December 2016 Newsletter

Dear iTech Fan,

i can do anything with iTech Solutions

As 2016 comes to a close, we wish to thank you for allowing iTech Solutions to be part of your team.  We hope you have a happy holiday season, with good health, happiness, and prosperity in the New Year.  We thank you for your business and for letting us work with you. We look forward to working together in the coming year, and strive to exceed your expectations.  Remember the Christmas jingle:

The weather outside is frightful,
but working together with iTech Solutions can be so delightful.

Let us help you with all your IBM i needs next year. Now, sit back and chuckle as you read about how iTech Solutions helped Santa this Christmas 🙂  We will be back in January with our normal IBM i System Administrator Technical Tips & Techniques.

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

From the iTech Solutions Team.

 

For more information on any of the articles below please visit us on the web at iTech Solutions or email iTech Solutions. We would love for you to let us know any articles that you wish for the future, or if you enjoy any of the articles in the current newsletters.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

What Santa wants for his IBM i.

Just a few more days to shop, to work, and to wait for Christmas day. I thought I would share a little story about how iTech Solutions saved Christmas for Santa.

iTech Solutions was at the North Pole last month doing a few OS upgrades. We upgraded Santa’s POWER6 520, from 7.1 to 7.2 Technology Refresh 5, and then his POWER8 814 from 7.2 to 7.3 TR1 as well.  Santa Claus called iTech Solutions because he wanted someone with knowledge, experience, and know-how to do the operating system upgrades and he wanted the upgrades done right.

After upgrading the POWER6 520 to 7.2 (which was the highest release that machine would support), we brought in a new POWER8 S814 8-Core machine. Santa needed more performance, as he had hit the limit on that old machine.  With the help of iTech Solutions we designed a new POWER8 S814 machine with SSDs, more CPW per core, new PCIe cards, extremely fast internal disk controllers, and basically more capacity to meet the growing world population of children.  We actually were able to bring in a new machine with 20x the performance of his existing machine for the same price he was paying on three years of maintenance.  Santa said “That was his Christmas present”.  It cut his 10 hour jobs at night to just minutes. Santa said to me, “I can’t believe how smooth the migration went. Yesterday we were on the old POWER6 machine, and today we are on the new POWER8 machine.  Everything is there and working, with the only difference being the speed.  This has been the best migration ever, I am glad I choose iTech Solutions”.

We all know this is a busy time at the North Pole, and Santa couldn’t afford for any application issues after the OS upgrade.  Santa used the iTech Solutions Upgrade Assurance program, and iTech Solutions brought one of their machines up to the North Pole. We restored the XMAS-01 partition running 7.2 to the iTech machine and upgraded that to 7.3.  We were able to test all of Santa’s applications on IBM i 7.3 and when the big guy himself signed off that everything was working fine on the iTech machine, we upgraded Santa’s machine XMAS-01 to 7.3. There was no worry if his applications would or wouldn’t work. We pre-tested everything on the iTech Solutions loaner machine. 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.  This was one of the reasons we upgraded his machines to 7.3 as Santa had so many old Query/400 queries running on his box, and with the news that they could now run Query/400 & OPNQRYF under SQE vs CQE in 7.3, allowed his queries to run in almost 1/2 the time. I love it when the fat guy, has that jolly old belly laugh. He had a Reindeer health application running in WebSphere Application Server, 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 a GUI interface using RPG Open Access, and how that might help him extend some RPG applications with some iPhone & iPad Air devices he was looking at installing. Mobile applications are a must from the sleigh, and Santa needs to keep in constant communications with the North Pole on Dec 24th. With IBMi 7.3 Santa now runs iAccess Mobile to get a display directly on this mobile device while on the sleigh. He was so happy when iTech installed this on his machine.

I’m sure the elves still haven’t changed their code from a long time ago; even though iTech told Santa it’s time to modernize when we were there last year. Those Elves are slowing down the older POWER7 720 server with all of those OPNQRYF’s on the toy list and nice list too.   They never did want to change over and learn SQL.   With free-format RPG and new RDi version 9, even the elves, maybe Mrs. Claus, are making minor changes and efficient rewrites on the legacy RPG code with ease. I think right after Christmas, we will look at upgrading the POWER7 machine to POWER8.

Santa and I were discussing new applications to make the North Pole more efficient.  He said to me, “I get these young elves telling me all the time, we need to do some website development with Ruby, or bring some new programmers in who know Python to take advantage of community based software development model to reduce our overhead.  Then other elves are telling me, we need to use Node.js for developing server-side web applications.  I can’t afford to manage more machines or having all these languages on different machines”.  I told Santa, relax.  iTech Solutions has your back.  I said, we can install all those languages on your IBM i, with the new Open Source LPP.  He said to me, have you been nipping on the egg-nog?  I said, no Santa, IBM i now runs all these open source languages like PHP, Ruby, Node.js, Python, Java, and PHP natively.  He was amazed.

In fact, iTech Solutions recently did some performance tuning on Santa’s machines at the North Pole.  The previous business partner didn’t understand logical partitions, and had the processors dedicated to the partitions.  So, on Christmas Eve when the production partition XMAS-01 was running at 100%, the other partitions on the machine were completely idle.  We set up shared processors and uncapped partitions on his machine, and the XMAS-01 partition was now running at 350%, and the work was flying through.  Santa, said he was able to save an upgrade and spend that money on additional toys for girls and boys throughout the world, all because in his words “iTech Solutions understands how to leverage my investment in IBM i to get the most out of the machine.  No one else has the knowledge to get my machine running as iTech Solutions”.  Thanks for the kind words, Santa.

There were these two customer files, both of which had billions of records in them.  One file was called Naughty and the other one called Nice.  Santa told me that he had many people move from the naughty list to the nice list this year, but that now 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. The elves are always working.  iTech Solutions showed Santa how to use the Reorganize While Active function in IBM i so that Santa 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? Those on the naughty list will probably be getting slower performing x86 servers this year. No Power 8 chips for them!   No IBM Navigator for i to see their poor performing servers either.   Every year, x86 servers seem more slower than the newer Power servers.

Santa had the elves bring us some hot-chocolate, I asked if he could put a little irish-whiskey in mine.  He raised an eyebrow, and asked “If I wanted to be put back on the naughty list”.  I replied back, “extra whip cream will be fine”.  He smiled back, but then said he had another problem.  He told me that he was always wishing he could go back in time, and run a query a few months later.  I looked at him with a smile and said “Do you wish you could be querying the files as if it was the middle of June, even though today is Dec 19th”.  He replied back, “Exactly.  That would make my job so much easier.” I said to him, “Well we can do that now on the systems we upgraded to IBM i 7.3.  There is a new feature called Temporal Support. It’s like going back in history and seeing the data in the files, exactly how it existed on any particular day and time”.  Santa said that he could use this function to keep track of the many lists he has without having to constantly make copies of files to then be queried later.  You know for an old guy, he is pretty good with technology.

Santa was telling me that we still needed better performance on his Power7 720 that we installed three years ago.  He was saying that as the population of the world increases, the sizes of his files were just getting huge.  Some of his jobs were running all night. We looked at the performance of the machine, and discovered the amount of I/O on that machine was extremely high.  So, we installed some new PCIe 12GB Cache Raid SAS adapter Quad-port 6GB Disk Controllers with some solid state drives (SSDs). Wow, did that do the trick.  Those same jobs which were so I/O intensive ran very quickly with the new large cache disk controllers and the solid state drives.  This really made a difference in the performance of the machine, and allowed the mapping software which determines the route that Santa is to take on Christmas Eve, stopping at every house to drop off the presents to run in just an hour compared to days.  If your system seems to not be running how you want, why not have iTech Solutions come in and do a performance review?

Our next performance issue had to do with some ODBC jobs & Queries that the Elves had created out in the shop.  The elves have created more queries than you can imagine. 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 the required logical files for Santa. Now those jobs the elves were running are done in a snap. Santa said “It was like a new machine, having iTech Solutions come in for the day and investigate the system”. We performed our standard Health Check. Perhaps this is something you might want to put on your list for Christmas or even next year?

During my visit, I was in the office next to the computer room at the North Pole, when out in the computer room there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from my desk to see what was the matter.

Away from my Windows10 laptop I flew like a flash,

Tore up the ramp and threw open the sash.

And what to my wondering eyes did appear,

but a miniature sleigh filled with hundreds of tapes, and eight tiny reindeer;

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment it must be Saint Nick.

I said “Santa, what is going on?”  Santa said “We are all going to do our DR test, and we had to get all the tapes for our IBM i restoration”.  I said, “Santa we spoke about this during the summer, why not just replicate to one of our IBM I cloud (Power Systems) machines at iTech Solutions, and then not only would you have a Hot Site available all the time, if you had a real disaster your DR machine would be immediately available and you wouldn’t be stumbling with all these tapes.   Remember we were talking about this whole Cloud Computing concept with the Easter Bunny, and you thought he had been drinking a little too much carrot juice.”  Cloud Computing is not computers in the clouds, it’s a service that iTech Solutions offers that allows you to host your IBMi machines at our locations or even just use one of our machines and carve out a virtual LPAR.  Santa said, “he had a lot on his mind at the time as the elves had to do the systems management of his current machine as he couldn’t find any good system admins in the North Pole.” We agreed to look into hosting his replication with iTech Solutions in January. I said to Santa, you know while we are at it, you should really look at either our Cloud based backup solution, where you back your data directly up to our cloud, fully encrypted and compressed.  Your backup is immediately available off-site, and you can rest assured that the data is fully encrypted.  In addition, we can always put a virtual backup appliance in the data center, and perform backups to the Virtual Tape Library so that you aren’t handing tapes.  Santa was interested in further looking at both solutions.   Are you still playing with tapes? Think about that for the New Year.

Next, I asked Santa if there was anything else on his list?  He said, “there were three 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 to bring all your PTFs up to date, that I could hardly see that screen, as that twin-ax device is so old on that one Power6 machine. If you had Operations LAN console, you, iTech Solutions, or any of the elves could remotely connect from home via VPN 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.  Mrs. Claus was so happy she told Santa to put everyone at iTech Solutions on the Nice list, no matter what.  Whew, that was certainly lucky for me.

Secondly, he said “from time to time the elves are developing new modules and programs and it would be nice if he could get them off the production XMAS01 machine”.  I said, “well that isn’t a problem, let’s create a virtual partition on that new POWER8 S814 machine, and put the development environment on that partition”.  He asked, how could we do that?  I said, “remember when we brought that new POWER8 machine in, now that we are running IBM i 7.3 we can do more virtualization and create virtual partitions”.  Santa said to me, “but I only have one pair of disk controllers on XMAS01”. I said, “no problem, we are going to virtualize the disks and DVD drive, and then share the SAS tape drive between partitions. Since we have an HMC, we won’t need any additional hardware on your machine”. I told him that iTech Solutions can do this in one day for him. Santa was like a little kid at Christmas, and said “well that is another thing I want from iTech Solutions”.

Thirdly, 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. Santa 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”.  I think you could hear his belly laugh all the way down at the South Pole.

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.”  I shook my head in agreement.

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 with BRMS, or we can do Hardware Encryption with that fancy new Fibre attached LTO-5 tape drive we installed last spring, and the SAS attached LTO-7 tape drive on the new S814.  I could see Santa was very happy as there was a sparkle in his eye. We planned to do the hardware based Tape Encryption using SKLM (TKLM) in February.  If your tapes are not encrypted what would happen if you lost a tape?  Who would have your data?  Let iTech Solutions Encrypt your tapes.

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 IBM i upgrades, but he just wishes that iTech Solutions could help him with things like Technical Support, remote support, or keep a set of “eyes and ears” on his systems, as well as 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. Santa said “I thought Santa was the only person who works on 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. Santa said, that was what he wanted for Christmas.

If Santa wants iTech Solutions for his support, then shouldn’t you?

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

 

 


Upcoming Events 

Some of the events that we will be speaking at or exhibiting at are listed below. Don’t forget the iTech Solutions web site at http://www.itechsol.com.

 

January 17, 2017 – Fairfield CT AS/400 Users Group (FASUG) – Norwalk Inn, Norwalk, CT  http://www.fasug.org

  • Cool things in Navigator for i to make you a RockStar System Administrator

January 18, 2017 – Long Island Systems Users Group (LISUG) Westbury Manor, Westbury, NY  http://www.lisug.org

  • Cool things in Navigator for i to make you a RockStar System Administrator
  • What you need to successfully upgrade to IBM i 7.3

January 19, 2017 – North Eastern Systems Technology Group (NESTU) Spice Grill, Parsippany, NJ  http://www.nestu.com

  • Cool things in Navigator for i to make you a RockStar System Administrator

April 10 – 12, 2017 – Northeast User Groups Conference http://www.neugc.org

  • Stop by our booth and see us
  • Sessions to be determined

May  7 – 10, 2017 – COMMON Annual Conference & Expo – Orlando, FL http://www.common.org

  • Stop by our booth and see us
  • Sessions to be determined

 


Release levels and PTFs

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. This is what we are installing for our customers on iTech Solutions Quarterly Maintenance program.

7.3 7.2 7.1 6.1 V5R4
Cumul Pack 16299 16306 16120 15063 12094
Tech. Refresh  1 5 11
Grp Hipers 19 79 183 210 204
DB Group 3 14 41 33 33
Java Group 3 11 26 37 34
Print Group 3 12 31 49
Backup/Recov. 6 28 62 61 57
Blade/IXA/IXS 1 16 30 15
HTTP 4 17 43 46 36
TCP/IP 3 10 17 22
Security 11 41 65 60  33
High Availability 3 6 13  5
Hardware  4 20 31  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 V7R1, the ID is 13287. We can determine that it was created on the 287th day of 2013, which is October 14, 2013. 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 & V5R2 off the list, because if you are on V5R1 or V5R2, you don’t need to be worrying about PTFs, you really need to be upgrading your operating system. The same can be said for V5R3 & V5R4, but there are still customers who are on those releases.

HMCs

If you have a Hardware Management Console (HMC,) you should be running:

Model Release Service Pack
HMC V8R8.6
  1.  MH01655
HMC V8R8.5
  1. MH01617 (must be installed from classic GUI or command line)
  2. SP1 MH01633 (must be installed from classic GUI or command line)
  3. MH01669 (must be installed from classic GUI or command line)
HMC V8R8.4
  1. MH01560 (must be installed from command line using UPDHMC)
  2. SP2 MH01620 (must be installed from command line using UPDHMC)
  3. MH01668 (must be installed from classic GUI or from command line)
HMC V8R8.3
  1. SP3 MH01619
HMC  V8R8.2
  1. SP3 MH01583
  2. MH01667
HMC (CR4 last release) V7R7.9
  1. SP3 MH01546
  2. MH01587
  3. MH01659
HMC V7R7.8
  1. SP1 MH01397
  2. SP2 MH01432
  3. MH01570
or V7R7.7
  1. SP3 MH01379
  2. SP4 MH01415
  3. MH01516
HMC C03 V7R3.5
  1. SP4 MH01277

If we have a model listed above in the HMC column that is the highest level of firmware that model of the HMC can be upgraded to.

  • Note that release 8.8.x does not support any POWER5 servers.
  • Version 7.7.9 is not supported and cannot be installed on HMC models C03, C04 or CR2.
  • If an HMC is used to manage any POWER7 processor based server, the HMC must be a model CR3 or later model rack-mount HMC or C05 or later desk side HMC.
  • HMC V8R8.1 is supported on rack-mount models CR5, CR6, CR7 and CR8; and on desktop model C08. These listed models meet or exceed the V8R8.1 minimum memory requirement of 2GB however 4GB is recommended.
  • If you want to manage a POWER8 machine, you need to be on at least HMC 8.8.1

Some notes on the new HMC release V8R8.6 that just came out:

  • Will be the last release to support POWER6.
  • Will be the last release to allow ‘classic’ UI login.
  • Will be the last release that supports the model CR5, CR6 and C08.
  • The HMC must be at version V8 R8.4.0 or later to be upgraded to HMC V8 R8.6.0. This requirement is enforced during installation.

 

If you have an Flexible Service Processor (FSP) your firmware should be:

Machine Processor Model Version Notes
Power5 or 5+ 520, 515, 525, 550, 570 SF240_418_382 last
Power6 940x, M15, M25, M50 EL350_172_038 last
8203-E4A, 8204-E8A, 8204-E4A EL350_172_038 last
MMA, 560, 570 EM350_172_038 last
9119-FHA EH350_172_038 last
Power7 8231-E1B, 8202-E4B, 8231-E2B, 8205-E6B, 8233-E8B, 8236-E8C AL730_152_035
9117-MMB, 9179-MHB AM780_080_040
8231-E1C, 8202-E4C, 8205-E6C AL740_161_042
9117-MMC, 9179-MHC AM770-112_032
Power7+ 8231-E1D, 8202-E4D, 8231-E2D, 8205-E6D AL770_112_032
8408-E8D, 9109-RMD AM770_112_032
9117-MMD, 9179-MHD AM780_080_040
Power8 8408-E8E, 8284-22A, 8286-41A, or 8286-42A SV840_147_056 (HMC Managed)
9119-MHE or 9119-MME SC840_147_056

 

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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