September 2015 Newsletter

Dear iTech Fan,

i can do anything with iTech Solutions

It’s been a busy past few months with OS upgrades and new Power8 machines. That is an understatement as we have been crazy busy. I did an early morning OS upgrade today, and now I am sitting out on the lake relaxing and writing the newsletter. Fall is upon us, and the leaves are starting to turn. That water is completely calm as no one is out on the lake, the sky is a beautiful blue, and the trees are mostly green but you can start to see the red and yellow leaves in a few trees. As the boat gently rocks, and I look at the beautiful rolling hills surrounding the lake, I can see the change starting. Fall is the season of change, as we prepare for the winter, as well as in many places the middle of hurricane season. It begs the question, “Are you prepared?” If a hurricane hits your location? The electric was off for a week? There was no air conditioning in your computer room? You have a fire in the building. These are all disasters we should be prepared for. No matter what the disaster is, are you ready? As IT professionals we should know the issues surrounding us and prepare. So, if your system wasn’t available for a week or even a few days what would your company do? A good backup is always the first step, but as I was recently doing a health check of one of our customer’s environments, we found they were doing backups every night. They thought they were fine. We found an issue that their backups were no good. How do you know your backups are any good? By performing a restore of your system. Nothing finds issues like trying to restore your system. It is another service that iTech Solutions offers for you to test out your recovery, especially if you don’t have a machine to test performing the restore. Remember, your backups are only as good as the ability to put all the pieces back together. This is the season to check out your backups.

IBM will make some very important and interesting announcements come the beginning of October. Of course, for those who have been following IBM’s release of Technology Refreshes, it’s the six month interval, so we can expect more details to follow on Technology Refreshes, IBM’s continued investment in IBM i with new features and functions. I can’t go into more details than what is public knowledge at this point. Remember, to read the article in the iTech Solutions July 2015 newsletter on important information on installing Technology refreshes and how not to have a problem.

October is also a good month for education. The COMMON Fall conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida from October 5th to 7th will have over 110 sessions in 2 ½ days. We will be there presenting sessions and exhibiting in the vendor expo. Then there is the IBM Power Systems Technical University Oct 5th to 9th in Orlando, Florida, where we will again be presenting sessions for IBM. Followed by these three great conferences in Europe: The COMMON Sweden (Data3) event in Stockholm, Sweden October 18 to 20th with 3 intense days of sessions, which Pete Massiello will be speaking at. The COMMON Belgium conference (BeNeLux Power 2015) from October 21 to 22 in Eindnoven Belgium, which Massiello will also be speaking at. Next the COMMON Denmark conference in Billund, Denmark October 22. Hey, no matter where you live you need to be investing in yourself. If your skills don’t advance and improve, you won’t be as valuable to your current employer. Plus it will be harder to find a new job if you ever need to. Get up off your butt and attend to one of these conferences.

Last month we created the new position of Customer Care Coordinator, because we feel it is just as important to do services, and ensure we are performing at our best to meet and exceed your expectations in every project we do for you. This month I have asked Yvonne to do a survey of our newsletter readers. Please see the 2nd article and give us your feedback.

As you know, IBM pulled support of V5R4 on Sept 30, 2013. They haven’t released a PTF since, but two weeks ago, IBM updated the Hipers PTFs for this release. I guess they were pretty important for IBM to release these PTFs after support had been ended. If you are still on V5R4 (We should be talking and getting you upgraded), well I would get these PTFs on your machine. If you need help, give us a call or send us an email and we can update your PTFs.

Would you like a presentation on the benefits of Power8 or IBM i 7.2?  Then 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.

This issue of our newsletter has 6 articles. In the first article we discuss migrating to IBM i Access Client Solutions. The second article is about quality and our newsletter survey.  The third article is on Connection Pooling for better ODBC performance. The fourth is on a marketplace survey from HelpSystems. 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 10 for you on your next application of PTFs. For the 7.2 customers, we will be installing 7.2 Technology Refresh 2.

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.

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Migrating to IBM i Access Client Solutions.   lightbulb

Last month, we discussed how to find and download IBM i Access Client Solutions, the new Java-based client software that is intended to replace the older platform-specific IBM i Access family offerings. Now that you’ve solved the maze IBM wants you to navigate in order to download the product, let’s talk about what’s next.

Note: This assumes you are on a Windows PC and are moving from IBM i Access for Windows, but most of these concepts work the same on other platforms.

Client Solutions comes as a single .zip file from the ESS website. As a Java-based program, installation is as simple as extracting the contents of the archive. You can place the software anywhere you like, but for a single-PC installation the easiest option is to place it into a new folder on your C: drive.

 The best way to start Client Solutions is to use one of the startup programs IBM has supplied in the download package. These programs make sure that Java starts with the right options to support the software and they provide a target for file associations, which we will discuss later. Open the location where you extracted the .zip file earlier and look inside the Start_Programs folder for the one that matches your system (use Windows 32-bit if you’re not sure). These programs need to stay where they are to work properly, but you can create a shortcut to the correct one to make it easier to start Client Solutions.

The main screen for Client Solutions provides a drop-down box to select a system to work with and a list of actions and tools you can launch. Hovering over each link will cause a brief description of that tool to appear in the right-hand panel. You’ll need to tell Client Solutions about a system before you can connect to it.

Fortunately, a connection migration utility is included to copy your existing Access for Windows connections over into Client Solutions in one easy step. To access it, select “Copy Connections” from the File menu. Client Solutions will display a list of your Access for Windows environments and the systems defined within them. Use the arrow buttons in the middle to copy connection profiles back and forth between the two products. Once your connections are migrated… To continue reading see the blog article.


What makes iTech Solutions the best option as your business partner?

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Experience and commitment. Our technical resources are leaders in IBM i for infrastructure knowledge and are constantly updating their skills. From attending classes and conferences to briefings from IBM limited to approved business partners iTech Solutions makes sure we are at the top of our game. We also endeavor to give the best customer service in the industry. Our commitment to supporting our customers extends beyond our offerings and into the larger community. By presenting at conferences, providing briefings and presentations on IBM i 7.2 and Power8, writing for industry publications, writing this newsletter, and volunteering for User Groups we strengthen the IBM i community as a whole.

In addition to bettering ourselves and giving back to our customers we are proud of our survey project. After completing any of the myriad of services, we provide a specific survey to our customer to evaluate us. This information is important and we appreciate the customers who have responded to our requests. Our goal to continuously improve the products and services we provide depends on knowing what our customers need.

Our next survey focus is on this newsletter. While it is important to showcase the offerings we have, new products and services, we also strive to bring information to our readers. To that end, we want to know what you think and want.

Do you enjoy knowing the latest IBM announcements and how they pertain to your Power System? How useful are the technical articles? Are we keeping you informed of what is happening in the IBM i arena? From upgrades, installations, recoveries, hosting, backups, PTFs we bring you the information necessary to plan the care and maintenance of your IBM i.

The attached survey only takes a few minutes to complete and your opinions are very important to us, please click the link and provide us your feedback.  iTech Solutions Newsletter Survey.

 


Connection Pooling   .

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Last week I was looking at a customer’s history log, and all I kept seeing was new ODBC connections starting and stopping.  Thousands of them.  Every time you create and end a job in IBM i there is quite a lot of overhead with these processes.  Why not improve performance and use Connection pooling which is supported on IBM i Access ODBC connections.

Connection pooling refers to the behavior where IBM i Access ODBC connections are left open after the application has requested to disconnect them. Connections that are in the pool can be reused by the same application avoiding the time consuming operation of creating a brand new connection.

To get an application to use connection pooling support with the IBM i Access ODBC driver two basic steps must be taken:

  1. Connection pooling support has to be enabled for the driver. To enable this support, open ODBC Administrator, click on the Connection Pooling tab, double-click on Client Access ODBC Driver (32-bit), and switch the check box to indicate to pool connections to this driver. There is also a spot on the window to fill in the amount of time that unused connections remain in the pool. Enter a value that makes sense for you and your application.
  2. Connection pooling support has to be enabled by the application. An application does this by setting the SQL_ATTR_CONNECTION_POOLING environment attribute as part of the connection process.

 

If you need some help installing this, or other ways to improve performance, contact iTech Solutions.

 


Take the 2016 IBM i Marketplace survey.   IBM i

Last year, HelpSystems set out to share the IBM i story with IT professionals around the world. To understand how organizations leverage this powerful platform, we asked for help from IBM i users like you.

More than 300 IT professionals responded to the IBM i Marketplace Survey and the results led to insightful conversations about the future of this technology. We aim to build on that foundation by reaching an even broader segment of our community this year.

You’re invited to tell us how you’re using IBM i in our short survey. When the results are ready in early 2016, you’ll receive:

  • Market data on how IBM i is used
  • Independent information on the value of the platform
  • Details about technologies your peers are using on IBM i

Together we can develop a better understanding of this platform and help new IBM i professionals use it more effectively.  You might have seen the presentation by Tom Huntington and Pete Massiello discuss the results of the 2015 survey, it was eye opening.  Please participate in this year’s survey.

Thank you for participating!

Take the survey

 


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.

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September 24 – VTMUG Eleventh Annual Technical conference  www.vtmug.org   Burlington, VT

  • Visit our booth in the Vendor Expo to learn more about our products and services.

 

October 5 – 7 COMMON www.common.org  Fall Event Fort Lauderdale, FL, Visit Paul & Rick at our booth and/or hear Pete speak on:

  • What you need to know to upgrade to IBM i 7.1 & 7.2
  • HMC, FSP, Firmware: Putting all the pieces together
  • Tips and Tricks to Improve Performance and Save disk space.
  • Cool things on Managing your system with Navigator for IBM

Hear Yvonne speak on:

  • IBM i and Power System Upgrade Testing
  • Testing Tips and Tricks for Programmers
  • Agile Testing and Concepts

 

October 18 – 20 COMMON Sweden Data3 www.data3.se – Plats: Elite Marina Tower Hotel

  • What you need to know to upgrade to IBM i 7.1 & 7.2
  • HMC, FSP, Firmware: Putting all the pieces together
  • Step by Step guide to creating guest IBM i partitions hosted by IBM i
  • Cool things on Managing your system with Navigator for IBM

October 21 COMMON Belgium www.common.be

  • What you need to know to upgrade to IBM i 7.1 & 7.2
  • HMC, FSP, Firmware: Putting all the pieces together
  • Step by Step guide to creating guest IBM i partitions hosted by IBM i

 


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 15135 15142 15063 12094 8267
Tech. Refresh 2 10
Grp Hipers 45 149 209 204 169
DB Group 8 37 33 33 24
Java Group 7 22 33 34 23
Print Group 3 12 31 49 20
Backup/Recov. 15 50 61 57 33
Blade/IXA/IXS 1 16 30 15
HTTP 10 35 45 36 17
TCP/IP 1 8 16 22 16
Security 20 45 59 32
High Availability 2 8 5
Hardware 12 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 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.

HMCs

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

Model Release Service Pack
HMC V8R8.3 SP1 MH01540, and then MH01565
HMC V8R8.2 SP2 MH01488
HMC  V8R8.1 SP 2 MH01452, then MH01550
HMC (CR4 last release) V7R7.9 SP 2 MH01451
HMC V7R7.8 SP1 MH01397 then

SP 2 MH01432, then MH01548

or V7R7.7 SP 3 MH1397, then SP 4 MH01415,

then MH01516

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.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_166_074 last
8203-E4A, 8204-E8A, 8204-E4A EL350_166_074 last
MMA, 560, 570 EM350_166_074 last
9119-FHA EH350_166_074 last
Power7 8231-E1B, 8202-E4B, 8231-E2B, 8205-E6B, 8233-E8B, 8236-E8C AL730_149_035
9117-MMB, 9179-MHB AM780_071_040
8231-E1C, 8202-E4C, 8205-E6C AL740_159_042
9117-MMC, 9179-MHC AM770-109_032
Power7+ 8231-E1D, 8202-E4D, 8231-E2D, 8205-E6D AL770_109_032
8408-E8D, 9109-RMD AM770_109_032
9117-MMD, 9179-MHD AM780_071_040
Power8 8247-21L, 8247-22L, 8284-22A, 8286-41A, 8286-42A SV830_048_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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