May 2008 Newsletter

Greetings!
 

These past six weeks have been a busy time in the System i community.  First we had V6R1 of i5/OS become available, then the launch of the new Power 6 machines with the combining of the hardware lines (system i and system p), and finally the renaming of the i5/OS operating system to IBM i.  “It’s simply i”.  How will this affect you?  We at iTech Solutions think it will have an extremely positive impact on your business.  We will be discussing the new hardware and software over the next few months in these newsletters.

We have already done seven different customer upgrades to V6R1 as of the writing of this newsletter, and they all are working with absolutely no problems.  I would have to say that 6.1 is extremely stable, especially with the latest cumulative PTFs package installed. There is a lot of functionality and new features in 6.1, and we have been busy exploring these new features so that our customers may be able to take advantage of them.

This issue of our newsletter has three articles.  In the first, we take a peek at i5/OS V6R1 (now known as IBM i 6.1) and some of the new features.  As performance is an issue in most shops, our second article covers “reorganize while active”.  Learn how you can reorganize your files while leaving the files available for your users’ applications.  The third article is about release levels of i5/OS and the importance of keeping current with PTFs.

iTech Solutions can help you improve performance, upgrade OS/400, perform security audits, implement a High Availability solution, VoIP, Systems Management, PTF management, 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 contact us at info@itechsol.com . We would also like to know what you think of this newsletter and any items you would like us to discuss in future issues.

A First peek at i5/OS V6R1 
While many of us will call the new release of the operating system i5/OS V6R1, it is really i 6.1.  IBM may have removed the V and R from the Version and Release part of the name, yet the quality seems to have remained.  A customer asked me a week ago, “Is 6.1 ready for production?”  My answer to them was that 6.1 is ready for production, but most likely you are not yet ready for 6.1.  This all has to do with the planning required before the upgrade. 

We have done 7 upgrades as of the writing of this newsletter, and while there were a few minor hiccups during the upgrade, the systems are all running fine.  As we have said in previous month’s newsletters, the success of any upgrade is in the planning, and this release is no different.  In fact, the planning is probably more important in this release than any other in the past 10 years.  You must be running the Analyze Object Convert command about 3 months prior to your upgrade so that any issues that you identify to prevent you from converting your programs to the new format can be resolved before the upgrade. 

Probably the best feature in 6.1 is the ability to restore logical and physical files that reside in different libraries without having to perform the restore process multiple times.   This will be a great benefit for those customers who rely on a save and restore strategy for disaster recovery.  To implement this, use the new Deferred Id parameter, DFRID(name), on the Restore commands, where “name” is the name of deferred group.  If you are doing an *ALLUSR or *NONSYS, it will automatically handle the order dependencies (associate your logical to the physicals that weren’t there when the logical was restored) at the end of the command. If you were restoring individual libraries, then after your restores are done, you enter the command RSTDFROBJ DFRID(name) using the same deferred group id. 

One of the other features that we like is the software encryption that you can use with 6.1 and BRMS.  While this does give you the ability to encrypt the data being written to your tapes, you need to remember that this is software encryption so that the backups will take a little longer once you implement this.  The trade-off then becomes speed vs. encryption.  If you decide to implement this, one option is to encrypt only the libraries you would not want anyone to read if they fell into someone else’s hands, i.e. your data libraries. 

The other alternative to software encryption that is part of 6.1 is hardware tape encryption, which you can take advantage of at V5R4 or 6.1 with Fibre attached LTO-4 tape drives.  LTO-4 is a great tape medium as it can read and write LTO-3 and LTO-4 tapes, but can only READ LTO-2 tapes.  LTO-4 Tape drives are incompatible with LTO-1 tapes you might have from earlier generations.  The Fibre attached LTO-4 tape drive doesn’t have the overhead that software encryption does and can be used with V5R4 of i5/OS as well as 6.1 of IBM i.

 

Remember, when using encryption, if you don’t have the encryption key no one can read the tapes.  That includes you, so it’s important when implementing an encryption solution that you give proper thought to how you will be managing and storing those keys.  In addition, how will you get your encryption keys to your DR site to decrypt the data on the tapes?  Otherwise you have tape media with a lot of ones and zeros on it, and absolutely nothing else. 

While we are on the subject of backups, 6.1 has added a new data area QUSRSYS/QSRSAVE21 that contains information about how long it took to do the last 5 full system saves  (Go SAVE 21) that you have performed.
The data area will show the start times of each major step in the process. For example, 

‘20080504123905 ENDSBS ‘
‘20080504123910 SAVSYS TAP02 ‘
‘20080504124914 SAVLIB TAP02 ‘
‘20080504133256 SAVDLO TAP02 ‘
‘20080504133933 SAV TAP02 ‘
‘20080504140121 SAVIASPS TAP02 ‘
‘20080504140825 STRSBS ‘
‘20080504140905 ********

When it’s time to upgrade your machine to 6.1, think about this. When you fly on an airplane, would you rather have a pilot who flies once every 18 months, or one who flies 3 times a week?  Well, it’s the same when it comes to your system upgrades, i5/OS upgrades, HMC upgrades, or PTF management.  Last year iTech Solutions performed over 100 i5/OS upgrades.  Why not have iTech Solutions come in and do your next upgrade for you?  Not only do we have the experience to do a successful upgrade, it will reduce your workload so that you can be concentrating on the other requirements of your job.

  Reorganize While Active
 

Everyone who has been on the AS/400, iSeries, and/or System i knows the benefits of doing a “reorg” on a physical file.  First, it compresses out the deleted records in each page on the disk, thereby reducing the number of I/Os from disk while reading the file sequentially.  Secondly, it reduces database page faults so as to have better memory utilization.  Thirdly, it saves space on disk as well as on your backup tapes. While many shops perform a “reorg” for saving disk space, the performance benefits can be staggering on a very active file.  One of the biggest obstacles over the years has been the fact that you need to have exclusive access to the file during the reorganization process.  No one else can be using the file for the duration of the “reorg” process. IBM enhanced the command in V5R3, to give you “reorganize while active”.  The file must be journaled for the process to occur, but that is easy to do.  As a side note, now with 6.1, you can start and stop journaling without requiring exclusive access to the file, a further benefit to both 6.1 and Reorganize while active. 

The parameter to allow reorganize while active is ALWCANCEL(*YES). The file can remain in use by your users and batch jobs while you are compressing the deleted records to the end of the file. You control the level of access your users will have to the file while you are reorganizing the file with the LOCK parameter. You can let others read the file with LOCK(*EXCLRD) or read and write to the file with LOCK(*SHRUPD) parameter.  This gives you the ability to improve the performance on your machine, even if your application maintenance window is not very long. Let’s look at a real life example we had at one of our customers recently.  It was taking 9 hours to reorganize one of their inventory transaction files, but they never had a window long enough where the file wasn’t being used. Therefore, it was never  reorganized.  The file was 22GB in size, and it contained 15GB of deleted space. We recommended that they use reorganize while active. We set this up to run, and it took about 14 hours to compress out the deleted records. Then they only needed to make the file unavailable for 5 to 10 minutes to remove the deleted records from the end of the file. Although the reorganization process took a longer time frame than originally, the file was still available for their jobs and users to read.  It was only unavailable for that short period of 5 to 10 minutes. In summary it takes a little longer in total to reorganize the file (9 hours vs. 14 hours), but the file was only unavailable for 5 to 10 minutes.

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.  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 customer’s 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.

Cumulative Group  Database Java   Backup
Package  Hipers  Group   Group  Recovery
6.1      8127       11       4             2           3
V5R4   8057       73      15           13         20
V5R3   8085     148      21           21         21
V5R2   6080     189      25           27         27

 

 

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 8057. We can determine that it was created on the 57th day of 2008, which is February 26th, 2008.  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 V7.3.3, with PTF MH01102 installed. For your Flexible Service Processor (FSP) that is inside your Power 5 or Power5+ (520, 515, 525, 550, 570), the level should be 01_SF240_338. Power 6 customers will have the latest FSP code installed since those processors are new.  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.

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