PTFs, the Electronic Service Agent, and WRKJOBSCDE

If you work in an I5/OS environment long enough you will inevitably find a situation where a Program Temporary Fix (PTF) is required. Staying current on PTFs can save a lot of headaches and ensure your system keeps running smoothly.

There are several methods of ordering and receiving PTFs from IBM. One method to order PTFs is with ECS (Electronic Customer Service) which uses the command SNDPTFORD and a point-to-point profile.

The PTFs can be ordered either individually or conveniently as a cumulative package (aka a "cume") and can also be ordered on the web at IBM's website Fix Central which requires an IBMid sign-in. An associated cover letter will state whether the PTF(s) should be installed immediately, or temporarily, or permanently. Temporary PTFs can be removed and are superseded by the next upgrade, permanent PTFs cannot be removed. If immediate is not an option then the delayed PTFs will be applied as part of the next IPL. This can cause the IPL to take longer than usual. The PTF installation should be verified after completion while the system and all partitions are in a restricted state.

The PTFs can be received as images, save files, or other media. The PTF packages are delineated by groups such as operating system or licensed internal code. Sometimes groups will overlap so one cumulative PTF package may require several PTF groups to be updated.

To reach the PTF menu simply type "GO PTF" and press Enter. The command LODPTF is used to load the PTF onto the system. The command APYPTF is used to apply a PTF which assumes the PTF has already been loaded. The install PTF command INSPTF does both the load and apply steps. DSPPTF produces a list (subfile) of PTFs showing their status (temporary, permanent, superseded). Before applying PTFs it is best to get a full backup, a restricted system, and to sign on as QSECOFR.

To check whether a PTF was applied or not use "GO LICPGM". To delete save files and cover letters for permanently applied PTFs use command "GO CLEANUP".

For example, to permanently apply licensed internal code PTFs:

APYPTF LICPGM(5769999) RLS(V7R1M0) SELECT(*ALL) APY(*PERM) DELAYED(*NO)

The electronic service agent (ESA) is available on all iSeries computers and can be configured to collect performance data and transmit that data to IBM for analysis. Many problems can be avoided by letting the service agent check for potential issues. ESA is a problem reporting tool that requires some bandwidth to function effectively. Hardware can be monitored as well as software and many fixes can be automatically downloaded and immediately applied. An inventory of installed products is also transmitted to IBM by the service agent.  DSPSFWRSC displays software installed on your system.

To start the Service Agent type "GO SERVICE" and select option 1, then set Enable to *YES. There are numerous IBM documents describing how to configure the service agent and a Universal Connection Wizard is available to configure ESA (and the related ECS) automatically.

To verify that the service agent is active type the command WRKJOBSCDE QS9SACOL and verify that QS9SACOL is running from the job scheduler. This job (using JOBD QSYS/QSJINV) collects and sends service information and should run every day.  The QS9SACOL job runs the following command:

QSYS/WRKSRVAGT TYPE(*SRVINF) COLSRVINF(*YES) SNDSRVINF(*YES) SRVINF(*ALL)

Other service agent jobs that you might see running include QSJERRRPT - to send problems immediately to IBM, QSJHEARTBT - to send a test transaction to IBM (similar to a "ping"), QS9AUTOPTF - to check for any critical PTFs not installed on your system and download them, and several other QS9 jobs that monitor various hardware and software logs.

Probably the toughest part of managing the scheduler is to remember the way authority works when adding jobs. The profile of the user that created the job scheduler entry is who owns the job in perpetuity.  Another scheduler subtlety to remember is that using F10 to manually submit a job immediately uses the job description from *CURRENT instead of the JOBD that is in the scheduled jobs details.  It is very important to understand the difference between jobs that run from the scheduler versus forcing jobs to run immediately.

Use command DSPSRVA to display the service agent attributes. Changes to service agent settings can be achieved with CHGSRVA. For example, if the agent is sending too many messages, or messages to too many users, use CHGSRVA to remove *user from the CRITMSGUSR parameter.   Normally users would not need to be alerted to problems reported by the service agent so only send PTF and Service Agent messages to security officers, system operators, and service personnel and, perhaps, programmers.

To display the group HIPER PTFs for release 6.1:

WRKPTFGRP SF99609

To see a list of all group PTFs by release visit Preventative Service Planning - PSP - Group PTFs by Release.

For more information regarding the Electronic Service Agent go to the IBM Electronic Services redbook

Other PTF-related terms to understand:
APAR: Authorized Program Analysis Report - an IBM report that documents an issue often to be fixed by a subsequent PTF.
HIPER and DB2 PTFs: HIPER means High Impact Pervasive, meaning critical, resolves crash or serious issue such as looping or data corruption. These are automatically shipped along with cumulative PTF orders as are any database corrections or group "DB2 for IBM i" PTFs.
LPAR: Logical partition. Each partition needs its own Service Agent. Extreme caution must be exercised when applying PTFs to systems that have logical partitions. All other partitions need to be in a restricted state when applying PTFs.
LPP: Licensed Program Product.
PSP: Preventative Service Planning.