Let's revisit a PSP Bucket


I've been thinking more about a cringe-worthy item:  Preventive Service Planning (PSP) buckets.  This "resource" has never been a particularly easy to use, and yet has been important.  If you go back far enough, folks might have been using PSP buckets quite regularly.   Time has moved on and easier communication ways have come about.  Yet, PSP buckets still remain.  Let's look at what they are, especially for those that are newer to z/OS.    

What are PSP buckets?

A long time ago, when update cycles for documentation were very long or immediate information needed to be released to users, a Preventive Service Planning "bucket" was used.  This was a location for viewing information that we could deliver from IBM Development to the field very quickly.  Buckets (and I never loved that term) were separated into different sections so you could maneuver around easily, especially pre-mouse days on a green screen.   

Historic basic points, with my impressions

  • Each IBM product likely has a PSP bucket.
  • Each PSP bucket is composed of an Upgrade and SubsetUpgrade you could think of as the high level product.  Subsets would then be the pieces of that product.  For instance, for z/OS V2.5, the Upgrade is ZOSV2R5, and there are many Subsets.  Two are BCP and DFSMS.
  • We do have Hardware and Software PSP buckets, and they could generally be viewed as having similar sections. 
  • PSP bucket sections are typically:
    • INSTALLATION INFORMATION  - generally, where last minute information from the Program Directory would be put.  Entries here were manually added by IBM.
    • DOCUMENTATION CHANGES  -  generally, where important book updates would go.  Especially when there were only hardcopy books and there was no online book location to get fast important changes.  Entries here were manually added by IBM.
    • GENERAL INFORMATION - If it didn't fit into another section, it likely went here. Entries here were manually added by IBM.
    • SERVICE RECOMMENDATIONS  - An automated section!  This is where APARs would be listed when IBM Service deemed they needed customers to install the fixes.  IBM could get APARs into this section automatically by using certain keywords on the APAR, and then it would magically appear here.  As you can guess, for several products this accumulated list would be very long.  
    • CROSS PRODUCT DEPENDENCIES  - If there was a consideration that another product had on the PSP bucket product, it went here.  Entries here were manually added by IBM.
  • We did take the PSP buckets to the internet eventually.  They can be found here:  https://esupport.ibm.com/customercare/psearch/search?domain=psp  I'll be brutally honest; the web flavor of the PSP buckets seems to have some periodic glitches, so I do know we had tweaks to the process to get them to appear correctly on the web. Also, do note, when a PSP bucket entry is made by IBM, it isn't immediately reflected on the web.  There are regular refreshes, but it is not within the same minute or hour typically - there is a slight lag, which I know we have with web page refreshes too.
Now, you will notice I point out all the manual sections of the PSP buckets above.  I also pointed out that we've come a long way for having more electronic book refreshes, which you can safely assume has likely reduced information put into the PSP buckets over time.  However, PSP buckets are still used to provide information to users and those manual entries still should be reviewed.  Hopefully, there are not as many of them as there once was.  Reading through the sequential nature of a PSP bucket section is not pleasant, as there are legacy column restrictions and fancy fonts and formatting don't exist there.  This affects readability.  

Now, the better news
Let's look only at the SERVICE RECOMMENDATION sections now.  Remember how I said its entries were automated?  Well, with that automation capability we've been able to hook into "modernization" too!  What I'm talking about here is the SMP/E FIXCAT capability.  [Check out a prior blog entry about them:  Some folks still unaware about SMP/E FIXCATs? ]  

In the past, poor users would have to retrieve their specific PSP buckets go into the Subsets, look down at the SERVICE RECOMMENDATION section, note all the latest APARs, go check with SMP/E to see if they had them all installed.  Gosh, I was tired just writing that.

However, with the advent of the Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread (aka SMP/E FIXCATs), all the those steps can be automated.  That is because...and I'm going to pause for theatrical effect ... every single PSP bucket SERVICE RECOMMENDATION APAR list has been put into a single SMP/E FIXCAT called IBM.ProductInstall-RequiredService.    

If you have the latest Enhanced HOLDDATA, found in several locations such as RECEIVE ORDER, then you can run an SMP/E REPORT MISSINGFIX for IBM.ProductInstall-RequiredService.  and be comfortable that you have all the SERVICE RECOMMENDATION PTFs installed.  The most glorious part of this, is that we use the same FIXCAT for every PSP product, so the one for z/OS is the same as the one for CICS, is the same as the one for Db2, is the same as the one for Java.  

With that in mind:  I would never recommend anyone even glance at the SERVICE RECOMMENDATION section anymore, as they should have SMP/E doing all that legwork for him.  

Let's recap
  • PSP buckets are still here, although, hopefully much smaller than before.
  • Still, they should be used as a source for finding last minute, important updates. Although, I'm going to reckon that an internet search probably finds that last minute important information just as well.  
  • Leverage SMP/E FIXCATs to ignore the SERVICE RECOMMENDATION section.