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Posted on January 17, 2021

Let me start by saying, if you have a reason to stay on IBM i 7.2 after April 30, 2021, please pay your software maintenance (SWMA) and pay for extended support. However, if you don’t have an excellent reason to stay at IBM i 7.2, now is the time to upgrade.

Paying for extended support is often more expensive than paying iTech to perform an OS upgrade.

Yes, you read that correctly. If you are on a P10 or higher, it will cost you more to stay at IBM i 7.2.  Extended support is twice as much as your Software Maintenance. If you stay on an unsupported version for more than a year, you could easily justify the cost of having iTech do an OS upgrade.

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Posted on December 21, 2020

Richie Palma, Tech Solutions Consultant

In my previous article, “Understanding IBM External Storage Data Reduction Technology,” we looked at the options available for shrinking your data on disk.

We talked about the three main functions available in FlashSystem storage, which include:

  • Thin provisioning – allows you to over-provision storage for each LPAR.
  • Compression – data is compressed and decompressed as it is written and read to/from disk, which saves the system’s capacity.
  • Deduplication – Removes but tracks duplicate information sitting on disk to reduce size on physical storage.

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Posted on December 11, 2020
Laurie Leblanc

Laurie LeBlanc, iTech Solutions

Being prepared is the first step in any Disaster Recovery (DR) plan. That means you need to make a plan and test it. Only then are you truly prepared for a disaster. You need to practice your DR plan if you want to ensure that it is successful when you really need it.

When I was a kid, my uncle came over and made sure that we knew what to do if there was a fire in our house. He taught us to touch the doorknobs to see if it was warm and had us practice climbing out the window and going to the designated meeting place. We practiced our fire drill to be sure we were prepared.

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Posted on December 3, 2020

Amal MacDonald, iTech Solutions

IBM i has multiple layers of defense, starting with the hardware itself and going up to the operating system. The platform does have some vulnerabilities that if left configured improperly, can result in hackers or even insiders to your company gaining access to data that they should not have access to. It is extremely important to implement the most appropriate security level around passwords, encrypted sessions, and so on.

There is another important layer of security that needs to be considered – Encryption for protecting data, let’s look at the various ways encryption can be implemented on IBM i.

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Posted on November 18, 2020

Richie Palma, Tech Solutions Consultant

There are a few high valued benefits external storage can serve up to the IBM i infrastructure stack.  The one we are going to focus on today is something IBM calls “Data Reduction”.  Data reduction technology is known in the IBM Storage world as DRP or Data Reduction Pools and is the backbone for delivering three high-value tools for reducing your overall storage footprint on disk.  That means you have to buy less physical storage to support your workload, saving you some real cash money.

Let’s look at the three pieces of tech that are available with DRP to optimize your storage on disk.

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Posted on November 4, 2020

Richie Palma, Tech Solutions Consultant

For IBM i shops, IBM’s POWER9 scale-out family consists of three main server models.  To say these servers can “scale-out” is a massive understatement. At the end of the day we could talk about the enterprise POWER9 family all day but the large majority of IBM i clients are rocking the POWER9 Scale-Out servers. So, I am going to focus my attention in this article on the beautiful, scalable, and rock-solid servers in the POWER9 Scale-out family.

The first thing you need to know is what the model names themselves can tell you.  Let’s use S914 as an example.  The “S” stands for scale-out, the “9” stands for Power9, the “1” represents the number of sockets (In this case, a single socket), and the “4” which represents the number of rack U’s of physical space the server will take up.

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Posted on October 28, 2020
Laurie Leblanc

Laurie LeBlanc, iTech Solutions

A good CIO will take a hard look at the status quo to determine if it is still the right decision.  While we love our IBM i and don’t want the CIO to consider migration, it’s part of the job. They need to consider future business needs such as availability, scalability, security, and modernization to keep the budget in good shape.  The good news is these are all things that IBM i is poised to help companies to achieve.

The HelpSystems’ 2020 IBM i Marketplace Survey results indicate that security is on the top of the CIO’s list of concerns.  With the shift to having more remote workers, your systems’ security should be a greater concern.  Security was followed by High Availability/Disaster Recovery, Modernizing Applications, IBM i skills, and Data Growth.  These responses highlight how important IBM i is to the business.

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Posted on

Yvonne Enselman

All components of an IT ecosystem need testing and validation. Any professional, or student in MIS, knows this, of course. What is harder is determining how to approach a given modification and the testing needed in a pragmatic fashion. There is a process that can be applied to most initiatives that consist of planning, analysis of the context, definition of tasks, estimation of effort, and risk mitigation.

When we address what needs to be delivered in a pragmatic sense, the priorities are easy to see. Once we start into a project we can get lost in complexity, engineering principles, etc. In order to make QA/Testing accessible, scalable, and reusable, it is best to drill down the process into checklists for procedures. Every organization has someone who knows what they need the system to do – from an admin who gets how to connect the ports, to the AP person who can process a check before we say “deposit”, to an EDI coordinator who knows the JIT threshold. Determining the best way to test usually involves understanding the actual job we need to accomplish and taking the time to break into steps where failure can be determined.

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Posted on October 12, 2020
Laurie Leblanc

Laurie LeBlanc, iTech Solutions

Let’s face it — 2020 hasn’t been the most stellar year for a lot of companies.  There is still uncertainty about what will happen COVID-19 and the rest of the year. As a result, some companies choose to hold on to their cash and not make capital purchases.  Others have frozen their budgets.

With the end of life for the popular E4D coming on December 31, 2020, many IBM i shops face Extended Support. This support is limited in scope.  You can only get a contract for 12 months, and there are no guarantees. IBM Extended Support is better than IBM’s no option, but it’s not the best solution.

If you’re one of these companies struggling to navigate budget constraints in 2020, we have a suggestion: financing. If you’re not worried today, but you want to hold on to your cash, financing is also a fit for you.  Do you refresh your hardware on a regular three to four-year cadence? Financing will save you money.

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Posted on October 9, 2020
Laurie Leblanc

Laurie LeBlanc, iTech Solutions

Managed Services may mean different things to different people.  To some, Managed Services means “I no longer have to do anything or worry about my IBM i”. For others, it means having someone else to bounce ideas off of and to have a backup for time off.  The truth is, it’s both and everything in between.

If you’re an Admin, when you hear your boss talk about Managed Services, you might get nervous about job security.  The truth is we work with a lot of companies who have an Admin, and we support them.  If you’re a CIO and you are concerned with finding a resource with IBM i knowledge, we can help you too.

We can tell you how good we are, but that isn’t as good as hearing about real customer situations.  Below are three real customer stories that discuss what the customer needs were and how Managed Services helped their businesses.

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Posted on October 2, 2020
Laurie Leblanc

Laurie LeBlanc, iTech Solutions

The shutdown across the country is something from a movie. A virus spreads across the globe, and no one can stop it.  People shut themselves inside and keep away from other people due to the fear. Businesses suffer because there is no one on-site to make sure that critical tasks that require human intervention. Except it’s not a movie, its real life.

To add chaos, we have wildfires, hurricanes, and storms. Many businesses have been destroyed by disasters.  The question is: Did they have a good backup strategy in place and were they diligent about getting their backups offsite?  If not, then recovery is going to be next to impossible.

When we talk about backups, we talk about the importance of having our backups be offsite for just this reason. You never know what is going to happen and when.  It’s better to be prepared than to find yourself in the midst of chaos.

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Posted on September 17, 2020

Patrick Nip

Almost three decades ago, back in 1997, IBM announced the flagship 9337 Disk Array Subsystem, a rack-mount disk unit that offers 1,084 MB to 33.55 GB of DASD for the AS/400 9406 Models B, D, E, and F as well as AS/400 Advanced System Model.  Back in the early ’80s, I engaged in a benchmark of the 9337 Disk Subsystem on an enterprise AS/400 against the EMC Symmetric system in Rochester, Minnesota.  I also presented RAID technology at a local user group meeting, explaining how to protect the data on the 9337 storage for the AS/400 with RAID 5 technology.

We have come a long way in storage for the Power System. In addition to internal hard disk drives (HDDs), there are Solid State Drives (SSDs), Non-Volatile Memory express (NVMe) drives, and the external IBM FlashSystems with all NVMe storage option. Gone are the days when AS/400 internal storage was usually the first choice in achieving the best performance. This blog discusses various IBM storage options for POWER9 and highlights the cost difference of deploying different storage options on a FlashSystem fiber attached to a POWER9.

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Posted on September 4, 2020
Laurie Leblanc

Laurie LeBlanc, iTech Solutions

It’s not often that we hear the stories of a data center being destroyed, but it happens. If your backups remain onsite, or even worse — they stay in the tape library for a week before you remove them, then you are at risk if a disaster strikes.  We actually had a customer who had a fire in their building.  The tape was still in the tape drive.  Pete’s advice was to cut the cable and grab the tape drive and run. This is not a good disaster recovery plan.

Security, recoverability, ease of restoring

When I was a System Administrator in the early 1990s, my colleague and I took our backup tapes home to keep them offsite. I didn’t have a fireproof safe, I just had a box with tapes that I kept safe. On Friday night, the backup would run sometime after the JDE nightly process would finish and the tape would stay in the tape drive until Monday morning at 6 AM when one of us arrived.  That tape stayed in the building all day until after work when it would leave with whoever had the early shift that week. We had a backup, we even took it offsite, but was it really the best solution? No. It was what we knew at the time.

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Posted on August 5, 2020

Richie Palma, Tech Solutions Consultant

I remember when I first got was introduced to IBM’s FlashCopy backup technology roughly 8 years ago.  An IBM i engineer who started to embrace external storage for small to mid-sized IBM i shops said to me one day, “If we went with SAN storage, we could flash out a full backup of their whole LPAR in less than 15 seconds”.  To which I responded, “Say what?! That doesn’t sound possible! It sounds like some Houdini magic or something”.

Being the guy that needs to know how everything works, I was launched into a quest to understand FlashCopy. Almost like a child running onto a new playground for the first time.

What is FlashCopy?

FlashCopy is typically used for Point in Time disk backups or creating a clone of a system or IASP for development, testing, reporting, or data mining purposes. We use FlashCopy mostly to make a copy of the disks for Point in Time backups to tape or VTL but Flashcopy is a tool you can get very creative with and drive some big-time value.

Think about these scenarios:

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Posted on July 30, 2020

Steve Pitcher, iTech Solutions

I had an interesting but not surprising conversation with a customer last week to talk about IBM i security. They said:

“IBM i is just bulletproof. We don’t have to worry about security. That’s the value of IBM i.”

It’s something heard all too often. And that’s my cue to tell someone just how ugly their baby is. I’m not going to sugar coat it because the stakes are far too high.

Once again, IBM i is highly securable.

Perhaps more than any other operating system ever created. It is not secure out of the box. In fact, it’s actually shipped wide open. The system value QCRTAUT has a good hand in making it that way. If QCRTAUT is the default value of *CHANGE (and it usually always is), then any object created on the system has *PUBLIC *CHANGE authority. In layman’s terms, it means that all objects are wide open to any authenticated user. This is the shipped value. And it’s only one of many things you need to keep under control.

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