June 2009 Newsletter


This issue of our newsletter has four articles. In the first, we want to make you aware of changes that will be required for dialing local numbers in Connecticut, especially if you have modems. The second article is on Dynamic Infrastructure, and contains an IBM video interview with Pete Massiello on how iTech Solutions helped one of their customers. You can click on the link to watch the interview. The third article is a reprint from our March 2008 newsletter about the Index Advisor and how iTech Solutions helped one of our customers improve performance. The last article is for your reference with updated PTF information for your use.

As we are still getting a lot of calls for upgrading machines for those who never had a chance to upgrade, and now they realize that support has ended.  Just a reminder, that support for i5/OS V5R3 HAS ended April 30, 2009. Give us a call and we will do the upgrade to V5R4 or V6R1 for you.

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 Solution  or  email iTech Solutions.


Fix your modems now before Nov 14, 2009
If you live in Connecticut and you have any modems you need to start to change the local numbers that they dial due to the two new area code overlays being added to Connecticut.
To ensure a continuing supply of telephone numbers in the state of Connecticut, the Department of Public Utility Control ordered two Area Code Overlays in Connecticut.  The 475 area code will be added later this year to the area served by 203 and the 959 area code will be added at a future date to the area served by 860.  An overlay is the addition of another area code to the same geographic region as an existing area code.
There will be a new dialing procedure for local calls, and this is why we need to check the phone numbers that our modems dial out.  To complete local calls, the new dialing procedure requires callers to dial the area code plus telephone number.  This means that ALL calls in Connecticut that are currently dialed with seven digits will need to be dialed using 10 digits, the area code plus telephone number.
The change has already begun as of May 16, and you can now dial all your calls with the 10 digits, made up of the area code plus telephone number.  If you forget and just dial 7 digits for a local call, the call will go through until November 13, 2009.
Beginning on November 14, 2009 you MUST use the new dialing procedure for all local calls in Connecticut.  If you do not use the new dialing procedure, your call will not be completed, and a recording will instruct you to hang up and dial again.  This means your modems dialing local numbers would fail to connect.  Are your modems calling banks, IBM ECS, EDI, etc?
Your modems, life safety systems, fire alarms, fax machines, internet dial-up numbers, or anything else that uses a 7 digit number for calling will have to be reprogrammed to 10 digits.
If you require any help, just let us know and we will be happy to come out and research your system to help you make your transition.  Remember, your IBM ECS Call home modems maybe using local numbers to dial out.  We can change these to the correct dialing sequence, or even better convert you to use the internet for your iSeries to call home when there is a problem, or for ordering of PTFs.   Contact Pete Massiello via email at pmassiello@itechsol.com to schedule a time to get your modems dialing correctly.

Dynamic Infrastructure.

          IBM i Operating System

Recently, I had an opportunity to help one of our customers improve their infrastructure by consolidating most of the servers in their computer room into an IBM Blade Center H, and we used the disk on the IBM i for each blade’s storage.  We setup our iSeries with iSCSI HBAs (Host Bus Adapters) and created Network Server Descriptions on the iSeries for each Windows server or VMWare Server. We not only saved them 3 racks of servers, power, and air conditioning, but insured all their servers were being backed up each  night now as part of our i5/OS backup strategy.

Here is a recent interview that IBM has just published with Pete Massiello of iTech Solutions on Dynamic Infrastracture.

Index Advisor

magnifying glass

Sometimes features go into a new release of i5/OS and people just don’t take advantage of them. The Index Advisor is a great example of something in V5R4 that not many people have taken advantage of. In fact, if you are not on V5R4, this alone is worth the upgrade. Last month we got a call from a customer that their response time on their 520 machine was suffering. Could we come in and find out what the problem was. Out goes the iTech Solutions Performance Investigation team to solve the problem. While they didn’t have cool yellow trench coats and big magnifying glasses, they had a tool called Index Advisor, which comes free with i5/OS as part of iSeries Operations Navigator.

Now, we knew this customer quite well as they are on our PTF Quarterly Maintenance program, so they were up to the latest and greatest Cumulative PTFs, Database PTFs, Hiper PTFs, and about 5 or 6 other groups of PTFs. First thing we looked at was Disk I/O which the utilization was in the teens so that was great (that’s arm utilization and not disk capacity). We then looked at memory paging, no problems there and Expert Cache had already been turned on by us a few years back, and CPU was in the 40 to 50% range most hours. This machine looked fine. Yet, they said “things” were slow. So, we asked if can we get a little more technical and what did they mean “things” were slow. They uttered the 5 letter word that frightens the most savage performance gurus, “Q-U-E-R-Y”. You could feel the tension in the air, and hear the gasp of the investigators. We were about to call home for more clothes as we might be here a few days, when one of the performance detectives said “lets see what the Index Advisor says”.

If you never used the Index Advisor it is part of iSeries Navigator, and it basically displays the information that i5/OS collects in the system table SYSIXADV and presents it to you in an easy to understand display. The Index Advisor provides a list of indexes (logical files) that it recommends that you create over specific physical files with a certain key structure to improve performance. There were 1,407 entries in the Index Advisor for this machine, and we certainly did not want to create them all. We needed to sort through this information and determine where the real problems were and what was just “noise”. The first index it displayed had been created 128,000 times for each of the queries ran over it. This means every time a certain query had been run the system had to create a temporary index each and every time. But the index only took 1 second to build. So, it probably wasn’t a real problem. Perhaps something we could come back to afterwards, but we needed to keep digging. We then found about ten indexes which the advisor was telling us they were being built, some a few times every day, and it was taking between 7 and 12 minutes each time to build the temporary indexes. We looked at the keys it recommended, and it made a lot of sense to build these permanent indexes. You can think of a permanent index as creating a logical file, but it is so much more powerful. This is due to some of the enhancements of SQL. I will write about that in a future article if people are interested. We also found another temporary index which was getting created everyday and that was taking 52 minutes. Think about this, before the query could start  reporting on the data, it would build a temporary index which would take 52 minutes and then when the query was done, delete that temporary index.

We created these 11 indexes, cleared the data on the index advisor so we could watch for new problems and we waited for the results. The customer called us a few days later to tell us that the system was flying, and that his users were extremely happy that their “queries were coming right out of the machine”. This is another good example of the powerful tools that are part of i5/OS. If you would like for us to come in and do this analysis for you or with you, just give us a call, and see how simple having iTech Solutions do the work for you can be, just email Pete Massiello at  pmassiello@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.

                     6.1    V5R4    V5R3    V5R2
Cumul. Pack   9111   9104    8267   6080

Grp Hipers       39     104      169      189

DB Group          10      21       24         25

Java Group       9       20       23         27

Print Group       8       30       20          7

Backup/Recov.  7       24       33        31

Security Group   9        9        7           –

Blade/IXA/IXS    11      11       –           –
Http                   6       17      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 V7R3.3.0 with Service Pack 3, or V7R3.4.0 with Service Pack 2. and with PTF MH01181 installed. This PTF is Required for V7.3.4.
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 EL340_039.  For Power6 (MMA, 560, and 570 machines) your FSP should be at EM340_075. If you have a Power6 595 (9119-FMA) then you should be on EH340_039.
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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