Tip

Analyze the health of your IBM i server with iScore

iScore is a free offering from Vision Solutions that gauges the "health" of your IBM i servers.

Installing and setting up iScore
My first installation attempt failed, as the iScore installer shipped with some faulty wiring. I called support and was told it would be a week beforestable software would be available. I was also promised a call back with additional information when it became available. A few hours later, I received a call from a pre-sales rep who wanted to gauge my interest in their product line and put me in touch with a sales consultant.

Upon re-downloading iScore, installation was simple. The installer client requests a user id, password and system name, sends a save file to the IBM i and starts an automated installation routine. A user profile called ITDLOWNER is created, given *ALLOBJ, *SPLCTL and *JOBCTL authorities and is permitted to sign on to the main menu. This setup could use some tidying.

Setting parameters and collecting data
Once the product is installed, the next step is to set the parameters for system data collection. You choose the start and end time/date, along with the job queue, and start the process. The newly created subsystem ITISCORE runs all of the data collection jobs, so as not to interfere with regular business jobs in other subsystems. This is forward thinking, but I'd like to know about what the installer process does ahead of time in terms of object creation.

On my system, data collection ran from start to finish in about two hours. During this period, the processor never peaked at more than 10% utilization, so the performance impact is fairly light.

Analyzing the health of your i
After the jobs completed, I had two files generated in my /home directory of the integrated file system (IFS). The first file is a PDF document that contains the health assessment of my system. The second is a DAT file that can be dissected, if need be, by a Vision business partner.

The IBM i that I hold to such high regard had a reported 29% health level.

I've been working with the AS/400 as both a customer and an IBM business partner since 2000. I like to think that I run a tight machine, from following security best practices to ensuring old IFS files are regularly purged. Most interactive queries are outlawed, the RPG code continues to be modernized and I drive vendors crazy with protocol enforcement. But yet, according to these results, our primary IBM i server is going through its final death throes. How can this be?

It's not. In fact, it runs pretty darn well for our business.

Putting your IBM i's performance in perspective
According to iScore, my system fails in the following categories: IFS, Jobs, Objects, Records, Indexes, Journals and Save Files. The results are "based on proprietary algorithms for estimating health across different areas of strategic interest" and compared against "suggested and healthy values." These healthy values, however, are not stated or explained.

In my opinion, after speaking with technical support staff and Bill Hammond, Vision's director of product marketing, iScore is a very general performance monitoring tool. It focuses on a few areas that may be problematic, based on many factors. iScore, in reality, can help by giving users an idea of common potential problem areas. The next step would then be to perhaps call Vision about their Director service, which offers much more in terms of finding out a system's performance information.

I'll defend my server and maintain that, with all due respect to iScore, the IFS is working great. We use it to share documents and spreadsheets, as well as for storage of thousands of high resolution photos. We have Domino data directories housed in two Domino servers there, as well. We're using the IFS as we intended: a big file server that never needs a reboot.

I won't go into the other problem areas, as they're all either easily explainable or irrelevant. The strength of my specific iSeries configuration has proven to overpower the workload put against it.

You nailed me on those save files though, iScore, as I do tend to leave them hanging around too long. I do have 200 GB usable DASD on a 400 GB machine, however, so I'm not too concerned. Thanks for the tip.

iScore lacks context

"iScore and our new ROI tool can be quickly populated with business data to give executives the information they need to improve system performance and determine strategic availability options for their organizations."
-Edward Vesely, senior vice president of marketing and business development, Vision Solutions

What iScore says about your system may terrify an executive that doesn't understand computer systems or your company's information systems departmental standards. Dashboards are great when customized to fit your business plan, its yearly targets and the acceptable ranges for everyday monitors, but they can't plug and play seamlessly without first being given details about your business and acceptable performance ranges.

My biggest concern with iScore is that it doesn't provide the key ingredient to any dashboard: the why factor. Every dashboard should inspire a reader to ask, "Why?" But it's hard to ask that when baselines are not defined and hard numbers aren't given. Granted, iScore is free, but dashboards with gauges set at levels that aren't explained make no sense. When I read the final report, I instead asked myself, "What?"

I personally receive "health" updates on my systems through IBM i utilities such as Collections Services or PM for i, in conjunction with commands like RTVDIRINF and RTVDSKINF. If you add in a couple of SQL or QUERY/400 queries and maybe a little RPG, you'll have databases full of useful data in a black and white report. Pull that out of the databases with a report writer, such as Cognos or Crystal Reports, and you'll have made an easy-to-build dashboard tailored to what your systems need.

For example, here is a list of some very basic health attributes that are not listed in the iScore report but could be compiled easily with the methods listed above:

  • What is the average interactive response time?
  • How many and what users have special authorities? Has this changed since last month?
  • Are there any enabled profiles that haven't logged on in over a year?
  • Is there an anti-viral product and is it up to date with virus definitions?
  • What's the rate of disk space growth over the last three, six, nine and 12 months? (This could be broken down by libraries, object owner, IFS departmental directories or Domino servers.)

Use iScore with a grain of salt. as things that are free often come with a price. In this instance, the price may be the misdiagnosis of an otherwise healthy system. More often than that, you either need to build or buy a service like this to get an accurate system health analysis.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Steve Pitcher is the Enterprise Servers and Application Analyst for Minas Basin Pulp & Power in NS, Canada. He's been specializing in System i and Lotus Domino solutions for the last decade. His blog, ENDJOBABN covers his adventures in, and amusement with, his work on the IBM i and Lotus Domino.

This was first published in November 2009

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