Admin Alert: Things I Learned from My Latest Power i Upgrade
June 8, 2011 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Over Memorial Day weekend in the U.S.A., we finished completing two Power i 720 hardware upgrades for a regular client. While the machine installation was relatively easy, I thought it would be helpful to discuss some of the problems, opportunities, and general time wasters that accompanied our migration to the latest Power i hardware, hoping that my experience will help others with their own hardware upgrades.
Cutting Hardware and Acquisition Costs
Before you buy your machines, make sure you’re not leaving any money on the table. Check if you are eligible for migration assistance from IBM. For many System i owners, IBM offers a credit for up to eight hours of migration assistance for your installation. For larger system migrations, such as 570s, 770, or 780s, you may be able to get credit for up to 12 hours of migration assistance. This can really help cut down on installation costs if you’re using business partner services to put in your new machines.
And don’t forget that IBM also offers education vouchers for certain machines. These vouchers can be used at a number of IBM classes for additional training on how to best use your new hardware.
For more information on getting and using IBM vouchers, check with your Business Partner or go to the IBM vouchers for Power Systems Website.
For a new or upgraded box, make sure your business partner is also checking out any other relevant rebates or vouchers for your box. On a machine we bought last year, IBM had a tape drive deal that included providing tapes for the new LTO 4 tape drive we purchased. This year, we were able to take advantage of IBM i Solution Edition pricing because we were running software from a qualified ISV (Oracle) on the System i box we were swapping out for a new Power 720 machine. Check out the IBM i Solution Editions Website for more information on which products qualify for Solution Editions pricing.
Be aware, however, that timing can become an issue with the Solution Edition boxes. For our deal, we had to provide proof of purchase for the qualifying software within 90 days before or after the order date in order to qualify for the discount. Valid proof of purchase includes new or upgraded software licenses for the covered product; software maintenance payments; and services or training from the participating ISV. This requirement forces you to work with your vendor to buy your proof of purchase product within IBM’s 180-day window, starting at 90 days before buying your new hardware and ending 90 days after the purchase is complete. So work with your ISV to buy your software within the required window.
Also be aware that for Solutions Edition boxes, the combined value of your ISV purchase (which can include software upgrades, maintenance, and training) must be greater than $25,000. If your purchase is less than that amount, you may not qualify.
Third-Party Temp Keys First, Then Perm Keys
The curious thing about running third-party software on a new box is that for many packages, you may have to send the vendor system information from your new system before receiving a new permanent license. And you generally can’t get this information until you activate the partition and migrate the third-party package to it. This limitation is usually because the vendor’s key creation process often requires machine-generated information in order to generate a new key.
Getting the keys may not be that big of a deal if you have your machine configured and up and running for a week before you cut over. But it can be much harder if your migration plan is to shut down and back up your old machine in the morning and restore the new machine in the evening. In that case, you need a temporary key to get your machine up and running before you can send the vendor the screen shots to get the permanent keys. You may also need a temporary key if the vendor doesn’t like to send out permanent keys until you pay the software license transfer fee for moving their software to a new machine.
So keep in mind that when you’re moving third-party software between machines, you may need to apply temporary keys to the machine before you can get a permanent key. To make matters worse, all of the temporary keys will be on different expiration cycles so you’ll have to keep your eyes on the calendar to make sure you get the permanent keys in before your software expires. There is no good way around this. Expect to keep track of your key situation, lest you get a nasty surprise when a critical package suddenly stops running 30 to 60 days after your upgrade.
For more information on how to get third-party license keys during an upgrade, see this article on how different vendors handle license key transfers for new machines.
One Tape Drive Issue to Watch Out For
For the new machines, we ordered new Ultrium LTO 5 tape drives to replace our existing LTO 3 drives. All the LTO 5 literature said the LTO 5 could read but not write LTO 3 tapes. So we were clear for system migration. However, when we put the LTO 3 backup tapes in the LTO 5 drive for restoration, the new drive popped up an error message that said the LTO 3 tapes weren’t compatible with the drive. This was even though the drive was rated to read LTO 3 tapes.
After a few hours of scratching our heads, we determined the problem was in the barcode label we had created for our tapes. Our tape numbering scheme called for us to label each tape with a barcode that included the literal “L2” in its barcode. When the LTO 3 tape was loaded in the LTO 5 tape drive and the drive saw the words “L2” in the barcode, it assumed we were loading a LTO 2 tape into the drive (which isn’t supported) and refused to read it. It turns out that on an LTO 5, the contents of your barcode label will override the actual physical tape you put in the drive, but the fix is easy: replacing your tape labels. So try this trick if your new LTO tape drive doesn’t like your old tapes.
QSTRUPPGM: Your New Best Friend
The last step in IBM’s migration procedure is to IPL your system. The problem with a system IPL is that it can run your system startup program, which could start processing your data before you are ready to start the system. To combat premature system startup, you can turn off your system startup program by changing the Startup program system value (QSTRUPPGM) to *NONE. Do this by using the following Change System Value (CHGSYSVAL) command.
CHGSYSVAL SYSVAL(QSTRUPPGM) VALUE(*NONE)
When QSTRUPPGM equals *NONE, the system will not run a system startup program after an IPL. Be aware however, that some of the following system functions may start even when you don’t run your startup program.
This is because these functions are IPL attributes that start whenever your system IPLs, regardless of whether you run a startup program or not. To view and modify your system’s IPL attributes, run the Change IPL Attributes (CHGIPLA) command and press the F4 key. You’ll see a screen similar to the following.
These values are always in effect for an IPL unless you change them or unless you set the Start to Restricted state (STRRSTD) parameter to *YES. When STRRSTD is set on, the system IPLs into restricted state and no other functions are started.
For an upgrade, it pays to set QSTRUPPGM to *NONE and then set your IPL attributes according to how you want your system to restart. This will give you a chance to review your system restore and make adjustments before bringing your system up live.