September 2011 Newsletter

Greetings!

i can do anything with iTech Solutions

 

Each month our newsletter brings to light tips and techniques that help many System Administrators in their job, as well as managers know what is happening in the IBM i world.  We are happy to be able to help so many people in the IBM i community.  The number of iTech Solutions customers is growing each month, and that is due to our commitment to our customers, our services, and the support that we provide.  Find out for yourself what it is like to work with a business partner who cares about you and your success. 

 

This issue of our newsletter has five articles. In the first, we look where you IPL from? Learn the difference between A & B, and T & P. The second article is understanding the level of your FSPs firmware.   The third article lists some of the upcoming events in which iTech Solutions will be participating.  The fourth article discusses how you can use iTech Solutions for your System Administration needs. The last article is for your reference with updated PTF information.

 

 

If you are still on V5R4, send Pete an email and he can help you upgrade to V6R1 or V7R1, with over 300 V6R1 upgrades done to date you know iTech Solutions has the expertise and know how.

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.

Where do you IPL from?
Light
 

Well that sounds like a funny title, but over the last few weeks we have come across a few customers that weren’t IPLing from the correct side.  One of these customers had some serious issues as a result; the other customer  issues were more about wrong settings.  Before getting into the correct side from which you should be IPLing both your system and your FSP, let’s start with some basics.

 

Every system has two sides from which to IPL IBM i (OS/400, i5/OS): well to be a little more precise, from which to IPL the System License Internal Code (SLIC).   We call one side the A side, and the other the B side.   We can think of the SLIC as the 57xx-999 license product, where xx = 22 for version 5, xx=61 for version 6, and xx=70 for version 7.  The B side has both the permanently applied PTFs & temporary applied PTFs for the SLIC.  The A side has just the permanently applied PTFs for SLIC.  So, when we IPL (or you can use the word “boot”) the machine, we have to determine from which side we should be IPLing.  We normally IPL from the B side, as that has our temporarily applied and permanently applied PTFs.   When we put new PTFs on, we normally put them to the B side.  This way, if there is a problem with a new PTF we put on, we could always go to the other side and boot that side up without a problem.   That is why, for best practices of PTF management, if you are satisfied your temporary PTFs do not have problems, the first thing you always do is to permanently apply all the temporary PTFs (which copies everything from the B side to the A side, so that both sides are the same).  Now, if we have a problem with a new PTF we have just put on, we can IPL from the other side.  Pretty straightforward.  Now, some people never apply their PTFs permanently (for reasons we won’t even discuss as I believe that is poor systems management) so when they have to IPL from the other side, it is so out of date that it can cause problems.

 

Where do I see which side I am IPLing from? Well if your machine has no LPARS, then you can see in the front bezel. The bezel is the small lighted panel on the front of the machine.  If you have multiple LPARS on your machine, then each partition has this set in the properties/settings for the partition.   On the bezel you will normally see two lines:  the first line probably has an 01 followed by a letter (A, B, or D), and then followed by a second letter (N or M).  The first letter is the IPL source, A is the side with the permanently applied PTFs, B is the side with both the temporary and permanently applied PTFs, and D is your Alternative IPL Device (like a Tape drive or CD-Rom).   The second letter tells us whether we are coming up in a Manual mode or Normal mode.   You would almost always be IPLing from the B side in Normal mode, so your display should read 01 B N.  We have had people putting PTFs on and IPLing from the wrong side, which is why we decided to write this article.  We found a customer that had bad PTFs on their B side, and their former business partner told them it was ok to be IPLing from the A side.  No, they didn’t fix the problem on the B side, they just had them IPL from the other side.  Notice I said “former” business partner.  We got them back on track, but back to the article.  Remember I said on the bezel there were two lines?  We discussed the top line above, and on the bottom line in the far right, there is a one character field that is either a T or a P.  This letter tells the FSP (Flexible Service Processor) which side to boot from.  The T side has the temporary fixes applied to the FSP LIC (also known as firmware), and the P side has the permanent fixes applied to the FSP LIC.  This is extremely important.  Now, the FSP can have its License Internal Code updated one of two ways:  either from putting IBM i PTFs on when the system is OS Managed and has no HMC, or from the HMC when the machine is managed by the HMC.  There is another hybrid way:  when the system has an HMC, but is OS Managed.  This isn’t a configuration that I recommend at all, and I won’t go into it, as it has the potential for compatibility problems between the HMC and the FSP.   The FSP should be booting from the T side, and just like with putting PTFs on your IBM i, you put the new firmware on the T side, and have the P side to boot from in case something goes wrong.  Matt was out at a customer last week,and found they could only boot form their P side.  The T  side was so old and out of date, that every time the customer booted their machine from the T side, the machine would crash with some B600 error code.   We finally had to put a new level of code on the T side so that they could boot their FSP off either the T or the P side.  If you want to check from which side the machine was recently IPLed, enter DSPPTF and it will tell you at the top of the screen either #A or #B, which means the A side or the B side.

 

In summary, you should be booting your FSP from the T side, and your SLIC (IBM i machine code) from the B side.  If this isn’t the case, please send Matt an email so that he can help you out.  Now that you know how easy it is to check, I hope you check before reading the next article on determining the level of firmware.

 

 FSP Firmware.   

IBM i Operating System

 

In the previous article we discussed from which side you are IPLing your machine.  Now that you know which side you are IPLing the firmware from (T or P), and which side you are IPLing the machine code from (B or A), we need to know what level of FSP firmware we are IPLing.  Now, from what I have noticed, many people aren’t updating their firmware.  Yes, we have found quite a few customers who had their machine installed 3 or 4 years ago, and the firmware was never updated.  They aren’t getting some of the new features and functionality that IBM has delivered.  Some of the older firmware had issues with constantly turning on the yellow attention light when there really wasn’t a serious problem.  Also, before upgrading your operating system, you have to make sure that your firmware is at a minimum release level  to support the new operating system.   The command that you want to execute is DSPFMWSTS (Display Firmware Status).  You will find the level of code on the *TEMP side, the level of code on the *PERM side, and what is currently running which is *ACTIVE.  The *ACTIVE will get loaded from the *TEMP (T side) or *PERM (P side).  In order to determine which level of code should be running for your machine, refer to the last article in this newsletter.   You should be close to this level.  In all of our newsletters, our last article is always about PTFs.  You can go back to a previous newsletter and look up 6 or 9 months ago, and you shouldn’t be less than this level.  If you need help in getting your firmware updated, please email John .

Upcoming Events. 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday Sept 27 – Vermont User group www.VTMUG.ORG :

  • Systems Director Navigator Console
  • System Administration Tips & Techniques.

October 3 to 5th, in St.Petersburg, FL at the COMMON Fall Event, Pete Massiello will present:

  • What you need to know to do successful IBM i (OS/400) upgrades to 6.1 & 7.1.
  • Virtual i partitions hosted by IBM i.
  • HMC, IBM i, FSP, Firmware: Putting all the pieces together.
  • Everything you need to know to get started with the new Systems Director Navigator Console.

Tuesday Oct 18, at the Norwalk Inn, in Norwalk CT for the Fairfield CT AS/400 User Group (FASUG):

  • Everything you need to know to get started with the new Systems Director Navigator Console.

Wednesday Oct 19, at the Fox Hollow Inn,  Woodbury, NY. Long Island System User Group (LISUG):

  • Everything you need to know to get started with the new Systems Director Navigator Console.

Thursday Oct 20, at the Norwalk Inn, in Norwalk CT for the North Eastern Systems Technology User Group (NESTU):

  • Everything you need to know to get started with the new Systems Director Navigator Console.

IBM i DevCon, Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas. November 2nd and 3rd.

    • Step by Step Instructions to upgrading to IBM i 6.1 & 7.1
    • Critical overview of HMC, IBM i, FSP, and firmware: Putting the pieces together
    • Real-world advice to conserve disk space and improve IBM i performance
    • Build your own IBM i 7.1 test environment with virtual partitions – No additional hardware required!

November 9th at 2:00pm EST Web cast: How to improve Disaster Recovery readiness.

We are known for our resiliency in New England, it’s part of who we are, yet even we did not predict the string of events that has unfolded in 2011 in our region. Perhaps 2011 is an anomaly, yet for many businesses the recent natural events focused the spotlight on the need for improved processes and preventative measures. Join Pete Massiello to hear about the experiences of several New England firms and to give you an overview of options to improve business continuity for your IBM i environment.

November 29, at 2:00pm EST: Conference Call. Moving up to 7.  IBM i 7.1 recent announcements & Power 7 value.
Steve Will, Chief Architect, IBM i, & Pete Massiello, President of iTech Solutions will discuss an overview of the latest IBM i announcements. We will discuss the business value clients are experiencing with IBM i 7.1 and the new POWER7 processor-based systems. You will learn about the best practices in moving up to the latest systems and IBM i 7.1.

Your not just getting support, your getting knowledge.

 

IBM i Operating System

Look up the word support in a dictionary, and you will be surprised by the number of meanings the word has. There are 10 different examples of support as a noun, and 10 different examples of the word as a verb at www.thefreedictionary.com.

When you think of support what comes to mind, a verb or a noun?  What about IBM i support? Do you have enough support? Could you use a little more?  Do you have the right people for a project?  Could you use some advance skills for something coming up? iTech Solutions offers support for not just your operating system upgrades, PTF maintenance, replication, and hardware upgrades, but also just regular support.

We have experienced IBM i (AS/400, iSeries) System Engineers & System Administrators that can be an extension of your staff.  Do you need help on a specific project, upgrade, or migration? No matter what the IBM i administration task, why not supplement with our experienced staff.  Not only do you get the support, you get our experience, our training, our know-how, and our knowledge.

We are here to support you.  We can provide remote support, or local support.  We can provide support as a supplement to your staff, as an addition to your staff, for a skill set you are missing, for a short-term project, or even when you don’t have the System Administration skills in house we can help.  In addition, you can outsource the entire System Administration to us. We can work to provide a unique plan to meet your needs.  We are currently performing the tasks of a System Administrator for many companies in the area that don’t have the luxury of a dedicated staff, but do have the peace of mind of having the best System Adimistrators and Engineers working for them. They have iTech Solutions.

To learn how you can take advantage of the iTech Solutions System Engineers and Administrators, contact Pete.

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    11116    11256   11137     8267

Tech. Refresh         2

Grp Hipers            40       100     162      169

DB Group               11       20        31       24

Java Group             6        17        27       23

Print Group             3        21        44       20

Backup/Recov.      10        23        41       33

Blade/IXA/IXS         7        22        15        –

HTTP                    10        22        29      17
TCP/IP                   5        13        20      16

Security                  8        22        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 & 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 V7R7.2M0 SP2 or V7R7.3M0 SP1. If your HMC is a C03, then it should stay at V7R3.5 SP3.
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_108.  For Power6 (MMA, 560, and 570 machines) your FSP should be at EM350_108. If you have a Power6 595 (9119) then you should be on EH350_108. POWER7 the firmware level is AL730_035 for 8202-E4B (710, 720, 730, 740), AL730_035 for 750 (8233-E8B) & 755 (8236-E8C). Use AM730_035 for 770 (9117-MMB) & 780 (9179-MHB).
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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