In the Wheelhouse: New Features in Recent HTTP Server Group PTF

Analysis of News Events
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This week, we're talking about some new HTTP Group PTF features. Some are obvious, and some are...well...not so obvious. Plus, IBM withdraws the DAT160 tape drive from marketing in 2014. If you're using it, you need a plan moving forward.


IBM i Web Utilities Keep Growing

Like any good boy who keeps up to date with his PTFs, I was up late on July 9 downloading and applying the latest HTTP Group package (SF99368) and combing through the fix list when I came upon a few surprises.


The first surprise came by way of the PTF labeled SI49568 - Extended Base Directory Support. What's this? IBM Navigator for i now provides a graphical interface for Virtual Partition Manager that allows you to manage logical partitions without having to go into System Service Tools via the STRSST command on a 5250 green-screen session.


The PTF description elaborates:


"Virtual Partition Manager provides the capability to create and manage Linux or IBM i partition without the use of the Hardware Management Console (HMC). IBM Navigator for i has the following advantages over the green screen:


(1) Allows assignment of additional virtual Ethernet and virtual SCSI devices (after a partition is created)

(2) Allows multiple virtual Ethernet devices to use the same VLAN ID

(3) Allows for more flexibility in assigning trunk ports

(4) Allows for multiple VALN IDs, under the 802.1Q standard"


After you apply PTF SI49568, you need to download and apply PTF SI48848 before using the graphical Virtual Partition Manager. Just why this particular PTF isn't included as a co-requisite or as part of the HTTP Group PTF is beyond my knowledge. Either way, you need it, so pull down SI48848 along with your SF99368 HTTP Group fixes.


What does this tell you? It reaffirms the commitment from IBM to enhance the web-based Navigator for i, making it the focal point of IBM i systems management. The executive guide to IBM's strategy and roadmap explicitly names Navigator for i (formerly Systems Director Navigator for i) in the Systems Management section while leaving out the 5250 client and the heavy Windows-based System i Navigator client. 5250-based System Service Tools hasn't received the four aforementioned VPM functions, and neither has System i Navigator. Plenty of features have been added to Navigator for i with no equivalent companion features on green-screen. Make no bones about it: the web-based Navigator is getting plenty of IBM attention, and I don't see IBM slacking off anytime soon.


Another mysterious function is labeled SI45469 - OSP Damaged Object Detection Tool and SI50374 - Extended Base Directory Support, which contains the text "OSP IBM Application Runtime Expert for i template update for Damaged Object Detection Tool." This could be very interesting, but I can't find any documentation on it. How do you know if you have a damaged object? You usually discover damaged objects during a full system save via a GO SAVE option 21. Other options such as Display Object Description (DSPOBJD), Retrieve Disk Information (RTVDSKINF), or Reclaim Object Link (RCLLNK) will report damage to objects as well. I've searched all the IBM Navigator for i menus and even checked the help text but couldn't find anything...but something's been added perhaps for future use. If and when something like that ever surfaces in Navigator for i, I'll give Joe Hertvik a plug as he built a pretty neat little CL program that searches IBM i file systems using a combination of RTVDSKINF and RCLLNK to catalogue damaged objects. While it's great for finding objects previously marked as damaged, I believe that only a save will determine if an object is damaged and then mark the object as such. If an object is damaged, other commands may not see those objects as damaged until a save attempt has been performed on them and the object is subsequently marked.


Now, this Damaged Object Detection Tool appears to be a template included in IBM Application Runtime Expert for i (ARE). If you're not familiar with the product, it's a data collection tool that allows you to "collect and verify a customized set of information about an application, its runtime environment, and the IBM i system that it runs on."


From the ARE product page, these are some of the possible attributes and values that can be collected:


File/directory/library authorities

  •    Owner
  •    Authorization list
  •    Primary group
  •    Object authorities
  •    Data authorities


File/directory/library attributes

  •    Creation date
  •    Last modified date
  •    File size
  •    File type
  •    CCSID


Attributes within property/HTTP/XML configuration files

  • User IDs
  • Product PTFs and PTF Groups
  • System values and network attributes
  • Product install status
  • TCP/IP network verification and configuration
  • Environment variables
  • Ports in use


ARE lets you cross-reference components of IBM i with a template and then view reports based on the differences or similarities. There are plenty of practical applications for this tool. Think about a weekly report letting you know if a system value has changed or if authority to a library has been altered. Maybe you want to know if there's an application that turns on an unencrypted FTP server for two hours every Saturday. ARE sounds like a tool that you could probably monitor for that sort of thing.


The Damaged Object Detection Tool appears to be a template that you can install to help you determine what objects on the system are damaged without a full system save. Let's spitball for a moment and assume this means you could take a snapshot of your IBM i environment, complete with no damaged objects, and then later use the ARE tool to compare the snapshot to the current system. Of course, this is just speculation based on the description of those PTFs. I believe the list price for 5773-ARE for a P10 system is only $250, based on the original announcement letter two years ago. Considering what the list above says it does, it's worth a purchase and pickup. If IBM is expanding ARE with the ability to do object damage detection, it just makes the product that much more effective. I'm going to pick up a copy and get the hands-on rundown and report back.


You're going to see web-based tools like Application Runtime Expert for i and Navigator for i keep growing and becoming more feature-rich. I've mentioned how to access the Navigator for i interface in the past, so if you're still using one of the other management interfaces, you really need to have a look at Navigator for i.

DAT160 Withdrawn from Marketing

Just a quick tip that you might have missed because I haven't seen anybody else cover it. As mentioned in announcement letter 113-087, IBM released a statement of direction to withdraw from marketing the DAT160 tape drive in mid 2014 for Power Systems. The withdrawal is due to projected supply constraints of new drives. It appears that the vendors who build the DAT160 drives are planning on withdrawing them from production.


IBM will still support existing DAT160 drives and supply tape cartridges to customers. The announcement states that customers "seeking an entry save/restore tape drive should consider RDX technology which can offer higher capacity, higher speed, higher reliability, and lower docking station cost. Clients seeking a somewhat higher entry save/restore tape drive should consider LTO, the Ultrium technology."