December 2009 Newsletter


Wishing you health and happiness this holiday season, and prosperity in the New Year.  We thank you for your business and for letting us be part of your success. We look forward to working together in the coming year.

All the best to you, your family, and your organization,

The iTech Solutions Team.

What Santa wants for his IBM i.
IBM i Operating System

iTech Solutions was at the North Pole last month doing an i5/OS upgrade on Santa’s POWER5 520, from V5R4M5 to 6.1.1.  Santa Claus called iTech Solutions because he wanted someone with experience to do the operating system upgrade and he wanted the upgrade done right.

We all know this is a busy time at the North Pole, and Santa couldn’t afford for any application issues after the upgrade.  Santa used the iTech Solutions Upgrade Assurance program, and iTech Solutions brought one of their machines up to the North Pole. iTech restored the XMAS-01 partition to the iTech machine and upgraded that to 6.1.1.  We were able to test all of Santa’s applications on IBM i 6.1.1 and when the big guy himself signed off that everything was working fine on the iTech machine, we upgraded Santa’s machine XMAS-01.  Who else would Santa call for an IBM i upgrade, but iTech Solutions?

You know it is just amazing how big Santa’s database is on his IBM i.  Santa runs a standard ERP package to deal with all the vendors that the Elves purchase their raw goods inventory for making the toys. He has a cool application that figures out how to reverse pack the sleigh on Christmas eve so that the elves load the presents onto the sleigh in the reverse order that Santa delivers them.   He had a Websphere Reindeer health application, and a JAVA Weather application to know where the sleigh would catch some air turbulence. He said most of the Elves run green screen applications, as they require a lot of speed.  We talked about extending some of those applications with Open RPG that will be available with IBM i 7.1 next year, and how that might help him extend some RPG applications with some Blackberry and iPhone devices he was looking at installing.

There were these two customer files, both of which were encrypted.  One was called Naughty and one called Nice.  Santa told me that he had many people move from the naughty list to the nice list this year, but that the naughty file still had a lot of deleted records in it.  This was causing a problem as the batch “Coal” job was taking a real long time to run, and it was messing up the second-shift elves in coal fabrication.  Santa said with a belly laugh, we tried to reorganize the file, but it’s always locked.  iTech Solutions showed Santa how to use the Reorganize while active function so that he didn’t require exclusive access during the reorganization process. That allowed the naughty file to be reorganized and all the deleted records to be removed.  The batch “Coal” job ran in half the time afterwards. I think that means more coal for naughty boys and girls.

Our next performance issue had to do with some ODBC jobs & Queries that the Elves had created out in the shop.  Every time they ran these ODBC jobs and Queries, the system would just grind to a halt.  iTech Solutions ran the Index Advisor, and determined that a couple of indexes (logical files) needed to be created over the toy file. With a mouse click, we created those required files for Santa. Now those jobs the elves were running are done in a snap.

Then Santa said, “you know the last time you were here you told me that I should backup the system and move my tapes to the South Pole.  Well, I am a little concerned that if we lost our tapes, then everyone would know who is on the Naughty and Nice list.”  I said, not to worry, you have two options.  We can do software encryption now that you are on 6.1.1 with BRMS, or we can do Hardware Encryption with that fancy new Fibre attached LTO-4 tape drive we installed last spring.  I could see Santa was very happy as their was a sparkle in his eye.

Now, Santa was starting to look a little tired and I asked him what the problem was?  He said, he needs a little more help managing and operating his IBM i.  He said it was so much better now that iTech Solutions is handling his PTFs and i5/OS upgrades, but he just wishes that iTech Solutions could help him with things like Technical Support or question and answers.  I told him that for a fixed monthly fee, he could have telephone access to iTech Solution’s Certified Expert Engineers 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, including holidays like Christmas.  Support includes assistance, consultation advice on technical matters, how-to questions for the elves, and that we could also use tools like VPN to remotely access his machine to determine the problem and work with his staff to resolve the issue. He said, that was what he wanted for Christmas. 

I asked Santa if there was anything else on his list?  He said, there were two  more things.  First, he said, Mrs. Claus gets so annoyed at him every month when he has to go into the office to do a Full System Backup.  I looked at Santa, and said to him, I have been asking you for years to get rid of that Twin-ax Console and upgrade to Operations Lan Console.  You kept telling me that you liked Twin-ax.  I said, last quarter when we were doing the iTech Solutions quarterly PTF maintenance, that I could hardly see that screen, as that twin-ax device is so old. If you had Operations LAN console, you or any of the elves could remotely connect from home right to the console, and do the backup without having to come into the office.  iTech Solutions installed and configured Operations LAN Console, so that Santa could spend a little more quality time with Mrs. Claus.  Secondly, he asked if there was anything we could do, as IBM had assigned him twelve different customer numbers for the North Pole, each reindeer had their own IBM customer number, and a few of the elves had IBM customer numbers. He said, “it was confusing when we have to call IBM, and they ask us for a customer number, I don’t know which one to give him.”  I laughed, and said sorry, even iTech Solutions can’t help untangle IBM customer numbers.

We were just about at the end of the day, and it was so quiet in the computer room not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.  Santa whispered in my ear, that he was so happy to have iTech Solutions on his team, that he was making sure we were all on the Nice list.  I in turn asked Santa, “What are the people on the Naughty List getting for Christmas besides Coal?”.  He said, “because they have been so bad, I am giving them Windows Servers.  After all the crashes, problems, and headaches they will have with those Windows Servers, they will think twice about being naughty again.”

So, I am glad to report that iTech Solutions is what Santa wants for Christmas.

Something to think about.  Light

With the holiday season upon us, I didn’t want to wear you down with technical articles this month, but I want you to think about something.

Your actual Backup Tapes.

Does anyone know how to actually find them?  Are they labeled? If you were on vacation on a remote island with no communication, could someone else in the company find your tapes? Find the right tapes? You spend all this time each night doing backups, but if you can’t find the tapes, what good are the backups?

Do you rotate your backups so that you have a couple of versions to go back to if there was a problem with your most recent nightly or monthly tape?  Is there a procedure on how to find the tapes?  Is it printed or on the computer which we would have to recover first?

For the new year, make sure you have a good recovery plan, and it includes vital information about where your tapes are located, and how to find the right tapes.

Release levels and PTFs

iSeries Family

People are always asking me how often they should be performing PTF maintenance, and when is the right time to upgrade their operating system.  I updated this article from last month with the current levels of PTFs. Let’s look at PTFs.  First, PTFs are Program Temporary Fixes that are created by IBM to fix a problem that has occurred or to possibly prevent a problem from occurring.  In addition, some times PTFs add new functionality, security, or improve performance.  Therefore, I am always dumbfounded as to why customers do not perform PTF maintenance on their machine at least quarterly.  If IBM has come out with a fix for your disk drives, why do you want to wait for your disk drive to fail with that problem, only to be told that there is a fix for that problem, and if you had applied the PTF beforehand, you would have averted the problem.  Therefore, I think a quarterly PTF maintenance strategy is a smart move.  Many of our customers are on our quarterly PTF maintenance program, and that provides them with the peace of mind of knowing their system is up to date on PTFs.  Below is a table of the major group PTFs for the last few releases.  You might notice that this week, IBM just created a new Security PTF Group, so I have added this to our list, as we are installing this for our customers on iTech Solutions Quarterly Maintenance program.

                     6.1    V5R4    V5R3    V5R2
Cumul. Pack   9279   9321    8267   6080

Grp Hipers        51     116     169      189

DB Group          12       23      24        25

Java Group       11       22      23        27

Print Group       14       36       20         7

Backup/Recov.  11       28       33        31

Security Group   12      11         7         –

Blade/IXA/IXS    12      12        –          –
Http                  11      21      17         –                

The easiest way to check your levels is to issue the command WRKPTFGRP.  They should all have a status of installed, and you should be up to the latest for all the above, based upon your release.  Now there are more groups than the ones listed above, but these are the general ones that most people require.  We can help you know which group PTFs you should be installing on your machine based upon your licensed programs. Here is a nice tidbit.  The Cumulative PTF package number is broken down as YDDD, where Y is the year and DDD is the day it was released.  Therefore, if we look at the cumulative package for V5R4, the ID is 9104. We can determine that it was created on the 104th day of 2009, which is April 14, 2009.  Look at your machine and this will give you a quick indication of just how far out of date in PTFs you may be.  I left V5R1 off the list, because if you are on V5R1, you don’t need to be worrying about PTFs, you really need to be upgrading your operating system.  The same can be said for V5R2 and V5R3, but there are still customers who are on those releases.

If you have an HMC, you should be running V7R3.4.0 with Service Pack 2 and PTF MH01181 installed. This PTF is Required for V7.3.4.
For your Flexible Service Processor (FSP) that is inside your Power 5 or Power5+ (520, 515, 525, 550, 570), the code level of the FSP should be 01_SF240_382. Power 6 (940x M15, M25, & M50 machines, and 8203-E4A & 8204-E4A) customers should be running EL340_101.  For Power6 (MMA, 560, and 570 machines) your FSP should be at EM340_101. If you have a Power6 595 (9119-FMA) then you should be on EH340_101.
If you need help with upgrading your HMC or FSP just give us a call.  We will be happy to perform the function for you or assist you in doing it. Contact Pete Massiello.


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