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IBM AIX best practices and methods

Some of the best practices and methods to come out of the "care and feeding of AIX" class at IBM System p, AIX 5L and Linux Technical University included how to best configure the /etc/netsvc.conf file, why to increase the number of AIX users and how to implement the Electronic Service Agent, all to be outlined in the final part of our IBM Tech University series by Ken Milberg.

Ken Milberg
A class on the "care and feeding of AIX" discussed best practices that included how best to configure the /etc/netsvc.conf file, making it easier to troubleshoot when resolving DNS issues. It was emphasized that this file should resolve locally and through DNS. The line would read as such:

'hosts = local , bind'

You then would need to make sure that all the local adapter IP addresses are entered in /etc/hosts. After that is complete, for every adapter on the system you would apply:

# host <ipaddress>

This will ensure a host command generates the same ouput (the hostname) with and without /etc/netsvc.conf. That way, you'll know you can continue to do certain things while troubleshooting a DNS problem.

IBM Tech University Series
Part 1: A week at IBM University
Part 2: HACMP meet Linux
Part 3: Integrating IBM AIX's NIM and SUMA
Part 4: IBM AIX best practices

Another best practice was to increase the amount of licensed AIX users to the maximum. Hmmm, is that legal or ethical? Actually, it's both. IBM no longer charges per AIX user, but will continue to enforce the setting for number of licensed users, which defaults to two (wonder why?). You can either use Systems Management Interface Tool (SMIT) or the following command at the command line to make the change:

# chlicense -u 32767

The new number will become effective after the next reboot.

Electronic Service Agent was also discussed. This free tool resides on POWER5 systems and is configured from the Hardware Management Console (HMC). It's a proactive tool that automatically reports hardware problems to IBM, enabling support to arrive quickly on site with the knowledge and parts to get the job done. As a VAR or systems integrator tasked with supporting a client, implementing this tool will help the client meet their SLAs, which will ultimately put you in a better light. Some VARs only look to push boxes and move on to the next client. Even if you don't have your own support contract with the client, when you properly integrate these types of tools for them, you're demonstrating that you care about their environments -- and that goes a long way toward repeat business.

There are several ways to implement the Electronic Service Agent. Use standard phone lines through a modem or an Internet connection over Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to call home. Either way, there is no excuse for a customer not to have a fully functional, tested version of the service agent.

Finally IBM recommends that one should apply a release level and a minimum of at least one service pack per year. Release levels are normally released twice per year now and service packs usually every three months. Some people feel they need to install every service pack that comes out. I like to first check the service pack's functionality before determining whether or not it is worth installing on my entire server farm. The bigger the farm the more likely you are to have several environments (development, test and production) for each system, and the more complicated it is to roll out patches through all your environments.

One of the best things about Tech University, is not only the wealth of information on all the new innovation, but also the tips and best practices that you normally will not see in an IBM Redbook. For the IBM business partner, there is nothing better then IBM's Tech University -- especially when it's in Vegas. :)

About the author: Kenneth Milberg is a systems consultant with his own independent consulting firm, Unix-Linux Solutions. He has 15 years' worth of experience with Unix and Linux systems, as well as broad technical and functional experience with AIX, HP, SCO, Linux and Solaris. Milberg holds certifications with IBM (IBM Certified Systems Expert -- eServer p5 and pSeries Enterprise Technical Support AIX 5L V5.3 & IBM Certified Specialist –HACMP), SUN (SCNA,SCSA), HP (HP Certified –HP-UX administration) Cisco (CCNA) and Oracle (OCP-DBO).

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