You haven't upgraded yet? What's the holdup?
OK, quick show of hands. How many people are still on i5/OS 5.4 or below? Don't worry, nobody can see you. No embarrassment other than what you put on yourself. OK, that's fine, thank you.
If you are just putting your hand down, don't feel too bad. A lot of good shops are still on some version of 5. Shoot, I even know someone who is on 4.3, although I certainly wouldn't acknowledge them in public. But don't feel too good either, because there are a lot of people who have already moved up to 6.1 or 7.1. If you haven't, it's time to get moving.
Of course, any time you're talking about upgrading your operating system, everybody always wonders, why bother? Things are going OK for me on 3.6.
And to answer that, let me ask you a question. Do you like working with the IBM i? Or would you rather be dealing with a pack of Windows servers? If you answered yes to the i, then remember that keeping up with software releases is one of the two primary ways to reduce the chance that your company will decide it wants to move to a different platform. The other way is to start making use of the new features and functionality that become available to you in the upgraded OS. Companies where the technical staff keeps them up to date in terms of releases and that use the features therein are companies that have a more robust, powerful, and diverse i system, and one that is much harder to replace than an i that is just used to compile and run RPG programs.
The Bottom Line
The next thing they wonder is whether going to 7.1 (don't bother with 6.1; just go all the way) might trigger a catastrophic bug that will bring their system down. Help, run for your lives!
I have done a fairly exhaustive Web search (at least it was exhausting for me), and I have only found two issues that seem to have come up. Now I am positive that there are more, but apparently these are the only two that people felt strongly enough about to write them up. Technically, neither one counts because they are both related to 6.1 (and I am suggesting you go to 7.1 and skip the wait), but here they are. The first involves searches using WRKQRY. There is a fix, of course, and if you look at this, you'll get all the gory details. The other issue is related to an SQL problem. It appears to me to be semi site-specific, but it could affect others as well.
There are no guarantees, of course. Every day is a roll of the dice, and every system has its own special peculiarities. But over the last 30 years, IBM has gotten quite a bit of practice in rolling out nearly bulletproof releases, and 7.1 is no exception. I'll talk below about some of the things you'll want to be careful about, but the bottom line is that there is absolutely no reason why you should have a "we better not upgrade' it's too dangerous" philosophy. As I indicated above, there are only two types of i shops: those that are planning to upgrade to 7.1 soon, and those that are just waiting around for someone to move them onto something else. Still, there are some things you should keep an eye out for.
The software that runs an upgrade always assumes one thing: that everyone is at the same starting point. And the way you make sure you are at the official starting point is by making sure you have the proper PTFs installed.
What PTFs do you need? Well, that depends on what version you're on now, doesn't it? So one of the first things you'll want to do when you start your upgrade investigation is find out from IBM exactly what PTFs you need to have applied; then see which if any you need to get, and apply those PTFs.
At the same time, you'll want to check your Java Virtual Machine (JVM) because some versions are no longer supported in the new releases.
Remember when we went from CISC to RISC? Remember how you had to run a function that ran through every program you had in order to make it acceptable to the new architecture? Well, you need to do that again for this upgrade. This is really part of 6.1, but if you're going to 7.1 from a pre-6.1 release, you'll have to do it. If you're already on 6.1, then you,ve already done it and can just step up to 7.1.
Fortunately, this won't be a big deal. It will just be another step in the upgrade, just another job that will do everything for you. All you have to do is run it.
But—just like with RISC—this step requires all of your programs to be observable. Often we relate this to having the source code, so just as you did with RISC, you'll have to run the IBM ANZOBJCNV command over your system to see what, if any, programs you have that are not observable. Unless you are doing some pretty kinky stuff, these will generally be third-party programs, modules that the vendor you bought the software from doesn't want you to be able to screw around with. I can dig it, but when you find these unobservable modules, you'll then have to contact your vendor and get a new copy of that module that is already set for the 6.1/7.1 upgrade.
As I said above, going to 7.1 is not a dangerous move that is likely to put your company or your data site in jeopardy. Far from it. But if you're going to run into problems anywhere, it's most likely to be somewhere in the hardware arena. Many companies are running an ancillary hardware infrastructure (AHI) that is old and getting older—things like tape drives, printers, cabling, and other oddball hardware junk.
Oh, yeah, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, how does the operating system affect the hardware? And the answer is that most of the hardware impact comes not from the operating system per se but from the hardware that you're running the OS on, e.g., POWER6 or POWER7. Sometimes in the i world we sort of forget about hardware. I mean that's what the MI layer is for, to insulate us from the hardware, right?
Well, sort of, but the chips (along with the I/O drawers, speed loops, etc.) do have an impact on how things run and what hardware alternatives are supported. For example, if you're running a pre-POWER5 system, you cannot upgrade to 7.1. Just can't do it. And often when an OS upgrade is planned, a hardware upgrade will be rolled into it.
Even if you're on POWER5 or above, there are a number of hardware issues that you'll want to check out before you get too far into the upgrade process. Because everyone's site is different, you'll either need to check the IBM literature carefully or get someone involved who is a hardware/upgrade specialist. One thing to watch for is the I/O processors (IOPs), which are not supported at all on POWER7 and only in some situations on POWER6. Since Twinax cables use an IOP connection, this can be quite a problem for shops running older cabling. Another thing to beware of is QIC/SLR tape drives, a dead-end technology that's also not supported at all on POWER7. This could be an issue if you were planning to use one of these drives for backup/restore during the upgrade.
At one point I seriously thought I would get a complete list of all the hardware issues that you might face. Then I saw how many there were and how whether it was going to be a problem or not depended on very specific situations. I've now decided that everyone will have to do their own research because each of these problem areas is going to affect just a small number of people who are using older, dated equipment. And that brings me to another point.
Get Some Help?
Back in the olden days, when people lived in caves and dinosaurs ruled the earth, it was a matter of honor to be able to do your own upgrades. But things are different today. Guys are taking yoga classes. Women are doing martial arts. It's a mess I tell you. So there's no shame in bringing in a group to help you do the conversion.
I know it costs money but as Pete Massiello, owner of iTech Solutions, a firm that specializes in upgrading IBM i operating systems, said when I talked to him, "Often it's cheaper overall for a company to bring someone in who knows exactly what to look for and what to check, who will stick with you from start to finish and ensure that everything comes out OK." Unless you have someone on staff who is dedicated to upgrade issues, I think it makes a lot of sense to get help. There is an expense, of course, but the plus side is that you can get things done within a few weeks rather than months. And often a project done swiftly and competently goes a long way to making the department as a whole look good.
I'm Just About Done Here
So that's it. A lot of people feel comfortable on 5.3 or 5.4. That's a big mistake. The message it sends out is that the i isn't moving, that it's stagnant. And once that message gets out, it can't be taken back, and sooner or later someone is going to decide that the company needs to take another direction.
So protect your i. Upgrade to 7.1, and do it this year. And once you have done that, learn about 7.1 and start using what it provides.