May 2011 Newsletter

Greetings!

i can do anything with iTech Solutions

That is what our customers are finding out!  That their IBM i (AS/400, iSeries, i5) can do anything when they work with iTech Solutions. If you aren’t, you can call our customers and they will tell you why you should.

 

Each month our newsletter brings to light tips and techniques that help many System Administrators in their job, as well as managers know what is happening in the IBM i world.  We are happy to be able to help so many people in the IBM i community.  The number of iTech Solutions customers is growing each month, and that is due to our commitment to our customers, our services, and the support that we provide.  Find out for yourself what it is like to work with a business partner who cares about you and your success.

 

 

This issue of our newsletter has five articles. In the first, I want your opinions on what you are doing with Disaster Recovery and High Availability. The second article is on the lessons learned from a recent iTech Solutions Health Check.  The third article is on 10 ideas to think about for Backup & Recovery.  The fourth 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.

 

You might have read last month in the April iTech Solutions newsletter about a replacement for the HMC, which is the Systems Director Management Console (SDMC). Don’t worry, if you recently purchased an HMC, you still made the right choice for two reasons.  First, the new SDMC will be able to run on the newer HMCs (7042-CR6) hardware. Secondly the SDMC isn’t quite ready for prime time in my opinion. It’s close, but I think it’s a service pack away.   Remember, when the HMC was first announced it had a few bugs, and  I am hearing that the SDMC does as well.  Eventually, the SDMC will be what we need to run our Power8 hardware on, but until the SDMC has a few releases under it’s belt, you made the right decision purchasing an HMC.  The HMC is a fantastic option for more easily managing your Power Systems, and when all the functionality and stability of the HMC is in the SDMC, then I will recommend that option to you.

 

Of course, if you are still on V5R4, send Pete an email and he can help you upgrade to V6R1 or V7R1, with over 300 V6R1 upgrades done to date you know iTech Solutions has the expertise and know how.

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.

Find us on Facebook

View our profile on LinkedIn

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.

Disaster Recovery and High Availability Survey.
Light
 

One of the things we are always interested in is what people in the market place are doing.  Trends, directions, issues that companies are facing. What are they doing to fix or resolve those issues facing them.  We have seen in the past, that many people in the i community have similar issues.

 

We would like to find out your opinion on what you are doing with Disaster Recovery & High Availability.  Please click on the link below to take this 2 minute survey and let us know what is happening in the market place.  Everyone who completes the survey will be entered to win one of three $100 American Express Gift certificates.

 

Disaster Recovery & High Availability survey.

 

Thanks, and we will be sharing the results with everyone in the coming months.

 

Lessons learned from a Health Check.   
   magnifying glass
One of the best benefits of my job is that each and every week I am out visiting different prospects and clients.  Last week I had the chance to meet a new prospect, as they signed up for an iTech Solutions Health Check.  This is where we come in and perform a review of your system from an experienced Systems Administrator.

 

Some of the items we look for and uncover are items we have learned from our many years of being IBM i System Administrators, and some items are just pure common sense.

 

Let’s talk about some common sense items that we uncovered.  The first thing when I walked into the computer room that I noticed was a “bunch” of tapes just thrown on top of the rack.  No labels on the tapes, just on the cases.  Nothing in order or organized.  I raised my eyebrows a little, and thought perhaps we need to start this health check by examining their backups.  The customer told me with a straight face, they were backing up the entire system every night. I thought, wow that is aggressive since they said they had to be up 7×24 for their users.  So, I started to investigate their backups.  I looked to see the last time a SAVSYS was done. For those that don’t know, the SAVSYS is your starting point to recover your system.  It contains the License Internal Code, the Operating System, User Profiles, and Configuration objects. Their last backup was 2008.  Ok, I could still put their system back together if we needed to, but I would have preferred something this year (so it had the latest PTFs, etc).  I asked them to produce the tape for me, as I wanted to try to read the tape.  When everyone in the room started to look at each other, I knew we had a problem.  No one knew where the tape was.  BIG PROBLEM.  I can use an older tape to recover a system, but I can’t recover without any tape.  That was their first “F” grade.  Next, I wanted to see exactly what they were backing up each night.  Displaying the tape and the backup scripts, I found they weren’t backing up everything, just some of the libraries that someone 3 years ago thought were important.  I am thinking at this point, it can’t get any worse.  Doing some additional investigation (which is like peeling back the layers of an onion), I find out the name of the tape currently in the tape drive is named MONDAY (which is last nights backup), but I am here on a Friday.  I could see if it was Thursday or Friday.  So, I look into the history log, and for as far back as I could see they just kept writing the backup to the same tape. Another F.  Every night they write to the same tape.  What’s worse, is the tape never came out of the tape drive. So, if a truck  drove into their computer room, it would not only destroy their computer, but the tape drive which held the backup.  Since they never changed the tape, this would be the only backup of their data they had.  I was amazed, and shocked.  You know, you can’t even make this stuff up!  Of course, the recommendation was for them to do a full system backup.  How can someone put their company on the line like this, how can you risk your own job with stupid procedures like this?  We uncovered quite a bit more that morning, but I want you to just stick on this one point.

Our iTech Solutions Health Check is to identify problems you might have, best practices you might not be following, identify performance issues, security issues, etc.  Yet, sometimes it just takes someone to see the very simple things that you are doing wrong.  I hope after reading this article, you just review in your head to make sure you have a full system backup, it’s off-site, you do rotate your tapes, and maybe you have even tested out your recovery.

For help, or to have an iTech Solutions  Health Check contact

Pete

.

 Backup & Recovery: 10 Points. 

Replicate

  1. Reliability. Up to 71% of tape-based restores contain failures.

Best Practice: Use disk-to-disk technology for backups. With disk-to-disk technology, your backup data resides on disk drives, proven to be far more reliable than tapes. When your backup completes, you know the data is secure and accessible on the disk drive. With tapes you never really know if your data is usable until you try to restore it, at which point it’s too late.

2. Breadth of Offering. Choice in product and service offerings meet your

business’ needs.

Best Practice: Don’t settle for less than what you need. Vendor offerings vary widely. Some are designed primarily for consumers and others for enterprise data centers. Choose a solution that scales (see scalability below), and offers the features you need to provide the level of service you expect. De-duplication and delta-block technologies will improve performance, reduce your data footprint and save you money. Choose a solution with block-level (not file-level)  de-duplication. Look for block-level de-duplication. Make sure the solution can back up servers, PCs, and laptops as well your applications.

 

3. Security. 60% of organizations using tapes don’t encrypt their backups.

Best Practice: Get end-to-end encryption with no “back door.” Using encryption with tape makes backups run slowly and often takes too long to fit within a backup window. As a result, most people simply turn encryption off, creating a security risk. Even with the physical safety of  disk-to-disk backup, encryption is essential. Look for 256-bit AES. Find a solution that encrypts your data during transmission and storage. Make certain there isn’t a “back door” that would let someone else view your data.

 

4. Accessibility. Companies waste thousands of hours waiting on tapes.

Best Practice: Ensure that you can get your data back with minimal delay. You should have direct access to your  backups, with no time spent on physical transport (no trucks, no warehouses). Your restores should take minutes, not hours or days. Set yourself up to work with your data, not wait for it. Make sure your solution provider can meet your Recovery Time Objectives (RTO) and Recovery Point Objectives (RPO) which determine how quickly you can recover your data and maintain  business continuity. Inquire about onsite and offsite replication that provide both improved performance and a solid disaster recovery strategy.

 

5. Scalability. Some backup systems can’t scale readily.

Best Practice: Invest in a data protection architecture that can grow with your business. You should be able to back up your data no matter how large it grows. Starting small? Look for an option that handles your backups automatically. Then, as you grow, gives you tools to manage complex environments. Look for “changes-only” and  compression technologies to speed backups and save space. And insist on bandwidth throttling to balance traffic and ensure network availability for your other business applications. Make sure your solution relies on common technology to scale easily as your business–and data–grow.

 

6. Cost-effectiveness. Companies lose an average of $84,000 for every hour

of lost activity.

Best Practice: Calculate the true total cost of tape-based backup. When you do the math,the dollars make sense: Go with disk-to-disk. Unlike tape, there are close to zero handling costs-no rush deliveries, loading, accessing, locating, or repeated steps. And there’s one benefit you can’t factor directly: Reputation. Reliability and security can make an incalculable difference with just one avoided breach or failure.

 

7. Compliance. Most companies have problems satisfying privacy, security, and data retention regulations.

Best Practice: Choose a data protection partner who has deep know-how about compliance, and the technology to ensure it. How do you recognize a strong compliance partner? They’ll gladly show you a table of regulatory requirements, and list for you how their products, services, and  technology help you satisfy them. Even better: Use a vendor who successfully completes an SAS-70 Type II audit every year which helps you comply with regulatory requirements.

 

8. Disaster Recovery. Most companies lack a comprehensive, tested plan for disasters.

Best Practice: Find a vendor that delivers a complete DR solution. You can’t say your data protection is complete until you have a disaster recovery plan that is itself complete and tested. Your backup vendor should have both the product mix and professional services team to help you prepare for a worst-case scenario. Make sure they can help configure your backups so you rebound quickly. Best bet: A vendor who can train you to deal with disasters confidently, based on your company’s actual configuration.

 

9. Ease-of-Use. Some companies don’t -or can’t-manage their backups

from one place.

Best Practice: Get control and reporting you can use anywhere, with ease. Managing your backup environment should be simple, and the software you use should eliminate any guesswork that could lead to lost data. You should know at all times if your data is protected across your entire network-including remote offices-by simply looking at a dashboard.   The software should be simple to configure using wizards, yet powerful enough to meet your specific needs with customizable views, job  propagation, and roles-based security.

 

10. Customer Support. Backup vendors’ product support varies widely.

Best Practice: Find a vendor whose support is passionate, maybe even slightly obsessed. Customer support should be one of your vendor’s main selling points. You shouldn’t have to

wonder if they’ll be there to help when you need them most. Do they offer phone support or email only, are they available 24×7, and who exactly are you talking to when you call that 800 number? Find a vendor that will treat your data as if it were their own.

 

For help implementing your backup or recovery, please contact John.

Upcoming Events. 

Tuesday May 24th, at COMMON Europe in Milan Italy, Pete will present:

  • What you need to know to do successful IBM i (OS/400) upgrades to 6.1 & 7.1.
  • Tips and Tricks to improve performance and reduce disk space.

 

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.  This is what  we are installing for our customers on iTech Solutions Quarterly Maintenance program.

Releases

                     7.1   6.1    V5R4    V5R3
Cumul. Pack    11116   11102   10292     8267

Tech. Refresh         2

Grp Hipers            30        88      153      169

DB Group                9        19        31       24

Java Group             5        15        26       23

Print Group             3        21        44       20

Backup/Recov.        9        22        40       33

Security Group        5        21        16        7

Blade/IXA/IXS         5        19        14        –

Http                        7        16        27      17
TCP/IP                    3        11        18      16

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 & V5R2 off the list, because if you are on V5R1 or V5R2, you don’t need to be worrying about PTFs, you really need to be upgrading your operating system.  The same can be said for V5R3, but there are still customers who are on those releases.

If you have an HMC, you should be running V7R7.2M0 with Service Pack 2. If your HMC is a C03, then it should stay at V7R3.5 SP3.
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_403. Power 6 (940x M15, M25, & M50 machines, and 8203-E4A & 8204-E4A) customers should be running EL350_103.  For Power6 (MMA, 560, and 570 machines) your FSP should be at EM350_103. If you have a Power6 595 (9119) then you should be on EH350_103. POWER7 the firmware level is AL720_090 for 8202-E4B (710, 720, 730, 740), AL710_144 for 750 (8233-E8B) & 755 (8236-E8C)  or AM720_090 770 (9117-MMB) & 780 (9179-MHB)..
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

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*