February 2010 Newsletter

Greetings!

The Olympics!  I enjoy watching them, as I know many of you do as well.  I love the events themselves, plus the story lines, the preparation, the inspiring moments of each athlete, their battles, what they overcame, how their families helped them to compete, and then there is also the history of the sport itself.  To me it is just fascinating.   However, whether you are a sports fan or not, there are valuable lessons to be learned when you view their efforts and accomplishments.  You can apply these lessons to work or to each of our personal lives.  For every athlete there is one common thread among them all:  they all have a great coach who helps them accomplish their goal, guides them in their endeavor, and brings them to resources that they need to become an Olympian.  Hmmm..that coaching job is very similar to the job that iTech Solutions performs for their customers.  iTech Solutions is here for our customers so that they can reach their goals:  we have the knowledge, the skills, and the experience for you to get the most from your IBM i (AS/400, iSeries, i5, System i) investment.

While all the athletes in the Olympics are performing at the peak of their potential, I need you to ask yourself is your IBM i performing at the peak of its ability? Are you getting the most from your machine? Are you current on your release of i5/OS (OS/400)?  Are you backing up the right information? Have you ever tested your restoration?  Would you like to upgrade your hardware but your version of i5/OS is too far behind? When was the last time you applied PTFs? Is your system in need of a checkup?  We are here to help you in any of those tasks, from Health Checks, to i5/OS upgrades, to Disaster Recovery, to PTF maintenance.  You can spend years getting your machine in shape to perform like an Olympic IBM i, or you can invite iTech Solutions to come in anywhere from a half day to a few days to get your project complete and have an Olympic-gold-medal-winning IBM i.  You don’t have to do a lot of push-ups and sit-ups on your way to Olympic gold, just contact iTech Solutions via email or by phone.

 2010 Vancouver Olympic Gold metal


Last month one of the articles was on UPS Monitoring.  Well that was an eye opening revelation for a lot of people reading this newsletter.  I can’t believe how many people called us about that issue.  While some people had a cable connected to the UPS port, others didn’t even have the cable connected. Some had it on the wrong port, but most people just weren’t monitoring for the outage.   Therefore, when their UPS lost street power, their IBM i would just shut down.  I am glad we were able to bring this to light.  Remember, if you had received an iTech Solutions Health Check, you would have known this already.

I was in Rochester last month for the IBM i Champions class. It was packed full of sessions on the new POWER7 machines, IBM i 7.1, and other goodies. I will be publishing information from this class in the newsletter as I am able to disclose it. There are some great things coming this year!!!

We have packed a lot of information into this newsletter, and I hope that you find this useful. This issue of our newsletter has five articles. In the first, we will discuss some highlights of the POWER7 announcements. The second article is about backing up and restoring your journals.  The third article is about customizing the BRMS recovery report.  The fourth article is about staying current on your software.  The last article is for your reference with updated PTF information.

 
iTech Solutions can help you improve performance, upgrade i5/OS, perform security audits, implement a High Availability solution, Health Checks, Systems Management, PTF management, Blade installations, iSCSI Configurations, Backup/Recovery, upgrade an existing machine, or upgrade to a new machine.  If you are thinking of LPAR or HMC, then think iTech Solutions.  We have the skills to help you get the most out of your System i. 

For more information on any of the articles below please visit us at on the web at iTech Solutions  or  email iTech Solutions.  I 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.

POWER7 announcement
 POWER7

 

Earlier this month IBM announced a new lineup of POWER Systems servers with the POWER7 chips in them. They provide a steep improvement in performance, energy efficiency and new capabilities. I was in Rochester in January for the preannouncement, and I was amazed at the performance these servers have.  IBM has only announced the middle range of the POWER Systems server line, with a 750, 755, 770, and 780 models which are all Energy-star compliant.  These machines will run IBM i 6.1.1 and 7.1.

The 750 has up to 32 cores with 181,000 CPW, and can have clock rates of 3.0 to 3.55GHz with offerings of 8, 16, 24, or 32 cores. The 750 will be a P20 or Small software tier. The 770 has up to 64 cores and 292,000 CPW, and can have clock speeds of 3.1 to 3.5GHz.  The machine can start with four cores.  The 3.1GHz can be 4/16, 4/32, 4/48, or 4/64 cores.  The 3.5GHz machine has 6 processors per core and is offered in 4/12, 4/24, 4/36, or 4/48 combinations. The 770 is a P30 or Medium software tier. The 780 has up to 64 cores and 343,000 CPW is offered with two clock speeds 3.86GHz or 4.14GHz, with the later being TurboCore mode. The 3.86GHz model is offered with 8 cores per processor in 4/16, 4/32, 4/48, and 4/64 combinations.  The 4.14GHz turbo-core option has 4 cores per processor, and is offered in 4/8, 4/16, 4/24, and 4/32 combinations.  The new turbo-core option of the 780 essentially shuts down ½ the processors and allows the remaining processors to use more L3 cache per processor improving the performance of each core.  The 755 is a high performance computing cluster node with 32 POWER7 cores.  A high end server is supposed to be announced later in the year with around 256 cores, but that CPW hasn’t yet been disclosed.

POWER7 technology brings improvements in capacity, virtualization and energy efficiency, while still delivering leadership performance per processor core. New POWER7 processor-based systems are more intelligent systems that minimize complexity, automate processes, and reduce energy consumption, downtime and other operational costs. They have an innovative multi-core, 45 nanometer design, running at speeds of over 4.1 GHz, with up to 8-cores per socket, and four threads per core.

So what does this mean for IBM i customers.  Well in short you will have a much faster machine to run IBM i on.  The high end and low end Power7 machines have yet to be announced, and that is looking like late this year. You will want to make sure that you understand that IBM is only going to be offering upgrades to POWER7 from a POWER6 box.  If you currently have a Power5 machine, you will not be able to directly upgrade to POWER7.

The POWER technology is a great platform for the IBM i operating system, as we can reap the benefits of lower cost of ownership, faster time to market with new technology, and state of the art processors.  Make no mistake, the POWER Systems platform is fantastic, and just got better, but the value of IBM i has always been and continues to be IBM i itself.  The integrated operating system.   

If you have a question on any of this, or would like iTech Solutions to arrange a briefing, contact Glenn at gericson@itechsol.com

Recovery sequence when you have journals and files.
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We had a recent system recovery for one of our clients, where they were restoring their system using our iTech Solutions iRecovery service.  The service is where we bring an IBM i machine to your location and test your restore process to recover your system.  For every customer for whom we’ve provided this service, this has been an eye opener when they look at what is required for a restore and what their save strategy is actually saving.

Most people know and understand that when restoring logical and physical files, that the based-upon physical file must be restored prior to the logical file. If both the logical and the physical are in the same library, then i5/OS takes care of this for us.  If you are restoring your libraries, and the logical file is in a different library than the physical file, then the physical file must first be on the system in order for the dependent logical file to be restored.   If you are on V6R1 there is a new parameter, “deferred id,” on the restore commands, as well as a new command.  This new feature was discussed in the May 2008  newsletter.  In addition, if you have MQTs  (Materialized Query Tables), you need to restore the based-upon physical file before the MQT will be restored.

Just like logical and physical files, there is also an order dependency for physical files and journals. When a physical file that is journaled is restored to a system, the restore process looks for the journal to which the physical file was previously being journaled.  If the restore process finds the journal on the system, everything is great. If it doesn’t find the journal, the restore process still restores the file, but the file isn’t journaled.  This is a big problem if you were expecting your file to be journaled.  In addition, if the journal is later restored in the restore process, the physical file doesn’t automatically become journaled; instead you would have to go back and manually start journaling on the file.  This is true for any object that is journaled; the journal must be on the system prior to the journaled object being restored.

Lets complete the order, because there is one more object that we need to discuss, and that is journal receivers.  The journal needs to be restored before journal receivers.  If you restore a journal receiver when the journal is not on the system, you must associate the journal receivers with the journal after it is restored.  You would use the Work with Journal
(WRKJRN) command to do this.

In summary, you should restore the journals first, then restore the journal receivers, then any journaled objects.  When you have physical and logical files in the mix, you need to have the journal on the system before you restore the journaled physical files, and the based upon physical files before you restore the dependent logical files or MQTs.

If you are doing a Go Save 21 for your backup or backing up your libraries in a custom CL program or using BRMS you need to be aware of this.  Remember, that the SAVLIB *NONSYS command and the SAVLIB *ALLUSR command will save libraries in alphabetical order.  If you were to use the corresponding RSTLIB command to do our restore, it will restore the libraries in the order in which you backed them up.  Therefore when naming your libraries, if you were to name the library for your journals to be alphabetically first, and then the library for your journal receivers to be after that, you would be in great shape.  If you are on V6R1 (which you should be) you wont have a problem with restoring the physicals and logical, as you can use the deferred id parameter on the RSTLIB command.  If you aren’t on V6R1, then you would want to insure that for any logical file which is over a physical file in another library, that the physical files library is restored prior to the logical files library:  i.e. the library of the physical file is alphabetically before that of the library containing the logical.

What happens when you only have one machine now:  how do you test this out?

Contact iTech Solutions, and let them tell you about our iTech Solutions iRecovery service.  We will bring a machine to your site or any site that you wish, and test your recovery process.  Along the way, we will give you tips and techniques, and even update your backup process so that you can insure that when you save your system, you can recover your system.  Don’t wait until a disaster to find out that you don’t have what is required to recover your system.  Plan a recovery with iTech Solutions, and insure you can restore your system.

Customizing your BRMS Recovery report.     
 

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My friend Matt Spies and I were discussing the BRMS (Backup Recovery Media Services) recovery report, when he reminded me about a pretty cool feature for customizing the BRMS Recovery report which came out in V5R4.  I figured this would be a great article for those people that use BRMS.

What is the BRMS Recovery report?  These are step-by-step instructions produced by BRMS for recovering your system. The instructions state which tapes to use during each recovery step.  Since BRMS is in control of what is being backed up on your system, it knows all the pieces of those backups that you will need when it comes to restoring your system.  It then builds a restore set of instructions detailing what to do in each step to recover your system. Unfortunately, it wont tell you that you need to restore the journal before restoring the journaled physical file as we describe in the next article. That is what we will fix with adding our comments/instructions in any step through this process.

The most important issue with BRMS is that the recovery report must be available to you during the disaster.  If this report is left on your IBM i, then when you lose your system in a disaster, you don’t have the instructions to put the system back together. So, if you do nothing else, make sure you have this report on a remote server, or you print the report and store it off site with your tapes.

User recovery information can be included in the recovery report by adding records containing the information to the appropriate members of file QO1AUSRRCY in library QUSRBRM. There are various sections in the BRMS report:  the first section is the preamble to the report, followed by each step.  You add records to the member that you want.  So, if you want information at the end of the preamble, add records to the member PROLOG.
If you wish to add comments/instructions at the end of any STEP, you add them to the corresponding STEP xxx member in the file.  It’s extremely easy. Just remember a few things.  Whatever you add to the member comes at the end of that section with a heading of —- User Recovery Information —-, followed by all dashes at the end of the section.  It also starts your information in column 8 of the report.

Give this a try. If you have read the second article, perhaps your journals are in a library called JRNLIB, and you would like to restore that library prior to restoring all other user libraries.  If that was the case, I would modify the member STEP 016 (which is Recover User Libraries) and add the following to the member:

Restore library JRNLIB Before restoring any user libraries.

That is all you would need to add to the member, and just save the member. When you go to create the report you have to use an additional parameter on the STRRCYBRM command, USRRCYINF(*ADD).  Go ahead and give this a try, if you don’t like it, you can just clear the member that you added the information to.  You might also wish to add this line to your PROLOG member, so that when it comes to recover your system, you have the BRMS experts on hand.

Call iTech Solutions at 203-744-7854 for help with BRMS

Please note that when printing the recovery reports using the STRMNTBRM, it is not possible to include the user-defined notes, so you will need to run the STRRCYBRM ACTION(*REPORT) USRRCYINF(*ADD).

The recovery report is a step by step instruction based upon what is backed up on your system.  If you are not backing up the correct objects, or missing libraries from your control groups, it doesn’t matter how good the report is.  You will not be doing a restore of what you think you should have.  The best way to determine what to restore, is to do a full system restore.  If you need help, need a machine to test your restore on, or would like an analysis of your backups, contact Pete via email at pmassiello@itechsol.com

Keeping current with your software.  IBM i Operating System

Why should you keep current with your software?  I see many customers in a year, and I know more customers who are on the latest release than I know customers who like to stay back, but there are still plenty of customers who like to just stay put.  Sometimes I hear, “well it is working fine, why should I change”, or “I don’t know what problems we would having putting that new release of our xyz package in, so I won’t”, or “I don’t have the time”.  I can understand the time issues, as we are all understaffed with more projects than we can complete.  Yet, you are paying for maintenance on these 3rd party applications and utilities.  Why continue to pay for maintenance when you don’t take the latest release? There are new features, functions, and enhancements that you are missing out on by staying on the older releases.

A good example of why not moving forward is a disaster waiting to happen. We started working with a new customer in November, and they wanted to upgrade their 820 to a Power6 520.  They had purchased a new company in the summer, and the intent was to merge them onto their current 820 for the start of the new year. Sounded good, except they were still on V5R2, they hadn’t applied i5/OS PTFs in over 5 years, they had a bunch of 3rd party utilities which they also hadn’t upgraded during the last few years, and their ERP & EDI packages were 2 releases behind the current offerings.   The problem started that their 820 was already running at 90%. How were they going to add another division which was approximately the same size?  We proposed a new Power6 520, which would give them enough CPW for both divisions to run smoothly.  Unfortunately, we only had about 6 weeks to complete the project.  We would need to bring the operating system up to V5R4M5 for the new machine, which wasn’t a problem. When we started to contact the 3rd party vendors, most were saying that they didn’t support the current version of the software that the customer was running, and they would need to upgrade. If this customer had kept up to date with their software, this would have been a very simple migration.  But the fact that they were so far behind in everything, meant their IT team had to scramble and work very hard upgrading every package during those 6 weeks.  In retrospect, I think they did 5 years worth of upgrades in 6 weeks.  Not a fun 6 weeks for the IT department, especially when you realize it was coming up to the holidays and year-end.  We accomplished the impossible, but I didn’t think we were going to be able to get the EDI package upgraded with all the changes they needed to do for the new release. They are now using the new features and functions in all these packages and in the operating system that they could have been using for the last 5 years, but they didn’t want to upgrade until something pushed them.  They have also started to play with PHP on i5/OS with some pretty good success.  So, why didn’t they take advantage of all these new features, functions, and enhancements earlier? It would have certainly been easier doing them one at a time than all at once. There was one issue during all of this, because they were so far behind, we weren’t able to bring in some of the new disk technology on their Power6 520, as they would have never gotten to V6R1 in that same time frame. Interesting that we are upgrading them to i5/OS V6R1M1 next month, as the CFO told me they plan to stay current from now on.

That was just one customer who was under a crunch due being so far behind, but there are many more out there.  In addition, when you get so many years behind, the upgrades become more difficult to do because sometimes you aren’t just upgrading from one release to another, you are skipping a release or two, and that makes it much more difficult.  I am not an advocate for hopping on the new release as soon as it is available.  Although, I have those customers and sometimes they want to be on the newest release of i5/OS as soon as it comes out.  It’s not a problem when you have multiple machines, but I think waiting a month or two is a good thing.

The issue of compatibility also has to be discussed.  As IBM i customers, we take for granted the integration that IBM i has with the database, security, communications, etc.  But when you start adding 3rd party application, there will be compatibility issues possibly between the operating system and the 3rd party application, and also amongst 3rd party applications.

What about support?  How many times have you called IBM or any other vendor, and what is the first thing they ask you? “Are you on the latest PTFs?”.  Why do you think they ask this? Because many times the current PTFs will fix an issue that you are having or a PTF will prevent an issue from happening at all.  This is why I am a big proponent of keeping current on PTFs, as well as the release of software you are running.

So, we discussed functionality, compatibility, upgradability, and support. Sorry, but I can’t think of a reason for staying behind.  I would love to hear your feedback on this subject, send an email to info@itechsol.com

By the way, the above customer brought one of iTech Solutions iRecovery machines in during the migration stage. We upgraded the operating system and all their packages to the latest release without having to affect the business, giving us plenty of time to test everything. I don’t think we would have been able to accomplish installing all that new software if we didn’t have the second machine to test on.

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.
Releases

                     6.1    V5R4    V5R3    V5R2
Cumul. Pack   9279   9321    8267   6080

Grp Hipers       56      121     169      189

DB Group          12       25      24        25

Java Group       11       22      23        27

Print Group       15       37      20         7

Backup/Recov.  12       29      33        31

Security Group   15       13       7         –

 
Blade/IXA/IXS    13       12       –          –
 
Http                  12       22      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 V7R7.1
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 EL350_038.  For Power6 (MMA, 560, and 570 machines) your FSP should be at EM350_038. If you have a Power6 595 (9119-FMA) then you should be on EH350_038. POWER7 the firmware level is AL710_043.
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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