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Problem-Solving via the Internet, the Importance of Patching and More

Recently, I helped mount a filesystem on a Windows system that was being exported from an AIX system. The client wasn't sure it would work—and there were challenges—but fortunately I found some guidance by googling.

Following these instructions, I was able to export a test filesystem from an AIX machine in my lab. Then I NFS mounted it from a test Windows machine.

Since I wasn't running a Windows Server OS version, I ran the command listed in the document under Desktop OS in a PowerShell window:

Enable-WindowsOptionalFeature -FeatureName ServicesForNFS-ClientOnly, ClientForNFS-Infrastructure -Online -NoRestart

I couldn't run the mount command in the PowerShell window, but I was able to run it in a normal command prompt window:

mount -o anon z:

Initially, running the mount command triggered Network Error = 53. To fix that, I added the Windows machine as a temporary entry on the AIX machine in /etc/hosts. This allowed AIX to resolve the Windows machine hostname and mount the filesystem.

Another Reason to Keep Your System Firmware Current

A client wanted to update their VIO servers. After running shutdown -restart, the VIO LPAR would hang with LED code CA000040. This time the internet led me to a familiar source: IBM Support, which gave me these instructions:

“Problem: LPAR boot on a POWER9 system may hang with code CA000040. In iqyylog SRC B200F003 might be reported.
Symptom: LPAR does not boot and no access to SMS is possible.
Cause: This issue is caused by a new timer variable implemented at POWER9 used for creating delay timers. All POWER9 systems would be exposed, if those servers are not restarted for 814 days.
Environment: Any POWER9 system. The solution is provided in FW930.30, FW950.00, and FW940.30.
Diagnosing The Problem: To verify how long a system has been running, check the SRC history via ASMI with celogin:

“System Information -> Progress Indicator History

“Check if the system is up >= 814 days based on the time stamp on the STANDBY entry.
“A nondisruptive resource dump would include this information also.

Resolving The Problem: Workaround is to set the LPAR processor compatibility mode to Power8 until firmware fix is installed. This needs to be done for any LPAR facing the problem.

Powering the system off/on will reset the timer.”

Me again: In this case, the client changed the VIO profile so that it ran in POWER8 processor mode. This allowed the LPAR to boot. Then they later scheduled an outage to update the system firmware, so this shouldn't be an issue going forward. If you have POWER9 systems that have been up for a long time sans firmware updates, keep this possibility in mind.

Seriously, this experience makes the case for regular patching cycles. Even if the client had only patched once a year, this issue could have been avoided. Don’t forget: You don't just patch the OS. Also consider system and device firmware, the HMC, etc. There's nothing worse than worse than opening a ticket with IBM and being told that a months-old fix pack or a firmware update would have solved your problem.

Using NIM to Install VIOS

While the HMC offers its own VIO server installation options, for many of us, NIM is still the way to go. IBM Support provides additional information about NIM for VIOS installation:

“This document guides you through the steps of preparing NIM for new VIOS installation. It provides instructions how to create the needed NIM resources to perform VIOS installation. In case you run into any problems during this operation open new case with IBM Support team for further investigation.

“This topic is covered in the following parts:
Downloading the VIOS iso image
Pulling the mksysb_image file from the VIOS iso image and checking its integrity
Defining the VIOS as client of NIM
Defining mksysb and spot resources and allocating them to the VIOS
Booting the VIOS in SMS over network"

This doc also features several helpful screenshots.

PowerVM and AIX Networking Options

This IBM Support document lists some quick tips for configuring PowerVM and AIX:

"The purpose of this document is to list common issues and their solutions concerning Ethernet adapters with IBM PowerVM and AIX. This document covers dedicated (stand-alone) Ethernet adapters, EtherChannel and SEA configurations.

“This document discusses the following topics:
Link Down and Link Up errors on Ethernet devices
General EtherChannel Failure
Link Aggregation Control Protocol (LACP) EtherChannel Tips
General Shared Ethernet adapter (SEA) failures
Configure output options for unused Ethernet devices”

Power10 to Utilize Oracle Databases?

An interesting development:

“IBM has quietly announced it is planning a 24-core Power10 processor, seemingly to make one of its servers capable of running Oracle's database in a cost-effective fashion.

“A hardware announcement dated December 13 revealed the chip in the following 'statement of general direction' about Big Blue's Power S1014 technology-based server:

“IBM intends to announce a high-density 24-core processor for the IBM Power S1014 system (MTM 9105-41B) to address application environments utilizing an Oracle Database with the Standard Edition 2 (SE2) licensing model. It intends to combine a robust compute throughput with the superior reliability and availability features of the IBM Power platform while complying with Oracle Database SE2 licensing guidelines.”

A Closer Look at the Latest AIX Release

If you didn't catch it ahead of the holidays, Chris Gibson wrote something for this very website. Be sure to read his thoughts on some AIX 7.3 TL1 enhancements that caught his eye.

More Thoughts on the Cloud Journey

So last month, I drove cross-country. More recently, my wife and I were traveling again, this time by air.

It was fascinating to look at the map as our plane covered the miles in literally fractions of the time that it did by car. Going from Amarillo to Albuquerque took many hours by car, but in flight that portion of the trip felt like it was only a matter of minutes. Sure, that's to be expected when you're moving at 500 MPH, but it's still impressive.

Don't forget boats: Years ago, I took an automobile ferry across Lake Michigan. That was unique, and of course it was also a time-saver compared to the alternative of driving around that Great Lake. I've yet to make long journeys by train. Of course, passenger rail travel is more common in Europe and elsewhere than here in the U.S.

So which method of travel is best? Of course, that depends. As much as I hike and camp, I can't see me piling my belongings into an RV and seeing the country for months at a time, but plenty of people do just that. But how you choose to get there comes down to your preferences and circumstances. What kind of cargo are you hauling? How much time do you have? How much do you want to see new scenery and experience new places? How much do you hate lines at airport security checkpoints?

Last month I compared traveling options to businesses exploring their options with cloud. I still like the analogy. Should you keep your systems on-premises? Should you move only certain workloads? Should you contract with a managed services provider? It depends. These are questions only you and your organization can answer. You may find others' experiences with cloud instructive, but ultimately, no one knows your business like you. It's up to you to determine the best way to your destination.