IBM - Software Support Handbook - Preventing problems

Software Support Handbook

Preventing problems

Regardless of what type of system you are running, from the largest mainframe to the smallest laptop, you want your system to be available when you need it to get your work done. The data should also be secure from loss or contamination, ensuring confidence in the accuracy of the results. IBM recommends the installation of regular maintenance to proactively avoid problems caused by software defects already known and corrected by IBM.

Preventive service packages

The delivery mechanism and media varies by operating system platform (see the table below) and in some case by the software product, but the idea is the same: to install fixes for bugs (APARs) that may affect the stability of your system or the security of your data BEFORE you experience a problem.

Preventive Service Packages are updated frequently. If you have a stable environment where you never encounter problems, you do not need to install every package. However, we recommend periodic installation, since fixes are nearly always built at the latest maintenance level. Keeping fairly current with service will reduce the volume of change required should you need a fix for a problem you are experiencing. The frequency of these installations will be based on your operating environment. Before making major changes, such as adding new hardware, software or even major applications, you should consider installing maintenance.

There are several types of maintenance. Typically, a fix is a resolution for a specific product defect. A fix is also called a patch, program temporary fix (PTF) or update. A fix pack is a cumulative fix that resolves multiple product defects. It is also referred to as a patch, update or preventive service package. An upgrade is a new version of software with new functions added."

Preventive service updates by operating system/platform
Operating system/platform Preventive service package Method Packaging Frequency
AIX Technology Levels (TL) and intermediate Service Packs (SP)
See the IBM AIX Operating System Service Strategy Details and Best Practices.
Fix Central An AIX TL is an accumulation of fixes, new device support and programming enhancements. TLs will receive maintenance via SPs for 2 years beginning with AIX 5.3 TL6 and AIX 6.1
An AIX SP is an accumulation of fixes on top of its corresponding TL.
Approximately semi-annual for Technology Levels
Approximately 8-12 weeks for SPs
i5OS and OS/400 CUM CD-ROM, Group PTFs, Service Packs, HIPER PETs Fix Central CD-ROM of recommended service 3-8 per year depending on the age of the release
z/OS Recommended Service Upgrade (RSU) Customer orders by SMP/E Internet Retrieval Service, ServiceLink, ShopzSeries, Support Portal or phone All fixes for one SREL (MVS, CICS, IMS, or NCP) for a customer number since the last order, with IBM recommendations (RSU) and Enhanced HOLDDATA Available monthly, recommended quarterly
VM Recommended Service Upgrade (RSU) Customer orders by ServiceLink, ShopzSeries or phone Cumulative IBM recommended Service preapplied and prebuilt 2-4 times per year
VSE FSU Tape Customer orders by phone or from VSE Home Page List of recommended PTFs every 2-3 months
Fast Service Upgrade Customer orders via ShopzSeries Complete system with all PTFs applied every 6-12 months
Middleware should align with the platform on which it runs, see the specific product support page for details
Not all options are available in all geographies

Fix Central

Fix Central makes it simpler to find the fixes from IBM, you can search by product, operating system, release, or even by APAR ID or fix ID. IBM product teams are in the process of adopting this delivery option, so if the fix you want is not available through Fix Central, it will be available on the product support page.

Fix list for High Impact APARs

IBM also maintains a list of fixes for High Impact APARs that should be conscientiously installed between fix pack installations, depending on the applicability to your environment. These APARs are categorized as "HIPER" which means the problems they describe and fix are in one or more of the following categories:

To locate more information, navigate to the support page for a particular product and search on "fix list."

Stay informed with automated alerts

We know it's hard to stay informed. That's why we have a system that will e-mail you when new fixes or alerts come out. You create a profile indicating what kinds of information you're interested in, so you only receive the information you're looking for. There are different types of automated information:

Support Subscriptions can be set up via My Notifications

Allows you to receive security advisories and alerts that maintenance fixes are available. See the website for the complete list of what you can sign up for. The basic free service is extremely helpful, but you can also choose to expand the capabilities of this service.   For System z, information about Security / Integrity APARs and the ability to receive notifications can be found at http://www.vm.ibm.com/security/aparinfo.html

Plan Upgrades More Efficiently

Check the IBM Software Product Lifecycle link from http://www.ibm.com/software/info/supportlifecycle at least once every quarter for 12-month advance notification of End of Service dates or links to IBM announcement letters. With that information, you can be more proactive and efficient in planning product upgrades.

System z Help

Enhanced PSP??  SMP/E Internet Retrieval Service?? Stand-alone Dump Best Practices??  Get up to speed in the z/OS Service section of IBM Education Assistant.

Support terms

Acronyms

Additional references

Handbook in PDF format

The handbook is also available as a PDF-formatted document. The current version is dated March, 2014.

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