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IBM Power Software (AIX, Virtual HMC (vHMC), IBM i, PowerHA, PowerVM): Why clients should keep their application, operating system, and firmware components updated to current release levels



When IBM clients open support cases with IBM, the IBM Remote Technical Support may recommend applications, operating systems, appliances, and firmware components be upgraded to a current or "In Service" level.  These recommendations are provided to ensure client environments are using the most up to date enhancements to the products and to prevent unpredictable behaviors or issues.
This document explains why upgrade recommendations are made and identifies common consequences when IBM clients assume the risks for not keeping software and firmware components updated and in-sync.


The IBM Remote Technical Support are staffed and trained to provide quality and timely technical support on IBM's most current products and release levels. 
Details about IBM's "End of Service" policies are available on the IBM Support Lifecycle Policy FAQ page. Current product lifecycle details ("In Service" and "End of Service" dates) can be viewed on these product websites:
IBM recognizes the efforts required by clients to manage and maintain their many applications, systems, and devices at current levels, while minimizing the downtime to production environments.  The required preparation and tasks are not trivial, and if not performed correctly, can lead to significant impacts to our client's business and users.
IBM Remote Technical Support will recommend and encourage IBM clients to upgrade for these reasons:
  1. Adhere to best practices for keeping software levels in-sync
  2. Address known issues related to the reported problem
  3. Address undetermined or possible future issues using out-of-sync levels
  4. Take advantage of new enhancements or features
IBM, like any vendor, is not and will not be capable of testing and verifying all combinations of applications, operating systems, and firmware levels.  When considering all versions of all components, there are an infinite number of combinations to fully test all versions and combinations. 
An operating system, by definition, hides or masks the complexity of hardware and firmware from users and applications. Therefore, application testing does not usually focus on firmware levels, since it hidden from the applications by the operating system.  Additionally, access to the firmware is made through device driver or kernel level code of the operating system to service requests from the applications and the operating system itself.  Since the firmware is never aware of specific applications running on the operating system, the firmware is not tested with applications.  An exception is when there are direct interactions between the applications and firmware, then current releases of the application, operating system, and firmware may be tested.
Common product testing scenarios include:
  1. Current application releases are tested with current operating system releases
  2. Current operating system releases are tested with current firmware releases
Use the following descriptions (legend) while referring to the picture below:
  1. The columns represent each component; current applications (right blue box), operating system (center yellow box), and firmware levels (left orange box).
  2. The blue (right-center)  rectangle represents the current application releases and current operating system releases tested.
  3. The red (center-left) rectangle represents the current  operating systems releases and current firmware releases tested.
  4. The purple (lower) box represents the "out-of-sync" software stack when using a mix of current and outdated release levels.
  5. The green (upper) box represents the "in-sync" software stack when using current release levels.

Clients will experience higher stability and greater performance when using a combination of applications releases, operating systems releases, and firmware releases that fall within the overlap of the current testing scenarios (see the first green row in the preceding picture) or "in-sync" software.  The reason is that code enhancements are designed and tested with the more recent feature and functions to improve the qualify and performance of the solutions.  
Clients who use combinations of outdated (or "out-of-sync" software) releases of applications, operating systems, and firmware (see the last purple row in the preceding picture) are more likely to experience undesirable and unpredictable behavior and performance from their applications, systems, and transactions.  This is especially true during periods of higher workloads, as the increase of transactions add additional timing implications on the execute of the millions of events flowing between the software stacks and across connected systems and devices.  Due to the extremely high volume  in the number of microsecond events that occur, there are an infinite number of probable causes leading to the undesirable and unpredictable scenarios.  It is impossible to predict or identify all infinite possible scenarios that may occur as a result of using out-of-sync software.  In summary, when clients choose to use out-of-sync software, they are choosing to put their environment, transactions, and users at risk.
IBM Remote Technical support always recommends that clients keep their applications, operating system, and firmware levels current and in-sync.
Additionally, IBM Remote Technical Support will recommend to always perform in-house testing of the application, operating system, and firmware updates before deploying the updates to a production environment, regardless of the size or scope of the updates. As described earlier, the expected, or acceptable behavior of an application, system, or environment is contributed by timing of execution of million of microsecond events across the multiple software stacks and connected devices working.  The timing of these low level and complex events is influenced by a combination of software configuration and tuning, hardware configuration and tuning, and client's unique business specific workload (or transactions).  Any changes to these components or features can change the timing of events that lead to changes in the behavior.  Therefore, clients should review the performance of their solution to leverage any new performance enhancements or adjust for any change to timing of events.
When clients attempt to use a combination of outdated and current release levels for applications, operating systems, and firmware ("out-of-sync" software), instability or performance issues may occur.  Clients can still open a case with IBM.  As with any performance-related case, multiple iterations of data collection and review might occur. Configuration changes, and software updates might be recommended, to achieve required results. The IBM Remote Technical Support will make reasonable efforts to work with the client to identify any new defect or common configuration changes that may improve the stability and performance.  In situations where there is no evidence of a product defect or no common configuration changes can be identified, the client will be requested to upgrade the application, operating system,  and firmware to current levels.
Use the following information to help open a support case with IBM or contact IBM Lab Services for an in-depth, hands-on and custom review and assessment of your environment before and after making changes to your environment.
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Question: How can clients open a case with IBM Remote Technical Support?


Use the following step-by-step instructions to contact IBM to open a case for software with an active and valid support contract.  

1. Document (or collect screen captures of) all symptoms, errors, and messages related to your issue.

2. Capture any logs or data relevant to the situation.

3. Contact IBM to open a case:

   -For electronic support, visit the IBM Support Community Page to View and Open Cases:
   -If you require telephone support, see the web page:

4. Provide a clear, concise description of the issue.

 - For guidance, provide these answers in your description:

  1. What is your preferred communication method?
  2. List any error messages (provide full output)
  3. Describe the unexpected behavior
  4. List all applications possibly associated with the problem
  5. List all steps to reproduce the problem if possible
  6. When did the problem begin?
  7. Were any changes applied to the product, or system, which seemed to introduce this problem?

5. If the system is accessible, collect a system snap, and upload all of the details and data for your case.

 - For guidance, select the Mustgather page for your product:

  1. IBM i Mustgather Instructions
  2. AIX, PowerHA (AIX), and PowerVM Mustgather Instructions
  3. Virtual HMC (vHMC) Mustgather Instructions

Question: How can clients contact an IBM Services team?

For assistance with extensive RCA requests, "Out of Scope" or "End of Service" questions and issues (for example, migration planning and implementation assistance, performance tuning, system or data recovery, and consulting) associated with IBM products, the IBM Remote Technical Support will work to transition the situation to an IBM Systems Lab Services team to provide product specific assessment and assistance.
Learn more about IBM Lab Services:
  1. Contact IBM Lab Services directly
  2. Engage your local IBM account representative, or call your local IBM phone number. Click here for a directory of worldwide phone numbers.

Your company can earn and may have earned rewards points on purchases of IBM Power Systems servers, including Power9 and Power10, which can be redeemed for free service assistance.
Learn more about IBM Power to Cloud Rewards Program:
  1. View the IBM Power to Cloud Rewards Program
  2. Contact your local IBM Sales or Marketing Representative, or Business Partner
If assistance is needed to transition to the services team, simply ask the Remote Technical Support for more information.

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Modified date:
13 September 2022