September 2008 Newsletter

Greetings!
Where did the summer go? Fall brings baseball playoffs, football, and the beauty of the leaves in New England! This is a great time of year, but let’s not forget we still have to work.  iTech Solutions wants to make some of your systems management issues a little easier with our monthly newsletter of tips and techniques. We have been busy with i5/OS upgrades to V6.1 recently and have a busy schedule for the remainder of the fall.

 

This issue of our newsletter has four articles.  In the first article, we’ll talk about the attention light on your machine. As performance and disk space is an issue in most shops, our second article deals with save files and how to track them.  In the third article, we discuss creating another message queue for critical messages.  The last article is for your reference with updated PTF information for your use.  For a list of events that we will be attending over the next few months, please go to Events
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 iTech Solution or contact us at info@itechsol.com . We would also like to know what you think of this newsletter and any items you would like us to discuss in future issues.

 The Attention Light.
Why is it that when I come to some of my customer’s computer rooms, I often see the attention light lit on their machine? By nature of its name, something requires attention, and the machine has put out a visual reminder of that fact. For other customers, their attention light is never on.

Before we get into the reasons why the attention light is on and how to turn it off, let’s look at reasons why it remains on:
1) You don’t look at your AS/400 or iSeries every day.

2) Since all your other windows servers always have problems, you have an idea that the iSeries just puts this light on so that it fits in with the other computers in the room.

3) You have no idea what that little light means but think it might have something to do with iTech Solutions, because when they leave it’s always off 🙂

4) You know what it means, but have no idea how to turn it off.

I am going to assume that most of you fall into the fourth category, and we will spend our time there.  If you remember your older AS/400s, whenever we saw the attention light on, we knew there was a real issue.  Now it does seem to come on more often, and for issues that aren’t as serious.  This seems to happen with the newer iSeries and IBM i boxes that have an FSP (Flexible Service Processor) in them (these would be Power 5, Power5+, and Power6 based machines).  I have also noticed that if you haven’t updated the Licensed Code on your FSP in some time, the light will also come on more frequently.  If you have a Power 5 or Power5+ based machine, you should be on 01_SF240_320 or higher.  If not, contact iTech Solutions for help in getting upgraded.

How do you turn off that light, after you have determined that there is nothing wrong on your box? If you have an HMC, there is a function on the HMC to turn off the attention light for a partition and for the physical machine.  For people without an HMC, you need to do that from inside of System Service Tools (SST).

1) From a command line enter STRSST.
2) Enter your SST/DST Userid and password.
3) Select Start a Service Tool.
4) Select Hardware Service Manager.
5) Select Work with Service Action Log.
6) Now enter a range of dates.  I usually use a range of the last month, to see what has been happening.

At this point you need to look at the codes and determine what the issues are or were.  You can close the problems if they are no longer happening.

7) You can now acknowledge the problems, and continue. Once you do this and back out from the menu, the attention light will go out.

Remember, that the attention light is on for a reason:  it does you no good to just shut it off without finding out why it was on.

If you need help, we have done this at many of our customers, and can help you by monitoring your system for you or being part of one of our maintenance programs.  Contact us and let iTech Solutions help you.

Save Files *SAVF
 

 

We recently discussed tracking disk space in a previous month’s newsletter  and I would like to continue to elaborate on this important 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 discussed the use of RTVDSKINF and RTVDIRINF to gather the information in the August 2008 newsletter.  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 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.  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 name.  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.

 Monitor Important Messages 

 

Sometimes it’s like finding a needle in a haystack.  I am talking about looking at some of our customers’ QSYSOPR message queues.  There are so many messages in there, messages regarding the operation of the machine, lots of verbose TCP/IP connection messages, printer status messages, job completion messages, and others, that I can’t find the important messages.  Wouldn’t it be nice if i5/OS could weed out those unimportant messages and just show me the ones I really need to see?  Well there is a way to perform this.  If you create a message queue called QSYSMSG in library QSYS, then i5/OS will place a copy of any really important messages that it puts in QSYSOPR into QSYSMSG.  Then all you need to do is monitor QSYSMSG and you will be aware of the serious problems much more readily. Note that you will still need to monitor QSYSOPR, but all the serious messages will easily be found in QSYSMSG. Once you create this message queue, you should be monitoring BOTH the QSYSOPR and QSYSMSG queues.    Give us a call, and we will show you exactly how simple it is to start to lock down your machine. Contact us.

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.  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   8190   8183    8085   6080

Grp Hipers       19      83      155      189

DB Group          6       17       22         25

Java Group       4       16       22         27

Print Group       4      24       15          7

Backup/Recov.  2      21       29         31

Security Group  2       2         3           –

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 8183. We can determine that it was created on the 183rd day of 2008, which is July 1st, 2008.  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 V7.3.3, with PTF MH01119 installed. This is Serive Pack 2 for V7.3.3. For your Flexible Service Processor (FSP) that is inside your Power 5 or Power5+ (520, 515, 525, 550, 570), the level should be 01_SF240_338. Power 6 customers should be running EL320_040 (for M15, M25, and M50 machines) and EM320_076 (for MMA machines).  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.

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