Admin Alert: Four Things To Do For Your IBM i In 2013
January 9, 2013 Joe Hertvik
A new year always brings new challenges in administering your IBM i machines. Here are the top four things on my 2013 calendar that IBM i shops should look at in 2013, starting this month.
#1: Check Your Job Scheduling Date Objects In January
If you haven’t already done so, look at any date-dependent job processing objects on your system and change them to ensure that they will still work correctly in 2013. These objects might include:
Like many shops, we use Help/Systems‘ Robot/SCHEDULE software for IBM i job scheduling. In our version 10 SCHEDULE implementation, we use date objects to determine whether jobs should or shouldn’t run on company holidays, bank holidays, beginning of the month, end of the month, etc. Many of our SCHEDULE jobs check these date objects before running and these jobs will either start running or skip running based on whether the current date is in a referenced date object.
SCHEDULE works great for automating batch jobs, but SCHEDULE 10 only allows us to specify run/omit dates for a 12-month period. That means once a year we have to reset the date objects to add the new run and omit dates for the coming year. Adding job run and omit dates is fairly easy to do in SCHEDULE, but we have to remember to do it. A secondary problem is that some date objects run out in the middle of the year, so we may have to adjust our date objects more than once a year.
If you use Robot/SCHEDULE for IBM i job scheduling, here’s a procedure my shop came up with to alert us when a SCHEDULE date object is ready to expire (run out of dates) or whether it has already run out of dates. This procedure can easily be modified and implemented by any shop using SCHEDULE.
Check off and follow these steps to set up Robot/SCHEDULE date object expiration monitoring on your system.
1. Every time a Robot/SCHEDULE job entry is processed, SCHEDULE checks any date objects the job references to determine whether the job should run. This happens automatically in SCHEDULE and doesn’t require any configuration on your part.
2. If SCHEDULE finds that a job’s date object is about to expire or has expired, it puts one of the following messages from its ROBOTLIB/ROBOTMSG message file into the system operator message queue and into the QHST history log:
This also automatically happens in SCHEDULE and requires no configuration.
3. In your IBM i monitoring and notification product, set up a monitor to send out an alert whenever it sees one of the SCHEDULE date object expiration messages show up in QSYSOPR or the QHST history log.
By doing this, the system will remind you that a date object is about to expire, and you can take action to refresh it with newer dates. So you’ll be less likely to have any problems with skipping jobs due to expired date objects.
Note: This is a technique I recommend if you are just running Robot/SCHEDULE without running SCHEDULE’s companion product, Robot/ALERT. If you are running ALERT, check your software documentation to see if there are any automatic alerts that Robot/ALERT can trigger for you when a date object expires.
This technique also requires you to be running an IBM i monitoring and notification product to send out alerts whenever a date expiration message is found. We use Bytware‘s MessengerConsole software for alert messaging in my shop, but other Power i monitoring and messaging systems such as CCSS‘ QMessage Monitor; Halcyon Software‘s (i5/OS, System i, iSeries, AS/400) Monitoring, Scheduling and Automation Software; SEA‘s absMessage package; or Kisco Information Systems‘ SNDTWEET software can be used to provide the alert’s you need for SCHEDULE expiration messages.
#2: Schedule Your V5R4Mx Upgrade, If Needed
The i5/OS V5R4Mx operating system reaches end of support and loses IBM Software Maintenance (SWMA) support services on September 30, 2013. If you haven’t already upgraded to i 6.1 or i 7.1, now is the time to start finalizing your plans and upgrade schedule for 2013. An operating system upgrade can take several months to complete so if you haven’t already started planning your upgrade, January is the best time to get going.
IMHO, it’s best to upgrade from i5/OS V5R4Mx to i 7.1, rather than to upgrade to i 6.1. This is because there is a direct upgrade path from V5R4 to 7.1; there are many more advanced features available in 7.1 that you will want to take advantage of now, and i 7.1 will be supported much longer that i 6.1. However, your shop’s individual situation may force you to perform an i 6.1 upgrade now followed by an i 7.1 upgrade later (see my article on planning an IBM i 6.1 upgrade for specific examples on why you may not be able to upgrade to i 7.1). What’s important is to resolve your upgrade plans for any remaining V5R4 machines in your shop before the September 30 date passes.
It’s also important to understand what happens if you don’t upgrade your V5R4Mx OS. An i5/OS V5R4Mx partition will continue to work past September 30. But you will no longer be able to call IBM for operating system technical support and you will no longer be able to get PTFs or other fixes.
If you need SWMA support after September 30, IBM has an option to purchase additional i5/OS V5R4 support through September 30, 2016, under the “Service Extension for i5/OS” offering. Service Extension for i5/OS is a paid offering that is added to your software maintenance coverage. It provides support for basic usage and problem rediscovery (no new issues), and you can call remote technical support 24×7. If you need support for new defects through product development, you would have to open an IBM services bid and be charged separately for the fix. In 2012, IT Jungle reported that extended support may cost on the order of 1.7 times the cost of what customers are currently paying for V5R4 SWMA support, so be aware extended support isn’t cheap. Contact IBM or your business partner for more information and pricing on Service Extension for i5/OS.
#3: Apply IBM i 7.1 Technology Refreshes
Under IBM’s Technology Refresh program, I expect two new technology refreshes to come available in 2013.
If you’re running 7.1, I would plan on applying at least one technology refresh this year.
The technology release program for 7.1 allows IBM to deliver major new functionality to an existing operating system outside of an OS upgrade. Even though i 7.1 was released in 2010, we probably won’t see an iNext operating system upgrade (sometimes referred to as i 8.1) until at least 2014. In lieu of a major OS upgrade, 7.1 users may want to bring their OS up to the next technology level later this year.
#4: Plan For Attending COMMON In April Or September
The COMMON user group is scheduled to hold its annual meeting and exposition in Austin, Texas, from April 7 to 10, 2013. For IBM i hardware and software administration, as well as programming, there is no better venue than COMMON for learning more about the machine and its capabilities. It’s an incredible value and the networking with top IBM i experts is unbelievable.
In addition to the Spring Conference, COMMON is also planning a Fall conference and exposition in St. Louis, Missouri, from September 9 to 11, 2013. So if you can’t make Austin, maybe you can go to Saint Louis.
More information can be found on COMMON’s Web site. Given budgeting, project planning, and airfare and hotel booking, January is a good time to decide if you’re going to COMMON this year.
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Joe Hertvik is the owner of Hertvik Business Services, a service company that provides written marketing content and presentation services for the computer industry, including white papers, case studies, and other marketing material. Email Joe for a free quote for any upcoming projects. He also runs a data center for two companies outside Chicago. Joe is a contributing editor for IT Jungle and has written the Admin Alert column since 2002.