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An overview of IBM Health Checker for z/OS


Note: This article ran in the August, 2005 issue of Hot Topics, a z/OS newsletter. This and other Hot Topics articles can be accessed at www.ibm.com/servers/eserver/zseries/zos/bkserv/hot_topics.html


Youv'e been up all night recovering from a problem on your systems; restoring system service for your applications and checking how your applications are doing. You gather a set of diagnostic documentation and open up a problem record with the IBM support center. You cross your fingers, hoping that the problem does not happen again. You enter the problem in your own problem management system and write yourself a reminder to prepare the inevitable presentation for management that explains the painful details. Working with IBM, the problem is debugged. The analysis identifies the root cause of the problem to be an invalid configuration setting; a setting not changed for literally years. How could this be? The setting hadn't caused a problem all these years. At last, you find the needle in the haystack. The recommended setting was changed in the latest manual, documented in a single line of text, in a 400 page book. You mumble under your breath, "if I had only known this yesterday."

 

Get your apple a day; its the IBM Health Checker for z/OS! Its a new function of z/OS that provides the framework to dynamically introduce and manage the software checks for system components. The active settings and resource usage on a system can be compared with known best practices and recommendations, alerting you to potential problems. As the framework runs on your actual system, and the checks look at in-storage or live values, you'll only see information that is pertinent to your executing environment.

Outage Analysis

The z/OS development team reviews problems that have caused outages. Our analysis looks beyond root cause to identify trends. The team attempts to address the trends with enhancements to z/OS so that the potential for that type of problem is eliminated. 

 

Another aspect of our analysis is to determine if the problem was avoidable. Was there a configuration that didn't reflect a best practice recommendation? Why was the best practice not implemented? We document these in many places, but know that:

Some recommendations can change over time based on additional IBM and customer experiences. Recommendations can change based on other changes introduced in the system. The new recommendation might be identified after you have already implemented a prior recommendation. A "bad" setting may have been in place for a very long time, but it never surfaced as a problem until new functions were enabled or a number of events occurred at the "wrong" time. 

The Solution

What if we were able to programmatically check for the adherence of best practices, and to do so in real time. On the system itself? Even better, what if we provided a common, standard way for all software on the z/OS stack to check their best practices or recommendations? What if installations could add their own checks? Hence, we sowed the seeds for the IBM Health Checker for z/OS. The IBM Health Checker for z/OS consists of the:

Framework: Provides the services for the checks and the externals for operators and system programmers. It is also called the backbone, and runs on the system as a started task.
Checks: Are the mechanisms identifying best practices, thresholds, and single points of failure.

The architecture of the framework and the checks is open, enabling IBM, ISVs, and you to write checks.

Debbie Beatrice is a z/OS user experience professional with IBM.

Geoff Miller is a Distinguished Engineer with IBM.


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