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Digging Into AIX 7.3 TL Updates

Rob McNelly also highlights information on Power10 performance, AIX administration, VIOS to NIM mapping, and shares his fondness for some old interfaces

In November, IBM TechXchange conducted a deep dive on AIX 7.3 TL updates. Featuring AIX product manager Jayen Shah and Carl Burnet, DE for IBM Power, the webinar covered the latest AIX enhancements:
 
“In this webcast, you will learn:
*How AIX OS feature enhancements provide the capacity, performance, and leading security needed to accelerate business outcomes.
*How to harness Power automation to stay current with the latest technology while keeping data secure and maintaining optimal performance.”

Register for the replay and download the slides.
 
Having tuned into this webinar, I'll share some information that stood out to me. First, a reminder that should have been on your radar and that should not be a surprise, AIX 7.1 has reached end of support (slide 2). If you've not yet upgraded to AIX 7.2 or 7.3, you should make the move as soon as possible. There is nothing more frustrating than needing IBM's assistance and being told that you need to either upgrade or purchase (assuming it's available) extended support.
 
Updates to the AIX Collection at Ansible Gallery are highlighted (slides 6-7), along with updates to the AIX Toolbox (slide 8). VIOS support is covered on slide 12. Version 3.1.1 is end of support, 3.1.2, 3.1.3 and 3.1.4 remains in support, with VIOS 4.1 currently available.
 
On that note, I'm already seeing people test the upgrades to 4.1. As always you can get the latest lifecycle information and release notes for 4.1.0.10. Keep in mind that moving to 4.1 is essentially the same as upgrading your base operating system. In other words, it's more involved than simply installing a VIOS fixpack. As a reminder, VIOS 4.1 runs a stripped-down version of AIX 7.3 under the covers (slide 13), whereas VIOS 3.1 ran AIX 7.2 behind the scenes.

There's more, including PowerVC updates (slide 16) and PowerSC coverage (starting with slide 18). Slide 26 gets into training options, including a link to this course list.

How to Tackle Device Package Installation

Last week, IBM Support posted an update regarding device package installation warnings. Unexciting as that may sound, this is useful, bookmark-worthy information:
 
Problem
The cfgmgr command (or cfgdev on VIOS) displays the following warning and fails to discover a new device:
 
cfgmgr: 0514-621 WARNING: The following device packages are required for
    device support but are not currently installed.
 
This message is followed by one or more fileset names such as:
devices.fcp.disk
devices.fcp.changer
devices.fcp.tape
devices.sas.changer
 
Cause
The cfgmgr command displays this message when it discovers a device for which a driver cannot be identified. However, these filesets listed in the message do not exist. They are generic names based on the type of device. For example, devices.fcp.tape means that a fibre-channel attached tape drive was found devices.sas.changer means that a SAS-attached media changer (tape robot) was found.
 
Read on for IBM's recommendations on resolving these issues.

Network Connectivity Simplified

A decade or so ago, we had to jump through many virtual hoops in our efforts to display information for network devices (specifically, Cisco switches) connected to AIX LPARs. Fortunately, this process has become much simpler, as IBM's Chris Gibson explains in his recent TechChannel article:
 
“AIX administrators can now display information for Cisco network devices (switches) that are directly connected to their AIX logical partition (LPAR). This is made possible by exploiting the Cisco Discovery Protocol (CDP). AIX provides the cdpd daemon which can receive incoming data packets or messages by using CDP and discovering the physically connected Cisco devices.”
 
The output and information available to us these days is pretty impressive:
cdpctl show port en1
Waiting for CDP advertise (default 60 seconds)......
Device ID: route1-n1.local(AGE19190TKY)
Address: 10.10.10.2
Port ID: Ethernet3/43
Capabilities
   : Router Level 3
   : Level 2 Switch
Cisco switch OS Version: Cisco Nexus Operating System (NX-OS) Software, Version 9.3(9)
Platform: N9K-C9508
Native VLAN ID: 32
Trusted Bitmap: N/A
AVVID untrusted ports: N/A
Duplex: Full
MTU: 576
System Name: route1-n1
System Object ID: N/A
Management Addresses: 10.1.2.10
CDP record received on dev en1 also stored at /tmp/cdp_record_en1
Again, that's from the article. Be sure to read the whole thing.

Optimizing Power10 Performance

Chris also highlighted this IBM doc on Power10 performance topics:
 
Abstract: “This document aims to offer guidance and topics for optimizing performance for IBM Power10 processor-based servers. It should be noted that this document does not cover all the best practices for PowerVM, AIX, or IBM i, and should be used in conjunction with other relevant documentation.”

VIOS to NIM Mapping

I always try to make sure my NIM server is at the right level to support my VIO servers. Here's an IBM Support document that can help you do just that. Though you'll see conflicting dates of publication, I believe this information has been recently updated.

On User Interfaces and Facing Reality

Lately I've been thinking about interfaces that I deal with, both on the job and outside of it. One of my favorites is—still—the smitty menus. I love that they look almost exactly the same as they always have, and that most of the system commands I know and love continue to function as they have for years.
 
Of course, this is an exception. Consider the evolution of the HMC interface and GUI. Every now and again I stumble across an old, unpatched HMC version, and it makes me think of things that used to be second nature. (And never mind the old interfaces; I also miss the old and familiarand the even older—sounds.)
 
While we may get eased into changes by being given options to stick with the classic GUI or try out an enhanced interface, eventually, inevitably, the old ways of doing things disappear. Running the new interface is our only choice.
 
This certainly isn't exclusive to IBM solutions. Recently I updated the system software for my smartwatch. I immediately noticed that the vendor had made some pretty drastic changes. Menu options and shortcuts were moved, buttons that used to do one thing no longer did anything. Years of muscle memory I'd accumulated were useless, as I had to adapt to new ways of doing things.
 
But it isn't just me. Years ago, a coworker fell in love with his Palm Pilot. Even as the world moved on to Blackberrys, Androids and iPhones, he'd live by what I call the “eBay and pray” method of system support. If one device gave out, he'd simply purchase another old used one and move his data there. Eventually though it becomes an exercise in futility. Think of the applications you use—the authenticators, the collaboration tools, things that literally will not run on older hardware and operating systems. The world moves on. Either we move with it or get left behind.
 
Sure, there are legitimate needs to move forward. Getting the latest bug and security fixes that ship with these updates is essential. Still, it's easy to wonder if tech companies oftentimes make changes simply for the sake of making change, leaving us users to do the workarounds and roll with the punches. Even as someone who's spent his career in tech, who knows from day-to-day experience how cool all this stuff is and how much more incredible it's become over time, if I have the option to stick with an old interface rather than move to a new one, I will choose the tried and true whenever I can, and for as long as I can.
 
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