Global Services Offers i5/OS V6R1 Migration Help
March 24, 2008 Timothy Prickett Morgan
It isn’t very often that an OS/400 or i5/OS upgrade has involved big changes in the microcode underneath what users and programmers see as that operating system, at least not changes that affect compiled applications. One of the brilliant things about the AS/400 architecture is the way it kept applications from talking directly to the iron–what we would today call virtualization–and thereby allowing applications compiled for one set of software and hardware to appear to run on radically different software and hardware in the future.
The move from System/38s to AS/400s in 1988 with OS/400 V1R1 and the move from CISC-based AS/400s to PowerPC-based machines with OS/400 V3R7 also coincided with some pretty substantial changes in the microcode and the virtualized computing environment encapsulated in that microcode. (For more details on this, see i5/OS V6R1: The TIMI, It Is A-Changing, from last August, which went into some of the technical issues with the move.) Suffice it to say, while V6R1 has lots of benefits, which we have covered in detail, there are some program conversion issues that customers have to be aware of as they migrate applications from OS/400 V5R3 and i5/OS V5R4 to the new V6R1. And those who want to be able to code applications on a V6R1 platform and be able to backcast applications onto V5RX releases also have some issues to consider. Since last fall, IBM has been giving customers access to a tool, called Analyze Object Conversion (ANZOBJCVN), which helps customers figure out that they have what is called observability data associated with their compiled applications, which will allow them to move to the new operating system and recompile on-the-fly and behind the scenes the first time those applications run into this new virtualized microcode environment inside V6R1.
Given the technical nature of this migration and the tendency of AS/400, iSeries, and System i servers to be used by small shops with limited IT personnel and the memory of the troubles that some customers had in the jump from V3RX to V3R7 back in 1995 and 1996 because they were missing or destroyed their observability data, IBM is goosing up its normal migration services to offer a helping hand in the move to V6R1.
Two weeks before IBM started shipping i5/OS V6R1, Global Services put out a product called Migration Services for System i V6R1, which does just what the name suggests. But a migration can be a lot of different things, and the announcement letter did not have much detail at all in it. Luckily Jan Jaap Snijder, services product manager at the Global Technology Services division of the Global Services group and Joel Sewald, the delivery manager for the System i line in the GTS division, took some time with me last week to explain exactly what this migration service is all about.
The announcement letter says that the migration service is available to customers with V5R3 or V5R4 who want to move to V6R1 on an existing machine. IBM provides an onsite operating system migration planning session, takes a look at the system setup and current performance data to look for potential performance issues from the move to V6R1, documents the hardware and software configuration files, documents the migration plan to V6R1, and provides training for up to two staff members at the company who will be performing the upgrade. That is all that it says, really.
According to Snijder, the migration service is available in the North America, Central America, European, and Asia/Pacific regions now, but is not yet available in Latin America. IBM commits a techie to the company for a three-day consulting engagement, for a typical eight-hour business day term, but given the nature of weekend upgrading practices among IBM midrange shops, that time could happen from close of business on Friday, through the wee hours of the morning on Saturday and Sunday, and on until Monday morning start of business. IBM does not actually perform the upgrade, says Snijder, but rather helps customers prepare to do the upgrade. For an approximately $5,200 fee–which varies depending on local conditions and currency rates–IBM provides the assistance to prep for the upgrade on up to two logical partitions on that single machine. If you have a single partition on a box, you have to pay the same fee, so forget trying to get a discount. And if you want IBM to actually have its techie sit there and perform the upgrade, you are charged a supplemental fee depending on the complexity of the upgrade. Customers using third-party applications have to also work with their software suppliers to determine compatibility with V6R1, and in those cases, the migration planning process probably gets split over two weekends rather than one. The migration service does not require customers to use three concurrent business days, which is useful because of situations like this.
Snijder says that Global Services is starting out with a starter and structured offering, and customers can then tailor it to suit their needs. “Customers tend to do more than a three-day engagement for migrations,” he says, but adds that they are almost always done on weekends. So presumably the next couple of weekends are pretty busy for IBM’s i5/OS techies.
Whether you knew it or not, IBM has offered migration services even back in the AS/400 days, but the price for these migrations was generally lower because it only took two days to do it on average, says Sewald. But the same issues of hardware and software dependencies come up in any operating system migration, and in the past there have been some sticky issues that require extra diligence, such as when IBM moved to RISC machines and V3R7 or when OfficeVision support was taken out of the operating system, but applications used certain embedded functions of OfficeVision that were in OS/400.
“What customers need from us always comes down to the skills base and the availability of resources at the customer,” says Sewald. “And most of the time, it really comes down to the skills base.” Given the program conversion issues in the move to V6R1, which require lots of analysis and planning, Sewald didn’t say I was nuts when I suggested that IBM might see a factor of three to five increase in migration services engagements with V6R1 compared to migrations within prior V5 releases. Given the cost of a new machine and the value of uptime to companies these days, $5,200–which works out to $217 an hour–seems like a reasonable fee for IBM’s expertise.
Which brings up another point. If you need to get an upgrade to V6R1 done, you might want to check with your direct business partner or your third-party application provider. They have undoubtedly been preparing for this day, too, and they might be able to beat IBM’s price or, if IBM has a rush on this offering, be able to schedule your migration ahead of IBM’s available time slot. Shop it around. It always pays. Also, your business partner has been authorized to sell this offering, according to Snijder, and may be able to work the price down. I said may. I wouldn’t count on it, though.