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Manage PTFs on IBM i with Administration Runtime Expert ARE



Managing PTFs across many systems can be difficult. The good news is IBM has an innovative tool that can greatly simplify this process. Administration Runtime Expert provides an interface where you can compare many end point IBM i systems to a central system to see the PTFs that are missing. You then have the option to send, load and apply the missing PTFs to the end point systems. This article by Rudi van Helvoirt, an expert in managing many IBM i partitions for many users, shows step by step how to set up and use ARE to manage PTFs.


Administration Runtime Expert (ARE)

Part 1 – PTF Management 2.0

Back in September 2015 an article written by Dawn May in her “i Can” blog inspired me to get going in managing PTF's with ARE. At that time Dawn was working for IBM and the article could be found on the IBM Systems Magazine website. Today that article is no longer available but can still be found here:

ARE continues to under go many changes and enhancements.  This article will go into details about how to set up ARE  to distribute and manage PTF's from one Central system to many others.

There are a few things to be aware of, however. In order to distribute PTFs, they need to be on the central system; for that I use the command:  “SNDPTFORD PTFID(SF99741) CHKPTF(*YES)”. This command puts everything in the right place with one step. Given today's abundance of bandwidth to the Internet, PTF ISO images are a thing of the past.

This article will cover using the PTF save files to distribute to the end point systems. Note: PTFs which are not applied on the source partition will not to be taken into account when comparing.

Below a step by step approach to get you going:

  1. Start Administration Runtime Expert GUI interface on the central system
    • This can be done by initiating the following command:
  2. Access the ARE interface using your browser or launch ARE from the IBM i Access Client Solutions (ACS) interface. 
    • You can bookmark the ARE URL in your browser by using the following syntax: http://system_name:12401/are 
    • OR, a better way is to create a link in ACS.

      In ACS you can add a link to ARE that will give you an easy way to launch ARE from the ACS left navigation section. To configure the ARE link, click on the following sections:
            ACS => Management => System Configuration => Edit => Console Tab
Access Client Solutions Configure System Management Link
Please be aware that starting with version ACS you now have a new tab to select for the  Hardware Management Interface values.
ACS Hardware Management tab under System Configuration
The next time you want to use ARE, click the Administration Runtime Expert link under the  Console heading in the left navigation area.
Launch ARE from ACS
3.  You are required to authenticate to the IBM i after you first click or open the ARE URL, either directly in your browser or if you launch it from ARE. When you open the link the first thing you will see is a sign on window, which looks something like this:
 Sign in to the ARE interface
4.  After you have signed in, the Main ARE Home page is shown.  This is the starting place. Here you will need to configure a new template. The template identifies what things should be validated against an endpoint system. Click on the 'Create' button to get started. 
ARE Home Page
5. In order to create your PTF distribution template, press the 'Create' button and fill in a meaningful name or use the default.
Launch the Create Template Interface
6.   The main template editor is now shown. Here you can identify many different attributes and values for validation. 
ARE Template Builder
7.  For this template we want to validate PTFs.  Open the Software Requirements twisty to see the PTFs plugin.  To add PTFs to this template, click on the Edit link.  
Expand Software Requirements
8.  Each plugin allows you to define 'Collections'. Each collection is a specific groping of values that will be used to validate against an endpoint system. To add a new collection, click on the Add button. 
Open the PTFs template page
9.  After you click on Add, you will be prompted for the type of add you want. For this example, we want to validate PTFs from a central system.  Click on the 'PTFs or Groups installed on a central system' option.  There are a couple of things to point out here. First, the central system is the system that this ARE template is run from. For this example, it is where we are running the ARE GUI.  Second, all the PTFs we want to validate must be both loaded and applied on this central system.
Add a Collection for PTFs Installed on a Central System
10.  The obvious choice would be to select only PTF Groups, but as we want to make sure we do not want to leave any individual PTF out, its best to select both All PTF Groups and All for Product PTFs.  Additionally, specify a meaningful name for this collection incase you want to add more collections in the future.
Select all PTF Groups as well as All Product PTFs
11. After Pressing 'OK', we are returned to the collections page with this newly created collection shown. 
PTF Collection Page
12.  Press 'OK' to return to the template editor main page. 
Click Build Template button to Build
13. Now its time to build the template.  Click the 'Build template' button to start the process. Review the summary of what is going to be built and click 'Confirm' to actually build this template. ARE is now going to harvest information from this central / GUI system and build a verification template that will be used to validate the selected information against endpoint systems. 
Build Template Validation Page, Click Confirm
14.  Once the template as been successfully built you will see the green check mark and the 'Home' button will show. Click 'Home' to return to the ARE Home page. 
Template Built Successfully, Click Home to Return to Home Page
15.  Congratulations!  You have now build your first ARE Template.  To run this template against one or more endpoint systems, click on the 'Launch Console' button to open the ARE runtime Console. 
Home page with newly created template shown
16.  The console gives you the ability to specify many endpoint systems that you may want to run a template validation against. Click on the 'Add' button to specify a new endpoint system.
Console page - Here you run your created template agains the endpoint systems
17.  Specify the system name, a user and password for that endpoint system, and the template that you want to validate against. 
Note: For the system name, the IP address can be used if the name cannot be resolved.
Specify endpoint system, user, password, and desired template
18.  By pressing the 'Verify systems' button, you start the validation process against that endpoint system. The screens below show the progression of the validation process.
Running template against endpoint system step1
Running template against endpoint system step2
Running template against endpoint system step3
19.  When the template validation has completed, you will be returned to a validation status page. Here you can see if there are differences on the endpoint system or if everything is the same. 
When difference are found, you will be shown the number of differences found during the validation process.
Template verification complete with difference found
If no differences are found, you will see 'No problems found' as the returned status. 
Template verification compete with NO difference found
20.   To see the actual report with the details on what was found during the validation process,  click on the line reporting the issues found, A select list will display where you can choose what report you would like to view. The Summary report is formatted well for viewing in a browser and also provides the ability to launch the next step in this process which may either be fixing the issues; or sending, loading and applying the missing PTFs. Click on the 'Summary Report' link to view this report.
Click to open the Summary View of the template verification
21.  The Summary report details each of the items that were discovered during the validation process, both good and bad. To correct these PTF validation issues (i.e. PTFs that are that are on the central system but missing from the endpoint system), click on the 'Fix Actions' link. 
Summary view showing there are fix actions available
22.  The Fix Actions page gives you the option of choosing what PTFs you want to have sent, loaded, and applied to the endpoint system.  Either click on the individual PTFs you want to 'fix', or scroll to the bottom of the list of entries. 
View the list of available fix actions.
23. To have all PTFs that are missing considered for the fix action process, click on the 'Select All' button at the bottom of the list of Fix Actions.
Scroll to the bottom and click on Select All
24.  Back at the top of the list are two options. You have to check one.  
You have the option of doing a delayed apply of the PTFs, OR you can choose to just send the SavFiles only.   The main reason for me to select the '*Savf file only' option, is I want to be in control when to apply the PTFs.  Another reason is that I want a new Full System save before I start applying PTFs.
Choose the fix actions you wish to apply
25. After you have selected the PTF and the Action to take, Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the 'Fix' button.  This will launch a process against the endpoint system to send the *Savf, and if requested, to load and apply the PTFs.  This process will take some time to complete. You will see a processing popup to let you know this is happening. 
Fix Actions being applied. This step will take some time as all selected PTFs are being sent to the endpoint and processed
26. Now the waiting begins because it take some time depending on the amount of PTFs being  sent across. This is done by tasks on the system called “QPWFSERVSO” on the source and endpoint system the name is identical. On the endpoint system an extra task is running, called “QZRCSRVS”, under the same user profile running ARE. 
Green Screen on the Endpoint system showing the jobs that are doing the work
27. Once the Fix Action processing has completed the Fix Action screen is updated showing the status of each of the PTFs and if it was successfully Fixed. 
ARE Fix Actions completed
28.  On the endpoint system, the WRKPTFGRP screen will look similar to the one shown below. New group levels are available with the status “Not Installed” as we only choose to send the *Savf and not actually run the load and apply though the ARE Fix action.
Green Screen from Endpoint System showing all the PTFs Applied
Note: In this example only one PTF Group was behind the Central system. 
29.   Since I like to do a full system save before PTFs are loaded and applied, I can do the full system save on the endpoint system now.   Once the Save is complete I can now choose to load and apply all PTFs.  Its best to run the following command  on the endpoint systems:
All PTFs have now been loaded and applied in a delayed manner.  On the next IPL, all PTFs will be applied. 
The Administration Runtime Expert interface provides an easy way to keep track of many endpoint systems and automate the process of moving and even loading and applying PTFs across either a single endpoint or many endpoints. 

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Document Information

Modified date:
03 August 2020