Architecting a Strategy
Building a platform-maintenance strategy for the IT enterprise.
Designing and architecting a platform-maintenance strategy for the IT enterprise is perhaps one of the most critical factors for successfully meeting availability objectives. Systems management must include methods to manage and maintain hardware and software updates while delivering new systems.
In addition to the original provisioning of servers and/or partitions, firmware and software currency are vital foundations to availability in any environment. There are many ways to remain current, such as applying the most recent patches as they become available or taking a more conservative approach, applying the most critical fixes only when a problem surfaces. At times, System p* clients choose to remain at levels that differ from the most recent release or service pack - but falling too far behind in currency is ill-advised. Furthermore, establishing maintenance windows, and architecture and change methodologies suitable to a chosen availability level are essential components of system planning and administration.
In reviewing many environments, there are commonalities (see "Top Lessons Learned for Server Availability" sidebar) that contribute to attaining good server availability, including monitoring, adherence to best practices and creating good test scenarios. However, at the heart of these suggestions, we rely upon developing an "availability driven culture" that not only provides an architecture for availability but also enables good maintenance practices.
The IBM* System p brand continues to focus on providing several options that should fit any environment's currency requirements. This article explores options, tools and roadmaps for maintaining firmware and software. It also covers the concepts of a rolling upgrade for environments that are particularly sensitive to maintenance windows. Two of the most significant changes we'll explore are the System p POWER5* option of Concurrent Firmware (CFM) and the new AIX* service strategy and roadmap.
System p Innovations
To meet increasing dependencies on IT infrastructures - 24-7 business continuity, critical yet disparate workloads that share machines or regions, and decreasing maintenance windows - several key concepts have been introduced for POWER5 firmware updates and for AIX 5L* and will continue to evolve to meet client needs.
The AIX service and release strategy underwent significant change in 2006, and was designed to allow more flexibility for clients that desire to remain on a release for longer periods of time and to simplify maintenance applications through the service pack concept. The v5.2 and v5.3 releases of AIX 5L include innovative features for reliability, availability, security and systems management. Most importantly, IBM has a strong future roadmap and commitment to AIX with plans to offer a new major release of AIX every two to three years for the next decade with maintenance releases and updates in between. IBM's current service strategy allows an enterprise to capitalize upon a minimum of one year of support for a release level - termed a Technology Level (TL)
Since priorities often shift, it may be desirable to periodically review the methodology and the criteria being used to define the firmware strategy, and modify it as necessary.
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