Problem Solved, Carry On: The IBM Must Gather Tool
March 14, 2016 Dan Burger
The IBM i version of roadside assistance, thank your lucky stars, is better than a set of booster cables, a screwdriver, and a bungee cord. You have some remote tech support, some problem solving, some trouble shooting, and, best of all, you have something called the MustGather Data Capture tool. IBM Support created the tool, which is capable of automatically collecting debug data and fixing problems. It’s not Watson, but it’s pretty darn good.
The IBM MustGather tool provides an automated option for sending/uploading MustGather data/files to IBM i Support from your IBM i Server. When executed, the tool will automatically send/upload a save file or files in the Integrated File System from your IBM i server to IBM i Support where the problems get diagnosed and, most likely, resolved.
The next best thing to being the smartest guy in the room is knowing a couple of guys who fit that description. So to find out more about the MustGather Data Capture tool I turned to Doug Bidwell, IT Jungle‘s PTF patch master and owner of DLB Associates, an IBM business partner; and Larry Bolhuis, a.k.a. Dr. Frankeni, and a system admin subject matter expert. Both of these guys are familiar with the tool.
“When working a problem with support at IBM, they often will tell you they need information from your system sent into them. In the past, this could mean a great deal of snapshotting, saving, FTPing and emails–a bunch of work on your part to get the info needed up to the support teams at IBM. This series of tools has been growing as each of the IBM teams–DB2 for i, high availability, HTTP server for i, security, Web Query, and others–has their various requirements added to the menus. This makes gathering the required info exponentially easier for the shop with the problem,” Bidwell says.
New builds of the MustGather Data Capture tool–more conveniently referred to as MGTools–are frequently released as new items are added and periodically updated.
“I personally update this toolset regularly, as often as I do PTFs on my customers’ systems,” Bidwell says. “In the case of a new install or an upgrade, or when I’m working on a particularly intricate project, I update the tools weekly, or as they come out. There is no documentation on them. The support tech at IBM will direct you in the use of the tools. I’ve found that having them on the system and keeping them handy for debugging or troubleshooting, should I need assistance from the support group, is a real plus–especially in the case of communications or performance issues.”
“I’ve added them to the IBM i on Power PTF Guide because I strongly recommend them to all customers,” Bidwell continues. “It isn’t that we use them all the time, it’s that they are on the system ready for use when they are needed most. If updated regularly, it’s one less step that may be required in any troubleshooting process.”
(Here’s a link to the PTG Guide that Bidwell posts to the IT Jungle home page.)
You might think that something truly useful would, by its very nature, be wildly popular. That’s not the case with MGTools.
“Most admins have barely heard of these tools and, if so, have perhaps used it once under IBM’s guidance,” Bolhuis surmises. He uses the tools frequently and believes most people doing system admin type work would use would be both surprised and pleased to learn about them.
“Once it’s installed, there is an option on the MG menu to update it and that’s both easy and quick,” he says. “It has a high powered FTP process to send IFS or *SAVF objects, which is a much better process than downloading to your local PC or even FTPing directly from i. The upload is direct so you don’t need to touch it. And you are prompted for your PMR number, so the files actually get to them correctly! Once you send things, you get an email verifying that what you sent was received and then, once it’s restored on their end, you get another notification that the data is good. There are also custom pieces. So, for example, the HttpAdmin collector is a straight up option. You run it, name your PMR, and in under 15 minutes IBM has everything. Another example is the custom option for PowerHA. It collects everything to do with PowerHA and in a format IBM support knows how to use.”
It’s true that the tool collects close to everything needed to help determine root cause, but there are exceptions, which require users to do some manual labor. As both Bidwell and Bolhuis noted, however, the tool evolves and items get added as needed. Pieces of information that are not automatically collected by the tool are asked for the IBM Support team.
There are several pathways to obtaining and installing the tools.
First of all, realize that IBM refers to the tools as QMGTOOLS. The link How To Obtain and Install QMGTOOLS will be most helpful. That webpage will provide choices such as getting OMGTOOLS via iDoctor GUI interface, manually downloading and installing QMGTOOLS from IBM FTP site, or installing QMGTOOLS via a PTF order.
What you get will support IBM i V5R4, 6.1, 7.1, and 7.2.
“IBM is making support easier for the user as well as assuring IBM Support gets what it needs to efficiently solve problems,” Bolhuis says.
He is not kidding, by the way.