Moving IBM i to POWER9

It’s always exciting when IBM announces new hardware and today is no exception! We have been hearing about the new POWER9 Chip for several months. In December IBM released the first set of LINUX machines powered by P9.  Now the next set of servers on the POWER9 chip is announced – the Scale-out line.  IBM i has been running POWER chips since the POWER5 introduction in 2004 and the roadmap below illustrates the history and future of this powerful technology. Welcome POWER9!

While the new servers are similar to the POWER8 Scale-out from a model perspective these new babies are all about performance.  The estimated performance is approximately 1.5x theperformance of their POWER8 counterparts.  This is the infrastructure needed to move into the future.  IBM is describing these as Cloud and Artificial Intelligence ready meaning the hardware is ready for IBM i to take advantage of crucial business directions.  Security is at the forefront of everyone’s mind and POWER9s are pre-loaded with the firmware and operating system security patches that mitigate known Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities. This combination makes POWER9 running IBM i the best option for mission critical operations. For those currently on a POWER6 or POWER7 server the POWER9 is going to be like greased lightning. In fact, I recommend ordering a seatbelt with your new server as you are going to need to be strapped in when you start running your IBM i on POWER9. Here is your first look at this beauty, below you see a S924. Quite impressive, personally I’m ready to move my partitions. Now, let’s see how easy doing so can be.

We know integration is what IBM i on POWER is all about. Starting with the hardware and progressing through firmware, license internal code, operating system, security, and database. With all of this designed and delivered by IBM the IBM i on POWER9 is the most integrated data platform for business. Truly apart from the rest. Moving IBM i environments from POWER7 or POWER8 servers to the new POWER9 machines reflects this in the ease of migration. Yes, this is easy, truly. Let’s get into the details.

There are going to be various ways to accomplish moving onto a POWER9, let’s start with the one which will be used by most people. By simply putting the latest Technology Refresh (TR) onto your system running 7.2 or 7.3 you are done. BAM! Ready to migrate to new hardware just like that. Of course, this is what I have been professing for years – the value of staying current. POWER9 will only support IBM i 7.2 or 7.3 and requires the latest TR. If for some reason you thought there was a chance IBM was going to give 7.1 a last lifeline, it won’t. It’s too old and you need to move forward. For those who have been staying current with your operating systems in conjunction with IBM recommendations and are up to date with PTFs all that is needed is applying TR4 for 7.3 or TR8 for 7.2 to move to the POWER9 hardware. It really couldn’t be any easier. A summary of the steps are:

  • Be on IBM i 7.2 or 7.3.
  • Install TR8 for 7.2 or TR4 for 7.3
  • Permanently Apply your PTFs.
  • Perform a full system save.
  • Restore to your new POWER9 server.
  • Enter your new license codes.

The above is relatively simple and can be done over a weekend. I once heard the only truly open system was an automobile, you get a new car and everything is in the same place – steering wheel, brake and gas pedals, turn signals – clean the “stuff” out of the glove compartment and move it to the new car and away you go. Well, going from POWER7 or POWER8 to a new POWER9 is just as seamless. IBM i is as open as your automobile.

Another common way of migrating uses Live Partition Mobility. This technique requires PowerVM Enterprise Edition, running your IBM i partition on top of VIOS, and using an external SAN for storage.  New POWER9 servers come with PowerVM Enterprise already built in on every machine giving you this capability.  Plus, you can get 60 days of PowerVM Enterprise for your existing POWER7 or POWER8 when you purchase your new POWER9 at no charge, as I understand it. For those with downtime concerns this is a great way to have no interruption as you migrate your IBM i workload to POWER9.

At this point we know POWER9 is easy to move to for those current with their operating systems. Seriously, if you aren’t on IBM i 7.2 or 7.3 remember, that 7.1 goes out of regular support on April 30, 2018, requiring Extended SWMA after that date. It’s time to move forward and if you are further back in operating systems releases, it is way overdue.

The POWER9 line is a full family of servers IBM will be announcing throughout this year. Here are some of the highlights:

  • CPU SCM packaging for all 2-socket and 4-socket systems
  • Eliminates SW licensing issues associated with DCM designs
  • Lowers latency for CPU to CPU transfers due to simpler CPU fabric topology
  • Up to 4x increased CPU fabric bandwidth for max scalability
  • Embedded Analytics and Algorithms on the chip help run POWER9 at an always optimized frequency
  • Increased Memory capacities over POWER8 (2x and 4x on certain models)
  • Leveraging IS DIMMs to provide more competitive offerings in 2-socket and 4-socket space
  • Increased I/O bandwidth with PCIe GEN4 Slots and future PCIe GEN4 Expansion Drawer
  • 25Gb ports for High Speed GPU/OpenCAPI acceleration
  • Integrated NVMe Flash device support (Not yet for IBM i)
  • Basic form factors and power requirements remain the same
  • External DVD only, no internal DVD.

Now it is time to review what is being announced today which is the POWER9 Scale-Out Family of servers:

There is much to be said about each of these and I look forward to writing about them in future blogs. For this installment I’m going focus on the S914 as many IBM i customers will be upgrading from their S814 to the S914, it makes sense to start with this gem.

The POWER9 4U Scale Out Server is known as the S914 or machine 9009-41A and the specifications are as follows:

  • 4U server – 19” Rack enclosure
  • POWER9 Scale-Out SMT8 processor (4-core, 6-core, 8-core offerings)
  • Up to 1TB Total DDR4 Industry Standard memory RDIMMs
    • Up to 172 GB/s total system memory bandwidth
    • 16 IS RDIMM slots (no Risers)
    • 4-core offering limited to 64GB max memory
  • 8 PCIe Gen3/Gen4 slots, Full Height, Half Length
    • Two PCIe GEN4 slots (CAPI enabled)
    • Six PCIe GEN3 slots (1 reserved for Ethernet adapter)
  • High Speed 25Gb/s port for OpenCAPI / GPU Acceleration
  • 12 or 18 SFF (2.5”) bay options
  • Two internal storage controller slots
    • Single or Split backplane or Dual RAID write cache support
    • 2 Internal NVMe Flash boot adapters (two M.2 devices per card)
  • Internal RDX Media Bay (DVD External)
  • I/O Expansion Drawer support (for 6 or 8 core offerings)

This is the comparison between POWER8 and POWER9:

As we have mentioned up to date OS versions are needed for POWER9 installations, here are highlights of IBM i 7.3 TR4. It is important to note that some features are also available in IBM I 7.2 TR8 (especially those that pertain to the hardware.)`

Support for POWER9 Scale-Out Servers

  • Support for native and VIOS configurations on IBM S914 and IBM S924 servers
  • Support for native and VIOS configurations on IBM H924 server
  • Support for VIOS configurations on IBM S922 server
  • Support for VIOS configurations on IBM H922 server

Install Options Expanded

  • Extensions to the new installation process for LIC using USB 3.0 media

Expanding the Secure-ability of IBM i

  • IBM i Integrated Web Services will add advanced features to help administrators and programmers leverage APIs in a more secure environment

Increasing Productivity of Developers & Administrators

  • CL commands can be stored in the IFS with full edit and compile capability
  • New RPG IV Operation (DATA-INTO) allows programmers to parse structured data in most formats into an RPG variable
  • IBM i Access Client Solutions continues to evolve meeting the needs of our IBM i user community

IBM Software Currency

  • IBM Notes/Domino 901 Feature pack 10 (including IBM Traveler) provides security enhancements delivered for IBM i installations

I would be remiss without ending on the IBM i Support Roadmap. One of the most important charts we have for planning our technological future. Everywhere I speak I am asked about the life expectancy of IBM i.  This chart tells us all we need to know. Is there any other operating system known which currently has support through 2028?  Further while knowledge of support past 2028 isn’t known I doubt it ends after this. There is every reason to believe there are more rows below IBM i Next + 1 leading to more columns past 2028.  If not why would the edges of the paper be ripped?

Today contained many cool things for the IBM i community including two new Technology Refreshes and a new family of POWER9 based servers.  More information will become available in the upcoming weeks as these advances release on March 20, 2018.  You’ll have plenty of time to ready your machine for migration to POWER9.  Now is a good time to permanently apply existing PTFs,,so when new TRs come out you are ready to apply them.  Once that is done get in line for your POWER9 Server and prepared to move to this exciting hardware as soon as it is available.

7.3 Items to Be Aware of When Upgrading to IBM i 7.3 – Part 2

This is part 2 of a 4 part series on the new IBM i 7.3 Upgrade. Links to the rest of the series are listed a the bottom of this article.

things to know before you upgrade to IBM i 7.33. Increase the Licensed Internal Code space

If you are upgrading from 7.1 to 7.3 you need to increase the Licensed Internal Code space on the load source disk.  All server models with IBM i 7.1 or earlier releases require more reserved storage before IBM i 7.2 or 7.3 can be installed. Your upgrade will stop during the installation if you do not allocate the additional space.

You can do this by issuing the GO LICPGM on the command line, selecting option 5 on the menu to Prepare for upgrade, and then selecting the option to increase License Internal Code space.  Remember, your load source will need to be at least 70GB for a physical disk drive and 35GB for a virtual disk drive.

4. Required PTFs

While I think it goes without saying that you should always get to the latest PTFs on the release you are upgrading from before starting your upgrade, this release of IBM i 7.3 is no different.  As you plan for your IBM 7.3 installation or upgrade ensure that you review the “Required PTFs for upgrading to IBM 7.3” topic within the IBM i and Related Software section of the IBM developerWorks® wiki.

To review the “Required PTFs for upgrading to IBM i 7.3”, go to this wiki and select Updates and PTFs.

If you are upgrading from IBM i 7.1 for example, you need to load and apply certain PTFs to be able to accept online software agreements. If you are using image catalogs to upgrade from either IBM i 7.1 or IBM i 7.2 certain PTFs are required. Both of these preparation steps are included in the Installing, Upgrading, or Deleting IBM i Guide. You always want all the IBM i fixes that have resolved known problems installed before you start the upgrade.

This was Part 2 of a four part series. See the following posts below:

Upgrade_Assessment

A New Era of IBM i Starts Now

the new era of IBM iIBM i and its predecessor the AS/400 have always been known for reliability, integration, dependability, ease of use, and of course full functionality. To this end, most of the systems even today are sold with internal storage.  It’s just another piece of the IBM i integration puzzle.  From the setup, to the administration, to the day to day use of the storage is so easy with internal disk.  Yet, the industry is changing.  External storage and specifically Storage Area Networks (SANs) are one of the hottest topics in IT today.  Why, I believe part of it has to do with virtualization, and the other part is cost.

If every server (Power, Windows, Linux, etc.) or partition has its own independent storage, then I have to manage all the storage independently.  This increases our administrative costs, as well as the skills required to manage our storage. In addition, if one system is using 20% of its storage, and another system is using 98% of its storage, it is usually not possible to move the storage from one server to the other.   This is where virtualization plays a key part to drive down our administrative costs and acquisition costs, but can increase the skills required to manage the new virtualization.  On the IBM Power platform, we have VIO Server (You might hear this called VIOS or Virtual I/O Server) to help with storage virtualization.  VIO Server is extremely powerful when it comes to virtualizing storage and networking, but it does require some additional skills that most IBM i shops don’t have, since VIO Server is a subset of IBM’s AIX operating system.  VIO Server can connect to almost any external storage.  This is probably its biggest virtualization benefit.  So, you may be wondering why IBM i can’t connect to everything.  IBM i uses 520 byte sectors for disk, and the industry uses 512 byte disk sectors.  Most SANs use 512 byte sectors, which provides difficulty for IBM i to connect to.  Although, you can connect VIO Server to the storage, and then let VIO Server virtualize the storage to IBM i.  This works great, but again you have to have VIO Server skills.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was an IBM i like Storage Area Network. One that was easy to use, easy to administer, competitively priced, had a great GUI front end, and connected to IBM i directly.  Well, up until last week I would have said that the IBM Storwize V7000 was all that, except you had to have VIO Server host the storage to IBM i.  As of today, the IBM i can directly attach to the IBM Storwize V7000 and its lower priced brother the Storwize V3700, and this is great news for IBM i.  It’s the best of two worlds coming together.

The V7000 is enterprise class storage at an affordable price that is ease to use and manage.  It has a remarkably easy to use GUI interface that is intuitive and almost self-guiding.  Each time I have used the GUI I am just amazed at the graphics.  The V7000 uses the same code that you will find in many of the IBM SANs, such as the SAN Volume Controller (SVC), and includes so many enterprise class options enabled.  By the way, if you have ever looked at PureFlex system, it also comes with an integrated V7000 for storage.  Some of the features includes with the Storwize V7000 are:

  • Thin Provisioning – storage is not allocated until data is written
  • Full Copy of volumes and space efficient snapshot offloads CPU resources from Hypervisor hosts
  • Easy Tier™ – automated tiering between SSD and HDD storage
  • Real-Time Compression – Automatically compress data with no performance impact.
  • Remote Mirroring – with Global and Metro Mirror.
  • Non-Disruptive data migration within and between internal and external storage

The Storwize V7000 Unified allows you to use this storage for both your block (IBM i & AIX) and file (Windows) capabilities. It has support for NFS/CIFS/FTP/HTTPS/SCP file protocols in addition to existing block protocols (iSCSI and FCP). There is file replication and snapshots for business continuity and disaster recovery in addition to existing block functions.

I believe we will see a new era starting right now in midrange disk with the ability of IBM i to directly attach to the IBM Storwize V7000 & V3700.  IBM i will be able to connect via a Fibre Channel Adapter over Fabric (via a Fibre Switch) or directly using a Fibre card. I see many new Power Systems running IBM i having a V7000 or V3700 to handle the needs of its storage, and the storage for the rest of the enterprise. I know this is what many of iTech Solutions customers will be requiring over the next few years as we work together to drive down their costs of storage acquisition, and allow for easier storage management all from a single interface.

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IBM i OS System Upgrades

RelaxAn upgrade to your current IBM i (OS/400 or i5/OS) operating system is something you’ve been putting off for quite some time. Can you afford to keep waiting? IBM already made the answer pretty clear by announcing that it will discontinue its support for V5R4 in six months. As we mentioned in our February newsletter after September 30, 2013, if you are running on V5R4 you will have no support from IBM, as you will be on an unsupported operating system.

Six months is all that stands between either having the latest IBM features or being locked into a costly system that will become obsolete.

What’s holding you back? For a large number of organizations, they are simply not ready for the time and financial commitment required for such an endeavor. Back in 2010, when IBM was contemplating pulling the plug on V5R4, the main issue businesses confronted was the recession. Budgets were leaner and tighter than ever. Today, the economy is on a slight uptick, but clearly, budget constraints are still a source of contention.

In an article that iProDeveloper published, they also highlighted other areas of concern:

  • Migrating directly from V5R4 to 7.1 (before 6.1) when 7.1 hasn’t reached maturity
  • Having extended support for older systems yet prolonging the move to 6.1
  • Missing out on the benefits of a newer kit around performance cost of ownership

The good news is that both 6.1 and 7.1 upgrades are primed and ready. IBM is certainly nudging IBM i users in that direction with their February Technology Refresh 6 release.

More good news: iTech Solutions can handle your system upgrade without putting a major dent in your budget or workflow. Our plan will enable you to upgrade to 6.1 or 7.1 seamlessly, affordably, and painlessly. Moreover, we can handle the entire upgrade process—from investigation, planning, and implementation—within the six month timeframe you are starring at. In addition, if you would like to run your applications on another machine at 6.1 or 7.1 to further test before your actual upgrade, we can provide you with a longer machine.

So there you have it. Beginning the upgrade process today will help you steer clear of added costs in the long run. iTech Solutions can help you take the first step. Contact us today to learn more!

Build your IBM i Strategic Roadmap from the Ground Up

RoadmapTrust is a hard thing to come by in any walk of life, especially when business is on the line. You wouldn’t trust just anyone with the responsibility of managing your critical IT systems, would you? A large number of organizations are faced with that very prospect. It’s either a case of handling everything on their own or reluctantly passing the keys over to someone else.

At iTech Solutions, we like to think of ourselves as a happy medium. We are fully capable of providing hands-on management support for all of your IT needs—with IBM i (AS/400, iSeries) support being front and center. We can design and configure specific IBM i upgrades, installations, and cloud migration projects. We can also take a step back and help you develop a long-term, IBM i strategic roadmap.

iTech Solutions understands  that you might desire your own in-house team to handle these odds and ends. However, when money, time, and resources are limited, we can fill the gaps. Why struggle for weeks on end with an upgrade project when we can take care of it in just two or three days?

No matter what, trust isn’t something you’ll have to worry about with iTech Solutions. We strive to be your partner throughout the process. Our goal is your goal, and vice versa. Ultimately, we want to help you gain the best i experience possible.

When it comes to IBM i, there really is no shortage of skills and devotion that we bring to the table. IBM i is in our DNA. We have an entire staff that has been trained and certified in IBM i best practices. Moreover, we want to pass our knowledge on to you through further training and technical support.

It’s all up to you. Whatever you need—from implementation and beyond—we can make it happen.  For more information about how we can deliver the IBM i support you need to boost your business, contact our team today!

Remote System Monitoring: The Smarter Way to Prevent Downtime

We’re going to go out on a limb here and guess that of all the activities that keep your IT staff busy, putting out fires is at the top of the list.

After all, when business systems go down, so does the business. In fact, even a relatively brief server outage can mean missed connections and lost opportunities – both of which translate to lower revenue.

When CA Technologies ran a study to measure the impact of downtime, they found that this dreaded problem costs North American businesses $26.5 billion per year. And according to the research, small businesses suffer more than any other market segment in terms of lost sales.remote-system-monitoring-connecticut

As CA Technologies found, businesses that experience major downtime struggle to maintain productivity as they scramble to recover lost data and repair the damage. The typical approach is to throw as much IT staff as possible at the problem and hope that customers, suppliers, and partners are understanding about the inevitable delays and miscommunications.

Wouldn’t it be easier just to prevent these incidents in the first place?

Why You Should Consider Remote System Monitoring

There’s a reliable way to prevent the most common IT problems. The best IT support partners now offer remote system monitoring services.

With remote system monitoring, you have a team of experts that are on your system and on your team, with the experience to prevent problems before they happen.

As your business users work, your IT partner can see where problems may be brewing behind the scenes. They can then take steps to intervene and correct issues before they result in system downtime.

With remote system monitoring, you can:

  • Get more value out of your IT investments. Let’s face it: your hardware and software are worthless when they’re not working. More uptime means greater payback on your capital expenditures.
  • Make life easier for your IT team. As they watch your system, your IT partner will be able to intervene in many situations without even needing to notify your IT staff.
  • Focus on strategic IT. Your in-house IT experts deliver the most value when they’re coming up with new ways to increase the productivity of your entire workforce. The more you have to pull them off these projects to get your system back up and running, the longer it will be before the truly strategic projects benefit your company.
  • Enhance your IT budgeting. System downtime is costly not only in terms of lost revenue, but also in terms of funding data recovery and other “cleanup” activities. Preventing downtime means avoiding these unexpected IT expenses. That means you can devote more budget to the areas that really matter.

Your Healthier Infrastructure Can Start Today
Getting up and running with remote system monitoring is surprisingly quick and easy. It’s also one of the best decisions you can make for the long-term health of your IT infrastructure. To learn how iTech Solutions’ remote monitoring services can help you get more from your network, call us today at (203) 744-7854. Or email us at info@itechsol.com

Are your IBMi systems running at optimal performance? Find out with our IBM i Health Check.

 

Expand Your IT Talent Without Adding IT Headcount

IBM System i Support Strategies

When you stop and think about it, adding more IT talent to your staff is easy.

You post ads on all the major IT job websites. You get the word out in your social networks that you’re hiring in IT.

You collect, review, and categorize the hundreds of resumes that come in. You hold several rounds of interviews and hire the most qualified people. And then you set them up in your payroll system, give them network credentials, and let them loose on your IT infrastructure.system-i-support-ct

It’s that simple – as long as you have unlimited financial resources.

But we’re assuming you don’t. So we’re suggesting an alternative approach.

The Value of a Good IT Partner
If money were no object, you would build an in-house IT staff that could handle any issue. You’d find the most experienced professionals for each type of technology in your server room and make it worth their while to stay with your company for as long as you needed them. You’d create a team of experts, with knowledge, experience, and know-how.

But this approach isn’t realistic for small and midsized businesses (and let’s face it – even many Fortune 500 companies are tightening their belts these days).

What if you could get access to a high level of IT expertise without having to commit to paying annual salaries and providing benefits packages? You can if you find the right IT tech support partner.

The best IT consulting firms are totally focused on supporting their clients’ implementations of today’s leading technologies, such as IBM i (System i, AS/400, iSeries) servers. They retain a staff of industry veterans who have worked with the same technology for at least 15 to 20 years. And they’re willing to hire out these professionals to you on an hourly or per-project basis.

That means you can get the technical savvy, project-planning insight, and hands-on experience you need, when you need it. You’ll pay only for the resources you use. And you won’t have to make a long-term financial commitment in the process.

Four More Benefits of Your Partnership
The advantages of working with a reliable technical support partner are many. Your partner can help you:

  • Get access to a higher level of IT expertise. Ever wondered where all the good IT help has gone? Many of the most skilled professionals are working for technology consulting firms. These experts would be too expensive to add to your full-time staff – but if you only need them for a few hours per month, they’re actually quite affordable.
  • Ramp up your IT staff during peak periods. Ever been in a situation where you expect your IT workload to double over the next two months? Asking your IT consulting partner to send you a few experienced technicians on a two-month contract can be a cost-effective way to meet the demand.
  • Fill IT skill gaps. Some IT teams have put together a strong group of database gurus or RPG programmers, but they’re a little weak in system administration. By working with an IT partner, you can bring in experienced system admins as needed.
  • Educate your junior IT staff. There’s something to be said for sending your IT staff to training – but there’s also much they can learn by working alongside the credentialed and certified IT professionals provided by your technical support partner. You can’t put a price on the kind of skills transfer that will occur during every day of even a short project.

Don’t go it alone in IT. Your business systems are too important not to have the “best of the best” working to improve your IBM i infrastructure. To find out more, email iTech Solutions at info@itechsol.com, call us at (203) 744-7854, or take the first step with our IBM i Health Check. For all of your System i support needs in Connecticut contact iTech Solutions.