November 2009 Newsletter

 Greetings!

Last month was very busy for iTech Solutions as we created two new services for our customers, based upon their requirements.  The first service is our iTech iRecovery which gives our customers the ability to test their DR Plans and/or system restores on our systems.  The second is our iTech Upgrade Assurance program, where we bring one of our IBM i machines to your company, restore your system onto our server, and upgrade that to i5/OS V6R1 (or any release) and allow you to test your environment on V6R1 before you upgrade your system.  These services were created based upon customer feedback, needs, and requirements.

There are many IBM Business Partners in the US.  So, why should you do business with iTech Solutions? First and foremost, we are there to help our customers with whatever they need.  We’re not just here to sell you something, but here to advise you on your options, help you implement your requirements, be a member of your team, and support you through whatever it takes.  When you engage iTech Solutions you have peace of mind that the best IBM i team in the world is on your side and just a phone call away. You know your IBM i (AS/400, iSeries, System i) is going to be working efficiently, and effectively.

I am just back from spending a few days in Rochester with IBM.  We discussed current technology, along with what IBM is doing in the future with both hardware and software.  While I can’t disclose what the next few releases of the operating system will contain or the release dates, I can say that IBM has a solid roadmap of hardware and software going long term.  I left Rochester very excited about what I saw and heard, and to summarize: the IBM i future is very exciting, and there is a long road with no end insight.

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, we will discuss how we have made i5/OS upgrades easier for our customers.   The second article is about how we have made testing your rercovery much easier and simplier with the iTech iRecovery service.  The third article is about creating PDFs from spool files using V6R1.  The fourth article is about fixing spool files in unrecoverable status. 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, 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 Solutions  or  email iTech Solutions.  I 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.

Upgrading to i5/OS V5R4, 6.1, or 6.1.1?
IBM i Operating System

 

In my travels meeting with customers, potential customers, and talking at user groups or other events, I am finding that there is a little reluctance to upgrade to the next release of i5/OS.  Now let me tell you, I have been averaging 75 to 80 upgrades a year for the past five years, and I can tell you that each of those releases is rock solid. So then why aren’t people upgrading? Most people are afraid that their applications won’t work after an upgrade, afraid of the actual upgrade process, or that it is just too much work for them to do on their own.  iTech Solutions has solved each and every one of those concerns.

We are introducing the iTech Solutions Upgrade Assurance program, which has been developed based upon customer’s requirements.  We will restore your environment onto one of our machines, upgrade your restored environment to the new release of i5/OS, and then allow you to test for one or two weeks on the machine. After that, we’ll upgrade your machine to the new release of i5/OS.

Are you concerned about your applications converting properly when upgrading to i5/OS V6R1? Do you want to know for sure that your applications will work without any issues? What happens if you only have one machine?  How can you test the new release of the operating system and not disrupt the business?  iTech Solutions has your answer with our Upgrade Assurance program.  First, we restore your environment onto one of our IBM i servers. You can have the machine at your location, or have VPN access to our office. Now that we have an exact image on our machine, we upgrade the operating system while you continue to work on your machine.  Then we let you have the machine for one week or two for testing your applications.  The number of weeks depends upon the option you purchase. We will work with you on any issues that you uncover, so that we can get them resolved before the upgrade to your server. After our testing is done, we schedule a time to upgrade your machine.  Then after the upgrade, we are still with you to insure that everything works as smooth as silk.  As I always say, the most successful upgrades are those that your users never realized took place.

When you think i5/OS upgrades, think iTech Solutions.  We have the skills, experience, and knowledge to provide you with a hassle free i5/OS upgrade.

If you have a question on any of this, or would like iTech Solutions to upgrade your system or operating system, send Pete an email at pmassiello@itechsol.com 

Testing your recovery.  Light
You backup your data every night, and then put the tape in the safe.  Every so often, you backup everything on your machine just in case you need to recover your machine. You have been doing this now for years.

Have you ever wondered if you could actually rebuild your system from your backups? Have you ever tried? Do you know how to put the pieces back together? Do you remember the nursery rhyme about Humpty-Dumpty? Do you know that most businesses who can’t recover their computer system after a major systems disaster evidentially go out of business?!!

You certainly don’t want to test the recovery of your production machine on your production machine.  What happens if you only have one machine?  How do you know that everything is backed up? How do you know you can piece all the different backups together to have your machine working? Well, there is ONLY ONE answer to this.  You need to test a recovery.  You need to have a plan, and you need to test your plan.  Well you are in luck.

With the iTech Solutions iRecovery service, we will bring one of our IBM i servers to you, or you can do this at one of our offices.  We will provide you with an IBM i to test your recovery.  Not only will we provide a machine, but we have the expertise to assist in performing the recovery as well.  In addition, afterwards we can discuss the results of the recovery and make any changes required in your backup methodology so that you have a complete backup with the ability to recover your machine.

This will provide you with not only the peace of mind knowing that your backups contain everything you thought they should, but also that you can actually put all the pieces back together.  We will also provide you with a certification so that you have a record for your auditors that you have successfully recovered your machine.

Perhaps you don’t have a DR plan: we can help you write a plan that gives everything you need for a disaster, including not just the IBM i steps, but everything a DR plan requires.

We can do the iRecovery service as part of the iTech Solutions Upgrade Assurance service or as a standalone service.  But in each case, you are working with a team that is dedicated to your success.

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to show your auditors this year that you have a written DR plan and that you have tested it?  Let iTech Solutions iRecovery program get you there.  For information on this service, or to schedule a test, please send us an email.

Create PDFs in V6R1 easily and free.  
 

IBM i Operating System
There are many things in any new release of the operating system that seem to get overlooked.  I think this is one of them, and I was amazed to see how easy this is to setup and use. It is an optional part of the operating system, and is free!

This is as simple as using an Over ride print file (OVRPRTF) command, so let’s get started.  You can load the software during your upgrade to V6R1, or you can load it after wards.  Here are the Licensed Program Products you need.  If you need to check whether they are installed on your system, do a GO LICPGM, select option 10 to display. You need the following installed:

  • 5761-SS1 Option 3, Extended Base Directory Support (which you will almost always have).
  • 5761-SS1 Option 33, Portable App Solutions Environment (PASE).
  • 5761-TS1 *Base, Transform Services for i5/OS
  • 5761-TS1 Option 1. Transforms AFP to PDF Transform.

If you are missing the 5761-TS1 *BASE and option 1, you will find them on the B2924_02 DVD.  After installing them, you might want to get the latest Print PTF Group (see last article), or just get the following PTFs: SI32812 & SI32440.  Ok, the hard part is done.

Next, you need to determine the name of the print file that you normally generate in your program.  You are now going to override that print file as follows:

OVRPRTF FILE(printfilename) DEVTYPE(*AFPDS) WSCST(*PDF) TOSTMF(‘/myhomedir/pdfs/printfile.pdf’)

Now from your PC just map a drive to the directory, and you will find a PDF that you can open with Acrobat reader.  How cool is that? In addition, if you just put a directory name in the TOSTMF parameter, then i5/OS will generate the filename, using the name of the printfile (in the File pararmeter) followed by 6 random characters.

If you want to test this, change the printfilename above to QPJOBLOG.  Create the directories with the MKDIR command, issue the OVRPRTF command, and then do a DSPJOBLOG OUTPUT(*PRINT).  You’ll have a PDF now in your directory.

Fixing Spool files in unrecoverable status.

Have you ever had a spool file that remained in an unrecoverable status no matter what you did to the spool file or the writer? New in V6R1 is the Start Spool Reclaim (STRSPLRCL) command, which repairs output queues and spooled files that are left in unrecoverable states.

If a writer job ends abnormally or an incomplete update has occurred, the output queue or spooled files associated with the writer job could remain in various statuses (such as WTR, PRT, PND and MSGW). The STRSPLRCL command will fix this.

There are a few options.  If * is specified for the ASP group (ASPGRP) parameter and the current thread has an ASP group in its name space, two separate requests to reclaim output queues could be sent. If a matching output queue is found in *SYSBAS, a request will be sent to the spool maintenance job in *SYSBAS. If a matching output queue is found in the specified ASP group, a request will be sent to the spool maintenance job for that ASP group. When the reclaim function is complete, message CPC3309 is sent to the QHST and QSYSOPR message queues by each spool maintenance job.

If *ALL/*ALL is specified for the Output queue (OUTQ) parameter, and *SYSBAS or * is specified for the ASP group (ASPGRP) parameter, additional cleanup will be done on jobqueues and completed jobs. If a job is in OUTQ status but does not own any active spooled files, the job will be removed from the system. You need spool control (*SPLCTL) special authority to run this command.

If you have ever had this problem happen to you, then you know how handy this command will be.

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.
Releases

                     6.1    V5R4    V5R3    V5R2
Cumul. Pack   9279   9104    8267   6080

Grp Hipers        49     114     169      189

DB Group          11       23      24        25

Java Group       10       21      23        27

Print Group       13       35       20         7

Backup/Recov.  10       27       33        31

Security Group   10       9         7         –

 
Blade/IXA/IXS    11      11        –          –
 
Http                  10      21      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 V7R3.4.0 with Service Pack 2 and 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_101.  For Power6 (MMA, 560, and 570 machines) your FSP should be at EM340_101. If you have a Power6 595 (9119-FMA) then you should be on EH340_101.
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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