January 2017 Newsletter

Greetings iTech Fan,

i can do anything with iTech Solutions

Everyone at iTech Solutions hopes you all had an amazing holiday, and your new year is off to a great start.  The New Year is always filled with great ideas, motivated goals, aspirations, and ways we think we can improve ourselves.  Hey, even if you don’t succeed at all of them, just trying or wanting to be is admirable. As IT professionals, we should be at least doing the following:

  • When was the last time you updated your email signature? Wait; don’t have an email signature, great time to create one.  Perhaps you changed your specialization, or you just moved to a new area with a new phone number?
  • When was the last time you fully backed up your phone, your iPad, your PC? Don’t have a backup device, go get one at just about any store and use it to back up your data. Don’t forget those pictures. You don’t want to lose those memories.
  • Passwords? Time to review your passwords, and make sure they are “Strong” passwords, and not have any weak passwords which can be compromised easily.
  • Update your LinkedIn profile with any new skills and information.
  • Check your Facebook security settings, so that not everyone sees the information you only want your friends and family to see.
  • Pick one new skill for this year, and learn it.  As IT professionals, if we aren’t learning new skills we are going backwards, not maintaining status quo. Remember, both your local user group and COMMON are great places to enhance your skills.
  • Networking.  It’s not a dirty word, but a way to stay in touch with people in your industry and learn what others are doing.  Again, local user groups and COMMON are great places to meet people in our industry.  Don’t have a local user group, find another company in your area and call them up. Ask for the person who does the same job as you.  Grab a slice of pizza together for lunch, and help each other out by sharing your knowledge.  You will both benefit.

This issue of our newsletter has 6 articles. In the first article we tell you the correct way to IPL your system.  The second article is by Laurie on why you should be doing Disaster Recovery testing. The third article shows you how to get around a problem with Zend Server not starting after an OS upgrade to 7.2 or 7.3 The fourth is on enhancements to BRMS Parallel saves. The fifth article lists some of the upcoming events in which iTech Solutions will be participating. The last article is for your reference with updated PTF information. Please note that for all 7.1 customers that are on the Quarterly or Semi-annual iTech Solutions PTF maintenance plan, we will be installing 7.1 Technology Refresh 11 for you on your next application of PTFs. For the 7.2 customers, we will be installing 7.2 Technology Refresh 5, and 7.3 will be Technology Refresh 1.

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

  • HMC V8 R8.6.0 will be the last release to support POWER6.
  • HMC V8 R8.6.0 will be the last release to allow ‘classic’ UI login.
  • HMC V8 R8.6.0 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.

In March we released our first IBM i State of the Union and the positive comments and the number of downloads has been phenomenal.  We updated it this summer to include everything from the first half of 2016, you can get a copy on our website.  We are currently writing the 2017 IBM i State of the Union.

Having a business partner isn’t the same as having iTech Solutions. If you are not getting the support, the help, the guidance, and the advice you need to succeed, then you owe it to yourself to contact iTech Solutions for all your IBM Power Systems running IBM i needs. We can help you upgrade your AS/400 or iSeries to a Power Systems running IBM i, or even your existing POWER5, POWER6, or POWER7 machines to POWER8.

 

iTech Solutions vast experience can help you improve performance, perform security audits, implement a high availability solution, perform health checks, systems management, remote administration, PTF management, cloud-based systems, hosting, replication, and 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 IBM i.

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.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

How to IPL .

I thought this might be too simplistic of an article when I had started to write it last fall, so I tabled it. Then I was just talking to people on how they IPL their system, and realized it was worth writing about.   First, let’s make sure we know what IPL even means.  It stands for Initial Program Load, it was a term that was used when computers first came out, and it was how you started the computer. It basically is the starting the computer with an initial program that brings up the computer. Today, when we say “we are going to IPL the computer”, it usually means we are going to stop the computer and then restart it back up.

I was watching people IPL their system (or partition), and that is when I realized people are doing it wrong. So many people just enter the comamnd PWRDWNSYS OPTION(*IMMED).  That is it.  This is similar to pulling the rug out from underneath all the jobs on the system and turning the machine off. I think the only time you should use the *IMMED option is when the computer room is on fire. Seriously, no other time.

I prefer to end the system in a more controlled fashion.  Making sure the applications are brought down correctly, and then end the system to a restricted state before starting the IPL.  Here are my steps to be run from the console:

  1. Quiesce all your user applications.  This brings them down normally.  Everyone will have their own steps for this, but you should try to end your applications in as controlled and application friendly way as possible.
  2. ENDTCPSVR SERVER(*ALL) .  This shuts down all the TCP/IP servers.
  3. ENDTCP OPTION(*CNTRLD) DELAY(30) . This shuts  down TCP in a controlled manner.  If it doesn’t come down in 30 seconds, it will be shutdown.
  4. ENDSBS SBS(*ALL) DELAY(30) ENDSBSOPT(*NOJOBLOG) I like this command becuase I don’t want to get a joblog for every job, and it allows every job 30 seconds to shutdown before the system ends all the jobs on the system. I usually wait until I see the message that the system is now in a restricted state in the QSYSOPR message queue.
  5. PWRDWNSYS OPTION(*CNTRLD) DELAY(30) RESTART(*YES).  Once the endsbs command has been entered above, all the jobs should have been ended. Now, I can start the IPL process. I also like the confirmation F16 which is next displayed.  If I want the machine to stay down, I would change the restart parameter from *YES to *NO.
  6. SIGNOFF

At this point, you should see either via the bezzle on a standalone system, or via the HMC on an LPARed system the SRC Codes showing you the system is going down.  They will start with a D600, informing you that the system is going down. Finally ending with D200 before the system is shut down, and then when the system starts backup, you will first see C200 codes, followed by C600, and then finally C900.

It is important to not just pull the rug out on your machine, which can cause damaged objects or other problems that you wish to avoid.

 


 

Practice makes perfect….. why we need to do DR testing.

We can all agree, that it’s important to have a Disaster Recovery Plan.  Ensuring that you know what you will do and how you will do it, in the event of a disaster is critical to your business.  But, the biggest question is, will it work?

We all remember doing fire drills in school.  The alarms would sound and you would line up in an orderly fashion, exit the building and go to the designated area.  Your teacher would take attendance to be sure that everyone was accounted for.  The fire department would show up, and go through the drill of checking the building (even though they knew there was nothing wrong) and clear the building.  Only after they did that, were we allowed back in school.  We had to practice what to do in an emergency, to ensure that if we had a real emergency, that we all knew what to do and how to do it.

If you haven’t tested your Disaster Recovery plan recently then, you could be in for an unpleasant surprise.  You don’t really want to find out that you missed something in your plan, which prevents you from getting back online, when you said you would be.  The longer the system is unavailable, the more it costs.  Wouldn’t it be better to find this out during a test?

iTech Solutions recommends that you test your DR plan at least once a year.  We find that the problem is often that companies don’t have an easy way to test their DR plans.  They may lack the time, or they may lack access to a system that they can recover too.  Which also mean that their DR plan is incomplete.

Purchasing a DR system can be an expensive endeavor for companies.  It’s not only having to pay for a second IBM i, you also have to have a second location with the right infrastructure to support the system.  For small companies, this is just out of the question.  For these companies a cloud solution, such as iTech’s iInTheCloud, offers a lower total cost of ownership.  The cloud provider pays for the infrastructure and the system and they are responsible for the availability and performance of the hardware.

For some companies their DR plan consists of the fact that they have Backup tapes, which they will restore to a system, which they don’t yet have secured.  While it’s good that they have a backup, they would be better to at least have established a cold DR site, which is available to them in the event of a disaster, within a short period of time.  This would at least allow them to establish a timeframe for the business.  However, this still leaves the company exposed.  The reason is, the backup may not be complete to do a system restore.  The only way to be sure that your backup is adequate to restore from, is to test it.  If it works in the test, then you know it will work in the event of a disaster.

We have experienced real disasters where our customers thought that they had what they needed to restore their environments, only to find out that their backups were incomplete.  This was not a good time for them to realize that their plan had a hole it in.

Testing your DR plan isn’t only about testing our restoration process, it’s also about practice.  Just like when we were doing fire drills in school, part of the point of doing the test, is so that it’s not such a big deal, if you have a real disaster.  You will feel less stressed and more able to cope with the situation if you’ve been through the process before.

Don’t wait until it’s too late.  Plan your DR Test today.  iTech Solutions can provide you with a system to restore to and help assist you with your restore test, to ensure that you can recover from your backups.  If you restore test fails, iTech Solutions can help you to do the remediation, to determine why it failed and help you correct it.Contact us to let us help you.

 


Using Zend Server (PHP) and Upgrading to IBM i 7.2 or higher causes a problem.

We have come across this in a few recent upgrades and thought we would share our experience.  After upgrading IBM i to either 7.2 or 7.3 Zend Server doesn’t start. It is a simple fix.

Now, it states on the  Zend website, that you need to be at ZEND Server 7 or higher for IBM i 7.2, and Zend Server 8.5.3 or higher for IBM i 7.3.  Ok, that is pretty easy.  The problem with this is that you go onto your IBM i,. and look for the library and it say ZENDSVR6.  One would then assume you were running version 6. Nope, don’t assume. Zend has the worst and most confusing naming convension I have ever encountered. You can be running version 6, 7, or 8 (of Zend Server) with that library name. What makes this more confusing is the level of PHP doesn’t match the level of Zend Server.  The best way is to do a GO LICPGM, and look for 6ZSVRPI and see what the text says.  That will be the version you are runing. If you are running 2ZSVRPI that is version 5.6 and not supported on 7.2 or 7.3.

First, the problem isn’t actually with Zend Server, but it’s with the internal Apache server that is included with IBM i. The version of Apache is upgraded from 2.2 to 2.4 during the upgrade to IBM i 7.2. In Apache 2.2 the Include directive is considered an optional include. The included files doesn’t have to exist.  In Apache 2.4, the Include directive is changed to mean the include file must exist, and the new IncludeOptional directive acts the way the Include directive did in the 2.2 and prior versions. The fix is to change the Apache Configuration files.

In file /www/zendsvr6/conf/httpd.conf

Change this

Include /usr/local/zendsvr6/etc/sites.d/globals-*.conf

Include /usr/local/zendsvr6/etc/sites.d/vhost_*.conf

To this:

IncludeOptional /usr/local/zendsvr6/etc/sites.d/globals-*.conf

IncludeOptional /usr/local/zendsvr6/etc/sites.d/vhost_*.conf

In file /usr/local/zendsvr6/etc/sites.d/zend-default-vhost-10080.conf

Change this:

Include /usr/local/zendsvr6/etc/sites.d/http/_default_/0/*conf

To this:

IncludeOptional /usr/local/zendsvr6/etc/sites.d/http/_default_/0/*conf

In all three cases, you are just changing the Include directive to IncludeOptional.  This is all we had to do, and when we restarted Zend Server, it started without any problem.  This is another good example of the many items you need to uncover and perform while doing an OS upgrade.  If you would rather go with someone who has done 100s of OS Upgrades having the knowledge, experience, and know-how to get over these little bumps, then contact our sales team to schedule your next worry free upgrade. It’s a small investment, which can provide you with significant benefits.

 


Enhancements to BRMS Parallel Saves in IBM i 7.2

We have upgraded over the years many customers to parallel saves in BRMS, to get much better improvements in the time it takes to save their systems.  Sometimes, improvements which have cut their saves down by 1/2 or 1/3 of what it originally was.

We came across a situation related to BRMS (parallel save operations), when upgrading from IBM i 7.1 to 7.2, that is known to IBM and unknown to anyone outside of IBM.  At one of our customer sites, that we had upgraded from 7.1 to 7.2, and is using BRMS that we had configured earlier in the year to use parallel saves.  What is a parallel save in BRMS?  BRMS can be configured to run multi-streamed (parallel) backups on the IBM i platform, using 3 different techniques, (concurrent, parallel-parallel, parallel-serial).

A little more background on this topic: Saving and restoring from a parallel-parallel save is typically faster.  With restores, this is usually true when restoring an entire library or restoring any objects that were saved near the start of a given tape file than restoring from a parallel-serial save operation. However, there are cases where restoring individual objects from a parallel save can take significantly longer than restoring from a serial save operation.  This situation can occur if the object to be restored is near the end of the tape file.  With saves, we have noticed faster saves going from parallel-serial to parallel-parallel, and in this particular customers situation, a 3 ½ hour save using parallel-serial, taking 20-30 minutes less using parallel-parallel.  A parallel type in BRMS can be defined as a parallel-parallel, parallel-serial, or *DEFAULT.  Using *DEFAULT, BRMS will decide the best parallel type to use on the backup item.

The Known/Unknown situation that we uncovered for this customer, was that in using parallel saves running under both 7.1 and 7.2, using the *DEFAULT setting for parallel type, for the same backup item, BRMS decided under 7.1 to use parallel-serial and under 7.2 decided to use parallel-parallel.  The positive effects of this change in how BRMS decided which parallel save to use was that it did improve processing time of the save. The only negative, was that the customer was trying to use native IBM i restore command (RSTOBJ) on these saved backup items without a media file, and this will not work when an object is saved using parallel-parallel (parallel type), but will when using parallel-serial (parallel type).  Bottom line is that you need to be aware of which parallel type is being used for saves, when using parallel device resources in BRMS, when you have the *DEFAULT option for parallel type selected, and the differences between parallel-parallel and parallel-serial, based on how you want perform any restores.

If you need help keeping up to date with PTFs, or you don’t want to have to worry about managing and administrating your PTFs, then, contact iTech Solutions, and we will handle this for you.

 


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.

 

Archived available anytime – Steve Will and Pete Massiello host a session on what’s new for IBM i 7.3.    

 

March 15 – 16 – Wisconsin Midrange Computer professional Association – Lake Lawn Resort, Delavan, WI  www.wmcpa.org

  • Stop by our booth and see us

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

  • Stop by our booth and see us
  • HMC, IBM i, FSP, and Firmware
  • Cool THings in Navigator for IBM i to be a Rock Star Administrator
  • What you need to know when Upgrading IBM i to 7.3
  • Tips and Tricks to improve System performance and Save Disk Space

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

  • Stop by our booth and see us
  • HMC, IBM i, FSP, and Firmware
  • Cool THings in Navigator for IBM i to be a Rock Star Administrator
  • What you need to know when Upgrading IBM i to 7.3
  • Tips and Tricks to improve System performance and Save Disk Space

 



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 21 81 185 210 204
DB Group 3 15 41 33 33
Java Group 3 11 26 37 34
Print Group 3 12 31 49
Backup/Recov. 7 29 63 61 57
Blade/IXA/IXS 1 16 30 15
HTTP 5 18 44 46 36
TCP/IP 3 10 17 22
Security 11 41 65 60  33
High Availability 3 6 13  5
Hardware 6 21 32  17
Open Source 3 3 3

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 16120. We can determine that it was created on the 120th day of 2016, which is April 29th, 2016. Look at your machine and this will give you a quick indication of just how far out of date in PTFs you may be.

HMCs

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

Model Release Service Pack
HMC V8R8.6
  1.  MH01655
  2.  MH01671
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. MH01673 (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. MH01666
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_176_038 last
8203-E4A, 8204-E8A, 8204-E4A EL350_176_038 last
MMA, 560, 570 EM350_176_038 last
9119-FHA EH350_176_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
  • SV860_063_056 (OS Managed PTF MH01672)
  • SV860_070_056 (HMC Managed; requires HMC 8.8.6+)
  • SV840_147_056 (HMC Managed; HMC 8.8.5 and below)
9119-MHE or 9119-MME SC860_070_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.

 

Leave a Reply