Robot/LPAR Streamlines Tape Backups of Partitioned i5/OS Servers
July 10, 2007 Alex Woodie
Stymied at getting your tape drive to back up your i5/OS logical partitions in an automated fashion? For some System i shops with modest investments in tape drive technology, backing up multiple partitions with a single drive requires an operator to vary the connection on and off. With Help/Systems‘ software for managing i5/OS logical partitioning, called Robot/LPAR, tape drive connections can be moved logically among partitions, in the same manner as processor resources and memory.
Many System i shops have a difficult time backing up multiple i5/OS partitions with a single tape drive, says Tom Huntington, vice president of technical services for Help/Systems, which is based in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. “Not everybody has the tape silo solution, where any partition can pull from that silo,” he says. “You’re talking about a guy with a System i 520 with four partitions, a guy who’s going to have a lower-style backup devices that doesn’t have the silo.”
Two approaches are available to these customers, Huntington says: Buy more tape drives, or hire more operators. “People have bought different tape drives for every partition,” he says. “And others are looking to hire an operator to do this at night.”
Obviously, neither of these solutions are very feasible for the typical System i shop on a tight budget. Instead, Robot/LPAR, when hooked up to a scheduling product, can be configured to move the logical IO connections so that each partition can be backed up to a single tape drive.
One such customer is Day-Bright Lighting, a light manufacturer based in Tupelo, Mississippi, that runs the MAPICS MRP suite from Infor. After implementing two LPARs to separate production and test environments on a System i Model 550, Lynn Key, the company’s System i system administrator, found there were no good solutions for backing up both environments to the same LTO 3 tape autoloader, without requiring the purchase of a second tape drive or hiring somebody for the night watch.
“We do all our backups at one o’clock in the morning, and so for somebody to come in and do the backup and manually move the drive to the test partition to back up–you could do it, but you’d have some grumpy people the next day,” Key says.
IBM made it somewhat difficult to back up multiple partitions with a single tape drive, Key says. “You have to go to the HMC [Hardware Management Console] and physically, electronically, detach it from the primary system,” he says. “They made it a little difficult for you, but the Robot/LPAR product just simplifies it. If you had 20 LPARs, that would save you 20 tape machines.”
Today at Day-Bright, the combination of Robot/SCHEDULE, Robot/SAVE, and Robot/LPAR automate the nightly, weekly, and monthly backups of the production and test environments to the LTO 3 autoloader, ensuring that the company’s data assets are protected in the event of a crash or other disaster. “I’m pleased with the product,” Key says of Robot/LPAR. “It does what it advertised.”
Help/Systems first started shipping Robot/LPAR version 1.0 in late 2002, as IBM‘s LPAR technology was beginning to be adopted in the AS/400 and iSeries installed base. With that initial release back in the days when the “interactive tax” was making big news, Help/Systems concentrated on helping its OS/400 (as i5/OS was then called) customers make the most of their expensive 5250 CPWs by automatically moving processing resources among resources according to pre-set schedules, or “environments.”
In late June, Help/Systems unveiled Robot/LPAR version 2.0. This is the first release of Robot/LPAR that works with the Linux-based HMC. “We have a tendency to stay away from unstable technology,” Huntington said, referring to IBM’s early problems with the HMC. “But things kind of settled in, and it works on the i5 technology.”
The main difference with Robot/LPAR version 2.0 is that it communicates with the HMC to control how much processing and memory resources to move to a given partition. The previous release of Robot/LPAR dealt directly with the operating system and the hardware’s firmware. Also, a server component of Robot/LPAR installed previously in the primary partition, which is no longer needed with the HMC-generation of servers, so now Robot/LPAR installs directly on all the partitions being managed.
Help/Systems has also dropped the “environments” concept with version 2.0. No longer do users set up various environments, such as for month-end processing or to boost the processing power available to a subsidiary running an application in a sub-partition. “It was a great concept,” Huntington says. “Today it still seems that the opportunity lies in the movement of resources in business-event driven processes.” Instead, Help/Systems encourages customers to use other scheduling products, such as its own Robot/SCHEDULE or basic Control Language (CL) programs to automate the movement of resources among partitions with Robot/LPAR.
Help/Systems has also moved away from the Java-based graphical management interface with this release and adopted the green-screen interface that is still favored among System i administrators. In most cases, Robot/LPAR will operate in the background and doesn’t need to be seen.
Robot/LPAR version 2.0 is available now. Pricing ranges from $2,500 to $20,300, a decrease from the first release nearly five years ago. For more information, visit www.helpsystems.com.