November 2010 Newsletter

Greetings!

The end of the year is fast approaching, and we are extremely busy installing new machines for many of our customers, as well as upgrading their operating systems. The systems we are installing are new Power6 and Power7 machines that are fast, powerful, energy efficient, and in most cases less expensive to operate.  The workload coupled with the holidays will make the next 6 weeks very busy.  I am actually exhausted just thinking about our schedule through the end of the year. All of us at iTech Solutions wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving in the week ahead and hope you can enjoy the time and all that you are thankful for.  I am extremely thankful to have two wonderful daughters and great family and friends that enhance my terrific life. 

This will be the last technical newsletter of the year, and back by popular demand for December will be the story of how iTech Solutions helped Santa with his Power Systems (AS/400, iSeries, IBM i) machines to save Christmas. We received so many emails and phone calls after last year’s story on how iTech Solutions helped Santa, we are updating and re-running it for this year. Be on the lookout in early December for that issue.

 

I was at the IBM Labs in Rochester Minnesota last week, working with Steve Will and his team on requirements for the next release of IBM i, which is due out in the future.  These guys and girls are working on many fantastic new features and functions to keep IBM i as the leading operating system in the world.  While I can’t discuss any of the specifics, what I can say is that some of the stuff is going to knock your socks off. Even if you have your shoes on, your socks are going to be knocked off !!

 

I am a big advocate of staying current on your release of IBM i as you probably know. Now there is an additional reason to stay current on your operating system.  IBM is delivering new technology, features, and functions to us via Technology Refreshes (TR).  These TR will be rolled out via PTFs, similar to the concept of a service pack.  The first TR was delivered for 7.1 in the early fall, and it enables some new hardware features as well as the framework for future TR to be delivered.  The current plan is for a new TR to be delivered every 6 months, so you don’t have to wait for a new release.  You will be able to check on the TR level with a new group PTF called SF99707.  I can’t wait to be able to talk about what is coming in the next TR, and I will as soon as the information is no longer in a non-disclosure status.

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, I want to bring you up to date on new LTO-5 tape drives. The second article is on our recent partnership with Unit4-CODA to bring the best Financial Management software available today on the IBM i to our customers. The third article is a recent article that Steve Will, IBM i chief architect, Kathy Tri, Technical lead for IBM i install and upgrade, and Pete Massiello of iTech Solutions wrote for IBM Systems Magazine Power Systems edition on upgrading from V5R4 to IBM i 7.1.  The fourth article discusses Ethernet redundancy. 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, 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.

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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.

LTO-5 Information

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We have been getting quite a few inquiries about the new LTO-5 tape technology.  I thought I would summarize some of the information about these new tape drives. There drives run at the same speed as LTO-4 drives, where the difference is that their tape capacity is double an LTO-4.  If LTO-3 or LTO-4 is working fine for you, then there is no reason to upgrade your tape technology to LTO-5.  LTO-5 has a higher capacity, but if the number of tapes you are using for a backup is working for you, then there is no reason to change.  In addition, new LTO-5 tape media will be quite expensive as it is new to the market.

IBM i 6.1 and later will support the use of LTO-5 drives in the IBM TS3100, TS3200, TS3310, and TS3500 tape libraries.   Support will be via PTF which is planned to be available around Thanksgiving.  The PTFs are as follows:  
–   PTF MF51392 (i 6.1.1)
–   PTF MF51393 (i 7.1.0).

IBM i support for LTO-5 Tape Library will be:

·       POWER6 and POWER7 servers using SAS adapters and/or IOP-less 4Gb/8Gb Fibre Channel adapters (#5749, #5774, #5276, #5735, #5273) or Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE, #5708) adapters, depending on the drive/library.

·       LTO-4 and LTO-5 performance is similar on IBM i since the drive is not the bottleneck

·       LTO-5 drive-based encryption requires TKLM as a key manager, not EKM

·       LTO-5 offers new half high Fibre drives in addition to full high Fibre drives on the TS3100/TS3200 libraries which may be of interest to smaller clients who would like more Fibre drives in the same library footprint

·       Support for the LTO-5 drives in the IBM bridge boxes TS2250 and TS2350 is already available for IBM i 6.1 or later.

·       Support for the LTO-5 integrated drive in the Power 720 Express and Power 740 Express system units is already available.

LTO-5 supports read/write of LTO-5 & LTO-4 tapes and read of LTO-3.  LTO-5 drives do not read or write LTO-2.  As with any new tape technology, backward compatibility is extremely important.  iTech Solutions also has tape drives and services for tape conversion from just about any IBM i media to whatever your upgrade choice.

 iTech Solutions Group and UNIT4 CODA Sign Agreement to Deliver CODA Financials on IBM i and Power Systems® 

Coda
        Manchester, NH,- November 15, 2010 – UNIT4 CODA, the world’s leading provider of change-embracing financial management software, today announced that they have signed an agreement with iTech Solutions Group to deliver CODA Financials for the IBM i user community. The companies will be working together to combine their respective expertise in hardware, software and services to deliver a complete solution for companies looking to upgrade their financial applications on the i.

“We see a real need for a native, Best-of-Class financial application on the i platform,” said Pete Massiello, President of iTech Solutions. “our goal is to provide a complete solution which combines UNIT4 CODA’s financial application expertise with our proficiency installing, managing and supporting i technical environments.”

 

Known for its integration capabilities, CODA Financials run natively on IBM i and DB2, and easily integrates with other business applications.  This means organizations with applications written in RPG, COBOL and/or JAVA can create real time interaction between those applications and CODA Financials using CODA web services, all while running on one hardware platform.

 

“We are delighted to be working with iTech Solutions”, said Steve Pugh, CEO of UNIT4 CODA. “iTech has a longstanding and well-earned reputation serving the i community. Our joint customers will benefit from a cooperative and synergistic approach to implementation and ongoing support.  We believe there will be a surge in demand for more cost effective and modern financial applications on the i not only as a result of the current economic situation, but also because of the cost effectiveness of the IBM POWER7®processor-based systems introduces recently by IBM.”

UNIT4 CODA has a long history of developing financial software specifically for the i – including a very loyal community of customers that have been using CODA Financials since the original version was released on the AS/400.

-ends-

 

About iTech Solutions Group

iTech Solutions is a New England based IBM Advanced Business Partner with nearly 200 customers across the United States. We are committed to helping our customers get the most from their IBM i (AS/400, iSeries, System i, i5). We offer IBM i solutions and services to suit organizations of almost any size, from small businesses to large enterprises. Specializing in the Systems Management and Administration of your IBM i, our services include remote administration, operating system upgrades, PTF maintenance, health checks, technical support and remote hosting on our Power System servers.  Our staff consist of IBM i Certified sales and support professionals that are committed to building longstanding relationships with our clients by providing a straightforward, no-nonsense approach to solving business challenges. To learn more, visit www.itechsol.com

 

About UNIT4 CODA

UNIT4 CODA, Inc. is part of UNIT4, a $517 million global business software company that creates, delivers and supports adaptable business software and services to help dynamic organizations manage their business needs effectively. We strive to set the global standard for business solutions that enable companies to embrace change – simply, quickly and cost effectively.

 

CODA Financials is our award-winning suite of best-of-class financial management software designed to integrate with your industry- and company-specific applications. CODA provides real-time financial visibility and control across people, processes and systems. By acting as the financial information backbone for companies with fast-changing and mixed application environments, it offers a “no compromise” approach to financial modeling, process controls and application choice. For more information on UNIT4 CODA, visit www.unit4coda.com or contact:

 

Sherri Gray, Marketing Manager 603-471-1787.  Email sherri.gray@unit4.com

Take the Plunge. Can you move from IBM i V5R4 to 7.1? And should you?  IBM i Systems Magazine
 

Recently, IBM Systems Magazine Power Systems edition wanted to know what was involved in performing an upgrade from V5R4 to IBM i 7.1. Should companies go directly to 7.1? Is IBM i 7.1 ready and stable?  What is required if a company wished to perform this upgrade?  What steps and what planning is needed to insure a smooth upgrade? They brought together a panel of IBM i experts, Steve Will who is the IBM i chief architect, Kathy Tri team lead for IBM i install and upgrade, and Pete Massiello who probably performs more IBM i upgrades than anyone else in the world.
If the magazines (IT Jungle last month and IBM System Magazine this month) are coming to Pete Massiello & iTech Solutions for information on IBM i upgrades, perhaps you should look to us as well when you want to upgrade. Below is the start of the article.

With the release of IBM i 7.1, many companies may be thinking about making the move to the new operating system.  IBM i 7.1 includes many customer requested upgrades for DB2, data protection and compliance, and virtualization, which are garnering good reviews. While upgrading to a new operating system release can be challenging, it’s almost always worthwhile.  The improved functionality and enhancements give customers new tools for faster, more robust performance and for doing business with more savvy.

But many may be wondering if they can skip IBM i 6.1 and plunge right into 7.1, and how difficult that may be. To find out, IBM Systems Magazine spoke with three experts: Kathy Tri, technical lead for IBM i install and upgrade; Steve Will, IBM i chief architect; and Pete Massiello, president of iTech Solutions, who has been performing these upgrades in the real world.

IBM SYSTEMS MAGAZINE: IBM i 5.4 was launched in 2006. IBM i 6.1 came out in 2008. In April 2010, IBM i 7.1 was introduced.  If I’m a 5.4 customer looking to upgrade, what’s my best strategy?

Here is a link to the rest of the article.

After reading the article, and seeing the person diving into the pool in the picture, you can determine for yourself if you are ready to take the plunge into the pool by yourself, or would just feel more comfortable having iTech Solutions perform the upgrade for you.  We will keep your head above water, and insure a safe and successful upgrade. Contact Pete Massiello for more information.


Redundant Ethernet and Virtual IP.
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Many of you who read this monthly newsletter know that I am a firm believer in backups, and also testing what is backed up.  This probably comes from being involved in operations and system administration for so long.  Along with backups, there is also a need for redundancy.  For example, for every machine we sell we always recommend redundant power supplies.  We recommend that each power supply is plugged into a different circuit or different power source. This way, if one power supply fails or one circuit fails, the machine still continues to operate.  We do the same thing with our disks.  We setup Raid5 or mirroring for our disks, so that if one disk fails we continue to operate.  So the question is: why isn’t this done with Ethernet?

IBM i has supported the concept of Virtual IP for many releases now.   For the best redundancy, we would like multiple Ethernet I/O adapters on our machine, and these adapters would be connected to different physical switches. 

Let’s say we are going to use two physical Ethernet adapters to set up redundancy on our machine.  Not only will this reduce your traffic on each of the adapters, it will give us redundancy.   We are going to set up each Ethernet adapter as we normally would.  Then we are going to set up a TCP/IP interface for each Ethernet line.  Each of these interfaces will have a TCP/IP address, but we won’t actually give this address out to our users.  Next, we are going to set up a Virtual IP with a third TCP/IP address.  This third TCP/IP address will be the address that we give our users for connectivity, use with Client Access for connectivity, etc. Then we set up our Virtual IP interface, associating the two physical interfaces to the virtual IP. We have to enable Proxy Arp for this Virtual IP interface.  Now we point our users to the virtual IP TCP/IP address, and you are all set.  One helpful hint is if you currently have just one TCP/IP address that your users use, if you were to delete that prior to establishing the virtual IP address, and then allow that old address to become the new virtual IP address, you wouldn’t have to change any of your user’s PCs for connectivity using the redundant Ethernet Virtual IP.   To test this once it is working, you can actually pull one of the Ethernet lines out of the switch and your users will still be connected to your machine. 

If you need help in setting this up, or help with any other IBM i technical problem, contact iTech Solutions for assistance.

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    10229   10215   10292     8267

Tech. Refresh         1

Grp Hipers            16        75      140      169

DB Group                4        15        27       24

Java Group             4        14        25       23

Print Group             1        18        41       20

Backup/Recov.        4        17        35       33

Security Group        3        19        15        7

Blade/IXA/IXS         3        18        14        –


Http                        3       15        24       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 V7R7.2M0.  If your HMC is a C03, then it should stay at V7R3.5 SP2.


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_071.  For Power6 (MMA, 560, and 570 machines) your FSP should be at EM350_071. If you have a Power6 595 (9119-FMA) then you should be on EH350_071. POWER7 the firmware level is AL720_066 or AM710_097 depending on your model.

 

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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