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IBM Application Runtime Expert for i: Managing PTFs

September 21, 2015

Maryna Granquist wrote this week’s article. Maryna is a staff software engineer for IBM and is a member of the IBM i Emerging Solutions team and Performance Tools team. She has been contributing to the IBM i organization in Rochester, Minnesota, for the past nine years. Maryna can be reached at mmlitvin@us.ibm.com

I am not sure how many of you have heard about IBM Application Runtime Expert for i (ARE) nor am I sure how many of you have actually used PTF support offered by ARE. Hopefully this blog entry can explain to you why you would want to explore the ARE tool overall and especially when it comes to managing your PTFs.

If you are asking yourself any of these questions then you definitely should keep on reading:
  • Are all of my systems at the same fix level?
  • How can I keep my systems up-to-date?
  • What are the latest PTF fix levels released by IBM?
  • Can I be notified when something on my system changes?

ARE is a product that will help you ensure consistent performance and deployment for any workload running on your system and other systems you are managing. The idea here is that you take a snapshot of your system settings, store this information into a template and then use this template to bring any other systems to match this exact same setup specified in the template.

Now what exactly could be collected into the template? ARE supports all kinds of useful information that you could collect. Some of the possible attributes/values would be:

              File/directory/library authorities
              Network configuration
              Product install status
              Environment variables
              Many more other attributes, which are detailed in these usage examples
 

One of the most important attributes that could be collected is a list of Product PTFs and PTF Groups. This function has existed for a while now but was enhanced in July 2015.

Imagine you have a central system setup with a virtual image catalog where you store PTFs for 6.1 and 7.1 and 7.2. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could keep all the systems you are managing up to date with the PTF content of your image catalog? Now imagine if you could schedule such updates to happen on a consistent basis? So you create a template, set up a verification schedule and walk away. These are the examples of how you would utilize enhanced PTF support function in the ARE. Let’s take a closer look.

First, let’s define some terms. The Administrator System (AS) and the Central System (CS) are the systems with ARE installed where the GUI runs and the template is created. In most cases, the AS and the CS are the same but it doesn’t have to be. The Endpoint System (ES) is the system being verified by ARE using the created templates. 

There are three main steps in PTF verification process:

1. Create ARE template
2. Run a template
3. Take Fix action

i-Can.png

STEP 1: Create a Template
When creating a template, you have a choice of which type of verification a template should be created for. There are three types of PTF verifications to choose from. A verification could be requested against:

* Groups from IBM Preventative Service Planning (PSP)
* PTFs or groups installed on central system
* A list of specific PTFs or groups
 

Groups from PSP verification
(Use it when you want to be up-to-date)

IBM PSP option allows you to compare PTFs on the ES <-----> PSP website and to load missing ones from image catalog/CS. Internet connection CS<---->PSP or ES<---->PSP is required at ARE runtime and the scope of PTF comparison is defined by choices in the template:
  • ALL PTF Groups: means that ARE will verify that all PTFs currently installed on ES are up to the most recent level listed on PSP
  • Select PTF groups to verify: means that ARE will verify that selected specific PTFs are currently installed on ES and are up to most recent level listed on PSP. PTFs that user can choose from are populated based on the PTFs installed on AS where template is being created.
  • Disregard groups released in prior x days”: means the ARE process that pulls in the group PTFs from the PSP website should ignore any group PTFs that were released in the prior x days (0, 30, 60, 120, 365). If you bring up the PSP group PTF website you can see each PTF listed has a date associated with it.

i-Can-2.png



Verification of PTFs or groups installed on central system
(Use it when you want to have ES setup identical to CS setup)

CS verification allows you to verify PTFs on the endpoint machine <-----> PTFs on the endpoint machine. Scope of this comparison is defined by choices in the template:
  • All/Specific PTF Groups
  • All/Specific PTF products
i-Can-3.png


Verification of specific PTFs
(Use it when you want a specific list of PTFs to be maintained on your ES)


i-Can-4.png


STEP 2: Run a Template
When template is being run, verification is done according to which type of verification was elected.

i-Can-5.png
 
i-Can-6.png

During verification:
- If specified PTF is not found on ES it is flagged as an error
- All errors are stored in the Summary report
- Summary report allows user to take Fix actions

STEP 3: Take Fix Actions
The fix action will try to do one of these things:

1. Load and apply the fix from a special device name: QIBMAREPTF
2. Send and apply the fix from a central system through use of *SAVF

Neither of those requires Internet access.

FAQ
Q: Does the user need to manually create virtual optical device named QIBMAREPTF?
A: Yes the QIBMAREPTF device needs to be manually created when the virtual optical device is setup on the ES.

Q: Where is the library/object on ES once fix action send and apply the PTF from the CS?
A: For individual PTFs, the save files are located in QGPL/Q<ptf_id> and PTF save files remain on the ES after the PTF is installed. For Group PTFs, the save files are located in QGPL/Q<group_ptf_id> and Group PTF save files are deleted after they have been installed on the ES as they don’t need to exist long term.

Q: Can I schedule these verifications to run on regular basis?
A: Yes

Q: Can I enable email notifications to be sent on Errors?
A: Yes

Q: How do I get ARE?
A: See below:
• GUI is a chargeable LP – 5733ARE (runs on IBM i 6.1 and newer)
         • Apply latest PTFs:
                 • 6.1: SI56988 and SI57870
                 • 7.1: SI56988 and SI57276
                 • 7.2: SI56988 and SI57305
• Core is part of the base OS (runs on IBM i 6.1 and newer)
          • Apply latest HTTP and Java Group PTFs
                • 6.1: SF99115 and SF99562
                • 7.1: SF99368 and SF99572

Posted September 21, 2015| Permalink

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