Don’t FLRT with Disaster When it Comes to Applying PTFs
September 23, 2014 Alex Woodie
As an IBM i administrator, one surefire way to ruin your day is to apply the wrong program temporary fix (PTF) fix on your system. If you fail to read the fine print in the PTF cover letter, you might just kiss your finely honed IBM i configuration goodbye. But thanks to a free Web-based product from IBM called the Fix Level Recommendation Tool (FLRT), IBM i admins can now get automated guidance into the best course of action.
FLRT is a Web-based tool that provides cross-platform compatibility information and fix recommendations for a variety of IBM products. The software, which can be accessed at www.ibm.com/support/customercare/flrt, is useful for planning upgrades of key components, verifying the current health of a system, validating levels and compatibility across products before upgrades, preparing maintenance plans, and insuring that dependencies between product levels are met. FLRT even provides hyperlinks to webpages where admins can download recommended updates.
IBM has provided FLRT as a service since 2013, but it’s primarily been used in the AIX/Linux/VIOS side of the Power Systems house, in addition to helping admins manage the much-loved Hardware Management Console (HMC), Pure Systems, storage devices, and virtualization and high availability products, such as PowerVM and Power HA. In late August, FLRT gained support for the Power Systems’ other OS, the venerable IBM i.
“IBM i customers will be happy to see that FLRT has added support,” wrote Julie Craft, IBM’s platform computing electronic support brand representative, at “Inside Systems Support” blog on the developerWorks website.
Users get started with FLRT by choosing their type of system, entering the current levels of firmware and software, and then defining their LPARs. The tool then generates a report that contains the recommended levels for the various software and firmware products running on the user’s system or systems. For IBM i systems, it should be able to keep track of regular PTFs, integrity PTFs, group PTFs, cumulative PTFs (CUMS), and high impact PTFs (HIPERS), as well as PTF group levels.
FLRT uses handy color-coded icons to help users understand the recommendations contained in the report. A green check mark, for example, means that your current software or firmware level will be supported longer than six months and is the currently recommended level. A blue circle means your current level will be supported for longer than six months, but that there is a recommended update available.
You’ll get a yellow caution icon when your current software or firmware level has less than six months left for service and a recommend upgrade is available. A red stop sign shows up when the end of service pack support has been reached and there is no upgrade recommendation, and when there are product incompatibilities.
You don’t want to be specifying your entire configuration every time you run FLRT, so IBM allows you to save your inventory for later use. Another nice touch is the inclusion of a hyperlink to the webpage where users can download updates.
IBM usually isn’t known for making things simple and easy. But with FLRT, it would seem that it’s done a lot of things right in the simple and easy department. For the harried administrator who has trouble keeping track of all the updates and product compatibility, this product would seem to be a no brainer–especially when used in concert with the System i PTF Guide that Doug Bidwell maintains for IT Jungle at www.itjungle.com/ptf/ptfindex.html.