February 2011 Newsletter

Greetings!

Exciting! Cool! Fun! and Wow.  These are the words I have been hearing this week about Power Systems.  What a great time to be a Power Systems customer. In last month’s iTech Solutions newsletter we wrote an article about IBM’s Watson playing Jeopardy. Watson is composed of ninetyfive Power7 servers. These are the same servers you run IBM i on.  I hope you had an opportunity to watch the show the last few days.   It is just amazing watching Watson compete against the two Jeopardy champions.  Oh, by the way if you would like one of those new Power7 servers, just send Glenn an email.
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, I want to continue our series on backups with focusing on your tapes.  As you will see, one of our customers recently had a scare when a fire broke out in their warehouse.  The second article is on how to better manage the cache batteries in your disk controllers.  The third article is about how to run remote commands on another machine. The fourth article is an online event we are doing with COMMON on Everything you need to know to get started using Systems Director Navigator for IBM i. The last article is for your reference with updated PTF information.

 

Of course, if you are still on V5R4, send Pete an email and he can help you upgrade to V6R1 or V7R1, with over 300 V6R1 upgrades done to date you know iTech Solutions has the expertise and know how.

iTech Solutions can help you improve performance, upgrade i5/OS, perform security audits, implement a High Availability solution, Health Checks, Systems Management, Remote Administration,  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.

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For more information on any of the articles below please visit us at 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.

Your Backups are worthless…..
Light
 

Let me explain.  Last Saturday I got a call from one of my customers.  I said “Hello,” and her response was  “The building is on fire!”.  I said, “Don’t worry; we can bring you a new machine in an hour for recovery.  Where is last night’s tape?” “In the tape drive”.   “Ok, where is the tape for the night before last?”  The reply was “Also in the computer room.”  This customer was really lucky as there was no real damage to the computer room, but there was soot everywhere. All the data was intact, not one byte of data was lost.  However, there is a real lesson in here for everyone.  What would they have done if the fire had destroyed the computer room?

I don’t care if you use BRMS, GO Backup, or have written your own backup procedures.  If the tapes stay in the computer room, if the tapes stay in the tape drive, if the tapes aren’t moved off-site, then your backups for disaster recovery when the computer room is destroyed are useless.  I am not going to sugar coat this, if you aren’t getting your tapes off-site each night, you are going to get an “F” grade for backups when we do an iTech Solutions Health Check.  Now, my customer above is normally very good about getting tapes off-site, but there was some mix-up and the tapes didn’t get moved correctly.  You have to insure that this is being done because we never ever know when an accident is going to occur.  We can recover your system if you have backup tapes.  At that point, the recovery will be as good as your backups are, but if there are no tapes, it doesn’t matter how good your backup is. When people go on vacation, the procedure must be done by someone else.  Perhaps there should be two people who check that this task is performed each day.

Today, so much of our information is stored electronically, how can a company function and carry on without their computers?  The key to recovery is properly planning backups, doing them regularly, moving backup tapes off-site, and then performing a recovery test.  If you do a special backup right before your Disaster Recovery test, then you really haven’t tested your DR.  You need to be testing your DR with a regular set of tapes.

Accidents happen.  As System Administrators we are tasked with being keepers of the data. We don’t own it, we don’t control it, we shouldn’t update it, but we need to take care of the data.  Your job doesn’t stop with the backup, it starts with the backup.

If you are interested in an iTech Solutions Health Check, or in scheduling a test of your recovery using your backups, please send an email to Pete.  You won’t know how good your backup is until you have to recover it.  Don’t wait until it’s too late. Test your recovery before you need to rely on it for a real recovery.

 

Managing Cache Batteries ?
   magnifying glass
Most customers don’t manage their cache batteries!  They just wait forIBM i to issue a message: “CPPEA13 – *Attention* Contact your hardware service provider.” Of course when you first see this message inside of the QSYSOPR message queue it can be a little worrisome.  You have to go into the details to see that it is a warning about the cache battery needing replacement. When you report this to IBM hardware service, they’ll send over a CE with a battery. Depending on which type of disk controller you have, the cache may be able to be replaced concurrently, or you’ll have to power the system down to replace it. This can be inconvenient.

 

Wouldn’t it be better to have an idea how much time is left so you can schedule the down time? The normal way to see the battery status is STRSST and sign-in, take option 1 Start a Service tool, take option 7 Hardware Service Manager and then take option 9 Work with resources containing cache battery packs.

 

Those are too many steps for most people to check. IBM has released PTFs

  • V5R4 – SI40403
  • 6.1 – SI40404
  • 7.1 – SI40406

 

that enable a user with *SERVICE authority the ability to call a program to produce a report of battery status. These PTFs can be downloaded and applied immediately.  The program is  CALL QSYS/QSMBTTCC.  It will create a spool file listing each disk controller and indicate whether you can perform concurrent battery maintenance, and also indicate how long until each battery goes into a warning state.

 

The batteries will be in a warning state before they fail, and you will need to replace the battery before it fails.  Once it fails, you will certainly know it, as the speed of your machine will be as slow as a turtle running a sprint.  You might want to put this command in your job scheduler and just run it the first of every month.  Then you will have a report providing you with the information you need to manage your cache batteries.  For help implementing this, or additional information, please contact John.



Running commands on another machine.   IBM i Operating System

Have you ever needed to have a command or program execute on another machine (or partition), or vary a tape drive off from one machine so that you can use it on the current machine?  Well then, here lies the solution: RUNRMTCMD.

We have also used this when we build virtual partitions, and we want to bring the hosted partition down.  We can send a remote PWRDWNSYS command to the other partitions, and they will shutdown gracefully.

Before starting, you will need to start the TCP/IP remote execution servers, using the command STRTCPSVR SERVER(*REXEC).  If you find you are going to use this, you might want to change the remote execution servers to autostart with TCP/IP by issuing the command CHGRXCA AUTOSTART(*YES).

Let’s do a very easy example.  Our remote server will be named iTechRMT, and we want to send a test message to QSYSOPR. Here is the command:

RUNRMTCMD CMD(‘SNDMSG MSG(TEST) TOUSR(*SYSOPR)’)
RMTLOCNAME(ITECHRMT *IP)             RMTUSER(PETEM)

RMTPWD(password)

That’s it.  It’s pretty simple, but very effective.  We have been using this command to help manage our multiple machine or LPAR environments.  If you have additional questions on this, just let us know with an email.

Everything You Need to Know to Get Started with the new Systems Director Navigator Console for IBM i.

 

Speaker: Pete Massiello, iTech Solutions

Date: Thursday, March 3, 2011

Time: 12:00pm – 1:00pm Central

1:00pm – 2:00pm Eastern

Released in IBM i 6.1, the Systems Director Navigator Console is a powerful new tool to better manage your i environment.  Get expert advice for installation and set up to make sure you get this powerful tool up and running at peak efficiency.  Step through the functionality of this product and learn how to leverage the Performance Data Investigator to turn the collection services data into graphs you can use to identify performance issues.  Find out how to create monitors to manage your environment and various workloads as well as how to set up alarms to notify you when certain events threaten your environment.  See how this tool can help you select and install Logical files on your system to improve performance.

 

Learn about the enhancements to this valuable tool in the release of version 7.1, and how you can create PDF’s from spool files in seconds with the click of a mouse.

 

For more information and to register, click here.

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

Releases

                     7.1   6.1    V5R4    V5R3
Cumul. Pack    10229   10215   10292     8267

Tech. Refresh         1

Grp Hipers            23        82      147      169

DB Group                5        18        30       24

Java Group             4        14        25       23

Print Group             2        20        43       20

Backup/Recov.        5        19        37       33

Security Group        4        19        15        7

Blade/IXA/IXS         4        18        14        –
Http                       5         16        25      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 V7R7.2M0 with Service Pack 1. If your HMC is a C03, then it should stay at V7R3.5 SP2.
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_403. Power 6 (940x M15, M25, & M50 machines, and 8203-E4A & 8204-E4A) customers should be running EL350_085.  For Power6 (MMA, 560, and 570 machines) your FSP should be at EM350_085. If you have a Power6 595 (9119-FMA) then you should be on EH350_085. POWER7 the firmware level is AL720_082 or AM720_064 depending on your model.
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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