Can Your IBM i System Phone a Friend?

We all know IBM i on POWER is an extremely reliable platform, often running for years with no outside intervention or upkeep. That said, there’s no accounting for hardware failures, undocumented “features,” or sunspots. One of the things that keeps this platform so reliable is its ability to call for help when something does go wrong. Problem reports are often preventative or predictive in nature, meaning that IBM can help you address failures even before they begin to affect system performance or uptime.

While Call Home functionality can sometimes mean that IBM knows about a problem even before you do, it does depend on your system’s ability to actually reach out across the Internet to IBM’s servers. In our world of ever-accelerating cyber threats, many organizations are tightening up their network security and beginning to limit even outbound Internet connectivity. This is a good thing for security, but care also needs to be taken that essential services like ESA and ECS are not blocked from doing their jobs. Many times I’ve gotten on a customer’s box only to find problems just waiting be called in, or—even worse—failing hardware that no one knows about!

The exact methods and endpoints used by IBM Service vary a bit based on the OS version you are using. IBM maintainsa comprehensive list of ports and IP addresses on their support website. In a nutshell, if you’re running 7.3 it’s a short list of IP addresses and a small set of very common protocols. In fact, unless you have a particularly overzealous network admin or have your system disconnected from the Internet entirely then there’s a very good chance that 7.3 can call home with little need for network fiddling. For 7.2 and older releases you’ll need to either locate the Service Provider definition file on your system, or refer to the master list of IP addresses that IBM provides in the knowledge base article linked above. Your network admin may then need to open certain ports and allow traffic to that list of IPs.

So, how can you test to see whether your machine can call home? The easiest way is to send a PTF order from your system. The cover letter for the latest Cumulative PTF group can always be found as PTF number SF98xxx, where xxx is the version, release, and modification level for your OS. So to order the one for 7.3, use the command below:

SNDPTFORD PTFID((SF98730))

If ECS is configured properly, connectivity is available, and your system is under an active maintenance contract, IBM’s support servers will respond by delivering the PTF cover letter. If an error occurs, then something isn’t set up correctly. When that happens the VFYSRVCFG command can help you diagnose the problem further, and you can always contact us for assistance with any of these steps.

Even if your machine has called home before it’s a good idea to test ECS regularly, especially if your infrastructure team has been messing with the firewall rules. If your network admin balks at allowing the traffic through, just remember that taking away call home takes away your machine’s only lifeline in the game of keeping your business running. When you lose that game, you just might need a millionaire (or iTech Solutions) to put things right.

2 comments on “Can Your IBM i System Phone a Friend?
  1. Andrew Keough says:

    Could SNDSRVRQS using *TEST as the action parameter work as well?

    • SNDSRVRQS ACTION(*TEST) will confirm outbound connectivity to IBM, yes. I like using a PTF order instead because that also tests the PTF download function as well. I’ve actually seen it successfully open a PTF request before and then fail to download the SAVF.

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  1. […] month, I talked about how you can make sure your system has the ability to report problems back to IBM in the event of a failure. That functionality can be invaluable for keeping your system running, […]

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