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Service Automation = Amazing Service

May 29, 2013

The IBM i 25th anniversary celebration continues with a guest blog written by Tina Williams, a Level 2 Technical Support Rep for IBM Power Systems. Tina has long supported IBM i clients with her expertise in the areas of Electronic Customer Support, Electronic Service Agent, PM Agent, Management Central and, most recently, IBM Systems Director. See if you’re taking advantage of all the service automation capabilities that IBM i has to offer and then join the conversation on Facebook (link not active).

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For many years, IBM i has provided a means for the system to detect and report problems. What started as hardware problem detection and reporting via a product called Service Director (SD), has grown to include software problem reporting, with inventory and performance data sent using Electronic Service Agent (ESA), which is integrated into the operating system. 

With SD, a hardware representative travelled to the customer location to install and configure the product, which required an IBM hardware maintenance contract. This may or may not have been done at the time of a system install. With ESA, on the other hand, users are given the benefit of having all the functionality installed with the operating system. I recall the first customer I spoke to regarding setting up ESA for problem reporting. The user had called into hardware support to discuss getting problem reporting set up, as they had in the past. The hardware representative quickly transferred the customer call to me to help set this up. The client was so surprised at how easy it was.

Setup of ESA today, is as easy as 1-2-3.

1.    Ensure the products and PTFs are on the system
2.    Configure communications
3.    Enable Electronic Service Agent

These steps are detailed in the article, “Setting up Service Agent (“Call home”, Inventory) / ECS for Current Releases.

As you might expect, hardware problem reporting has many options today: hardware problems can be sent via the Hardware Management Console (HMC), a service partition or an IBM i partition. The HMC is the default central point for reporting platform hardware problems via call home. A service partition, although rarely used, can also be configured to call platform hardware problems home. Hardware problems that are known only to an IBM i partition will be sent via the operating system. 

The Work with Problems (WRKPRB) command has an option to display log entries of problems that were detected. This option will also inform a user by which means a problem was reported. For example, if the hardware problem was reported by the partition, a user could identify the sender with WRKPRB option 5, F6 (Display problem history). The resulting information would include a phrase such as “Reported by Current IBM i Partition”. 

Software problem monitoring has been available for several releases, and in recent releases, it was integrated with ESA to automatically send software problem information to IBM. The monitoring function collects data related to the issue and then ESA submits the APAR data. Before ESA was enabled for software problem reporting, users would have to find a software problem using the WRKPRB command and manually send it in. 
 
Another nice feature of automated problem reporting, for both hardware and software, is known fixes for a problem will automatically be downloaded to the system. 

Electronic Customer Support (ECS) and PTF ordering have been enhanced in a number of ways:
1.    New, faster connection types (such as VPN or HTTP/HTTPS) allow larger download limits
2.    Starting at 6.1, the Work with PTF Orders (WRKPTFORD) command allows users to see the status of a PTF order, which will includes “on order”, downloaded, cancelled, scheduled, failed and mailed. With this automatically being updated, users are able to quickly determine their PTF order status.
3.    Also starting at 6.1,a new QSERVICE message queue logs PTF order activity

Electronic Services has virtually no limit; even full cumulative packages can be downloaded today. Add on the benefits of image catalog enhancements and you’ll find that PTFs are also easier to apply.

Once you have your ESA connection properly configured, it’s also very easy to automate the sending of your performance data to IBM. You do have to “opt in” to send performance data and configure the PM Agent, but once that’s done, PM uses the same ESA connection to send your performance data to IBM.

Today, users should make the ESA setup a part of their installation process to ensure hardware and software problems will be reported automatically. With products needed for ESA, ECS and Performance Management (PM Agent) being part of a standard install set, set up is easy to accomplish. It has been heard from a client, more than once, that an IBM hardware representative was on site with parts before a user knew there was a problem on the system.

Automation, in all its forms on IBM i, is an amazing service to users.



 

Posted May 29, 2013| Permalink

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