TechTip: BRMS for the i, Part 1

High Availability / Disaster Recovery
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BRMS is the strategic tool for backup and recovery support for the IBM i, but how many of us really understand it? In many ways, it's intuitive. But there are still some things you should know.


BRMS. Backup Restore Media Services.


If you're in the i world, then this is IBM's strategic tool for you to control your backups and, in the event something awful happens, your recovery. It provides a fairly large range of options and also a structure that helps you organize your backups and tell the difference between them a little easier than remembering that BK0703C is the monthly backup and BK0702C is the daily backup. I like to think of BRMS as a two-headed beast.


One side interfaces with the media device, whether it's tape or whatever, freeing you up from having to get involved in that. It forces you to establish standards for your tape-naming conventions, and as long as you know what backup you're kicking off, it handles everything else.


The other side provides a multi-level structure that defines what's going to be backed up and what that backup's characteristics will be.


But enough chit chat. Let's get right into it.


Is It Free?

Is it free? Ah, I do love a good jest.


Of course, it's not free. There's no free lunch, and there's no free good backup and restore system. Naturally, it's based on the size of your machine, using a closely guarded secret formula that was actually derived from the one for Coke.


But there is some flexibility in terms of how much you pay because there is flexibility in terms of what you buy.


What Are the Pieces Involved?

First, there's the part of BRMS that's not really BRMS. This is the Media and Storage Extensions product that's offered in i5/OS but isn't a standard part of the configuration. In other words, there's a separate charge for this item, but you need it if you're going to be running BRMS. And, although this is jumping the gun a bit, you must have this installed before you install BRMS. For those of you keeping score at home, this is 5770-SS1 Option 18.


Second, there is the BRMS base product. This is what does most of the work, allowing you to set up your backups and perform restores in the event of a problem. Essentially, it's a media-handling service, where the media can be regular old tapes, virtual tapes, or optical stuff. Obviously, the base product is required, and it's identified as 5770-BR1 - *BASE BRMS. We'll talk about what it actually does in a bit.


Third and fourth, two optional products come with BRMS, and whether they're truly optional or not will depend on what you want to do with the product.


The first of these options is the Network Option, 5770-BR1 Option 1. What this does is allow you to have several IBM i's using (or networking) the same media unit (tape drive, whatever). BRMS must be installed on all machines for this to work.


The second option is the Advanced Function feature, 5770-BR1 Option 2. While Option 1 does just one thing, this option does several.


First, it supports the archive and retrieve functions in BRMS. If you want to do that, then you need this option. It will archive things to tape and then allow you to very simply retrieve them back to disk. The archiving can be done automatically, with BRMS constantly looking for objects that have not been touched in x number of days, that have been over a certain size for x number of days, and other things.


Second, it supports software encryption. Yes, that's not part of the base package, and to get it, you need this. Although to be fair, many drives now have hardware encryption built into them, so this might not be as important as it once was. To do this, you'll also need to bring in the Encrypted Enablement Enhancement, 5770-SS1 Option 44, and have that installed on your machine.


Third, it supports Hierarchical Storage Management (HSM). This feature will take advantage of the fact that you might have multiple auxiliary storage pools (ASPs), with some having very fast, high-cost DASD, and others a slower, cheaper storage structure. This function will automatically migrate data from one ASP to another (including archive or tape), based on criteria you set up. The movement can be based on the different ASPs or on control group records you set up (more on them in a bit). Or you can set it up manually using the STRMGRBRM command. You can promote or demote, and it can be tons of fun for the whole family. One restriction is that you can do this only to libraries, spool files, and root folders from the IFS. But that's not bad.


So there's your flexibility. You can buy what you need rather than the whole fruitcake. Take a moment now and quietly reflect on your particular environment. Which of these five pieces would you need? How would you use them? How would you raise the money to purchase them? Bake sales are always nice.


Anything Else You Should Know?

All in all, besides being able to recognize BRMS at quite a long distance, there are a couple of other things that should be mentioned.


Your Existing Backup CL Programs

If you're not using a BRMS type of system to manage your data and your media, then you probably have a variety of CL programs that are filled with SAVLIB and other such commands.


These will all go bye-bye.


You will set up everything that you want to save in BRMS. There are actually several levels of setup that you can do (we'll talk about that later), but once the data is entered into BRMS (as in the specific things you want to backup), then you're all set. All backups will run within BRMS, and it will trigger the native SAVLIB, SAVF, etc. commands that actually do the backup. But that will all be transparent to you.


I know, I know. You probably have subsystems you want to stop/start, users that you need to log off, and maybe even job queues you want to pause and then release like a pack of hungry Irish Wolfhounds. And BRMS will take care of that for you.


Still Need a Scheduler

There are limits to what BRMS will do for you, of course, and while you can set up fairly complicated schedules for the backups, it will not actually kick off a backup for you. You have to do that.


Of course, you can do it manually if you want to, using the STRBKUBRM command.


And you can always use a scheduler, whether you use a fancy old thing like Robot Scheduler or use the WRKJOBSCDE that comes with the i.


Support a Couple of Backup Options


BRMS gives you a fair amount of flexibility when you define your backup. You can indicate, on a daily basis, what type you want to do: full or incremental. Now when I say "full," I don't necessarily mean a full system backup. I mean a full backup of all the libraries, folders, lists, and whatnot that you defined to be part of that backup.


And when I say "incremental," I mean…well, I guess I mean incremental: everything that has changed since the last back up of the items supported by that particular backup.


It also gives you the opportunity to do save while active.


What It Is

So this is what BRMS is. But how does it work? How do you set it up to do these things? And what flexibility does it offer? To find out that stuff, you have to stay tuned to next month, when we will unleash BMRS, Part 2.