May 2013 Newsletter

Dear Mike,

i can do anything with iTech Solutions

Stop praying. God is too busy to help you with an IBM i (OS/400, i5/OS) Upgrade!!! The next best thing is iTech Solutions. Our phone has been ringing off the hook the past few months as new clients are calling us to ask us to help them with their upgrade before Sept 30, 2013 arrives. This is the day that IBM is dropping support for V5R4. Right now, it is not too late to get your upgrade done before support is withdrawn.

Stay tuned for some upcoming IBM announcements, which we will review in next month’s newsletter. I think many people in the IBM i world will find them extremely interesting. I can’t say more until things are announced.

June 21, 1988 the announcement of the AS/400. Twenty five years later, we have IBM i which is what the AS/400 has morphed into. IBM has been getting ready for this birthday party, and there are various blogs, birthday cakes, and other events. Make sure you find the ibmi25 facebook page and like it for up to date information.

This issue of our newsletter has 6 articles. In the first article, the IBM call-home function and how to setup communications. The second article is on activating and verifying that IBM Electronic Service Agent is working on your machine.The third article is the IBMi 25th birthday blog,that IBM asked Pete Massiello to write on user groups and the community.   The fourth article is disk performance. 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 iTech Solutions PTF maintenance plan, we will be installing Technology Refresh 6 for you on your next application of PTFs.

iTech Solutions can help you improve performance, perform security audits; implement a High Availability solution; perform health checks, systems management, remote administration,  PTF management, blade installations, Cloud based systems, Hosting, iSCSI configurations, 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.

Call Home


IBM i has the ability to call home to IBM, and tell IBM that there is a hardware or software problem. I am sure you have heard the stories where the IBM Customer Engineer (CE) shows up with the part to fix the problem, and the people at the company didn’t even know there was anything even wrong. That is when the call home functionality is working. When it doesn’t work, it’s usually because it isn’t set up correctly, then the story isn’t as good.

Last month I was at a customer that had lost four disks, over three raid-5 sets. This is a big problem, because if you lose more than one disk in a raid5 set, you have to reload your system. Refer back to the January 2013 iTech Solutions newsletter on disk protection. If the customer had what is referred to as the call-home capability enabled and configured, this could have been resolved without incident. You might also know this by the name Electronic Customer Support (ECS) or Electronic Service Agent. Unfortunately, this customer didn’t have this enabled, so I thought we should discuss it this month. There are two pieces of this, having Service Director active (see the next article) and having the ability to connect to IBM via either a modem or directly via the internet. I prefer the internet connection because it is faster, and when I download PTFs I can download more PTFs and larger PTFs using the internet than with a modem.

You need to first figure out how you are connecting. Many people still connect with the external modem or use the internal modem with a PPP connection. If you have to use a modem to connect for some reason (only reason I had seen was an auditor’s insistence that the machine doesn’t connect to the internet), I prefer the PPP connection with the internal modem as it is faster than the external modem. If you use the Change Service Configuration command, CHGSRVCFG ROLE(*PRIMARY) and hit F4. The screen will show Connection Type: *DIRECT (which would be the internet) or *LCLDIAL (which is modem). If you have *LCLDIAL, then look for the resource that you are using. You can then find this resource under WRKHDWRSC *CMN to determine if it is the internal or external modem. Let’s verify that we can connect to IBM. Use the command Verify Service Configuration, VFYSRVCFG SERVICE(*ECS) or VFYSRVCFG SERVICE(*SRVAGT). You will get some messages being displayed. Make sure the connection was successful. If it wasn’t successful, let’s look into a few items below.

If you are using either modem, you need to insure that the phone number is correct that you are calling. I wrote in the January 2010 iTech Solutions newsletter about a PTF that was required as IBM had changed the phone numbers and host names.   You need to make sure you have those PTFs, plus if the connection isn’t working you are going to have to find out why it can’t connect. If you are current on PTFs, you will be find.  If you aren’t current, perhaps you should be on our PTF Maintenance program. One trick that I always use is to find a phone, plug the line going into the modem into this phone and try to manually dial the number that is listed in the CHGSRVCFG. A modem on the other end should answer. You might have to put a 1 before the number you are dialing, you might need a 9 for outside dialing, you might need the area code, or not have an area code. You just have to conform to the dialing policies for that phone line. Once you figure it out, update the number in the CHGSRVCFG. If you are using the internet (*DIRECT), and are having problems connecting, it is usually that the company firewall is blocking a port. You will have to work with your networking group to get a connection.

If you need additional help on this, please contact iTech Solutions to get your machine back calling IBM for help. Otherwise, the next time something fails, your machine won’t call home.

Electronic Service Agent

In the previous article we discussed communications configuration that IBM Service Agent uses to call home and report a problem. You also use this communication to get PTFs from IBM with the SNDPTFORD command. Now, let’s insure that service agent is enabled and working. We use the Change Service Agent Attributes command, CHGSRVAGTA and hit F4. It should display Enable with *YES. If this isn’t *YES, change it and hit enter. Then insure that Auto Report is *YES, Auto Report Retry is *YES, Product Activity Log Analysis is *YES. Page down, and insure that AUTO PTF enabled is *YES, and Download PTFs is *YES.   If any of these weren’t that way, change them and Service Director will become enabled. It will also add some jobs (QSJHEARTBT, QS9AUTOPTF, and QS9SACOL) to the IBM i Job Scheduler. You can now enter GO SERVICE, and select option 10. You should then see a Work with Subsystems Jobs with 5 jobs all starting with QS9 listed. If not, from the SERVICE menu, take option 9 to Start the jobs. This will insure that Service Director is monitoring your system.

Of course, we need to test the entire process, so get back to the SERVICE menu (enter GO SERVICE) and take option 15 to send a test problem. On the verify Service Agent, keep the default of all zeros for the Error log identifier. This will create a new problem. You should then do a WRKPRB where you will see a problem in the PREPARED status with the description of Electronic Service Agent test problem (SAv.r), where v.r is your version release. When that problem has been sent to IBM, the status will change to SENT.   This is your confirmation that you have everything working.


Latest Blog 
iTech April Blog

As we wrote earlier, IBM i will be turning 25 this year in June.  IBM will be publishing a series of blogs about what has lead to this machine having such fantastic staying power.  IBM asked, iTech Solution’s Pete Massiello to write the second in the series of 25 articles.  The blog discusses how user groups have helped in the success of the IBM i (and it’s predecessor the AS/400).

Read the rest here.


Disk Performance  Intrusion Detection

We are always looking at performance mostly in terms of CPU, but performance is can be broken down into three components: CPU, memory, and disk. Memory is pretty easy, always buy as much as your budget allows. IBM i loves memory, and more that can stay in memory before getting paged out for something else, the better the system performs. CPU, well when we upgrade our machines every few years we get a new CPU which is faster and able to process more transactions in less time. Disk is the step-child.

Today, with disk technology getting denser and denser, we have disk drives that have increasingly larger capacity. Yet, a good business partner, like iTech Solutions, will understand that it isn’t just capacity that is important, it’s also arms. If you size a system based on capacity alone, then as you move from small disks to larger capacity disks, you won’t have the correct number of arms for your read and write operations. It is true that disk controllers have gotten faster over time, and they have more cache onboard. Yet, if you don’t have enough arms the controllers will try to read and write to the disks and the disks will be busy. In addition, disk technology has also hit a limit, in that we have moved from 5400 RPM (revolutions per minute) drives, to 7200 RPM, to 10,000 RPM, and lastly to 15,000 RPM drives. We moved to 15,000 RPM drives some time ago, and never any faster. I don’t think we will see 20,000 RPM drives, instead we will see new technology.

Before we look at the technology, let’s look at the speed of various types of technology. One second equals 1 million microseconds, and one second equals one thousand milliseconds. Another way to think of this, One millisecond is to one second as one second is to 16.67 minutes. One microsecond is to one second as one second is to 11 1/2 days. I think this makes the time equivalent easier to understand.

Tape is accessed in seconds. Hard Drives, are access between 5 to 20 milliseconds. Solid State Disks (SSDs) approximately 1 millisecond, cache is less than a millisecond. Now, the new item here is Flash. IBM has developed IBM FlashSystem, with an access time of 100 microseconds.   You can see from these access times, that in time, we are going to be moving away from hard drives, and towards SSDs and Flash. We used to think that hard drives were as fast as lightening, but you can see that this newer technology will replace spinning hard drives over time. Technology won’t allow the drives to spin any faster as they keep shrinking in physical size, and maintain their reliability. SSDs are getting cheaper, and the sweet spot (for both price and performance) right now is a combination of hard drives and SSDs. In fact, we have been installing many new systems with this combination. The performance has been amazing. Keep your eyes open to Flash, as it’s my opinion that in the next two years you are going to more and more systems using Flash.

If you are interested, please contact Paul, and we can come in and run an IBM tool which will determine if your environment is ripe for SSDs.



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

June 4, MITECH Users group of Michigan in Livona Michigan.

  • What do you need to know when upgrading IBM i.
  • Managing your IBM i with Navigator for i
  • Tips and tricks to improve system performance and save disk space.
  • A Programmers Future: Looking Back to See the Future

June 6, New Hampshire (NHMUG) & Vermont (VTMUG.ORG) user group meeting in West Lebanon, NH. See &

  • A Programmers Future: Looking Back to see the Future.

August 21,12 noon free webinar.

  • Step by step guide to building virtual IBM i partitions hosted by IBM i.

September 9 to 11, St. Louis, MO COMMON Fall event

  • What do you need to know when upgrading IBM i.
  • A Programmers Future: Looking Back to see the Future.
  • Tips and tricks to improve system performance and save disk space.
  • Understanding the HMC, FSP, IBM i, and Firmware.




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.


7.1 6.1 V5R4 V5R3
Cumul Pack 13037 13058 12094 8267
Tech. Refresh 6
Grp Hipers 86 147 195 169
DB Group 23 29 33 24
Java Group 13 24 32 23
Print Group 7 26 47 20
Backup/Recov. 25 38 54 33
Blade/IXA/IXS 13 25 15
HTTP 19 30 35 17
TCP/IP 7 15 22 16
Security 26 40 32
High Availability 4 3
Hardware 6 6


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 V7R7.6 with Service Pack 2 and eFix MH01353 or V7R7.7 with Service Pack 2 and eFix MH01355. If your HMC is a C03, then it should stay at V7R3.5 SP4.

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_418. Power 6 (940x M15, M25, & M50 machines, and 8203-E4A, 8204-E8A, & 8204-E4A) customers should be running EL350_143. For Power6 (MMA, 560, and 570 machines) your FSP should be at EM350_143. If you have a Power6 595 (9119) then you should be on EH350_143. Depending on which POWER7 model & generation (B, C, or D). The firmware level is AL730_114 for 8231-E1B, 8202-E4B, 8231-E2B, & 8205-E6B (710, 720, 730, or 740), AL730_114 for 750 (8233-E8B) & 755 (8236-E8C). Use AM730_114 for 770 (9117-MMB) & 780 (9179-MHB). The firmware level is AL740-100 for 8231-E1C, 8202-E4C, 8231-E2C, & 8205-E6C (710, 720, 730, or 740). Use AM740_100 for 770 (9117-MMC) & 780 (9179-MHC).

For Power7+ processors, the firmware level is AL770-048 for 8231-E1D, 8202-E4D, 8231-E2D, & 8205-E6D (710, 720, 730, or 740). Use AM770_048 for 750 (8408-E8D) & 760 (9109-RMD). Use AM760_062 for 770 (9117-MMD) & 780 (9179-MHD).

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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