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IBM Support Assistant Lite Best Practices

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IBM Support Assistant (ISA) Lite is a lightweight application that provides both a graphical and a text-based interface for performing automated data collection for a specific product. This document captures some of the best practices for usage of IBM Support Assistant Lite.


Data collection is the process whereby diagnostic information is gathered from an application or system to help identify the source of a certain behavior or issue. IBM Support Assistant (ISA) Lite uses symptom-specific scripts to automate the cumbersome and repetitive tasks involved in data collection, such as gathering error messages in logs, setting traces, and so on, or gathering any javacores or heap dumps for analysis using various tools. Many data collection scripts automate the MustGather documents that already exist for gathering problem-analysis data. After the script runs, the gathered information is packaged so that you can easily analyze it yourself, send it to IBM to be analyzed, or process it with tooling that can generate reports and recommendations on how to fix the problem.

Proactive collection of diagnostic data can help you troubleshoot problems with IBM software and help IBM resolve your service requests faster. It is much faster to invoke the automated data collector than to ask a human operator to follow a few dozen steps in a troubleshooting document. There is less time spent between a support analyst and the system operator regarding questions on the various steps. Automated data collections can be repeated over and over with similar inputs without fear of human error. This also leads to fewer "repeat collections", as results from a trusted collection script will produce the same information every time.

Using ISA Lite for Remote collection
The great thing about IBM Support Assistant Lite is that it is a very small lightweight package that can easily be transferred to most systems and run in an "on-demand" fashion. A good practice to follow is to have ISA Lite packages for the products that you support pre-deployed to your production and test systems so that you're ready for automated data collection in case it's needed. When it is not needed, it takes up only a small amount of disk space and no runtime memory when it's not running. When following this practice, be sure that you keep the ISA Lite package updated with the latest code (see Keeping ISA Lite updated below).

To be prepared for support scenarios, choose a common location across the systems that you support where you can rely on finding an ISA Lite package in the future. This might be a directory like C:\util\ISALite on Windows or /opt/IBM/ISALite on Linux/UNIX systems. By having a common location, that all of your co-workers know about, you can easily log into a troubled system remotely using telnet or ssh, change to the common directory and readily run the ISA Lite utility.

To further simplify the execution of ISA Lite, you may consider recording a silent response file for a script. This can be accomplished by running through ISA Lite in interactive mode once with the command:

./ -console -record response_filename

Once you have created a response file, you can run the ISA Lite script and simply pass the response file as an argument:

./ -console response_filename

When using response files, remember that sensitive information, such as user names and passwords, might be stored in these files, so it is important that you manage these files in a manner that prevents unauthorized access to sensitive information. Also, not all data collections are suitable for the silent collection option. Some data collections always require some interaction with the user. For example, you might be asked to reproduce the problem during the data collection so the appropriate log and trace files are collected. In this case, silent collection is not capable to record and reproduce this step.

Keeping ISA Lite updated
You want to make certain that you are always running with the latest collection scripts available. This will ensure that all of the relevant data for a particular type of problem is gathered together for submission to IBM Support.

More information
Read more in the developerWorks article for Collecting diagnostic information using the IBM Support Assistant

Document information

More support for: IBM Support Assistant
Data Collector

Software version: 4.1

Operating system(s): AIX, HP-UX, Linux, Solaris, Windows

Reference #: 7017356

Modified date: 12 November 2009

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