July 2010 Newsletter

Greetings!
I hope you are enjoying the summer and getting a little vacation in as well.  We are extremely busy this summer with a lot of IBM i upgrades and customers installing new Power6 machines.  This is good news for our customers as they take advantage of the new features and functionality in the current operating systems and as well as the new hardware.  Speaking of new hardware it is certainly no secret now that IBM will be announcing new POWER7 hardware soon.  This has been in all the industry newsletters like IT Jungle and others during the past few days.  I need to be careful in what I write as I am under a non-disclosure on the new hardware, and I can’t discuss the announcement until IBM makes its official on August 17th.  What I can say are things that I have heard on the street. Which is the announcement date and that IBM will be coming out with the rest of the POWER7 product line, namely the low-end and high-end to complete what IBM announced in February.   You can be sure that I will be discussing in detail next month in the iTech Solutions newsletter the very cool machines that will be announced.

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, steps everyone needs to do if you are not on IBM i 6.1 or 7.1. The second article is on using Virtual tape. The third article is about an IBM whitepaper by Ross Mauri on the IBM i strategy and roadmap. The fourth article is a list of events we will be partisipating in.  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, 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.

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.

 

 

I am still on V5R1, V5R2, V5R3, V5R4………………
oh boy !!! 
Everyone should now be on V6R1 or V7R1.

There are always reasons when I talk to customers on why they are still on an older release.  Some are valid reason, most are excuses.  I think the most common reason that people aren’t moving forward is they are scared of doing the actual upgrade.  Their thinking that their current operating system is working and there is no issue so why should I upgrade.  If my grandfather thought the same way, he would still be riding a horse. I understand that many people only do an IBM i (OS/400 or i5/OS) upgrade every 2 years, so they might not be as familiar with operating systems upgrades as I am for instance, since I do more than one upgrade a week.  My experience is something you can leverage by either having iTech Solutions do the upgrade for you, or by just reading these newsletters.

I believe that everyone should be on either IBM i V6R1 or V7R1. IBM i V6R1 has been out now almost 3 years now, so it’s no longer new.  I have done more than a dozen 7.1 upgrades so far, and every upgrade has been very successful.   One of the biggest challenges that I come across when I am brought into a client for an upgrade is the ability for the customers application programs to migrate to V6R1.  Every program when you move from V5R4 to V6R1 or V7R1 (Crossing the V6 boundary) requires a program to be re-encapsulated.   For a program to be re-encapsulated, it needs either one of two items: observability or creation data. Creation data is a subset of observability, and will be in every program compiled on V5R1 and later.

Creation data can’t be removed.  Observability can be removed (but the subset of creation data still stays) and is usually removed by software vendors to prevent customers from trying to reverse engineer the program into source code.  Therefore, many software vendors have removed observability for their protection of their intellectual property. If the program was compiled at V4R5 or earlier, and observability was removed, then there is no way to migrate that program across the V6 boundary.  Therefore, that program would either need to be recompiled from its source (as long as you have access to the source), or the software vendor would need to send you a new version of the program with just creation data.

IBM has developed a program which will analyze all of your programs on your system to determine which programs do not have either creation data or observability.  This program is called Analyze Object Convert, ANZOBJCVN, and is very easy and simple to run.  Since the only upgrade paths to V6R1 are from either V5R3 or V5R4, you can only run this program on those two releases.  If you are unsure what issues you might have, I highly recommend that everyone run this on their machine today.  There are two phases on this program.  The first is to collect the information, using ANZOBJCVN *COLLECT.  This is a long running batch job and should be run in batch.  When the job completes, then you run the ANZOBJCVN to get reports using the *REPORT option.  You will want to get both the library summary and conversion problems reports.  The library summary report will summarize by library how long each library will take to convert after the V6R1 upgrade, and if there are any programs that won’t convert. The conversion problem report will provide the details of which programs won’t convert.

Once these reports are run, you will need to contact each of the vendors of the problem libraries and ask them for a version of their software that will be compatible with V6R1.  Hopefully, you are still under maintenance as that will be an issue if you don’t have software maintenance from that vendor.  After loading their new version, you will want to run the ANZOBJCVN *COLLECT program again until you resolve all the issues. It will be an iterative process as you get the updates from your vendors.  Just so that you realize, I usually allow about 90 days from the time I first run the ANZOBJCVN program until all objects are resolved.  Now, that doesn’t mean it will take 90 days of work, most of the time is ordering the software, waiting for it to ship from the vendor, installing and testing the new version of the vendors software, and then running the collection and report again.

Remember, a successful upgrade is an upgrade where your users do not even know you upgraded the operating system and since I do so many upgrades I can tell you that success comes from plenty of preparation and planning for the upgrade. Therefore, you need to make sure that everyone in the IT department reads the memo to users for each release.   The actual upgrade is the easy part, it’s the planning and preparation where the work is involved to make a smooth upgrade.

I would hope that after you read this article, you go run the ANZOBJCVN set of commands and determine the possible roadblocks in your path to upgrading to V6R1 (or directly to V7R1).  If you have any questions or problems, would like us to perform a V6R1 readiness assessment, or have us do the entire upgrade for you, contact Pete Massiello.

Backing up using Virtual Tape.
       This past month we had 5 accounts ask us about using virtual tape for backups on their IBM i.  Interestingly, they had slightly different reasons for wanting to do virtual backups. Some wanted to reduce tape handling, others wanted to move the backup automatically to an offsite location, and one was looking to do it for speed.  Becareful on the increase of speed, because some of the newer tapes drives are so fast, they can actually be just as fast as a virtual tape on disk.

Starting in V5R4, IBM i has the ability to create Virtual tape drives.  These tape drives attach to an image catalogue where the virtual tapes reside.  Once we set up the image catalogue and the virtual tape drives, we can perform the backup for the customer.  They actually use the virtual device just like a physical device. Now, we can take this virtual tape image and upload it to another server (Windows, IBM i, LINUX).  Really we can send it to any server.  Of course, you need to have the available storage to hold as many virtual tape images that you wish to keep online. In addition, you will need available storage on the server that you finally wish to keep the images on.  Along with the bandwidth to transfer the images to the other server.  One of the ones we did this month was for a large customer, who wanted to do their daily backups on virtual tape each night, when there were no operators on duty, and then in the morning they transferred the virtual images to physical media.

There are a few things that you need to be aware of. let’s make sure you understand where and when this should be used for.  This is not a replacement for a full system save, but more for a nightly save.  The reason for this is that if you lost your entire machine, you can’t recover from a virtual image.  You require a full system save (or at least SAVSYS, SAVLIB *IBM, QUSRSYS & QGPL, and SAV of IBM supplied directories) to rebuild the system. This would be used to restore the Licensed Internal Code, the operating system, and licensed products on the machine. Now you have a working machine, which you can then bring back the virtual image and then restore the libraries and objects from that image.
If you would like help or assistance in creating a better backup methodology or for using virtual tape, please contact John Murphy.

 

IBM i Strategy & Road map        
 

I don’t know how many of you have read this, but it is important for each and everyone of us to know what IBM’s strategy and roadmap is for IBM i on Power Systems.  This is a good article, that I would encourage you to share with your coworkers and your management.  It talks about the hardware, the features and functions of the new releases of the operating system, the value of IBM i, the IBM i market, IBM i lifecycles, and some of the integration points of IBM i.  Remember, if you stay on older releases of the operating system you won’t be able to take advantage of the new features and functions, nor will you be able to upgrade to the latest hardware.

Here is the link for the article on our website. Just go down toward the bottom under Misc. Articles and downloads:

 

http://www.itechsol.com/newsletter.cfm

 

If you would like to schedule an appointment, and have a team from iTech Solutions come in and discuss Power Systems IBM i Strategy and the roadmap, please contact Glenn Ericson.

 

Upcoming events
Here is a list of upcoming events that iTech Solutions will be partisipating in or that Pete Massiello will be speaking at:

 

September 20 – 22 RPG World – www.rpgworld.com St. Charles, IL

 

October 3 to 6 COMMON Fall Conference www.common.org San Antonio, TX

 

November 15 to 17 iSeries Dev Conn www.iseriesdevcon2010.com Las Vegas, NV

 

April 11 to 13 Northeast User Groups www.neugc.org Framingham, MA

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.

Releases

7.1   6.1    V5R4    V5R3
Cumul. Pack    10096   10047   10117     8267

Grp Hipers             8        67       132      169

DB Group                2       14         26       24

Java Group             3       13         24       23

Print Group             –        17        40       20

Backup/Recov.        3       16        34       33

Security Group         3       18       15         7

 

Blade/IXA/IXS          2       16       14        –

 

Http                         2      14       23       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  If your HMC is a C03, then it should stay at V7R3.

 

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_071.  For Power6 (MMA, 560, and 570 machines) your FSP should be at EM350_071. If you have a Power6 595 (9119-FMA) then you should be on EH350_071. POWER7 the firmware level is AL710_086.

 

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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