Avoiding your Bucket List

As we start to revisit ancient processes and understand how they might still (or not still) be used. I want to take a closer look at z/OS PSP Buckets. 

What are PSP (Preventive Service Planning) Buckets?

A very long time ago, likely before there was the internet (maybe I'm exaggerating here, but it doesn't feel like it), we had information which was important to disseminate.  This is back in the day when we had hard copy manuals, and SMP/E FIXCATs were just a distant dream. How could IBM Development and Service inform users that something important should be noted?  The answer at the time was PSP Buckets.

These formatted "buckets" of information were structured in a way that you could see categories of what you should pay attention to.  These categories were::

  • Installation Information
  • Documentation Changes
  • General Information
  • Service Recommendations
  • Cross-Product Dependencies 

As time moved on, and advances like SMP/E FIXCATs and Enhanced HOLDDATA happened, the PSP Buckets seemed to be used a lot less.  After all, the Service Recommendations - which arguably might have been the most important section - had been fully eclipsed by using the strategic SMP/E FIXCAT IBM.ProductInstall-RequiredService.

The other sections just started dwindling away from being updated, as they were less able to be automated.  Better search methods appeared (like the internet!) .  Documentation moved to electronic-only and had accompanying book refreshes that were more often, meaning that folks didn't need to look at PSP Buckets for documentation updates.  They had the latest electronic books available in a couple of clicks. 

Hopefully you can see where I'm heading with this, as there are much better ways today to get important information, and I think we should stop using PSP Buckets in favor of those better ways.  

To that end, PSP Buckets have stopped being available on the internet as you can read here. They are still available to IBMLink/ServiceLink customers, however.  I do wonder if IBMLink/ServiceLink customers still retrieve value from looking at PSP Buckets, as the format is hard to use and the information retrieved is likely empty in four of the five sections.  

What are PSP Buckets alternatives?

As I've mentioned, SMP/E FIXCAT IBM.ProductInstall-RequiredService is the most important and complete replacement for the Service Recommendations section.  This is one of most important FIXCATs we have, as this one category covers every FMID on the entire z/OS.  How handy is that?

Similarly for the Cross-Product Dependencies section, SMP/E FIXCATs for products have been heavily used for years now. All IBM SMP/E FIXCATs are available here. Check out the categories which contain "TargetSystem-RequiredService" for cross-product dependencies.   In addition, other (non-z/OS base operation system) platform products have their dependencies documented in Software Product Compatibility Reports (aka "product compatibility matrix"), which I've discussed in a prior blog.

The Documentation Changes section has been made obsolete by the online documentation refreshes which occur much more often than the hardcopy book updates (aka TNLs, if you go back that far).

Installation Information and General Information sections have been replaced with IBM Support technical notes, which are searchable here. On a related note, I've enjoyed using MyNotifications for subscribing to certain components and other informative important topics (like Red Alerts), so I can get updates immediately pushed to me.  By using more modern methods of being an "in touch" system programmer, we can still get critical information and now in a much more user-friendly method.  

Well, all this is fine but what should I do?

If you have been following the official IBM documentation you already know all the modern methods of being an "in touch" system programmer.  So this blog will just be a checklist of items you already know.  Bravo to you🎉! If you are not already doing all the above items I've mentioned, please do investigate them as "new" processes to incorporate into your skills to bring enhancements into your enterprise, and simplification into your career.  

Hopefully, everyone will agree with me: PSP Buckets are a boat anchor which we don't need to have anymore.  

Additional reading:  https://www.ibm.com/support/pages/psp-bucket-information-ibm-z-products