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New IBM i iSCSI Solution Guide Streamlines iSCSI Documentation

July 26, 2011

The IBM i iSCSI solution supports integration of IBM BladeCenter blade and System x servers with IBM i. See the IBM i integration with BladeCenter and System x Marketing website for overview information.

The Challenge

From a documentation perspective, the iSCSI solution has had more challenges than typical IBM i products. The traditional IBM i approach of providing documentation in the IBM i Information Center has had mixed results for this solution. Some aspects of the iSCSI solution, such as IBM i CL commands and GUI interfaces are well suited for documenting in the Information Center, since changes to those interfaces tend to line up with IBM i release schedules. However, other aspects of the iSCSI solution often change independent of IBM i release schedules.

For example, new System x and blade hardware is released every few months. Likewise, Microsoft Windows Server and VMware ESX Server operating system versions are released independent of IBM i release schedules. The new server hardware and operating systems require updates to the IBM i iSCSI solution documentation.

Although off-release updates to the Information Center can be made, the update process typically takes several months from the time a change is identified to the time the updated Information Center content goes live. This has not been responsive enough to accommodate frequent updates to the iSCSI solution documentation.

In the past, we have addressed the more volatile documentation for the iSCSI solution outside of the Information Center, through a mixture of Web pages and PDF documents. For example, the list of supported server models has been provided as a Web page on the Marketing Web site referenced earlier and a server installation roadmap has been provided as a stand-alone PDF document.

Although this approach to addressing volatile information has met the need of being able to update the information in a timely manner (typically a week or two turnaround time), it has its own drawbacks. For example, the installation roadmap PDF basically contained an outline of steps to perform, but linked to other sources for the details of each step. For a typical server installation, the user needed to follow about 50 external links to Information Center articles, Web pages on IBM and non-IBM Web sites, and other PDFs. Jumping back and forth between the roadmap PDF and other sources of information was awkward and has led to some customer frustration with the iSCSI solution installation process.

The Solution

A new IBM i iSCSI Solution Guide has been developed to address shortcomings of the previous iSCSI solution documentation approach. It consolidates information that was scattered among various Web pages and PDFs, as well as streamlines the iSCSI solution installation documentation.

For example, the Server installation road map and checklist chapter of the iSCSI Solution Guide is similar to the previous roadmap PDF, but it “in-lines” the vast majority of the steps that were previously provided as links to other sources of documentation. As a result, the user experience with the installation process is significantly improved. With the iSCSI Solution Guide, the user only needs to follow about 15 external links for a typical server installation instead of 50. Most of the remaining links go to non-IBM i information, such as obtaining firmware updates for the BladeCenter or System x hardware and various Microsoft and VMware knowledge base articles.

The iSCSI Solution Guide has a much broader scope than just the installation process. This guide contains the following information:

  • iSCSI solution support matrices: Lists the capabilities that the iSCSI solution provides, which IBM BladeCenter and System x server models and operating systems are supported, and much more.

  • Concepts: Provides information about how the IBM i iSCSI solution works.

  • Server installation road map and checklist: Walks the user through the process to install a System x or blade server that is integrated with IBM i.

  • Server cloning road map and checklist: Walks the user through the process to clone a Windows server that is integrated with IBM i.

  • BladeCenter and System x configuration: Contains various iSCSI configuration tasks for BladeCenter blade and System x servers.

  • Additional topics: Other topics related to the iSCSI solution, including multi-path I/O (MPIO) support, hot spare support, IBM i clustering support, and various topics specific to the Windows and ESX environments.

In addition to the iSCSI Solution Guide PDF itself, editable planning work sheets are provided as a separate PDF that the user can fill out softcopy and save. The iSCSI Solution Guide provides detailed instructions for filling out the planning work sheets.

It's important to note that the IBM i Information Center still plays an important role in the iSCSI solution documentation. IBM i-centric information related to the iSCSI solution, such as IBM i CL commands and GUI interfaces will continue to be documented in the Information Center. However, information that is not i-centric, such as information related to System x and blade servers, Windows and ESX operating systems, and the integrated server installation process will be documented in the iSCSI Solution Guide.


I'd like to thank Jeff Meaden from the Integrated Server Development team for writing this blog article.


Posted July 26, 2011| Permalink