What’s New With IBM i Customer Support
September 25, 2019 Alex Woodie
IBM is making big changes to its support program that will have a major impact on how IBM i customers interact with Big Blue, for both software and hardware support. Two weeks ago it announced that IBM i customers would be switched over from the old IBM Service Request tool to the new IBM My Support site. IBM is also expanding support for open source software on IBM i.
IBM has been testing the new IBM Support site, www.ibm.com/mysupport, for over a year for various customer groups and geographies. On September 14, the company announced that it was cutting over IBM i support from to the new website. The company planned to complete the migration of IBM i software products over the weekend. Its hardware support program will move to the new website at a later time.
IBM says the new website will bring several advantages to customers, including an enhanced case creation experience, improved product selection, a simpler search engine, and better visibility into the status of support cases. The new support site sports a “modern look and feel” and will provide a consistent user experience across all products, no matter whether the cases were reported to IBM via the Web, mobile devices, or the telephone, IBM says. Customers will also have the ability to add a machine serial number to a case.
There are some important differences with the new system. For example, instead of receiving a problem management record (PMR) for under the old system, IBM i customers interacting with the new system will receive 11-digit case numbers. Existing service requests and PMRs were to be automatically migrated to the new system, the company says.
The new IBM Support site is powered by IBM’s Cognitive Support Platform, or CSP. IBM says customers may find themselves interacting with the Watson Question Assistant, which is a chatbot that’s based on artificial intelligence technology. The site also provides a way for customers to chat with real IBM support personnel.
Meanwhile, IBM is months into a new program that offers technical support for open source software on IBM i.
Most users are accustomed to working with the open source community to get answers to their questions about open source products. And that is still a viable way of “self-supporting.” But some organizations want a more structured program for resolving problems, and for that IBM is now offering support for open source software on IBM i.
The new open source program has been out for a while, even if it’s not well-known. Indeed, we wrote about it back in 2017, and Jesse Gorzinski, the business architect for open source technologies, wrote about it in an IBM Systems Magazine column 10 months ago.
In May, IBM published a document outlining the new program for supporting open source software, in particular some of the open source products delivered under the new RPM delivery method. (There is no support for open source delivered under the old 5733-OPS program.)
It’s important to note exactly what IBM is supporting here. On this web page, IBM states:
“As part of IBM i software maintenance agreement (SWMA), IBM will support the installation of IBM-delivered RPM packages. This includes software download assistance or the support of surrounding tools such as Access Client Solutions. This does not include actual usage or defect support of these packages.”
In other words, IBM will help you install the RPM packages and get it running. But if there’s a problem with the open source software itself, you are not going to get a resolution to it through IBM support.
IBM will only support “standard” open source packages that are in general release. It won’t support any product that’s in “extended release,” and it may not provide support for older versions of open source packages that are being sunsetted by the open source community.
For companies that need a little more support, IBM i shops can extend their coverage of open source software by signing up for IBM Technology Support Services (TSS). A TSS contract entitles the customer to additional support around usage, diagnostics, configuration, installation, compatibility and interoperability concerns for more than 150 open source packages, including Node.js, Git, Jenkins, WordPress, Python, and Apache Tomcat. TSS says it’s able to resolve 75 percent of software problems remotely.
It’s worth nothing that there are some open source products for IBM i that IBM supports directly through the IBM i SWMA. That includes the Apache HTTP Server, OpenSSL, OpenSSH, XMLService, and Java packages are supported by. Zend Server is supported by Minneapolis, Minnesota-based Perforce Software, which acquired Rogue Wave earlier this year. Power Ruby is supported by Power Ruby out of Bath, UK. There is a handful of other components that IBM provides additional support for, including toolkits and database connectors for Python and Node.js.