When this article was first published in July 2003, it generated a tremendous response. AIX® users from all over the world were pleased to have many of their questions answered regarding AIX updates. Based upon feedback from readers, we learned that there are many more unanswered questions that weren't covered in the original article. Version 2 of this article, first published in 2003 and updated in 2005, addressed more of these unanswered questions. It also included all of the original questions so you would have a single reference document.
This article is an update to the Version 2 of this document and incorporates the changes resulting from the new AIX 5L™ Service Strategy recently announced by IBM.
Understanding the baffling arena of AIX updates is like doing a jigsaw puzzle. First you need to know what the pieces and terms mean, then learn how they all fit together. In this article, we'll explain the many terms and abbreviations, help you organize the pieces of the puzzle, then show how the pieces come together to complete the picture. Before we start, let's review a few IBM terms.
- Program Temporary Fix
- A Program Temporary Fix (PTF) provides a fix to a reported defect. The fix is temporary; the fix disappears when it is incorporated into the next release of the product. PTFs might contain a single fix, but generally contain multiple fixes and are associated with a single fileset.
For example, the PTF U476294 is for the fileset PEX_PHIGS.graPHIGS.rte.base. Specifically, U476294 updates the fileset to 22.214.171.124. The 126.96.36.199 is known as the Version.Release.Maintenance/Modification.Fix (V.R.M.F). The PTF contains 11 fixes (known as APARs, defined below).
- Problem Management Record
- A Problem Management Record (PMR) is a tracking record for customer-reported problems.
- Authorized Program Analysis Report
- An Authorized Program Analysis Report (APAR) associates a fix to a PMR. You can then use the APAR number to obtain the required fix. When documenting software requirements, it's best to list the APAR number rather than the PTF or PMR number. You will always be able to determine if an APAR is installed on your system using the command
instfix -ivk APAR_NUMBER, whereas installed PTFs are not trackable.
Continuing with our U476294 example, the PTF contains the following APARs: IY18782, IY18936, IY18950, IY19534, IY19690 (2 defects), IY19765, IY20521, IY20877, IY20919, and IY20921.
An APAR can drag into it other APARs for fileset dependencies.
APARs and PTFs are tightly coupled in that PTFs contain multiple APAR fixes. An APAR is a single fix that is delivered using a PTF packaging.
- Maintenance Level
A Maintenance Level (ML) is the service updates that are necessary to upgrade the base operating system (BOS) or an optional software product to the current release level.
Starting in 2006, as part of the new AIX 5L Service Strategy, MLs are replaced by Technology Levels (TLs). They are defined below.
- Technology Level
A Technology Level (TL) is the new term for the twice yearly AIX 5L releases, which contain new hardware and software features and service updates. The first TL will be restricted to hardware features and enablement, as well as software service. The second TL will include hardware features and enablement, software service, and new software features.
Installing a TL should be viewed as an "all or nothing" operation, meaning that requisites will be added so that the whole TL is installed, and not allow a TL to be partially installed. You should back up your system prior to installing a TL.
- Service Pack
A Service Pack (SP) consists of service-only updates (also known as PTF's) that are released between Technology Levels to be grouped together for easier identification. These fixes address highly pervasive, critical, or security-related issues. Service Packs are provided for the N and N-1 releases (for example, V5.3 and V5.2) on the latest Technology Level for each release (for example, 5300-04 and 5200-08).
- Concluding Service Pack
Concluding Service Pack (CSP) is the last Service Pack for a Technology Level. The CSP contains fixes for highly pervasive, critical, or security-related issues just like a Service Pack, but it might also contain fixes from the newly released Technology Level that fall into these categories. Therefore, a CSP contains a very small subset of service that was just released as a part of a new Technology Level.
CSPs allow for extended service on a Technology Level through the utilization of Interim Fixes.
- Interim Fix
The term Interim Fix is used as a replacement for "emergency fix" or "efix". While the term emergency fix is still applicable in some situations (a fix given in the middle of the night with minimal testing), the term Interim Fix is more descriptive in that it implies a temporary state until an update can be applied that has been through more extensive testing.
Interim Fixes that address non-security related issues are provided for the two most recent supported releases (for example, V5.3 and V5.2) on the last two Technology Levels for each release.
alt_disk_installcommand allows users a way to update the operating system to the next release or Technology Level without taking the machine down for an extended period of time. This can be done in two ways: by installing a mksysb image on a separate disk, or by cloning the current system and then applying updates to get to the next Technology Level on a separate disk. If a problem is encountered with the new level, the
bootlistcommand can be run after the new disk has been booted, and the
bootlistcan be changed to boot back to the original disk in order to get the system back to the original level.
Beginning with AIX 5L 5300-03, the multibos utility allows the root level administrator to create and maintain two bootable instances of the AIX 5L Base Operating System (BOS) within the same root volume group (rootvg). This utility is provided primarily as an upgrade vehicle.
The multibos utility allows the administrator to access, install maintenance, update, and customize the standby instance of BOS (during setup or in subsequent customization operations) without affecting production on the running instance. Migration to later releases of AIX 5L will be supported when they are available, so that will be a future option to keep in mind.
The file systems /, /usr, /var, /opt, and /home, along with the boot logical volume, must exist privately in each instance of BOS. The administrator has the ability to share or keep private all other data in the rootvg. As a general rule, shared data should be limited to file systems and logical volumes containing data not affected by an upgrade or modification of private data.
When updating the non-running BOS instance, it is best to first update the running BOS instance with the latest available version of multibos (which is in the bos.rte.bosinst fileset).
In the following discussions, we use the terms ML for AIX 5L released before 2006 (for example, 5300-03 and 5200-07) and TL for AIX 5L released after 2006 (for example, 5300-04 and 5200-08).
Now let's assume you've encountered a problem while compiling or executing your application, and you call your IBM technical contact for help. He or she will ask several questions, including if you are running the latest ML or TL. The following set of questions and answers will help you provide what the technical contact needs:
- What ML or TL of AIX am I running on my system?
- The output from
oslevel -rcommand tells you what ML or TL you are running.
- Is this the latest ML or TL?
- Let's assume the output from
oslevel -rin the previous question was 5300-03. To determine if this is the latest ML or TL, go to Quick links for AIX fixes Web site and click on the AIX 5L version you are running. This takes you to the Fix Bundles Web page, which gives a complete list of all MLs and TLs released for that version.
- If there is a higher ML or TL available, where do I get it and how do I install it?
- Click on the link for the Fix Central Web site where, from the picklist, you select your AIX 5L level you want to go to (such as 5300-04). Clicking on the Continue button will take you to the Fix Bundles Web page where you select the packages or updates needed. You will then be taken to a page where you are given a number of choices (package information, downloads, complete list of updates, installation instructions, and so forth). Navigating through these choices provides you with important information about the updates you want to install.
To install the fix, select Installation instructions and then Download. After the fix is installed, run the oslevel -r command. If:
- the fix was installed completely, the output should be
5300-04. Reboot your system. The system is now at 5300-04 TL 04.
- the output was still 5300-03, that means there are missing filesets. For TL4 (the example we are discussing here), the missing fix has to be re-installed. From TL5 onward, in a situation like this, the entire TL has to be re-installed.
oslevel -rl 5300-04
- the fix was installed completely, the output should be
- How would I know which fileset(s) and which APARs (fixes) are included in the above maintenance package?
- Clicking on the Package information tab on the Web page discussed in the previous answer will show this information.
- How do I download a particular APAR and how do I know which filesets are effected by it?
- Go to Quick links for AIX fixes Web page. Under the Specific fixes category:
- Pick your OS level.
- In the Search by box pick APAR number or abstract from the picklist.
- In the Search string box, specify the APAR you are interested in, such as IY18782.
- Click on Go.
- Highlight the fix(es) you are interested in and click on Add to my download list.
- Click on Proceed to packaging.
- Pick your current maintenance level.
- Specify File location if you're building a custom fix package.
- Click on Proceed to download page.
- The page will also show which filesets are effected by this APAR.
- How do I determine if all filesets of an ML or TL are installed?
- The output from the command
instfix -i|grep ML and/or instfix -i|grep TLshows whether all filesets are installed. The following is a typical output when all filesets are installed:
All filesets for 5300-01_AIX_ML were found. All filesets for 5300-02_AIX_ML were found. All filesets for 5300-03_AIX_ML were found. All filesets for 5300-04_AIX_ML were found.
If the filesets for any ML or TL were not completely installed, there will be a message similar to "Not all filesets for xxxx_AIX_ML were found" or "Not all filesets for xxxx_AIX_TL were found."
- What SP is installed on my system?
- To see which SP is currently installed on the system, run the oslevel -s command. Sample output for an AIX 5L Version 5.3 system, with TL4, and SP2 installed would be:
oslevel –s 5300-04-02
- Are the SPs cumulative?
- Yes. For example, if SP3 is applied, all of the previous critical fixes from SP1 and SP2 will also be applied.
- Can you still apply PTFs?
Yes. Applying and rejecting an individual service update (PTF) is still a supported and recommended method of removing an update, if there is a problem or a regression after it is installed. Since SPs can also be rejected, it is recommended that before applying an SP or a PTF update that all other updates on the system are committed (put in the "commit" state) to allow for easy identification of the SP updates.
Applying the latest level of available updates moves the system to the latest SP.
- Is a CSP installed on my system?
- To see if a CSP is currently installed on the system, run the oslevel -s command. Sample output for an AIX 5L Version 5.3 system, with TL3, and CSP installed would be:
oslevel –s 5300-03-CSP
- How can I determine which fileset updates are missing from a particular AIX level?
- Run the following command to determine which fileset updates are missing from a level:
oslevel -rl 5300-04
- How do I determine if a particular fix is installed on my system?
- The following command checks to see if the fix IY24043 is installed.
instfix -ik IY24043 All filesets for IY24043 were found.
If all filesets were not installed, the system displays a message to that effect.
- How do I verify that the filesets have the required prerequisites and are completely installed?
- The output from the command
lppchk -vshows if the filesets have the required prerequisites and are completely installed. If there is no output from this command, the filesets are completely installed. Otherwise, the filesets that need to be installed or corrected are displayed.
- What does AIX 5300-03 consist of?
- The AIX 5300-03 Recommended Maintenance package is a set of hardware and AIX 5L enhancements and AIX 5L fixes for AIX 5.3.0. This maintenance package is intended for customers that already have AIX 5.3.0 installed and want a later set of preventive maintenance.
- What does AIX 5300-04 consist of?
- AIX 5300-04 refers to AIX 5L Version 5.3 TL4. It has a set of hardware enhancements and AIX 5L fixes. It does not have any AIX 5L enhancements. This package is intended for customers that already have AIX 5.3.0 installed and want to move to 5300-04.
- Other than the Download option, are there other ways to get a maintenance package?
- Yes, there are two other ways:
- AIX Update CD -- An Update CD is shipped with all new orders of AIX 5L. Existing pSeries® customers who are licensees of AIX 5L can obtain the February 2006 Update CD at no charge, except for media charges as they apply in their geography, by contacting their point of sale and requesting feature code 0967B. U.S. customers can call 1-800-879-2755.
- Maintenance package on physical media -- The Download option addressed in one of the previous questions (How do I download a particular APAR and how do I know which filesets are effected by it?) leads you to the option of downloading the package on a physical media. You need an IBM ID. If you do not have one, you can get it when prompted for it by registering online. Customers with a Support Line offering might also contact Support Line (1-800-CALL-AIX in the U.S.) to get the AIX 5300-04 TL package on media.
- How do I know which problems have been fixed in this ML or TL?
- AIX Update CD contains a list of all APARs fixed in the 5300-04 TL package. You can get a list of these APARs by using the command:
- How do I install the latest filesets (by APAR, PTF, or fileset)?
- To install selected updates, use the command:
To install all updates, use the command:
Or you can use the
- How can I search all existing APARs to see if my problem has already been fixed?
- Check the APAR database: APAR database.
For instance, if you are looking for a fix for a memory related problem, do a search on memory in the APAR database and check to see what APAR(s) have been issued on this topic.
By going through the preceding steps, not only will you be able to provide your IBM technical contact all the information they need, you'll also be keeping your system at the latest ML.
Let's assume that the problem you encountered originally remains unresolved, and the technical contact advises you to open a PMR. So what do you do?
To open a PMR, you must have an IBM PartnerWorld For Developers (PWD) ID. If you don't have one, to get an IBM PWD ID:
- Go to IBM PartnerWorld.
- Select PartnerWorld Membership > Join (PartnerWorld for Developers) > Register.
- Fill in the application. The processing is fast; your registration number is displayed at the top of the page.
Call Partner Line at 1-800-426-9990 (US) or +1-770-858-5052 (International). Be prepared to give them your IBM PWD ID, your name, and company name. Tell them you want to open a PMR and be prepared to give a good description of the problem. PartnerWorld will then verify if you're entitled to support and, once verified, a tech call will be opened up for you.
Support can be purchased at the PWD Web site.
All PMRs are assigned a severity code, ranging from one to four, with one being the highest and four the lowest:
- System is down or primary application is unusable and no workaround is available.
- System and primary application are usable, but severely affected.
- System and primary application are usable with little effect, or an acceptable workaround is available.
- Problem has little or no effect on use of the system or primary application.
If your PMR is severity 4, you will get very little progress on the PMR. You should get daily updates on the status of your PMR if it is severity 1.
After you've opened the PMR, you'll be contacted by the person who will be handling it. They might want more information about your application and the environment it is using, or might want to give you status. Customers cannot directly check the PMR status; you must ask the contact person.
|How often are the TLs released?||Twice a year.|
|What is the release cycle for TLs?||TLs are usually released in February and August.|
|How often are the SPs released?||They are released approximately every four to six weeks after the release of a TL.|
|How often are the CSPs released?||The CSPs are released shortly after a new TL is released. For example, if TL 5300-04 is released in February of 2006, the CSP for the previous release, 5300-03, will be released in February or March 2006.|
|Are the MLs or TLs frozen?||Yes and no. You can order an ML or TL CD that is frozen, but be sure to specify you do not want any superseded filesets, and that you don't want any PTFs in Error (PEs). It is possible for a maintenance package to contain a PE even though significant testing has been performed by IBM. If a PE is discovered in a maintenance package, the maintenance package will be updated to correct the PE. Therefore, an ML or TL might contain superseded filesets.|
|How do I get a frozen level of AIX?||You can order the ML/TL CD directly and specify you do not want superseded filesets or any PEs, either. Or, you can order an AIX Update CD by using a feature code. AIX Update CDs are produced twice a year in the spring and fall, generally around the same time the MLs/TLs are released.|
|How can I determine what has changed from one fileset version to another?||For MLs and TLs, you can get a listing of all the APARs shipped and compare the differences between them. There is no mapping of the APAR to a fileset. Determining incremental fixes to a fileset is not directly possible.|
|What if I am at ML9 and I discover a bug in AIX?||If a problem is discovered in AIX, the AIX support team will first request that the system be upgraded to the latest levels of code. Often an upgrade will fix the problem. If application providers specify a particular level of AIX, the customer might be in a quandary. The application provider might not support the customer, if the customer isn't at the specified levels. In such a case, the application provider should reproduce the problem in-house using the same configuration as the customer. Ideally, someone could supply a test case that demonstrates the problem outside of the application. If it is determined the application is not at fault, then AIX should be informed of the breakage. It might be possible that a PE was shipped, and a correction is being developed.|
|What are the critical fixes for AIX 5L?||Critical fixes are those fixes which address security related issues, potential data integrity problems, and high-impact or pervasive problems. However, they do not include emergency fixes (efixes). Should you need an efix, contact your local support center.|
|How often are the critical fixes released?||Starting in 2006, critical fixes for AIX 5L service is no longer being updated. Because critical and pervasive fixes are now delivered as part of SPs, Critical Fix Packs will no longer be created.|
|Can you explain how AIX 5L fileset packaging works and how other fixes get pulled in when installing a particular fix or APAR.||An installed AIX 5L system consists of many files and directories. These files and directories are grouped into what is called a fileset. A fileset is a collection of functionally related files to form an installable unit. For example, the uniprocessor kernel is in a separate fileset from the multiprocessor kernel. Filesets are the smallest individually installable units. A package, on the other hand, is a group of filesets with common functionality collected into a single, installable image. This image is sometimes called a BFF (backup format file). For instance, |
Each fileset has a name and a V.R.M.F level. For example, the AIX 5L 5.3 has a fileset named
When I run the command
What does V.R.M.F tell me?
For each version or release of AIX 5L, all fixes are made on a single source file. Therefore, the changes thus made are cumulative. These changes, which result in updating the affected files, eventually lead to updating the filesets, which comprise these files. Naturally, the fileset updates are cumulative as well. Therefore, newer updates to any fileset supersedes all previous updates. From the user point of view, this fact is made simpler to understand through the use of V.R.M.F. This is how it works: each time a fileset is updated, the fix level in the V.R.M.F is incremented. This means that updates for a given fileset that have higher fix levels supersede all of the previous updates that have lower fix levels. Using the TCP/IP Client Support example from above, an output of
This shows that the tenth fix level to the
An ML or a TL consists of all changes made to a given version or release of AIX 5L. It might include other features, such as support for new systems or devices. It is made available from time to time. It will include a fileset only if it has changed since the previous ML/TL. When the ML/TL is incremented, the fix level is reset to zero. But since the V.R.M.F would still be higher than all the previous fix levels, this ML/TL update would supersede all previous levels.
|What if my system is at an earlier maintenance level plus some miscellaneous updates and I want to get to the latest maintenance level. Do I have to download the entire maintenance level?||No. Use the Fixed Central link and pick Using comapare_report from the Fix type picklist after selecting your AIX version from the Version picklist. This facility uses the |
An ASCII file named
This will create two files named
Once you click the Upload button, you will be presented with another page. Select the maintenance level your system is at and click Proceed to download page. You will then be presented with another Web page to select the download method. Select the desired method.
|Where do I find the latest fixes?||On the "Quick links for AIX fixes" Web site:
On the "Fix Central" Web site:
|Is it possible to get a list of available updates that are in the latest maintenance package, as well as fixes released after the latest maintenance package?||Yes. The ASCII file named LatestFixDataXX discussed in one of the previous questions (What if my system is at an earlier maintenance level plus some miscellaneous updates, and I want to get to the latest maintenance level. Do I have to download the entire maintenance level?) is such a file.|
|How does the ||The AIX 5L the |
|We started with a given AIX maintenance level on all of our systems, but now we've gotten out of sync. How can I use ||Output from |
|How do you know if an APAR (for example, IY44268) includes all fixes made for another APAR (for example, IY47002)?||Check the filesets effected by each APAR as described before and determine if some or
all filesets of one are included in the other. You will also need to check the V.R.M.F of each of these filesets.
In this article, we've explored the puzzle of AIX updates. Like any puzzle, the first step is to organize all the puzzle pieces. We organized the pieces by explaining several IBM abbreviations, then assembled the terms and showed how those pieces come together to complete the AIX update process.
AIX 5L Service Strategy and Best Practices: Reference this copy for AIX 5L best practices.
- Support for AIX 5L and Linux servers: This site provides tools and resources that help you streamline the technical planning and support for your IBM pSeries and RS/6000®.
- Quick links for AIX fixes: Visit this site for fixes, preventive actions, and search technical databases.
- IBM Software Support Guide: This handbook provides guidelines and reference materials that customers might need when they require IBM service and support.
- Solutions development for IBM Systems: Go to this site to get AIX development support.
- Check out other articles and tutorials written by Shiv Dutta:
- AIX and UNIX: The AIX and UNIX developerWorks zone provides a wealth of information relating to all aspects of AIX systems administration and expanding your UNIX skills.
- New to AIX and UNIX: Visit the New to AIX and UNIX page to learn more about AIX and UNIX.
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Shiv Dutta works as a Technical Consultant in the IBM Systems Group, where he assists independent software vendors with the enablement of their applications on pSeries servers. Shiv has considerable experience as a software developer, system administrator, and an instructor. He provides AIX support in the areas of system administration, problem determination, performance tuning, and sizing guides. Shiv has worked with AIX from its inception. You can reach him at email@example.com.