October 2012 Newsletter

Greetings!

i can do anything with iTech Solutions

 

If you live in the area impacted by Hurricane Sandy, we hope this newsletter finds you and your loved ones safe.  We also wanted to let you know that iTech Solutions is here for you during this time.

We sent out a special newsletter on Monday with instructions for performing a full system backup.  I believe that it is important to review your backups, analyze what is being backed up, and what isn’t, and what plans do you have to put your system back together in the unlikely event that you were to have another disaster. Remember, backup isn’t just about checking to make sure there are error messages in QSYSOPR, but actually testing a full system restore.  You want to test out the process when it isn’t an emergency.    This isn’t an option, it is for a full test.  If you don’t have a machine to test a recovery on, contact Paul and he can setup a contract for you to use one of our systems in your location, or our location to perform a disaster recovery test.

It has also been a very busy speaking season with presentations at local user groups in Vermont and Rhode Island, COMMON Fall conference in Columbus, Ohio, the iBelieve event in New York city, and the IBM Power Technical Conference in Las Vegas.  The IBM technical conference is usually all IBM speakers, but Pete Massiello of iTech Solutions will be there presenting 7 sessions there. Of course one of them will be How to successfully upgrade to IBM i 6.1 or 7.1.  If IBM relies on iTech Solutions to present OS upgrade information to their users, shouldn’t you be thinking about using iTech Solutions for your upgrade?

This issue of our newsletter has five articles. In the first article, IBM has released Technology Refresh 7.1 for IBMi and the details are presented. The second article is how to cleanup Save Files on your system.  The third article lists some of the upcoming events in which iTech Solutions will be participating. The fourth article is about doing Disaster Recovery testing, and getting the funding to afford what you need to protect the business. The last article is for your reference with updated PTF information. Please note that we have added a new PTF group to our recommended list, which is the High Availability Group.  If you are an iTech Solutions PTF Maintenance customer, you will receive this on your next application of PTFs.

If you are still on V5R4, send Pete an email and he can help you upgrade to 6.1 or 7.1. With more upgrades than anyone else to 6.1/7.1 done to date you know iTech Solutions has the expertise and know how.

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, 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 IBM i.

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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.

Technology Refresh 5.     

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Right on schedule, IBM has delivered new features, functions, and enhancements to IBM i 7.1 with Technology Refresh 5 (TR5).

We have been running this release for a while, and it has been extremely stable. You install TR5 like installing a PTF Group or Cumulative package.  For a list of the inprovements, please click this link

Instead of going into all the details, I am going to provide a link. There is some very cool stuff in the link, so just relax and do some reading.

IBM i Operating System


Identifying and cleaning up Save Files (*SAVF).    

Disk space no matter how cheap disk prices become, always seems to be an issue. I was recently at a new client, which had so many save files on their system they were just drowning in them. In fact, they didn’t even realize actually how many they had so I thought tracking and identifying save files would be a good topic.

 

There are many times that a customer will ask iTech Solutions to come in and find out where all their disk space has gone. We have discussed the use of RTVDSKINF and RTVDIRINF to gather the information in previous newsletters. Sometimes we need to do a little more analysis than these tools provide. One area that is worth looking into on your machine is the amount and size of Save Files (also known as *SAVF). Save files are a special type of file in IBM i (OS/400 or i5/OS) which emulate a tape device, a file where you can back up libraries or data. Many programmers will back up a library to a save file prior to running an update program, or an operator will do a fast back up of a library. While save files serve a great purpose, people tend to forget to delete the save files after they are no longer required. So first let’s look at how to create a list of all the save files on your system. First and foremost, we need to make sure we don’t clean up any save files in the IBM libraries: those would be the libraries starting with Q. So, let’s then concentrate our investigation into the user libraries. Generate a list with this command:

 

DSPOBJD OBJ(*ALLUSR/*ALL) OBJTYP(*FILE) OUTPUT(*OUTFILE) OUTFILE(ITECHSOL/SAVFS).

 

You will want to submit this to batch since this will be a long running command. When it’s complete, we need to review the list of save files, and we can use either Query/400 or SQL to get our data. Here is basically what we want:

  •  Select the input file as ITECHSOL/SAVFS
  • Select these fields ODLBNM, ODOBNM, ODOBSZ, ODOBOW, ODLDAT, & ODUDAT
  • Sort by ODOBSZ
  • Select records by: ODOBAT EQ ‘SAVF’

This will provide a list of our save files. The field ODOBSZ will show you the size of the save file, and we sorted by the largest save files at the top of our list. The field ODLBNM is the library and the field ODOBNM is the filename. But just because the file appears on this list doesn’t mean you can delete them. You should look at the last two fields–last date used and last date updated–to see how recently the files have been used.   I would always make sure I have a good backup before deleting any files that I’m not certain about.   Once you get rid of all these save files that you no longer need, you will then see your disk utilization reduced, and most likely the duration of your backups will also be decreased. If you are unsure or need some help with this process, give us a call at 203-744-7854 or contact us via email and we can work on this together with you.

 

The more you clean, the quicker your backups will be, the more free space that will be on your system, and if you had to restore the system, that would certainly be quicker.

Upcoming Events. 

  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 http://www.itechsol.com.

October 29 to November 2 – IBM Power Systems Technical University – Las Vegas, NV.

  • Tips and Tricks to improve performance  and reduce disk space.
  • Everything to Get Started with the new
    Systems Navigator for IBM i
  • Understanding the HMC, FSP, Firmware, and IBM i. Putting the pieces together.
  • What do you need to know when upgrading to IBM i 6.1 & 7.1.
  • Building Virtual i partitions hosted by IBM i.

December 11 – FASUG, in Norwalk, CT www.fasug.org

  • Programmer’s future: Looking back to see into the Future.

December 12 – LISUG in Woodbury, Long Island www.LISUG.org

  • Programmer’s future: Looking back to see into the Future.

 “The best way to motivate management to invest in a DR plan is to set the building across the street on fire” -unknown 
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A friend of mine sent me that quote in an email, and I had a really good laugh. Now, I am not advocating anyone do anything crazy like that, but if you sit back and think about that statement for a minute, there certainly is some truth in it.   People don’t get serious about DR, backups, or recovery, until something happens. Don’t let that be you.

 

How many times do you think about disaster recovery, but just know the boss isn’t going to sign the PO to get a second machine for High Availability, or even signup with a Hot Site for Disaster Recovery? I was at a new prospect a while ago, and I got on their 170 machine to just “poke around”, and I noticed that they didn’t have any disk protection (i.e. no Raid nor Mirroring). That machine is over 12 years old, how much longer before a disk failure? They are living on borrowed time. I then looked for when the last time they did a full backup, and it was over 4 years ago. So, I asked them “When was the last time you backed up the machine?”. They told me “last night”. I said to them, “No, you just backed up your data library last night, when was the last time you did a full system backup”. They gave me the funny look, like I have no idea. I said, “How about 4 years ago”. They said “No way”, and went over to the filling cabinet (not a fireproof cabinet, but just a filling cabinet you purchase at Staples to hold files) to pull out the last full save. She read the label on the tape, looked at me and said “How did you know that?”. I then ask her, “What would happen to your business if you lost this computer”. We scheduled a full system save for that night, and moved it off site to the CEO’s house. While that isn’t the best location for the tape, being off-site 15 miles away is certainly better than 5 feet away from the machine.

 

Many shops don’t understand the need for taking an occasional full backup, and also moving that backup off-site. They understand when a disaster occurs and they need to recover. The reason the title of this article is so apropos, is that don’t let a disaster happen in your shop or across the street to then examine your plan. Can you sleep with your answers to these questions:

 

  • How often do I do a full system backup? Is it at least monthly?
  •  Do I have written procedures off-site that describes what is backed up and how to recover?
  • Are the tapes off-site?
  • Are the tapes labeled?
  • Have you thought about backing up to the cloud instead?
  • Do I know which tapes and how to recover?
  • Have I tested my plan in the last year?
  • Do I have a site that I can run a test recovery on?
  • Do I have a site I can recover to?
  • What happens if my staff isn’t available to recover?
  • What about the other machines in your network?
  • If you have HA software, when was your last roll-swap?
  • If I have an HMC can I recover that?
  • Is my I_BASE_01 CD/DVD someplace safe and accessible?

 

Disaster Recovery is a vital function that your company can’t afford to just gloss over. It starts with good solid backups. If you don’t understand backups, aren’t sure if you are doing backups correctly, or wonder if you have everything? Then bring in iTech Solutions for our Backup/Recovery analysis and we will insure your backups are complete. While there are some customers who can’t afford a second machine, or others that don’t want a cold site (where you restore your backups to). Check out iTech Solutions answer to these problems at www.i-in-the-cloud.com. The easiest thing to do is a full backup at whatever frequency you think you can afford. I would recommend at least monthly, but some customers will do this quarterly. But just remember, you can’t recover without a good backup. If you are unsure of what you are backing up, you can be sure you will have no idea what to restore and if you restored everything.

 

We are working with a few customers right now to either bring in a second machine in for High Availability or host them in our cloud with High Availability, as well as working with a few customers documenting and testing their disaster recovery. These customers have seen the holes in their disaster recovery, and are doing the right steps to insure in a disaster they can recover their machine and the data on it. Would you wait for the building across the street to be on fire before you test your fire extinguishers? Probably not, so why wait to test your DR plans. As IT professionals, I believe that it is our responsibility to make management aware of the need for a proper DR plan, and the risks they are taking by not testing and investing in a good DR plan. If management isn’t willing to invest in any plan, make sure you have written evidence that you made suggestions and they decided to not fund them. This is what we call CYA.

 

I certainly hope you look at your plans right after reading this article, and don’t wait until you see the fire trucks coming down the road. If you need some help, send Paul an email so that he can get you out a quote for help.  Perhaps an early response to an SOS – Save our System.

 

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     12279    12122      12094       8267
Tech. Refresh         5

Grp Hipers            70        132        186        169
DB Group              17         27          33         24
Java Group           10         21          30         23
Print Group            6          24          46        20
Backup/Recov.      17         30           48         33
Blade/IXA/IXS       12         24           15           –
HTTP                     14          26           32         17
TCP/IP                  6          14           21          16

Security               22          36          30

High Availability     2           1

Hardware               2          2

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   V7R7.5 with Service Pack 1. 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_417. Power 6 (940x M15, M25, & M50 machines, and 8203-E4A, 8204-E8A, & 8204-E4A) customers should be running EL350_132.  For Power6 (MMA, 560, and 570 machines) your FSP should be at EM350_126. If you have a Power6 595 (9119) then you should be on EH350_126.
Depending on which POWER7 model & generation (B or C). The firmware level is AL730_095 for 8202-E4B & 8205-E6B (710, 720, 730, 740), AL730_095 for 750 (8233-E8B) & 755 (8236-E8C). Use AM730_095 for 770 (9117-MMB) & 780 (9179-MHB).  The firmware level is AL740-088 for 8202-E4C & 8205-E6C (710, 720, 730, 740). Use AM740_088 for 770 (9117-MMC) & 780 (9179-MHC).
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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