IBM i provides a wealth of valuable system management information, but third-party tools are required to put it to effective use.
Editor's Note: This article is extracted from the white paper "Executive Overview: Simplifying the Management of IBM i Environments" available free at the MC White Paper Center.
Despite being one of the easiest systems to administer, IBM i is neither self-managing nor self-optimizing. Consequently, even a formerly well-tuned IBM i system may develop bottlenecks over time.
All of the data required to evaluate performance and storage usage is collected and maintained by IBM i. However, accessing and analyzing that data are complex and cumbersome tasks when using only the operating system functionality. Tools from independent software vendors (ISVs) are needed to scrutinize the data effectively and then take cost-effective corrective action when appropriate.
Wasted disk storage is a common problem. For example, user profiles often linger long after employees leave. "Temporary" files may never be deleted. Out-of-date business data may take up space without adding value.
A good storage analysis tool can provide significant value by selecting, cataloging, cross-referencing, and sorting comprehensive data about all objects and files. Administrators can use this functionality to track down, delete, and/or archive obsolete data.
To increase productivity and reduce human error, the tool should also allow the definition of archiving and deletion rules. The tool can then use these rules to perform storage-housekeeping tasks automatically.
In addition to the problem of obsolete files and objects, most IT professionals are aware of the need to reorganize database files regularly. This need arises from the fact that "deleting" records in a file does not physically delete them. They continue to take up space until the file is reorganized.
Storage costs are not the only issue to consider in this regard. Database queries read all potentially relevant records into buffers—even if they've been logically deleted. The "deleted" records are then filtered out, but this process consumes processor and disk I/O resources. Consequently, the more disorganized the file, the worse the system's performance will be.
Many companies limit the frequency of file reorganizations because traditional reorganization tools typically require that applications be halted during the reorganization. Even when applications can continue functioning, the applications may slow to a crawl.
New ISV tools eliminate this problem by providing low-impact, reorganize-while-active capabilities. These tools often also allow reorganizations to be broken into smaller tasks that can be scheduled to run during a business' slow periods.
Regulatory and Audit Compliance
Deleting obsolete files and objects reduces storage requirements, but doing so might conflict with the requirements of auditors and regulators. A sophisticated system management tool avoids this conflict by first archiving deleted data offline on a less expensive media, while also maintaining an audit trail of its archiving activity. This audit trail is often more than just good business practice. Depending on the nature of the business and the industry it operates in, government regulations, such as Sarbanes Oxley (SOX), may insist on it.
In addition, by establishing rules for storage housekeeping activities and then using the software to enforce those rules, you can significantly reduce the probability of unintentionally deleting a file that should be retained for regulatory or auditing reasons.
The software that performs these housekeeping functions must be relatively advanced because the rules that it must follow can be complex. For example, consider a purchase order (PO) that covers services that will be provided over the course of multiple fiscal years. A rule that says simply "delete all POs that are more than two years old" will be acceptable for most of the POs that an organization processes, but it will delete this example PO while it is still active.
Comprehensive Monitoring and Analysis
As stated above, all of the data you require to monitor and manage the performance and storage usage of your server is gathered by IBM i without the need for ISV tools or additional action on your part. The challenge is accessing and viewing that data in a way that will allow you to achieve your system-tuning goals. A good IBM i housekeeping tool will make it easy for you to analyze performance bottlenecks throughout the day, identify system resource usage trends, recognize the need for file reorganizations, and find obsolete files and objects. The facilities available within IBM i alone do not provide this functionality.
Delivering these capabilities is more complex than it might appear on the surface. Data and objects can reside in a number of places, including attached storage, the Integrated File System (IFS), auxiliary storage pools (ASPs), and independent auxiliary storage pools (iASPs). To offer optimal value, a system management tool must work with all types of storage, preferably from a single user interface.
Due to space limitations, this article has been able to review only the high-level requirements of an IBM i system management tool. For more information, please download Vision Solutions' "Executive Overview: Simplifying the Management of IBM i Environments" from the MC White Paper Center.