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IBM Explorer for z/OS Aqua – Happy 5th Anniversary!

By William Alexander posted Fri May 28, 2021 02:12 PM

  

Introduction

Eclipse is an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for developing applications. It is also an extensible platform for building IDEs. The Eclipse IDE is often called the workbench, and the services within the workbench are provided by components known as plug-ins. A set of plug-ins are combined into a feature, and a set of features are combined to make up a product.

Using the Eclipse plug-in and extension models tooling vendors such as IBM build products which can be combined together. Some of these products, such as IBM Developer for z/OS and IBM Explorer for z/OS, are known as base offerings since they include Eclipse and Java as part of the packaged product. Other products are known as extension offerings, such as IBM Fault Analyzer for z/OS and IBM File Manager for z/OS, since they do not include Eclipse or Java and they require a base offering to be installed into. After installation is complete and the products are combined together, they are started using the single executable of the base offering. However, the Eclipse IDE now provides an application development workbench with a rich set of tools inside, powered by all the plug-ins that have been combined together.

When combining Eclipse products, it is important to pay attention to the Eclipse versions listed as being supported for each product. Eclipse APIs change over time and product maintenance is often required when moving from one Eclipse base to another. Several years ago, IBM products based on Eclipse were each available from their own web site, or the initial versions were available from Passport Advantage and the maintenance updates were available from Fix Central. At the time each product was delivered on their own release schedule, using different versions of Eclipse, different versions of other underlying components and thus not tested in combination. This proved to be very challenging for customers interested in combining IBM products together into one workbench. Our solution was to create a continuous delivery release train platform that we call IBM Explorer for z/OS Aqua (or just Aqua for short). Aqua brings together our set of Eclipse-based development tools to provide z/OS application developers and system programmers an easy way to install, deploy and maintain our IBM Eclipse-based products.

Recently we celebrated our 5th anniversary of IBM Explorer for z/OS Aqua!


Aqua Release Trains

Initially there were a dozen products included on the Aqua 3.0 release train, which was based on Eclipse 4.4. Today we have over 20 products on board and we are currently running 3 release trains:
    • Aqua 3.0 – based on Eclipse 4.4 (Luna)
    • Aqua 3.1 – based on Eclipse 4.6 (Neon)
    • Aqua 3.2 – based on Eclipse 4.8 (Photon)
Any given release train can deliver software in any given month. In fact, over the past five years we have delivered more than 500 product updates! This frequency was certainly not possible before our DevOps transformation. Sometimes these product updates contain new features and other times they contain just APAR fixes. Every product on a release train has been built using the same underlying levels of software and has passed a set of installation and integration tests that ensure the product versions for that month are compatible. Whenever a release train delivers new product updates the Product Versions page is updated.

If you have multiple products in your software stack and you want to update one, the best process is to check the Product Versions page and note which of your products has also been updated since your last install. Grab all the products you need and update them. As I mentioned, our test automation verifies the version combinations listed for each Aqua release train, saving you time and effort.

Attempting to install product versions from one release train with product versions from another release train is not recommended and likely to cause unpredictable results. When you want to upgrade software from one release train to the next it is best to install the new base offering and the new extension offerings into a separate Installation Manager package group or Eclipse p2 location. Then whenever you are ready you can uninstall the previous versions. Workspaces created with previous versions should be able to be used in the new versions, however, the following is a tip from the Eclipse Workbench User Guide: It doesn't hurt to make a backup of your workspace before upgrading. After you've upgraded your workspace, you won't be able to use it again with an older version of Eclipse. If you ever want to go "back in time" to an earlier release, you'll need that backup!



Several products on the Aqua release train not only have an Eclipse-based client-side component, but they also have either a host side component that runs in z/OS, or some other component of the product which requires specific licensing/entitlement. Where appropriate, the server column in the IBM Explorer for z/OS Aqua table on this Downloads page provides links to Shop Z or Passport Advantage to obtain these additional components. Examples of additional product components stored in Passport Advantage include:
    • IBM Application Discovery Build Client
    • IBM Application Discovery Services
    • IBM Application Delivery Intelligence
    • IBM Developer for z/OS license activation kits
Of course, the Installation and Configuration chapters in the IBM Documentation for each of the various products should also be reviewed for specific details. Depending on the host product you are installing, the Host Configuration Assistant (HCA) also might save you some time. HCA is a cloud-based wizard that project managers can use to generate feature-based checklists that systems programmers can follow and perform the desired customization tasks in a step-by-step manner with precise references to the right documentation topics.

Eclipse Tools



As I mentioned earlier you will not find the Eclipse-based client-side software in Passport Advantage anymore. Instead you can use this multi-step web page https://ibm.github.io/mainframe-downloads/eclipse-tools.html for downloading and/or installing the Eclipse Tools from the Aqua release train. The left side of the page contains the steps along the path to completion. As you move from one step to another a completion indicator will be displayed. If you need to go back to a prior step and change a selection just click on the step completion indicator on the left side of the page.



Step 1: Choose your products

Just like dining at a fine restaurant there are so many great choices on this menu. The good news is you can choose as many as you would like. This really is straight forward; select the products you want and press the Select button and the bottom of the page.

I will point out that by reviewing the Aqua Version and Installation Methods columns for each of your chosen products can help you understand the options you will have in the steps that follow. Also, if you need a few more details about a product, the control at the end of each row can be used to reveal a short description.

Step 2: Choose an Aqua version

What you see on this page depends on the selections from the prior page. For example, if not all chosen products are available for a particular Aqua version then you will not be able to Select that Aqua version. Clicking on View Details reveals the product versions for the different Aqua streams.

One item for consideration, if you plan to add plug-ins from elsewhere (i.e. – Eclipse Marketplace) to these products then make sure the plug-ins you plan to add support the Eclipse version associated with the Aqua version you select. When ready press the Select button for the Aqua version you wish to proceed with and move along to the next step.

Step 3: Choose an installation method

Generally, the Aqua products support two methods of installation, however there are a couple products that only support one. Please pay attention to any notes on this page, they appear here because we believe they contain useful information.

The two installation methods are:
    • IBM Installation Manager is a software package tool that provides a step-by-step guided wizard to allow users the ability to install, modify, update, roll back, or uninstall IBM products. Software and environment prerequisites are handled through this tool as well to ensure that all installed software is compatible.
    • Eclipse p2 is a provisioning platform for Eclipse-based applications and plug-ins, typically used to extend an existing Eclipse environment with new plug-ins and software.
Press the Select button associated with the installation method you plan to use.

Step 4: Choose your starting point

Now it is time for some real decision making. This page offers three options:
    • Starting from fresh
    • Extending an existing instance
    • Hosting an internal repository
Option 1 is for first timers who do not have any of the Aqua products installed yet, and who are going to install from the IBM online repository.

Option 2 is for people who have been here before and possibly want to update their Aqua products or install more of them.

Option 3 is for companies that want to host their own repository, on their own servers so that users can install from that internal location instead of from the IBM repository. This is ideal for installing Aqua products on machines that do not have internet access. It is also useful for companies that want tight control over the specific Aqua product versions used in their shop.

Press the Select button associated with the starting point appropriate for you.

Step 5: Download and install

The contents of this last page are dependent upon the previous choices you made.

Installation Manager and Start fresh

Instructions are provided for you to download and install IBM Installation Manager (IM). Downloading IM from here has its Preferences pre-configured to point to the online IBM repository for the Aqua release train version you chose to use. After installing IM, start it and press the Install button. Select the products you want to use, complete the remaining pages in the IM wizard and you are finished.

Installation Manager (IM) and Existing installation

Instructions are provided for you to verify your repository location and install, or update, more Aqua products. While staying current with the latest version of IM is a best practice, it may not be required in order to install additional software. The instructions will always show the latest version of IM available. Each Aqua release train version has its own unique repository URL. Using Preferences in IM you can verify that it is pointing to the correct online IBM repository for the Aqua release train version you chose to use. Remember, the earlier recommendation – do not mix product versions from one release train level with another. Press the Install button (or the Update button, depending on what you are trying to do). Select the products you want to use, complete the remaining pages in the IM wizard and you are finished.

Installation Manager (IM) and Internal repository

Instructions are provided for downloading IM, downloading the repository files, installing and configuring IM, and installing the Aqua products. After installing IM, start it and use Preferences to see that it is pre-configured to point to an online IBM repository for Aqua. You will need to change this to the location of your locally unzipped repository. The location is up to you, just download the repository zip files for each of your selected products and extract the archive(s) into an internal local directory – this will be your repository. To perform an install, start IM and press the Install button. Select the products you want to use, complete the remaining pages in the IM wizard and you are finished.

Eclipse p2 and Start fresh

Instructions are provided for you to download and install a base Aqua offering which includes Eclipse and Java as part of the packaged product, and then add on extension offerings using Eclipse p2. If one of the products you selected in Step 1 was a base offering such as IBM Developer for z/OS (IDz) or IBM Explorer for z/OS (z/OS Explorer) then you will be instructed to download and extract the archive for the base offering package to a directory location of your choosing. In Step 1 if you only chose extension offerings then you will be instructed to first download and extract the archive for the base offering IBM Explorer for z/OS (z/OS Explorer) to a directory location of your choosing. Start the base product by using the .exe located in that directory location. Once the product starts, use the Help > Install New Software… option in the menu bar to start the Eclipse p2 Install Software wizard. In the Work with field select the online IBM repository named "IBM Explorer for z/OS Update Site" and allow the list of available software to load. Select the extension offering products you want to use, complete the remaining pages in the install wizard and you are finished.

Eclipse p2 and Existing installation

Instructions are provided for you to verify your repository location and install, or update, more Aqua products. The assumption is that you have a base Aqua offering such as IBM Developer for z/OS (IDz) or IBM Explorer for z/OS (z/OS Explorer), which includes Eclipse and Java as part of the packaged product, already installed. Start the base product and use the Help > Install New Software… option in the menu bar to start the Eclipse p2 Install Software wizard. In the Work with field select the online IBM repository named "IBM Explorer for z/OS Update Site" and allow the list of available software to load. If you do not see the online IBM repository as an available software site to select, then press Add… and in the "Add Repository" dialog add the repository URL. Each Aqua release train version has its own unique repository URL so copy the value from the instructions as it will differ based on the Aqua version you selected. Remember, the earlier recommendation – do not mix product versions from one release train level with another. Select the extension offering products you want to use, complete the remaining pages in the install wizard and you are finished. I

Eclipse p2 and Internal repository

Instructions are provided for downloading a base Aqua offering such as IBM Developer for z/OS (IDz) or IBM Explorer for z/OS (z/OS Explorer) which includes Eclipse and Java as part of the packaged product, downloading the repository files, installing and configuring the Eclipse p2 Install Software wizard, and installing the Aqua products. Download and extract the archive for the base offering package to a directory location of your choosing. Download the repository zip files for each of your selected products and extract the archive(s) into a different internal local directory – this will be your repository. Start the base product by using the .exe located in that directory location. Once the product starts, use the Help > Install New Software… option in the menu bar to start the Eclipse p2 Install Software wizard. Press Add… and in the "Add Repository" dialog add the location of your repository. In the Work with field select your repository location and allow the list of available software to load. Select the extension offering products you want to use, complete the remaining pages in the install wizard and you are finished.

Conclusion

When you are finished installing the Eclipse tools there are several additional resources that might be of interest. If you are looking for learning material or training opportunities then visit the Training page. If you want to stay up to date on What’s New via Blogs or contribute to Discussions, then Join an IBM Community topic group such as ADDI, ADFz, CICS, IDzEE, z/OS Debugger or z/OS Explorer.

Anniversaries are fun occasions to look back and celebrate all that has been accomplished. But they are also a time to look forward to all that is yet to come. Hop on board one of the Aqua release trains and join us on our journey to the future of IBM Z application development.
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