Admin Alert: Things I Learned About IBM Maintenance Contracts
March 4, 2009 Joe Hertvik
Due to timing issues in my shop’s upgrade cycle, I’m extending system maintenance for several months on one of our System i boxes, which has allowed me to pick up some pointers regarding IBM maintenance contracts. If the bad economy is forcing you to keep your current machine a little longer than you’d like and your existing maintenance is running out, consider these items when purchasing a new contract.
Think About Termination Options
When extending maintenance, be sure to carefully review the termination clause in your service agreement.
In many cases, you only need to extend maintenance for a month or two while you migrate to your new machine or upgrade the existing box. You don’t want to leave a production box without maintenance, but you also may not want to commit to a long-term maintenance contract. To complicate matters, IBM or a business partner may not quote maintenance contracts for less than a year.
Many service agreements contain a clause providing customers with the right to terminate services for an eligible product on notice to IBM, if you permanently remove the product from productive use within the enterprise. If you don’t have similar termination language in your maintenance contract, talk to IBM or your business partner about adding it. If you don’t have the right to terminate maintenance early, you could wind up paying for more maintenance than you really need.
With this termination clause in place, you may also be able to sign up for a longer maintenance contract, such as three years. A longer contract could provide higher term discounts and lower payments, while still giving you with the option to terminate the contract when the machine is removed from productive use. This technique presents some interesting possibilities for getting the short-term maintenance you need at a somewhat reasonable price.
Options for Hard Drive Retention
When ordering maintenance from IBM, you may also receive a quote for Hard Drive Retention service. Hard Drive Retention is a simple service that could help a growing number of shops meet external auditing requirements.
With Hard Drive Retention, IBM service will return any failed disk drive it replaces to the customer as the customer’s property for disposal. Without the retention service, the IBM technician will take the failed drive with him after replacement, which for some shops could cause an auditing or contract violation.
So if you have mandatory requirements to track and dispose of removed disk drives containing corporate financial data, customer personal data such as credit card numbers and social security numbers, medical information, or any other type of legally protected information, you can take possession of a failed drive through IBM service and dispose of it as your handling procedures designate. This service could come in handy when dealing with Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) information, or for public companies that must maintain Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) compliance.
Don’t Forget Your Peripherals
While your main concern is to extend maintenance on your iSeries, System i, or Power i box, don’t forget about other external hardware that may also need IBM maintenance. You may want to contract for such items as older modems that are used for communicating with business partners, tape drives, or a rack-mounted Hardware Management Console (HMC) and its flat panel console kit. A breakdown in one of these items may need service as soon as possible, and you need to make sure that all critical items will be covered by the new maintenance contract.
Check Your Maintenance Service Codes
Rather than plainly stating that a machine has 24×7 service or Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. service, IBM coded my maintenance proposal with letters and numbers. Big Blue coded its service types with the letters A, B, C, D, and X (corresponding to 24×7 service, Monday through Friday service, response times, etc). Its maintenance services were conversely coded with numbers roughly ranging from 1 to 18 (1=Maintenance of IBM machines, 2=Maintenance on non-IBM machines, 3=Warranty Service upgrade, and so on).
IBM also provides a legend for you to decipher which service code number translates out to which type of maintenance. Be sure to cross-check the service code numbers on your contract against the legend to ensure you are getting the maintenance that you need.
Understand Planning and Pricing Quotes
When IBM or a business partner sends out a maintenance quote, the price is only good for 90 days from the date on the proposal letter. You can request a quote to replace a maintenance contract that runs out more than 90 days from now, but IBM will tell you that the proposal is only a planning quote, where the numbers and terms on the quote are subject to change. Planning quotes are good for budgeting purposes, but make sure that you have the actual quote that IBM will be billing you under before you sign up.
One Man’s Opinion
What I’ve presented here are my experiences in working on a new maintenance contract for an existing System i 550 box. Your maintenance contract experience may vary, but these items can serve as a starting guideline for working out your own maintenance extension scenario. The key is to ask lots of questions about the service you’re getting.
As always, if you have any stories you’d like to share about extending IBM maintenance on an AS/400-iSeries-System i box, feel free to email me through the IT Jungle contact page and I may use your input in a future article.
Bonus Feature: Another Way To Figure Out Whodunit For Inquiry Messages
In my recent article on determining who answered i5/OS inquiry messages, I presented several green screen-based techniques for finding out who responded to a specific inquiry message. However, reader J. Taylor noticed that I didn’t mention that you can also use iSeries Navigator (OpsNav) to do the same thing. In fact, it’s easier than using the green-screen.
To view QSYSOPR messages in OpsNav, open the Basic Operations→Messages node under your target partition. In the Message Tasks options pane that appears at the bottom right-hand portion of the screen, select View System Operator Messages. This will open up a separate window that contains all the current QSYSOPR messages and any associated replies. The messages are listed in descending time order, and message replies are listed immediately under the inquiry message the reply answered. Note that the name of the user who replied to the message is listed on the reply line, so you don’t even have to open the reply message to see who answered the inquiry.
Like the green-screen commands, you can also determine whether the message was replied to by using a default message reply or by using the inquiry message’s default message reply. You can do this by double-clicking on the message reply and the type of reply that was used is listed under the General tab of the Message Properties window that appears.