January 2010 Newsletter

Greetings!

Here we are at the start of a new year and a new decade.  We at iTech Solutions wish you the best !

What a great time to start thinking about what you can do to improve your operations, get current on PTFs, perform that i5/OS upgrade, or anything else which brings in new technology to keep your skill set current. 

In last month’s newsletter, I wrote an article about what Santa wants for his IBM i.  Well, the number of people who called, wrote, emailed, or sent me a text message was amazing.  I am glad that everyone had a chuckle, and hope you learned about some of the iTech Solutions services that we offer. 

I am on my way back to IBM Rochester next week to learn more about IBM i.  Why can’t I go someplace warm?  Last January when I was in Rochester, the weatherman was giving the forecast, and he said, “The temperature is going to warm up to minus 15 later today”.  It is just freezing out there, but it is a great opportunity to sit with the developers and learn about what they are working on, and how iTech Solutions can then pass this knowledge onto our customers.  When we learn about new features and functions, we can pass this knowledge onto you so that you also reap the benefits. 

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 how you should have a Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) monitoring program.  The second article is about IBM changing some IP Addresses and host name for IBM Service.  The third article is about Alternative IPL devices and Alternative Installation devices.  The fourth article is about an iTech Solutions video on i5/OS upgrades that I think you will want to watch. 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, VoIP, Systems Management, PTF management, Blade installations, iSCSI Configurations, 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.

Uninteruptible Power Supply Monitoring.
IBM i Operating System

 

I think that almost every customer that I visit has their machines connected to a UPS, but what I have observed at far too many is that they don’t connect the UPS signaling cable from the UPS to their IBM i (AS/400, iSeries, i5).

 
It’s good that people have their machines plugged into a UPS to protect against power outages.  But what happens if the power outage lasts longer than the batteries in the UPS and you’re not around to power the IBM i down? This is where the UPS signaling cable comes in.  Every UPS has the mechanism to signal a computer when it has lost utility power as well as when the utility power has been restored.  If you don’t connect the cable from the UPS to the IBM i, then how will the IBM i know the status of the UPS?
 
When a UPS loses power, it sends a signal to the IBM i over that cable.  The IBM i detects that signal and sends a CPF1816 message to the message queue defined in the System Value QUPSMSGQ.  That means that utility power has failed.  When the utility power is restored, the UPS sends another signal over that cable, and the IBM i operating system will send a CPF1817 message to that same message queue.  If you don’t have a specific message queue defined, it defaults to QSYSOPR.  Without a monitoring program, the system will shut the machine down hard after the number of seconds in the System value QUPSDLYTIM have elapsed once a CPF1816 is received (without a CPF1817 being received letting the system know power has returned). 
 
If you are going to have a UPS and a signaling cable, you should also have a program that monitors that UPS message queue for these messages.  We recently set one of our customers up with such a program. With this program, when a utility power outage is detected that lasts longer than 30 seconds, it sends a message to all the users letting them know that power was lost and they should think about saving their work.  If power is not restored within 4 more minutes, another message is sent informing them that the system will shut down in one minute, and to start to signoff.  Then, the monitoring program will bring the machine down gracefully.  If power is restored before the monitoring program brings the system down, it will alert the users that power is restored and they can continue with their work.  This simple program will insure your machine doesn’t crash when the power outage lasts longer than your UPS batteries.
 
Here’s another tip.  If your machine has an FSP (Power 5, Power5+, or Power6) then you must connect the UPS cable to the machine before powering up the IBM i.  Otherwise, no signals will be detected by the IBM i if a power outage was to happen.
 
If you have a question on any of this, or would like iTech Solutions to set up a UPS monitoring program for your system, send Pete an email at pmassiello@itechsol.com 

Host names and IP Addresses changing for connecting to IBM Service.  Light
If you are on any of the iTech Solutions PTF maintenance plans, you won’t have to worry about this.

Some of the host names and IP addresses used to connect to IBM service have changed.  If your system is not using the new host names and IP addresses, your system may no longer be able to connect to IBM service after February 1, 2010.  For V5R4 verify that PTF SI34505 (included in cumulative C9104540), or for V6R1 verify that PTF SI34552 (included in cumulative C9111610) is applied to your system and follow the special instructions.
In addition, with the speed of most companies’ internet, I hope that you aren’t still using modems (the old ECS modem or even the internal modem) for connecting to IBM.  These modems are way too slow and also inhibit you from receiving large PTF downloads from IBM.  Convert to connect via the internet using Universal Connection

Alternative IPL device and Alternative Installation device.    
 

Light

Well they certainly sound similar, and that is about where the similarity ends.  Do you know these terms? Do you know the difference? Do you know how they affect your recovery? Would you be able to recover not knowing these terms? When can I do a “D-Mode” IPL from tape, and when can’t I?

It is important as an IBM i (AS/400, System i, or i5) administrator to know and understand the difference in these terms.  The Alternative IPL device is the device that you can perform a “D-Mode” IPL from. The alternate IPL device loads the Licensed Internal Code contained on the removable media instead of the code on the load source. You can also install the system from this Alternative IPL device. The media in the device is what the system uses to start from when you perform a D-Mode (source) IPL. When the Alternate IPL device is the CD/DVD drive the media is the I_BASE_01 CD image that you get from IBM with each new release of i5/OS (IBM i).  When the device is your tape drive, the media is most likely a recent SAVSYS.  Unfortunately, your tape drive can’t always be the Alternative IPL device.  For instance, if you are using a fibre attached tape drive, that device can’t be an Alternative IPL device, but don’t worry it can be an Alternative Installation Device.  Also, if your system is a standalone system (not an LPAR configured system) and you don’t have the tape controller on the first bus in the CEC, you can’t IPL (perform a D-Mode IPL) from the tape drive.

Then what happens? You can perform installation and recovery procedures by using the Alternative IPL device to load a small portion of the Licensed Internal Code during a D-Mode IPL and then continues the installation by using the media in the alternate installation device. The alternate installation device can be a tape device or an optical device. Remember, the media in the Alternative IPL device (I_BASE_01) and the media in your Alternative Installation device (SAVSYS) must be the EXACT same version, release, and modification of System License Internal code to work.

You can use the alternate installation device function for any installation or recovery that requires replacing System Licensed Internal Code, the operating system, licensed programs, or data. If you use an alternate installation device, you need to ensure that you set up the device and that you enable the device (You do this during the installation from the DST menu.  Using option 3 – Define Alternative Installation Device). You also need to have the CD-ROM, DVD-RAM, or tape media that contains the Licensed Internal Code and your save media.

If you require both an Alternative IPL device and an Alternative Installation device, do you know where your I_BASE_01 CD is? Have you checked to make sure that the CD and your SAVSYS are at the same release levels? Have you ever tested trying to perform a recovery? You certainly should perform a test.  At iTech Solutions, we can test your recovery on one of our boxes, we can build and test a recovery plan for you, or we can just review your plans and procedures to insure that you won’t have a problem when the time comes to perform a recovery.  It all comes down to peace of mind, and with iTech Solutions on your team that is what you get, peace of mind.  I hope you now understand the differences between Alternative IPL device and Alternative Installation device, and you are able to start a system recovery.  Also, you might want to locate that I_BASE_01 CD and put it away with your recovery tapes.  If you can’t find one, iTech Solutions can help you with that as well.

iTech Solutions i5/OS upgrade video. IBM i Operating System

We probably do more i5/OS and IBM i upgrades in a month, than most other business partners do all year long. Click here to watch this short 2 minute video to learn how iTech Solutions can help you.

Upgrade your i5/OS stress and worry free.

Do you have the time and the skills for an i5/OS upgrade? Let iTech Solutions perform the upgrade for you, while you tend to the requirements of your business. iTech Solutions can help you with hardware and software upgrades, Disaster Recovery testing, High Availability, Performance tuning, or perhaps a Health check. Bring iTech Solutions on your team, and reduce your stress.

So, why iTech Solutions? Our team of IBM i certified sales and technical staff are the best. Our customers can leverage our experience, dedication, knowledge, and expertise in the IBM i as an extension of their staff.

See what we can do to your IBM i.

Give us your feedback on the video as well, send an email to info@itechsol.com 

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       53      118     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   13       11       7         –

 
Blade/IXA/IXS    12      12        –          –
 
Http                   12      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 V7R3.5.0M0.
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_039.  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.
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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