Bug Busters Refines HA Software
September 6, 2011 Alex Woodie
Bug Busters Software Engineering is shipping a new version of its IBM i high availability software, called Remote Software Facility (RSF). Version 9 brings several new features that should improve the running of an HA environment, including faster role swaps and more automation throughout the product. Bug Busters also included a new “change while active” capability that will reduce administrative downtime.
Bug Busters has been chasing the IBM i HA market for the last five years with RSF-HA, which debuted with RSF 7.3. Based on the core RSF product that the Seattle, Washington, company originally developed to help ISVs and multi-site AS/400 shops distribute and share program code and objects, RSF-HA provides the mechanisms for replicating data and objects from one IBM i server to another and performing the critical role swap. Today, RSF-HA is based on IBM‘s remote journaling technology, which is used by the majority of HA products on the market today.
One of the most interesting new features in RSF 9.0 is the new Change Physical File While Active (CHGPFRSF) command. According to Bug Busters president Bruce Lesnick, this command lets a customer change the layout of a physical file (such as adding a new field) without the hours of disruption that would take place if using IBM’s CHGPF or ALTER TABLE commands. The command avoids downtime by reorganizing physical file members in the background, thereby allowing database operations, like adds, updates, and deletes, to continue during the update process.
While not necessarily an HA feature, the new CHGPFRSF will help customers minimize server downtime as the result of changes made to the production database, and that’s good for high availability in the general sense. Many of Bug Busters larger competitors already offer similar features–notably Vision Solutions, which acquired iTera and its stable of popular change while active products–so it makes good business sense to include such a feature in RSF-HA (which is now used by about 100 customers according to Lesnick), as well as the base RSF product.
But RSF-HA 9.0 also brings many enhancements to the core job of replicating data, maintaining data syncs, and ensuring readiness in the event that a customer needs to perform a role swap.
Chief among the new HA-centric features is a faster role swap, which is delivered through the addition of a new standby journal. RSF-HA will automatically install and maintain the standby journal on the target machine next to the remote journal. The standby journal’s job is to become the new local journal in the event of a role swap.
“What saves time during a role swap is not just the existence of the standby journal, but the fact that journaling has already been started for all of the objects that will use the journal for replication,” Lesnick tells IT Jungle via email.
“In previous releases, during a role swap, we would create the needed journals on the fly on the backup machine and start journaling for all of the objects in each production library at that time. For large libraries with many objects, it could take several minutes per library to start journaling. All of those extra minutes are now eliminated in a role swap.”
Use of the standby journal is optional. If the user chooses to use the standby journal, RSF-HA will make sure that it stays neat and doesn’t get too big and unwieldy, Bug Busters says.
RSF-HA 9.0 also features a new tool for deleting orphan objects that remain on the target machine. While IBM’s journaling technology keeps all delete actions in lock-step between the local and remote journals, some types of objects can’t use journaling, which means that users must delete orphaned objects by hand. The new DLTOBJRSF command was introduced to make periodic cleanup of this condition easy and automatic.
Bug Busters has also created a better handling of the end of data replication jobs. Data replication jobs are typically ended asynchronously, which requires administrators to wait around for the replication job to end before starting on something else. The enhanced ENDSYNCRSF command now allows administrators to end the replication job synchronously, which will make it easier to schedule other jobs that depend on having the replication jobs completed, Bug Busters says. A new delete journal command has also been added that will simplify the process of ending remote journaling for groups of objects.
Several other administrative functions have been enhanced in RSF-HA 9.0, including the capability to specify the default job name for a library that’s replicated in batch, which will help where library names are similar. Administrators also gain the capability to include or exclude certain objects in a library from replication. Likewise, more fine-grained handling of IFS specs makes it easier to include or omit IFS objects from replication.
Better handling of cross-dependent logical files is another new feature in RSF-HA 9.0 that should eliminate problems that arose during replication revolving around physical and logical files. Extracting and restoring trigger and constraint information is much faster in this release. Also, a new feature that automatically detects operating system release levels will simplify file maintenance in IBM i shops running different releases of the OS.
But the list of enhancements keeps going! Bug Busters also allows users to set how often RSF-HA should look for changes to non-journaled objects, which is everything except database files, data areas, and data queues. Looking for changes in these objects less frequently can boost performance in large libraries, the company says. Last but not least, RSF-HA 9.0 also gets better support for replicating spool files.
RSF-HA 9.0 is available now. The pricing is unchanged, and licenses ranges from about $5,000 to $7,000 per server, or $10,000 to $14,000 for a replicating pair, according to Bug Busters. For more information, see the company’s website at www.bugbusters.net.