Guru: Use The Administration Runtime Expert To Validate Your System Configuration
June 22, 2020 Dawn May
Using the Administration Runtime Expert (ARE) to validate system configuration settings is an easy way to confirm configuration values are set the way you want them to be. You can use ARE to ensure these system configuration settings are consistent across multiple IBM i partitions or to verify settings have not changed on an individual partition. In this second in a series of articles on ARE, we’ll walk through the steps to set up a basic template to validate system configuration settings.
The first step is to identify what system configuration attributes you want to make sure are consistent or remain unchanged. It is easy to validate system values, network attributes, products installed, applied PTFs, and TCP/IP settings with provided ARE plug-ins.
Launch the ARE console at http://SystemName:12401/are. When you log in, you are presented with the Deployment Template Editor. This is the interface you will use to create and edit your templates. Throughout the ARE web interface, you will find a question mark icon followed by a Learn more… link. This is the integrated online help and provides detailed information that is helpful as you define your template.
Create a new template and give it a name.
When you click the create button, you will be taken to the Plugin Selection and Customization page. This is the interface where you select the attributes you want to verify and add them to your template.
This article focuses on Network and System Environment.
When you expand Network, you will discover two plugins – Network Configuration and Ports. Network Configuration is a simple plugin that verifies many TCP/IP configuration settings, such as domain information, host table entries, DNS lookup performance and others. I recommend that you always include this plugin, as network problems can surface in unexpected ways. Ports checks the status of specific ports and verifies restricted port ranges.
The System Environment section is where you find the rest of the attributes that can help you ensure consistent configuration of your partitions. You can create a template that verifies system values, network attributes, system environment variables, user profiles, and more. When you identify the attributes you want to verify, you can also assign a severity level of Info, Warning, or Error.
When you select System Values and Network Attributes, you are presented with a list of names in alphabetical order. The list includes the attributes you find in the DSPNETA and WRKSYSVAL *ALL displays. The Position to box is useful to avoid scrolling the text in the small box; you are automatically positioned in the list as you type the name of the system value. Below the Position to box you can specify the collection name. Perhaps you want to have a set of system values that are only listed in the report and a second set that are actually verified with errors reported. You could have one collection for “ReportOnly” and another for “Validate”.
You add the system values and network attributes to the Values to verify box. Here, you fine-tune your verification by editing the properties. This is where you can specify whether the value is only reported or actually verified. The expected value is primed with the setting as configured on the system running the ARE console. You can override this setting if you want to verify other values.
In the screen capture below, I customized the expected value for the QLOGOUTPUT system value. This system is set with the default value of *JOBEND, but I want all my partitions to be using *JOBLOGSVR. I edited the expected value to be *JOBLOGSVR and assigned a severity of Error.
Once you have the attributes defined in your collection, you can test the verification to make sure it works as you expect. Under the list of collections, take the Test button and it will run the verification on the selected collection. You can review the results as well as the reports; if the results are not exactly as you expected, it is easy to return to editing with the Update button. The test feature is very useful in plugins that have more complicated validations.
System values are probably the easiest attributes to verify, which makes it a great place to start. Once you have your template edited with the system values to verify, you may want to add other attributes to your template. You do this by selecting other plugins.
User IDs allow you to verify user profiles. The process is similar to setting up validation on system values, but with attributes associated with user profiles. Only a subset of the attributes on the Change User Profile (CHGUSRPRF) command can be verified with the User IDs plugin. If you need to check other attributes, you may need to look at using the SQL Query Verifier using the QSYS2.USER_INFO service.
The SQL Query Verifier plug-in makes it easy to validate any information accessible by SQL. With the IBM i Services now available, the SQL Query Verifier is a simple way to verify a very broad set of system attributes. You can also use the Scripts and Commands plugin to run CL commands or QShell scripts.
Once you have all the attributes defined in your template, you must build the template. Do not exit the plugin selection and customization task until you build your template! If you exit without building, all your changes will be lost. To build the template, simply click on the Build Template button at the bottom of the page. You’ll be presented with a set of tabs where you can review the plugins you selected, along with the attributes you are verifying. Click confirm and the template will be built. The built template consists of the attribute information you have defined and includes information gathered from the central system running the ARE console. It is stored in the IFS in the directory /qibm/userdata/are/workspace/templates as a .jar file. This template can be exported using the ARE template editor and you can run the template via a shell script if you wish.
As you update your templates, only collections that have been changed are rebuilt. However, if your system configuration has also changed but your template collections have not, those system configuration changes are not picked up. For example, if you have created or deleted user profiles, but have not changed your User IDs collection, the template needs to be rebuilt to pick up these system changes. In this scenario, you should use the Template Build Options and enable the option to “Select and rebuild plugins based on the contents of this system”. When this option is turned on, the plugins can be rebuilt with current system information. This option gets turned off after the rebuild has been completed.
The next step is to verify your systems; the Launch Console button takes you to the ARE Console to verify your system or other partitions with the template you just created. When you are first getting started, you will need to add your system group and then add individual partitions to that system group. Select the template you wish to use for the verification and click the Verify Systems button. The verify process runs and you will see the status when it is complete, along with a summary of errors.
You can hover you mouse over the result area and you will find there are several reports for review.
The summary report is the simplest and as the name suggests, it is a summary of the verification. If errors occurred, you may need to review the detailed report to identify the issues.
Creating a good template is generally an iterative process and I encourage you to start simple.
This article has walked you through the basics of creating a template to verify system configuration information. You can see it is easy to get started with ARE to set up your templates and to run your system validations. What you can validate is limited only by your imagination.