September 2014 Newsletter

Dear iTech Fan,

i can do anything with iTech Solutions

We had our first 4 IBM Power8 & IBM 7.2 roadshows this month.  They were very successful as we were able to spend quite a lot of time talking with customers on some of the new features, speeds, and functionality in the Scale-Out (Low end) Power8 servers, and also tell about all the new features and functions that were delivered in IBMi 7.2.  IBMi 7.2 has some amazing features that will provide quite a performance boast to most environments. We received very good feedback from the attendees.  We look forward to the next 6 that are scheduled, as well as a few more we are putting together.  If you missed one, and would like a session customized for you on Power8 and IBMi 7.2, please let us know and we will come to your company and present it to you. We sold more Power Systems during the month of September, than any other month in our history.  Customers are upgrading in waves.  Last month we stated that we couldn’t say when IBM was going to announce the Enterprise class Power8 machines due to our NDA, but they have now stated publically these machines will be announced on October 6, 2014.  We can now pass this information on to you.  Another packed round of Power8 announcements, so stay tuned.

This issue of our newsletter has 6 articles. In the first article, we will discuss How good is your backup?.After losing an FAA Communication Center outside of Chicago last week, perhaps the FAA needs to read this article. The second article is on the iTech Solutions Power8 and IBM i 7.2 Roadshow coming to your area. The third article is about our Managed Security Services we are doing in conjunction with Skyview Partners.  The fourth article is a reprint of the IT Jungle article with Dan Burger and Pete Massiello  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 Technology Refresh 8 for you on your next application of PTFs.

Having a business partner isn’t the same as having iTech Solutions, if you aren’t getting the support, the help, the guidance, and the advice you need to succeed then you need to contact iTech Solutions for 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.

 

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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, blade installations, 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.


 

How good are your backups?   

Wait, don’t answer too quickly.

If you have been paying attention to the news this last week, and heard that a small fire in a air traffic control facility has delayed or canceled thousands of flights into and out of Chicago’s two airports. This is a key Chicago air traffic control center. Where are their backups? Where are the Disaster Recovery procedures?.Where are their replicated systems?

Aviation authorities say it will take at least two weeks to get the center back to normal. One airport affected, O’Hare International, is the world’s second-busiest airport. Long lines of stranded passengers have been clogging Chicago airports all weekend. O’Hare was operating at 60% of its capacity Monday, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation, while Midway International Airport was at 75%. As of Monday morning, at least 300 flights had been canceled at O’Hare. The FAA hopes to have the center in Aurora, Illinois, repaired and returned to full service by October 13, the agency said Sunday.  If this was your company could you last over 2 weeks before you were able to be back on-line?  This stuff happens all around us, what are you doing to protect your environment, your data, your computers.  Good time to look at replicating to our IBM i in the Cloud.

This hits a little closer to us, but you never know when disaster is going to hit. Last month we got a call from a new client that they had a disk failure without RAID, and they couldn’t recover their system after the disk was replaced.  I asked them why they called us, and they told us that IBM had recommended they contact us.  First, you should always have some level of disk protection, that is your first defense against loss of data. My preference is RAID5 with Hot Spare for most customers, it gives that added level of protection.  There is always Mirroring or RAID6 as well, but for most of our customers RAID5 with Hot Spare provides ample protection.  I am not going to get into the specifics of the issues why this customer couldn’t recover, but I thought their experience would make a great article on are your backups able to be used for a recovery. I want to ask you a few questions.  Remember, you only have to answer to yourself right now, but in a disaster you will be answering to the management of the company, and quite frankly your job is on the line if you aren’t following best practices.

Of course, I am assuming that you are doing backups, but I have seen companies who don’t backup their machines, or they don’t back the machine up often enough.  How often is often enough.  It depends.  Sorry, there is no answer that works for everyone.  You need to balance availability of your system as your system is usually down during the backup, and how difficult you want to make your recovery.  The best backup is a Full system backup (GO SAVE 21) every night, but of course that isn’t always practical.  Some companies backup their system fully once a week, once a month or quarterly.  Then each night, they backup their data libraries. Some companies backup the entire system quarterly, a few libraries weekly, and then other libraries daily.  One problem that I always see with selective library backups is that library names change or new libraries get added and you don’t change your backup procedure. Also, don’t forget there could be data in the IFS that also needs to be backed up.  Everyone’s backup solution is different, and it should be analyzed to determine if it is meeting the needs of the company. Can you recover from this backup strategy?

Once you have a backup, it is imperative that the tape is taken off site.  You don’t want to keep the backup and the backup tape in the same computer room.  What would happen if the computer were to catch on fire, both the backup and the machine could be destroyed.  Remember, that iTech Solutions has both Cloud based backups for your IBM i, which gets the data immediately off site, as well as replicated Virtual Tape Libraries which will also get your virtual tape off-site.  Our cloud based backup is encrypted in transit and at rest for your protection.

Backups are great, but let’s talk about a small problem with backups.  Let’s use an example.  Each night at midnight, we do a full backup, which takes 1 hour.  Great.  During the day, our company is entering data, running jobs, taking phone orders, shipping, invoicing, etc.  If the machine were to die at 10:00pm, then we would have lost 19 hours of data.  Oh, that isn’t good.  Yet, we have a full backup each night. We have no backup of all the transactions that happened during the day until the next backup at midnight.  That is where replication comes in.  We have quite a few customers that are replicating to our IBM i in the cloud to insure that as soon as one transaction is entered on the system, it is immediately sent to our IBM i machine in the cloud.  This means these customers don’t have the problem of losing their transactions since the last backup.  We can even perform target side backups on our cloud, so that you have no downtime each day on your system (the source system). This provides higher availablity for your cusotmers.

OK, so now we should understand the different types of backups and services that you can have.  The question is, when was the last time you tested your recovery.  Don’t put the article down now, because I asked you an uncomfortable question.  From my experience if you haven’t tested your recovery you have no idea if you actually can recover.  I mean really test it out, don’t just try to restore one file from last nights backup and think you are a superhero.  The only time you are allowed to wear a red cape, is after you have successfully taken your backups and tried a recovery.  Even if you don’t have a machine, iTech Solutions will bring a machine to your location, or you can bring your tapes to us (or send them to us), and we will help you recover your machine.  I have done hundreds of recoveries, and I can tell you that the customer always learns something from each and every recovery I have been involved with. Collect your quarterly backups, your daily tapes and let’s try to see if you can recover.  Let’s see what you might be missing.  Let’s determine any issues  that you have now so that you can fix and correct them while its a test.  Do you want to tell the owners of your company that you “thought” we had good backups? If it isn’t backed up you can’t recover it.  If you don’t have the latest copy you can’t give them the correct data.  If you aren’t replicating, then you have to understand you will only be able to recover up to the last backup that you performed.

In summary, backups are your first step in your recovery, but you need to test a restore to make sure you have everything you need to recover your system.  Do you know if what you are writting to tape is readable? You have no idea until you try to recover it.  Don’t wait until your job is on the line, contact iTech Solutions today to schedule your recovery.  The job you save, might be your own!


iTech Solutions Power8 & IBM i 7.2 roadshow.  TR7

Join us for the iTech Solutions Power8 and IBM i 7.2 Roadshows where you can learn all about IBM’s recent announcements of the Power8 servers and the enhancements delivered in IBM i 7.2. These announcements emphasize IBM’s commitment to the Power systems platform and the IBM i operating system.

iTech Solutions will present multiple sessions at each of these roadshow locations. The first session covers the Power8 servers and how they can significantly improve your organizations processing capabilities. The second session covers the announcement of enhancements that are available in IBM i 7.2. The third session will be on Cloud Computing for IBM i, Managed Services, and High Availability as a Service.

Session Highlights

  • Power8 processors and I/O enhancements
  • New features, speeds, and functions
  • IBM i 7.2 enhancements to Security, Application Development, and Performance
  • IBM’s commitment to Power Systems and IBM i Roadmap

iTech Solutions Roadshow schedule:

Tuesday September 16, 2014 Crown Plaza Hartford-Cromwell, Cromwell, CT

Monday September 22, 2014 IBM Facility 590 Madison Ave New York City

Tuesday September 23, 2014 Marriott Hotel, Providence, RI

Wednesday September 24, 2014 Fireside Inn & Suites, Portland ME

Tuesday September 30, 2014 Fireside Inn & Suites ,W. Lebanon, NH

Thursday October 02, 2014 Double Tree Hotel, Tarrytown, NY

Thursday October 02, 2014 Norwalk Inn, Norwalk, CT

Wednesday November, 05, 2014 Forefront Conf. Center, Waltham, MA

Thursday November 06, 2014 Marriott Hotel, Springfield, MA

Thursday December 18, 2014 The Yard Seafood & Steakhouse, Manchester, NH

Check our web site http://www.itechsol.com/events for up to date information on these venues and to register for the presentations closest to you.

You won’t want to miss these informative sessions presented by iTech Solutions’ Pete Massiello.

 


Managed Security Services.   .iStock_000019030607XSmall

Information and system security is often overlooked, or an afterthought, in a lot of small and medium sized businesses. For those companies it is usually a matter of time and resources that will govern the level of security monitoring that is occurring on a regular basis, if it happens at all. And how many of those organization have yet to implement some of the basic security settings that are available to them and published in many places as ”best practice”. This inattention leads to systems and infrastructure that are vulnerable to attack and corruption from both external and internal sources… and when that occurs, it will most often cost somebody their job or damage the reputation of an organization beyond repair.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Despite the fact that you are a small or medium size organization and are running as lean as possible, with everyone wearing as many hats as they can fit on their head, you can still get security monitoring to suit your needs and give yourself and your organization the peace of mind that the environment is being monitored and best practices are being implemented.

To accomplish this iTech Solutions has partnered with SkyView Partners, Inc. (www.skyviewpartners.com) to offer their customers an easy to implement basic security monitoring service that will go a long way toward identifying and correcting security issues within your environment.

The offering is called MSS (Managed Security Services) and it provides for monthly monitoring and reporting of security administration areas.

This is how it works:

  1. iTech Solutions and Skyview Partners will setup a monitoring application on each LPAR contracted for.
  2. On a monthly basis reports are sent to you, SkyView Partners and iTech Solutions. These reports identify security issues that need to be addressed. iTech Solutions will then facilitate a discussion with you and SkyView Partners to address issues and recommend changes to your environment to address the points outlined in the reports.
  3. Included in this service is an annual Risk Analysis Assessment performed by SkyView Partners and iTech Solutions.

Here is a small sample of some of the security areas that appear on the monthly reports:

  • Identifying profiles with new special authorities (for example, *ALLOBJ, *SECADM)
  • Ensuring only approved profiles are configured with non-expiring passwords
  • Profiles added to a group (for example, QPGMR)
  • Detecting changes to system values
  • Security of a critical file (e.g., a file containing confidential or private information) or directory
  • Discovering new programs that adopt an *ALLOBJ profile
  • Invalid sign on attempts for IBM- supplied profiles
  • Interactive sign on of IBM- supplied profiles
  • Authority failures to a set of objects or to a specific file or directory

Security is about managing the risk to an acceptable level for your organization and doing it within a reasonable budget. This service provides the following benefits:

  • To ensure security is monitored at least monthly
  • To have experts as a ‘second pair of eyes’ to help identify unusual behavior and recommend corrective action
  • To meet audit and compliance requirements
  • To consolidate reports from multiple locations
  • To gain visibility of settings from locations not directly under their control

SkyView Partners Profile: SkyView Partners, Inc. was founded by Carol Woodbury and John Vanderwall, both having extensive experience and recognition within the IBM i community as security experts. Carol spent 16 years with IBM as a Chief Engineering Manager and Security Architect for IBM’s Enterprise Server Group before co-founding SkyView and John has spent many years working with security software, product development, sales and marketing.

Contact iTech Solutions to learn more about this offering and to start your subscription today.


IBM i Upgrades Not All On The Same Path 140x100_ibmi


Last month we wrote about some items we have uncovered and you need to be aware of when doing upgrades to IBM i 7.2. We covered items in the upgrade manual that you need to make sure you are aware of. Remember, IBM recently announced that 6.1 & 6.1.1 will both be withdrawn from support on September 30, 2015. The time to start upgrade preparation is now.  As I always say, the upgrades are easy, it is the preparation that separates the smooth and easy upgrades, from the bad upgrades. Preparation is the key.  If you missed that article, check out last months newsletter. I spent some time this month talking with Dan Burger at IT Jungle on our experiences on upgrades in general. We discussed what releases people are upgrading to, and the pace of upgrades. The start of the article is below, for the entire article click iTech keeps busy doing upgrades in IT Jungle (The Four Hundred).

itj-logo

There are many IBM midrange shops that recognize the value of investing in and implementing the new capabilities in the IBM i operating system. Sometimes we lose sight of that because there’s no tidal wave of OS upgrades on the heels of major new releases. There never has been. It’s more like the steady flow of a river, which looks calm on the surface and belies the activity that goes unseen.

You can get a glimpse of that by talking with someone like Pete Massiello. His company, iTech Solutions Group, is on schedule to do 150 IBM i OS upgrades this year.

“Right now we have 29 OS upgrade projects under way,” Massiello says. “We keep track of them on a board in our office. They are all at different stages and our business is doing more than it ever has. We used to keep these projects on one board, now it takes two boards.”

Not everyone is upgrading to IBM i 7.2, which was released four months ago. The flow at this time, based on Massiello’s business, is mostly in the direction of i 7.1–an OS that was released in 2010. That’s an easier transition for most companies because their existing hardware allows that upgrade. At this point in time, the hardware requirements of IBM i 7.2 doesn’t mesh well with the boxes most companies have on hand.

“Most of our upgrades right now are going to 7.1, but every month it is shrinking as more move to 7.2,” he says. The biggest portion of those moving to 7.2 are already at 7.1, he says, although he encourages companies at 6.1 to upgrade to 7.2 as long as they can get there without a hardware upgrade.

A company running on a Power5 machine, as an example, would not have an upgrade path to IBM i 7.2, so the choice would logically be to upgrade to 7.1 TR 8 and move to 7.2 when the time was right to upgrade the hardware. Power8 hardware will not support IBM i 6.1.

IBM i business is good, Massiello says. His company is selling a lot of hardware–four machines last week is an example of that–and this heightened level of activity has been keeping the folks at iTech Solutions busier than expected.

“I thought that after September 2013 our OS upgrades would fall off,” Massiello told me on the phone last week. “I thought with most people moving off i5/OS V5R4–support was dropped in September 2014–things would slow down. At that time, iTech’s OS upgrade business was approximately 75 percent V5R4 to i 7.1. It never did. The number of shops on V5R4 has been reduced and we are doing a lot fewer upgrades from 5.4 than six months ago, but we continue to have upgrade business. And now that IBM has announced 6.1 will not be supported after September 2015, I think more people will be moving from 6.1 to 7.2.”  ………..

For the rest of the article by Dan Burger in IT Jungle, please click here.

If you need some help with an upgrade, or any other system management functions, please contact iTech Solutions on how we can help with any and all of your IBM i System Administration needs.


 

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.

Oct 6 -9, 2014 IBM Power Technical University @Enterprise 2014 at the Venetian, Las Vegas

  • Upgrading Roundtable
  • What you need to know when upgrading to IBM i 7.2
  • Tip and Tricks to Improve System Performance & Save Disk Space
  • Step by step guide to IBM i Hosting IBM i.

October 14, 2014 Fairfield CT Application Systems Users Group Norwalk, CT:  http://www.fasug.org

  • Everything you need to know to upgrade to IBM i 7.2

October 15, 2014 Long Island Systems Users Group Woodbury, Long Island:  http://www.lisug.org

  • Everything you need to know to upgrade to IBM i 7.2

October 16, 2014 Northern NJ System Users Group, Parsippany, NJ http://www.nestu.com

  • Everything you need to know to upgrade to IBM i 7.2

October 26 – 29, 2014 COMMON Fall Event – Indianapolis, Indiana  http://www.common.org

Come visit Rick & Paul at our booth, and hear Pete speak on:

  • COMMON Opening session
  • Tip and tricks to improve system performance and save disk space
  • Building Virtual i Partitions Hosted by IBM i
  • What you need to know for a successful IBM i upgrade.
  • Understanding the HMC, FSP, IBM i, and firmware.

See the Article above for local iTech Solutions Power8 & IBM i 7.2 Roadshow coming to local venues in the northeast.

 


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.

7.2 7.1 6.1 V5R4 V5R3
Cumul Pack 14101 14143 14197 12094 8267
Tech. Refresh 8
Grp Hipers 14 120 183 203 169
DB Group 2 30 32 33 24
Java Group 3 18 29 34 23
Print Group 2 11 30 49 20
Backup/Recov. 4 38 51 57 33
Blade/IXA/IXS 15 28 15
HTTP 3 29 40 36 17
TCP/IP 8 16 22 16
Security 8 34 46 32
High Availability 1 7 4
Hardware 1 11 11

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 13287. We can determine that it was created on the 287th day of 2013, which is October 14, 2013. 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 & V5R4, but there are still customers who are on those releases.

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

Model Release Service Pack
HMC  V8R8.1 eFix MH01421 then MH01436, then MF01441

* Can’t use with Power5 hardware

HMC CR4 V7R7.9 SP1 and MH01428, eFix MH01406, then MH01435
HMC V7R7.8 SP1 eFix MH01397, then eFix MH01447
or V7R7.7 SP4 eFix MH01415, then MH01422, then MH01439
HMC C03 V7R3.5 SP4

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 8.8.1 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 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 last
Power6 940x, M15, M25, M50 EL350_159 last
8203-E4A, 8204-E8A, 8204-E4A EL350_159 last
MMA, 560, 570 EM350_159 last
9119-FHA EH350_159 last
Power7 8231-E1B, 8202-E4B, 8231-E2B, 8205-E6B, 8233-E8B, 8236-E8C AL730_142
9117-MMB, 9179-MHB AM780_059
8231-E1C, 8202-E4C, 8205-E6C AL740_152
9117-MMC, 9179-MHC AM770-090
Power7+ 8231-E1D, 8202-E4D, 8231-E2D, 8205-E6D AL770_090
8408-E8D, 9109-RMD AM770_090
9117-MMD, 9179-MHD AM780_059
Power8 8247-21L, 8247-22L, 8284-22A, 8286-41A, 8286-42A SV810_081

 

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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