Tim: So depending on what you're trying to get at, you may need to update your database PTF groups on the end point systems but obviously the GUI is happy to ignore those particular requests. I mean if there's a service that's not there, we'll just happily tell you it's not there. Have a nice day. You'll need to update your system to—to get this function.
Paul: Okay so and I—the other thing I just wanted and it may be the last thing to touch on this Tim so if I install these PTFs on a system and I say oh great I've got the new iNav. Does that replace the old one? Is the old one now gone?
Tim: No, it's not gone. It should be but it's not. They run—they actually run side by side. One is coming in through port 2004; the new one is coming in through port 2002.
Paul: Okay. Okay so—
Tim: It, you go to host name port 2002/navigator, you'll get to the new interface and they can run side by side and you know there's a few reasons for that. I mean the old Navigator with all of its deficiencies one of the things that it did and took an A+ in was functionality. It was incredibly, incredibly rich in function. You just couldn't use the function but it was rich in function so there—there are some things that we haven't yet delivered in the new one I mean because right it's an agile project. We will continue to build upon what we deliver so if there's some specific item that only exists in the old one, you can still get to it for example.
Paul: Yeah, okay so I—I know Tim won't say this to people who are listening but I'll—I'll say it for him so everybody you should just go out and try this. It is—I'm as impressed with this as I was with ACS when it came along so it really is great so it's a great job, Tim, you know credit to you and—and the team.
Tim: This has been a fun project for a few reasons. One I've got an amazing team that I've got the pleasure of working with and the other is we did this a little differently. I mean Paul the development team right? We don't write customer applications right? Right? That's why we have to talk to people like you who do to give us input on what we deliver and design in the application development space right?
Tim: Well we don't manage systems either. We just don't do that but we write really good—we can write really good code so we've been —I've been able to get—I was able to get a group of advisors, people that manage systems like Rudi and like others who are IBM Champions. They're business partners. They're ISVs. They’re large users from our large user group and we—we had monthly meetings and we would have discussions about how they managed the systems and what can we do to help them with that? So much of that input has got baked into this new Navigator so I'm—I'm truly indebted to this amazing group of advisors that helped us with this.
Paul: Yup. I had—I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of them in the UK last week.
Tim: Yes you did. Yes you did.
Paul: So before we go Tim so getting way from iNav for a sec, you want to tell people about the ninja in your family?
Tim: For sure. Yeah, you know people—people think my wife and I are a bit on the crazy side. Well so you're aware. When you have crazy parents, that does equal crazy children so my youngest daughter, she's actually a professional Ninja. She is part of the American Ninja Warrior television program. She was on the show this year multiple times, absolutely had an amazing season, made it all the way to Las Vegas as part of the National Finals so she's—she's really, really done well so it's been kind of cool watching you know your kid be on national TV and becoming one of the starts of the you know this television program so it's been—it's pretty cool and she's not done yet. She's got more shows that she's going to be on yet this year coming up in the—in the near future so yeah. It's a lot of fun.
Tim: Lot of fun.
Paul: Okay so yeah but I—I think of—Dale commented but I want to read your resume just to see that note at the bottom: Have Ninja in family. Okay Tim, thank you for taking the time to talk to us Tim and continued success and please keep up the—keep up the good work.
Tim: Oh, my pleasure Paul.
Paul: Okay folks that's it for this iTalk. Tune in again for the next one. Bye for now.
About the author
Paul Tuohy has specialized in application development and training on IBM midrange systems for more than 20 years.
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