October 2016 Newsletter

Greetings iTech Fan,

i can do anything with iTech Solutions

Spook-tacular!! That could be either part of Halloween celebration, or the feeling you get when you realize your existing business partner knows less about IBM i than you.  You won’t get that with iTech Solutions, our team has hundreds of years of experience, knowledge, and know how working with IBM i (AS/400, and iSeries). Don’t be scared of your IBM i, work with iTech Solutions to get the most from your investment.

October was another hectic month, mostly from traveling around the world promoting IBM i, education, meeting customers, and giving presentations on various IBM i System Management topics.  Look, if IBM brings us to their Edge Conference to speak on IBM i upgrades, who should you bring in to your shop to do an OS upgrade? iTech, of course! We do more OS upgrades in a week, than most people do in their lifetime. I think the best part of my job is meeting our customers and non-customers, discussing with them what they are doing with IBM i, and learning from each other.  There is so much satisfaction in helping someone get the most from their IBM i. It’s a great feeling to know you have made someone so happy by helping them out.

Don’t forget that in October IBM made some hardware announcements, as well as IBM i 7.2 Technology Refresh 5, and IBM i 7.3 Technology Refresh 1. You can read about them in the article below.  Notice that IBM i 7.1 doesn’t have a new Technology Refresh.  I think the hand writing is on the wall, that the end of life for IBM i 7.1 will probably be in about 18 to 24 months.  Of course, this is a guess, but since they normally give 12 to 18 months notice, and we see there is no Technology Refresh for 7.1 this fall, I would imagine the announcement would be coming shortly.  It’s time to start thinking about moving to either 7.2 or 7.3.

In the US, we change our clocks backwards one hour next weekend, November 6th.  Remember the saying Fall back, and Spring ahead. Don’t forget, you should change the batteries in your home smoke detectors each spring and fall when you change the clocks.

We are almost finished with our fall 2016 IBM i 7.3 & Power8 12 city tour of the US Northeast, and determining the next set of cities to come to.  Even if we are not in a city near you, if you like a presentation on the benefits of Power8 or IBM i 7.3 we can make that happen. Contact iTech Solutions and we can schedule a presentation and discussion on how we can help you get the benefits of this new hardware and operating system.

As we have been publishing our monthly newsletter now for 9 years, we continue to help our customers and members of the IBM i community get the most from their IBM i and Power Systems investment.  If your current business partner isn’t providing you with the same value, switch to iTech Solutions by calling our sales team at 203-744-7854 then press 3 for the sales team.

This issue of our newsletter has 6 articles. In the first article we tell you about IBM i 7.3 Technology Refresh 1 The second article is on High Availability. The third article by Laurie is on the Benefits of moving your infrastructure to the cloud.  The fourth is a tip from Scott Fortsie on the status of your group PTFs. 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 or Semi-annual iTech Solutions PTF maintenance plan, we will be installing 7.1 Technology Refresh 11 for you on your next application of PTFs. For the 7.2 customers, we will be installing 7.2 Technology Refresh 5, and 7.3 will be Technology Refresh 1.

In March we released our first IBM i State of the Union and the positive comments and the number of downloads has been phenomenal.  We just completed updating this to include everything from the first half of 2016, you can get a copy on our website.

Having a business partner isn’t the same as having iTech Solutions. If you are not getting the support, the help, the guidance, and the advice you need to succeed, then you owe it to yourself to contact iTech Solutions for all your IBM Power Systems running IBM i needs. We can help you upgrade your AS/400 or iSeries to a Power Systems running IBM i, or even your existing POWER5, POWER6, or POWER7 machines to POWER8.

iTech Solutions vast experience can help you improve performance, perform security audits, implement a high availability solution, perform health checks, systems management, remote administration, PTF management, cloud-based systems, hosting, replication, 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.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

IBM i 7.3 Technology Refresh 1 coming November 11.

As with every new Technology Refresh, IBM® i adds a variety of function across the entire operating system, Licensed Program Products, and updates to the IBM Power® hardware and firmware. This is the case with the latest Technology Refresh for 7.3.  These were announced in October, and will be available on November 11. Some of the major highlights of IBM i 7.3 TR1 are:

  • IBM DB2 for i is focused on new and advanced SQL capabilities, SQL Query Engine (SQE) performance, and the ability to use SQL to access details about the IBM i operating system.
  • The IBM i operating system adds the use of containers to make USB Flash and RDX appear as a stack of DVDs. In addition, a new format for tape volume statistics that stores larger read/write counts is added.
  • IBM i Open Source Solutions now includes Perl and the latest version of Node.js.
  • IBM i Access Client Solutions (ACS) has enhanced the end-user interaction to improve usability of many of the components. In addition, the Run SQL Scripts interface improves the productivity for using SQL with DB2 for i. ACS deployment has significant improvements in the process for delivering i Access Client Solutions to end users
  • IBM Rational® Developer for i, V9.5.1 includes support for the Mac OS X operating system and improved usability for developers using Mac technology.
  • IBM PowerHA® SystemMirror® for i now supports SVC/Storwize® HyperSwap® with Independent Auxiliary Storage Pools (IASPs) and the new HMC interfaces for Advanced Cluster Node Failure Detection.
  • Delivery simplification of selected IBM i LPPs and IBM i feature OptiConnect.
  • IBM i Entitlement Transfer to P05 now supports upgrade to three-years SWMA.
  • Power hardware and system firmware enhancements provide significant advantages to IBM i clients.
  • Additional enhancements can be found in the following areas:
    • IBM i Integrated Web Services
    • IBM i HTTP Server (Powered by Apache) 5770-DG1
    • Rational Development Studio (5770-WDS)
    • WebSphere® Application Server V9 is now supported.
    • DB2 Web Query
    • Hardware and System Firmware enhancements
    • EXP24SX SAS Storage Enclosure for high performance disks or SSDs
    • PCIe3 Cryptographic Coprocessor card
    • PCIe3 100 Gb Ethernet adapters
    • RDX USB Top Mount Docking Station on Power Systems™ S814
    • VNIC fail-over
    • Shared Ethernet Adapter (SEA)
    • NovaLink support for SR-IOV configurations
    • Tape device TS4500 R3
    • Power Systems firmware V8.6 enhancement for identifying a partition using a Universally Unique Identifier (UUID)

For more details, you can visit IBM developerWorks. As with any new OS release or TR, there are so many additional features and functions that have been incorporated.  If you need help upgrade to IBM i 7.3, or installing TR 1, let us help you out.  Contact us at sales@itechsol.com or call us at 203-744-7854 and press 3.

 


 

Protection – High Availability

High Availability, Disaster Recovery, and availability of systems is so important these days as we rely on our computer systems as the backbone of our companies. My question is if we rely on our computers so much, why aren’t companies making more effort to test their recoveries, implement High Availability, perform role-swaps, or insure their backups are correct. Delta Air Lines experienced significant issues resulting in global outages and universal disruption a few months back.  Why? Delta then warned, “Customers heading to the airport should expect delays and cancellations”.  Why didn’t Delta have a functioning Disaster Recovery plan or a High Availability Site?

Others may have been worried about people being stranded in the airport, missing appointments, trying to get on the next flight, and every other miserable thing that happens when flights are missed. While I was sorry to hear about the problems people would be facing, I immediately thought where are the backups, didn’t they plan for Disaster Recovery, why isn’t there High Availability?

Since our company’s primary focus is computer infrastructure this topic comes up often. I am always talking to customers about the need for good backups, testing out their recovery, replication, multiple data centers, multiple sources of power, etc.  Any good System Administrator knows that you always build your infrastructure for N+1 which means you have a backup to every resource. Two generators, each with their own UPS, and all equipment plugged into both.  Two air conditioner units so that if one fails the other can run the entire data center.  This is what I mean by redundancy for each resource.  Of course, this becomes expensive however in the case of Delta they are a 35-billion-dollar company. According to Delta’s Mr. Bastian they have spent “hundreds of millions” in upgrades but it is “unsure if this investment was in the correct place.” (I think we can answer “no” to that one.)   Don’t you think they should have focused on a little redundancy?

As IT professionals we all realize Delta thought they had this functionality in place. However, if High Availability and Disaster Recovery aren’t tested and verified they can be worthless. This is the most important sentence of the article, so I will repeat it: if High Availability and Disaster Recovery aren’t tested and verified they can be worthless.  Absolutely, this is why we do a recovery from our backups to insure we have everything backed up.  Also, why we do a roleswap when doing High Availability to insure that we are replicating everything we need.

I understand a small company can’t afford to have two generators.  However, they probably have a UPS for a short power failure with possibly a backup generator when they lose street/utility power.  Usually this is great and is sufficient for the majority of issues that can interrupt processing.  The primary power is from the local utility and there is an Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) which is plugged into the utility power.  The UPS is being charged by the utility power and at the same time your machines are plugged into its batteries. This provides conditioned power (prevents power surges from getting to your equipment). The generators usually kick in as soon as the utility power is lost, and the UPS acts as a bridge so your equipment never goes without electric. Note: don’t forget to plug the console or HMC into the UPS as well so you can have access to the IBM i for a controlled power down if needed. How is it that Delta didn’t have this? I think every one of my customers has a UPS with about 40% having a generator as well.  Next, level of protection is a second location.

Every company today is entirely dependent on their computers.  In fact, even many households are. When the computers aren’t working, the factory stops, orders can’t ship, invoices aren’t generated, and every other process is interrupted.  To reduce this problem many customers use replication. I am not going to debate the merits of logical replication using remote journals or PowerHA.  That is like politics and religion right now; not worth discussing as everyone has their favorites.  Twenty years ago only large banks and stock traders would have replication but these days many customers rely on it.

What exactly is replication, you may ask. Well, it is where a transaction is entered onto the main machine (source) then also copied over to another machine (target).  If you lose your source machine; through power outage, hardware failure, software contamination, or physical act of God –  the target retains the transactions.  This is the simplistic version of the basic concept.  There is debate over what is High Availability versus Disaster Recovery. Obviously the closer the machines are to each other physically the less effective they are for DR. Even in the same room multiple machines provide some support for recovery however it is limited to an actual failure on the primary. Power, environment, and even hacking will usually impact both systems. As the machines are moved further from each other and infrastructure concerns such as the power grid or internet backbone are different the more stable this configuration is in case of emergency.

I bet that 25% of IBM i customers are doing replication in one form or another.  Some customers don’t have their machines far enough apart, but that is another article.  In fact, I know a few companies that have 3 machines.  Two machines in the same computer room replicating to one another with the second machine handling backups so the source machine is always available to the users.  Then the primary system also replicates to a third machine in a different location.  If they lose the primary location (power, earthquake, tornado, etc.) they can run from the other location.  Every time a transaction is entered, it is immediately replicated to the two other machines resulting in 3 copies of the data (plus backups).  Remember, if you need an IBM i to replicate to and not purchase another machine and data center, you can always replicate to our IBM i in the cloud.  Contact our sales group to learn more.

No matter what you have for replication or any other redundancy, you have to test everything.  That is how you find the problems.  Test, test, and retest.  If the first time you go to your disaster plan is in an actual failure event and you have never tested it, you are bound to fail.  Perhaps you didn’t think of everything? Even if you think you have a solid plan in place we all know there is always a step or two that hasn’t been documented. When will your team be best at finding and resolving these oversights – during a controlled test or in the event of an actual emergency when everyone is stressed? As I am sure Delta would agree; just because you believe you have the functionality in place it means nothing until you prove it.

The question is why wouldn’t Delta a 35 Billion dollar company have multiple data centers with each being replicated.  Looks like someone’s head is going to roll over this, and quite frankly, I agree.  In this day and age there is no reason for a company not having high available computer systems. Again, these systems are the backbone of our companies. In addition, how much negative press was generated by this event?  A conservative estimate would put the cost of negative publicity and all those delays as more expensive than a second data center and additional redundancy. I hope the person at Delta who was responsible for the computers had a backup copy of their resume as they will need it.

If you would like to discuss how iTech Solutions can help you, email our sales group.   We can provide a turnkey replication solution, just the partition, just the management of replication, or a disaster recovery solution. Our Administrators have the skills, knowledge, and experience to provide you this functionality.

 


Benefits of moving your infrastructure to the cloud.

Everywhere you go people are talking about the cloud.  The problem is, that often people don’t understand what the “cloud” is and what is really has to offer them.  The truth is the cloud can be different things.  It can be a place to store your data, it can be a place where you access an application or it can replace your infrastructure completely.  For this particular article, I am going to focus on the infrastructure side and the benefits you receive from this type of cloud offering.

We hear from a lot of people that they are considering moving their infrastructure to the cloud because Management thinks it’s a good idea.  Everyone is doing it. The truth is, it can be a great idea, and especially if you want to have IT focus on the things that grow your business.  Moving your infrastructure to the cloud offers several other benefits that include costs savings, tax benefits, increased security and greater flexibility.

Let’s face it, having a data center is expensive.  It’s also necessary, to truly protect your hardware investment.  When you move your infrastructure to the cloud, you no longer need to have a data center.  This can be a huge savings for companies.  Energy consumption decreases when you don’t have to have air conditioners and 220V power to run your infrastructure.  Not only that, but you don’t need to have a UPS for redundant power.  Not having to invest money on your own data center is one of the things that appeals to companies about moving to the cloud.

In the past, when a company needed new hardware they budgeted for the purchase and then had to depreciate the asset over a period of time.  The cloud is offered as a service and has a monthly, quarterly or annual cost associated with it.  This change in the type of expense offers companies the tax benefit of having an operating expense versus a capital expense.

Having your infrastructure off-site can be more secure.  If your business is in a part of the country where hurricanes, tornadoes or other extreme weather is known to disrupt power, it may make sense for you to consider a cloud option.  With your infrastructure and data in a different part of the country, where it can continue to run uninterrupted, can save you money in the event of a disaster.  Nothing is lost and if your customers interact with your system, placing orders for example, they can continue business as usual, even if your office is closed due to bad weather. There’s no need to declare a disaster and do a role swap, because you’re system is already safe.

Need more resources? You don’t have to upgrade your hardware to increase your resources.  This is one of the best parts about having your infrastructure hosted in a cloud environment.  When you need increased processing power, you just request it and pay a little more.  No need to make a major investment, just an increase based on your usage.  The same goes for disk.

A great benefit for small companies is that you pay for what you use.  The new Power8 servers have increased CPW per processor, some companies don’t require all of that processing power to run their business.  Often small companies will hang onto their hardware for longer than recommended because it is still working, but then OS compatibility issues creep in and you are forced to upgrade. In these cases, the cloud is a great option, because you pay for the amount of processing power you actually need.

With our iInTheCloud offering, our customers are able to reduce their costs, while having greater flexibility over the processing power they have.  They also have the peace of mind that their data is in a secure data center.  Our staff of certified Administrators have years of experience, which is an added bonus for our customers. For further discussion with Laurie on her article, you can call her at 203-744-7854 x177 or email her LLeBlanc@itechsol.com

 


Are my Group PTFs current on my system?

I think I get asked this question 2 or 3 times a week, and how often should I put them on my system? Well let’s take the how often first.  My recommendation is to be putting on PTFs at least every 6 months.  I know some customers who put the hipers and security PTFs on their system every 2 months.  Nothing wrong with that.  I don’t think there is a right/wrong answer that works for everyone, but I would highly recommend not going more than 6 months before putting PTFs on.  In addition, before putting the next set of PTFs on, I also highly recommend permanently applying all the existing PTFs permanently.

Which PTF groups should I apply is the next question.  Well, here at iTech Solutions, we have a PTF program that most of our customers are on.  We put PTFs on their system(s) every 6 months, and we put the following on:

  • Cumulative
  • Technology Refresh
  • Hipers
  • Database
  • Java
  • Print
  • Backup/Recovery
  • HTTP
  • TCP/IP
  • Security
  • High Availalility
  • Hardware

If they have optional products like WebSphere, DB2 Web Query, MQ, and Domino they should also be reviewed.  If you aren’t having iTech Solutions taking care of this task for you, then how do you know which PTFs you need to order.  There are a few ways, but I have a nice little SQL script from Scott Forstie (The IBM Database Guru bringing lots of cool SQL features and functions to IBM i). He wrote the following SQL script that you can run on your machine and determine which PTF groups are out of date.  I ran this using STRSQL:

With iLevel(iVersion, iRelease) AS (select OS_VERSION, OS_RELEASE from sysibmadm.env_sys_info)
SELECT VARCHAR(GRP_CRNCY,25) AS “GRPCUR”, GRP_ID, VARCHAR(GRP_TITLE, 20) AS “NAME”,
GRP_LVL, GRP_IBMLVL, GRP_LSTUPD, GRP_RLS, GRP_SYSSTS
FROM iLevel, systools.group_ptf_currency P
WHERE ptf_group_release = ‘R’ CONCAT iVersion CONCAT iRelease concat ‘0’
ORDER BY ptf_group_level_available – ptf_group_level_installed DESC

Scott, that is pretty cool information!! It connects to IBM and determines the latest IBM level for each PTF group, and compares that against what you currently have on your system.  Now, you know which PTF groups you need to download, load, and apply on your system to be up to date. I have tested this with IBM i 7.1, 7.2, and 7.3.

If you need help keeping up to date with PTFs, or you don’t want to have to worry about managing and administrating your PTFs, then, contact iTech Solutions, and we will handle this for you.

 


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 http://www.itechsol.com.

 

Archived available anytime – Steve Will and Pete Massiello host a session on what’s new for IBM i 7.3.    

 

November 2 & 3, 2016 – iTech Solutions Power8 & IBM i 7.3 roadshows: New Jersey, Long Island, and New York City  http://www.itechsol.com

  • IBM Power Systems Roadmap and Commitment to i
  • How Organizations are running mission-critical workloads on Power8 with reduced TCO
  • Understanding of IBM Power8 processors, enhancements and new features
  • Discussion of IBM i 7.3 newest enhancements including: DB2,  Security, and System Management
  • Reducing system downtime with High Availability and Backup options

October 24 – 26, 2016 – COMMON Fall Event, Columbus, OH    http://www.common.org

  • What you need to know to Upgrade to IBM i 7.2 & 7.3 
  • HMC, IBM i, FSP, and Firmware
  • Tips and Tricks to improve performance and save disk space

November 16, 2016 – New England Midrange User Group  http://www.nemug.com

  • Cool things in Navigator for i to make you a RockStar System Administrator

April 10 – 12, 2017 – Northeast User Groups Conference http://www.neugc.org

  • Stop by our booth and see us
  • Sessions to be determined

May  7 – 10, 2017 – COMMON Annual Conference & Expo – Orlando, FL http://www.common.org

  • Stop by our booth and see us
  • Sessions to be determined

 


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.

7.3 7.2 7.1 6.1 V5R4
Cumul Pack 16085 16127 16120 15063 12094
Tech. Refresh 4 11
Grp Hipers 16 75 179 210 204
DB Group  2 13 40 33 33
Java Group 3 11 26 37 34
Print Group 3 12 31 49
Backup/Recov. 5 27 61 61 57
Blade/IXA/IXS 1 16 30 15
HTTP 4 17 43 46 36
TCP/IP 3 9 17 22
Security 7 38 62 60  33
High Availability 2 5 12  5
Hardware  3 19 29  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 V7R1, the ID is 16120. We can determine that it was created on the 120th day of 2016, which is April 29th, 2016. Look at your machine and this will give you a quick indication of just how far out of date in PTFs you may be.

HMCs

If you have a Hardware Management Console (HMC,) you should be running:

Model Release Service Pack
HMC V8R8.5
  1. MH01617 (must be installed from classic GUI or command line)
  2. SP1 MH01633 (must be installed from classic GUI or command line)
  3. MH01663 (must be installed from classic GUI or command line)
HMC V8R8.4
  1. MH01560 (must be installed from command line using UPDHMC)
  2. SP2 MH01620 (must be installed from command line using UPDHMC)
  3. MH01665 (must be installed from classic GUI or from command line)
HMC V8R8.3
  1. SP2 MH01584
  2. MH01647
HMC  V8R8.2
  1. SP3 MH01583
HMC (CR4 last release) V7R7.9
  1. SP3 MH01546
  2. MH01587
  3. MH01659
HMC V7R7.8
  1. SP1 MH01397
  2. SP2 MH01432
  3. MH01570
or V7R7.7
  1. SP3 MH01379
  2. SP4 MH01415
  3. MH01516
HMC C03 V7R3.5 SP4 MH01277

If we have a model listed above in the HMC column that is the highest level of firmware that model of the HMC can be upgraded to.

  • Note that release 8.8.x does not support any POWER5 servers.
  • Version 7.7.9 is not supported and cannot be installed on HMC models C03, C04 or CR2.
  • If an HMC is used to manage any POWER7 processor based server, the HMC must be a model CR3 or later model rack-mount HMC or C05 or later desk side HMC.
  • HMC V8R8.1 is supported on rack-mount models CR5, CR6, CR7 and CR8; and on desktop model C08. These listed models meet or exceed the V8R8.1 minimum memory requirement of 2GB however 4GB is recommended.
  • If you want to manage a POWER8 machine, you need to be on at least HMC 8.8.1

 

If you have an Flexible Service Processor (FSP) your firmware should be:

Machine Processor Model Version Notes
Power5 or 5+ 520, 515, 525, 550, 570 SF240_418_382 last
Power6 940x, M15, M25, M50 EL350_172_038 last
8203-E4A, 8204-E8A, 8204-E4A EL350_172_038 last
MMA, 560, 570 EM350_172_038 last
9119-FHA EH350_172_038 last
Power7 8231-E1B, 8202-E4B, 8231-E2B, 8205-E6B, 8233-E8B, 8236-E8C AL730_152_035
9117-MMB, 9179-MHB AM780_080_040
8231-E1C, 8202-E4C, 8205-E6C AL740_161_042
9117-MMC, 9179-MHC AM770-112_032
Power7+ 8231-E1D, 8202-E4D, 8231-E2D, 8205-E6D AL770_112_032
8408-E8D, 9109-RMD AM770_112_032
9117-MMD, 9179-MHD AM780_075_040
Power8 8408-E8E, 8284-22A, 8286-41A, or 8286-42A SV840_113_056 (OS Managed) SV840_139_056 (HMC Managed)
9119-MHE or 9119-MME SC840_139_056

 

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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