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Peripheral Support for MSP Customers

Yvonne Enselman, Director of Professional Services

This blog was written as part of the iTech Monthly Newsletter, August 2018, by Yvonne Enselman. Yyvonne will be speaking at the COMMON Fall Conference in Pittsburgh. Join her for her session, Basics of Testing for Programmers.

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For this installment of my Managed Administration Services series, I am going to talk about the peripheral support services our customers have availed themselves of from iTech certified administrators. As always, all services are standalone projects as well.

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The following is just a handful of the issues that have come up for our partners and been resolved by the teams.

ACS –

Access Client Solutions is a pretty simple concept that has been around a long time. It delivers TCP/IP connectivity between the IBM i and the window based clients that run the PCs users have to perform their jobs. However, like everything else in the Information Technology universe complexity expands as functionality evolves.

So, it used to be a general way to get a 5250 session, maybe some IFS access for share drives and printer connections. Between the former version of ACS not supporting anything past Windows 8.1 and the ongoing enhancement of IBM i on POWER, in general, the new product needed is called IBM i ACS. It is more secure and robust than its predecessor and integrates with the functionality in the recent Windows OS powering business.

However, there are the typical needs to install properly and configure in a knowledgeable way. Multiple articles have been written on why this is needed and how to navigate, but that hasn’t stopped a majority of our MSP customers from simply asking our technicians to work with their Windows staff to ensure the transition is seamless.

Cache Battery replacement –

No, iTech doesn’t perform this service. It is done by the IBM service representative and is covered in your maintenance agreement with them. Where iTech comes in is helping you understand when this is needed, what impact it will have on your system and planning.

To review, Cache Batteries are used in disk controllers associated with disk drives. The system itself monitors their health and sends messages to the QSYSOPR queue when they start to run down. iTech routinely (as in daily) monitors these queues for our MSP clients letting them know the batteries are running down before the system calls home to IBM requesting a replacement. You might ask, if the system is going to let IBM know and they will call me, then come and replace them, why would iTech be of assistance?

First, we understand your system and can tell you if this is going to be “hot swappable” meaning performed while your system stays up and functional. However, some of these batteries control disk arrays inside the system CPU and this replacement will require the system to be quiescence. The value we add is multi-layered; we are monitoring the queue and bringing things to our customers’ attention they might otherwise miss. We can also inform if the maintenance will be disruptive or keeping you from scheduling as needed. Since many customers only IPL on a quarterly basis, it is a general recommendation from IBM to know this is going to be needed with some notice.

Printers, Print Queues, and drivers, oh my –

Printing services offices that can provide their users in-house are nothing short of amazing and have become quite comprehensive. The days of the bulletproof monolith green bar generators are long past (although, yes I know some shops still have them). These days the sleek powerhouses are full of functionality and communication options. Of course, this means they need to be communicating properly with our business POWERhouse, the IBM i. Our customers routinely need help adding new machines, configuring, and aligning operations. The administration options and their variation by printer manufacturer can be mind-boggling.

Tapes, VTLs, BRMS, and more –

As the options for back up and recovery have diversified, the need for support IBM i operators has kept pace. From keeping track of tapes and their status, and putting policies into place for off-site storage, physical media needs management. Further, the variety of components performing these tasks are more complicated than ever. iTech administrators review every facet of backups and media transfers with our customers. The health of these vital processes is part of our daily monitoring. Additionally, we ensure procedures have been tested and varied. It isn’t enough to think you have a backup. You need the confidence that comes from successfully restoring as part of your DR planning.

I’ll continue to share the myriad of ways we integrate with our customers and their internal teams. We measure our success by the ease of administration on the IBM i and the communication between the organizations.