Sidebar

In the Wheelhouse: If It Ain't Broke, Why Fix It?

Commentary
Typography
  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

Who said it ain't broke? We need to check our sources. Plus, in the world of information systems, we need to assume everything, while not necessarily broken, can always be improved.

 

Why Do PTFs?

Last week on Midrange.com, I was happily surprised to see a thread entitled "If everything is working fine, why do PTFs?"

 

"Happily" is probably the wrong word. Thankfully ecstatic is what I am. Not because of the question but because of the answers.

 

To provide some context, the original thread began with this post from Paul Nelson:

 

"If everything is working fine, why do PTF's?

 

This is a question I got from a client yesterday. I seem to recall somebody posting a link here some years ago to justify staying reasonably current.

He wants more than just the standard arguments about IBM insisting that one be at a certain level, et cetera, et cetera. It went right over his head when I asked him if he changes the oil in his car on a regular basis. He lives in the city and doesn't own a car.

Please chime in."

 

Almost all of the posts that followed were affirming the value of PTF applications and keeping current in general. That's awesome! From this little survey, we see a majority of people understand that keeping current is the equivelent of "an apple a day keeps the doctor away." Except this apple is constantly improving its taste, smell, and nutritional value.

 

The "if it ain't broke" argument isn't valid if you're not reading the PTF details, and that, in keeping with the medical theme, is the equivalent of not bothering to get a regular doctor checkup because you're not showing symptoms of anything serious. Meanwhile, your cholesterol could be through the roof. It may sound a little harsh for me to say, but the "if it ain't broke" argument in the context of information systems patching is being willfully ignorant in the face of hard evidence. If we look at the list of Group HIPER PTFs for IBM i 7.1, we will find dangerous "hard stop" APARs that are prevented by PTFs. We'll find APARs about IPL failure, disk failure, fibre channel adapter failures, RAID problems...this is pretty severe stuff. Outside of the "hard stop" problem prevention, other PTFs contain standard bug fixes. All the minor issues, nuances, problems, or whatever you want to call them get addressed and repaired, either by customers finding and reporting them or IBM finding and repairing them first. Many of us probably don't recognize most of those as problems because we keep on the bleeding edge of PTF application, we haven't come across them yet, or perhaps they don't apply to how we individually interact with IBM i. Either way, they do get fixed.

 

But it ain't broke, right?

 

I usually make a big deal about the importance of PTF application from time to time, usually when there's a snazzy new HTTP server or Java update or most definitely a Technology Refresh that's about to go live. Those are the advancements paid for by our yearly SWMA charges. My argument has always been "if we're paying for it, we should use it." I won't go into all the details because I've covered the topic heavily in the recent past. Have a look at my article PTFs: How to Manage Them and Why You Need To for details.

 

While Mr. Nelson and the majority of posters were certainly from the "keep it current" camp, the ones we need to reach are the "steady as she goes" crowd.

 

I did some work for a shop a few years ago that ran a little AS/400e Model 250 for forever and a day. I remember their IT director stating things like:

 

"It just sits there and runs."

"There's no need to patch it."

"We'll upgrade it when it dies."

 

That little 250 sat there and ran for a long time.

 

Then it died.

 

It was neither a peaceful nor dignified passing. It was entirely preventable with some, if I recall correctly, DASD-related PTFs that were never applied, let alone deliberated.

 

The real head-shaker: They hadn't brought the system down for a full system save in four years, and the backup job was omitting about 1/4 of the objects that should've been saved. The recovery, if you could call it that, was a horrendous experience for all involved.

 

Another "past life" example is when my old shop purchased a shiny new propane generator with enough fuel to keep the company going for two weeks without needing the tanks refilled. As long as we had propane delivery, we'd still be in business. The maintenance guys would fire that loud sucker up every week for 60 seconds to make sure it ran. Every month, they'd cut the power to the server room to ensure the systems would failover to the UPS for a few seconds before the generator would kick in and pick up the power slack. That test would take about 10 minutes or so.

 

Since we were located in Eastern Canada, it was only a matter of time before we had a major snowstorm. This particular storm knocked out our power for three days. The generator lasted about 25 minutes...because nobody was assigned the task to check the oil level.

 

PTF application, in my humble opinion, should be mandatory at the IBM i operating system software, security, and Licensed Internal Code levels, along with Technology Refreshes, while other PTF Groups are optional. It will probably never happen because it's recommended to have a full system save before applying those. However, I haven't had a CUME application cause a major system outage. Ever. Having those important PTFs auto-downloaded and marked for delayed application on the next IPL would be very, very useful. Since the likelihood of that happening anytime soon is as remote as a Chicago Cubs World Series parade, it's up to the IBM i community (customers, IBM Business Partners, Independent Software Vendors, hardware resellers, and IBM itself) to promote the mindset that PTF application should happen on a regular basis and that two very valid arguments for it exist.

 

The first argument is to take advantage of the many new features that will help our businesses. I'm actually looking forward (stoked even!) to update my HTTP Group PTF this weekend so I can take advantage of some performance improvements and feature updates included within. Steady as she goes? We're in IT. We're supposed to be doing things bigger, better, and faster. Getting those PTFs on is a real luxury that we can't afford not to have.

 

The second argument is that as bulletproof as IBM i is, it is not entirely infallible. It's an operating system written by humans. It does need patching. It does need maintenance. Somebody somewhere could've had a major system issue that was fixed by way of a PTF. We don't want to be the person who could've done a very small amount of work to ensure our systems wouldn't succumb to the same fate...but didn't.

 

Test critical and backup systems. Top up the fuel levels. Check the oil. Replace the batteries in the smoke detectors. Put child safety locks on the cupboards. Buy a scratching post so your cat doesn't claw up your couch. I realize the gentleman who was referred to on the Midrange post doesn't drive, so whatever analogy works for him, I'd respectfully ask that he please use it.

 

A little thorough preventative maintenance will go a long way.

Steve Pitcher
Steve Pitcher works with iTech Solutions, an IBM Premier Business Partner. He is a specialist in IBM i and IBM Power Systems solutions since 2001. Feel free to contact him directly atspitcher@itechsol.com.
BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS

LATEST COMMENTS

Support MC Press Online

RESOURCE CENTER

  • WHITE PAPERS

  • WEBCAST

  • TRIAL SOFTWARE

  • White Paper: Node.js for Enterprise IBM i Modernization

    SB Profound WP 5539

    If your business is thinking about modernizing your legacy IBM i (also known as AS/400 or iSeries) applications, you will want to read this white paper first!

    Download this paper and learn how Node.js can ensure that you:
    - Modernize on-time and budget - no more lengthy, costly, disruptive app rewrites!
    - Retain your IBM i systems of record
    - Find and hire new development talent
    - Integrate new Node.js applications with your existing RPG, Java, .Net, and PHP apps
    - Extend your IBM i capabilties to include Watson API, Cloud, and Internet of Things


    Read Node.js for Enterprise IBM i Modernization Now!

     

  • Profound Logic Solution Guide

    SB Profound WP 5539More than ever, there is a demand for IT to deliver innovation.
    Your IBM i has been an essential part of your business operations for years. However, your organization may struggle to maintain the current system and implement new projects.
    The thousands of customers we've worked with and surveyed state that expectations regarding the digital footprint and vision of the companyare not aligned with the current IT environment.

    Get your copy of this important guide today!

     

  • 2022 IBM i Marketplace Survey Results

    Fortra2022 marks the eighth edition of the IBM i Marketplace Survey Results. Each year, Fortra captures data on how businesses use the IBM i platform and the IT and cybersecurity initiatives it supports.

    Over the years, this survey has become a true industry benchmark, revealing to readers the trends that are shaping and driving the market and providing insight into what the future may bring for this technology.

  • Brunswick bowls a perfect 300 with LANSA!

    FortraBrunswick is the leader in bowling products, services, and industry expertise for the development and renovation of new and existing bowling centers and mixed-use recreation facilities across the entertainment industry. However, the lifeblood of Brunswick’s capital equipment business was running on a 15-year-old software application written in Visual Basic 6 (VB6) with a SQL Server back-end. The application was at the end of its life and needed to be replaced.
    With the help of Visual LANSA, they found an easy-to-use, long-term platform that enabled their team to collaborate, innovate, and integrate with existing systems and databases within a single platform.
    Read the case study to learn how they achieved success and increased the speed of development by 30% with Visual LANSA.

     

  • Progressive Web Apps: Create a Universal Experience Across All Devices

    LANSAProgressive Web Apps allow you to reach anyone, anywhere, and on any device with a single unified codebase. This means that your applications—regardless of browser, device, or platform—instantly become more reliable and consistent. They are the present and future of application development, and more and more businesses are catching on.
    Download this whitepaper and learn:

    • How PWAs support fast application development and streamline DevOps
    • How to give your business a competitive edge using PWAs
    • What makes progressive web apps so versatile, both online and offline

     

     

  • The Power of Coding in a Low-Code Solution

    LANSAWhen it comes to creating your business applications, there are hundreds of coding platforms and programming languages to choose from. These options range from very complex traditional programming languages to Low-Code platforms where sometimes no traditional coding experience is needed.
    Download our whitepaper, The Power of Writing Code in a Low-Code Solution, and:

    • Discover the benefits of Low-code's quick application creation
    • Understand the differences in model-based and language-based Low-Code platforms
    • Explore the strengths of LANSA's Low-Code Solution to Low-Code’s biggest drawbacks

     

     

  • Why Migrate When You Can Modernize?

    LANSABusiness users want new applications now. Market and regulatory pressures require faster application updates and delivery into production. Your IBM i developers may be approaching retirement, and you see no sure way to fill their positions with experienced developers. In addition, you may be caught between maintaining your existing applications and the uncertainty of moving to something new.
    In this white paper, you’ll learn how to think of these issues as opportunities rather than problems. We’ll explore motivations to migrate or modernize, their risks and considerations you should be aware of before embarking on a (migration or modernization) project.
    Lastly, we’ll discuss how modernizing IBM i applications with optimized business workflows, integration with other technologies and new mobile and web user interfaces will enable IT – and the business – to experience time-added value and much more.

     

  • UPDATED: Developer Kit: Making a Business Case for Modernization and Beyond

    Profound Logic Software, Inc.Having trouble getting management approval for modernization projects? The problem may be you're not speaking enough "business" to them.

    This Developer Kit provides you study-backed data and a ready-to-use business case template to help get your very next development project approved!

  • What to Do When Your AS/400 Talent Retires

    FortraIT managers hoping to find new IBM i talent are discovering that the pool of experienced RPG programmers and operators or administrators is small.

    This guide offers strategies and software suggestions to help you plan IT staffing and resources and smooth the transition after your AS/400 talent retires. Read on to learn:

    • Why IBM i skills depletion is a top concern
    • How leading organizations are coping
    • Where automation will make the biggest impact

     

  • Node.js on IBM i Webinar Series Pt. 2: Setting Up Your Development Tools

    Profound Logic Software, Inc.Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application. In Part 2, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Attend this webinar to learn:

    • Different tools to develop Node.js applications on IBM i
    • Debugging Node.js
    • The basics of Git and tools to help those new to it
    • Using NodeRun.com as a pre-built development environment

     

     

  • Expert Tips for IBM i Security: Beyond the Basics

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

    Don't miss this chance to take your knowledge of IBM i security beyond the basics.

     

     

  • 5 IBM i Security Quick Wins

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn today’s threat landscape, upper management is laser-focused on cybersecurity. You need to make progress in securing your systems—and make it fast.
    There’s no shortage of actions you could take, but what tactics will actually deliver the results you need? And how can you find a security strategy that fits your budget and time constraints?
    Join top IBM i security expert Robin Tatam as he outlines the five fastest and most impactful changes you can make to strengthen IBM i security this year.
    Your system didn’t become unsecure overnight and you won’t be able to turn it around overnight either. But quick wins are possible with IBM i security, and Robin Tatam will show you how to achieve them.

  • Security Bulletin: Malware Infection Discovered on IBM i Server!

    SB PowerTech WC GenericMalicious programs can bring entire businesses to their knees—and IBM i shops are not immune. It’s critical to grasp the true impact malware can have on IBM i and the network that connects to it. Attend this webinar to gain a thorough understanding of the relationships between:

    • Viruses, native objects, and the integrated file system (IFS)
    • Power Systems and Windows-based viruses and malware
    • PC-based anti-virus scanning versus native IBM i scanning

    There are a number of ways you can minimize your exposure to viruses. IBM i security expert Sandi Moore explains the facts, including how to ensure you're fully protected and compliant with regulations such as PCI.

     

     

  • Encryption on IBM i Simplified

    SB PowerTech WC GenericDB2 Field Procedures (FieldProcs) were introduced in IBM i 7.1 and have greatly simplified encryption, often without requiring any application changes. Now you can quickly encrypt sensitive data on the IBM i including PII, PCI, PHI data in your physical files and tables.
    Watch this webinar to learn how you can quickly implement encryption on the IBM i. During the webinar, security expert Robin Tatam will show you how to:

    • Use Field Procedures to automate encryption and decryption
    • Restrict and mask field level access by user or group
    • Meet compliance requirements with effective key management and audit trails

     

  • Lessons Learned from IBM i Cyber Attacks

    SB PowerTech WC GenericDespite the many options IBM has provided to protect your systems and data, many organizations still struggle to apply appropriate security controls.
    In this webinar, you'll get insight into how the criminals accessed these systems, the fallout from these attacks, and how the incidents could have been avoided by following security best practices.

    • Learn which security gaps cyber criminals love most
    • Find out how other IBM i organizations have fallen victim
    • Get the details on policies and processes you can implement to protect your organization, even when staff works from home

    You will learn the steps you can take to avoid the mistakes made in these examples, as well as other inadequate and misconfigured settings that put businesses at risk.

     

     

  • The Power of Coding in a Low-Code Solution

    SB PowerTech WC GenericWhen it comes to creating your business applications, there are hundreds of coding platforms and programming languages to choose from. These options range from very complex traditional programming languages to Low-Code platforms where sometimes no traditional coding experience is needed.
    Download our whitepaper, The Power of Writing Code in a Low-Code Solution, and:

    • Discover the benefits of Low-code's quick application creation
    • Understand the differences in model-based and language-based Low-Code platforms
    • Explore the strengths of LANSA's Low-Code Solution to Low-Code’s biggest drawbacks

     

     

  • Node Webinar Series Pt. 1: The World of Node.js on IBM i

    SB Profound WC GenericHave you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application.
    Part 1 will teach you what Node.js is, why it's a great option for IBM i shops, and how to take advantage of the ecosystem surrounding Node.
    In addition to background information, our Director of Product Development Scott Klement will demonstrate applications that take advantage of the Node Package Manager (npm).
    Watch Now.

  • The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security

    SB Profound WC Generic The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security
    Here’s the harsh reality: cybersecurity pros have to get their jobs right every single day, while an attacker only has to succeed once to do incredible damage.
    Whether that’s thousands of exposed records, millions of dollars in fines and legal fees, or diminished share value, it’s easy to judge organizations that fall victim. IBM i enjoys an enviable reputation for security, but no system is impervious to mistakes.
    Join this webinar to learn about the biggest errors made when securing a Power Systems server.
    This knowledge is critical for ensuring integrity of your application data and preventing you from becoming the next Equifax. It’s also essential for complying with all formal regulations, including SOX, PCI, GDPR, and HIPAA
    Watch Now.

  • Comply in 5! Well, actually UNDER 5 minutes!!

    SB CYBRA PPL 5382

    TRY the one package that solves all your document design and printing challenges on all your platforms.

    Produce bar code labels, electronic forms, ad hoc reports, and RFID tags – without programming! MarkMagic is the only document design and print solution that combines report writing, WYSIWYG label and forms design, and conditional printing in one integrated product.

    Request your trial now!

  • Backup and Recovery on IBM i: Your Strategy for the Unexpected

    FortraRobot automates the routine tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:
    - Simplified backup procedures
    - Easy data encryption
    - Save media management
    - Guided restoration
    - Seamless product integration
    Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Try the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Manage IBM i Messages by Exception with Robot

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Managing messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events?
    Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated message management
    - Tailored notifications and automatic escalation
    - System-wide control of your IBM i partitions
    - Two-way system notifications from your mobile device
    - Seamless product integration
    Try the Robot Message Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Easiest Way to Save Money? Stop Printing IBM i Reports

    FortraRobot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing.
    Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

    - Automated report distribution
    - View online without delay
    - Browser interface to make notes
    - Custom retention capabilities
    - Seamless product integration
    Rerun another report? Never again. Try the Robot Report Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Hassle-Free IBM i Operations around the Clock

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413For over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i.
    Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated batch, interactive, and cross-platform scheduling
    - Event-driven dependency processing
    - Centralized monitoring and reporting
    - Audit log and ready-to-use reports
    - Seamless product integration
    Scale your software, not your staff. Try the Robot Job Scheduling Solution FREE for 30 days.