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.
The sections below document how to leverage the ability of the IBM Support Assistant Workbench to export ISA Lite packages and how to use ISA Lite in a distributed environment to simplify remote data collection.
Exporting ISA Lite from the Workbench
An IBM Support Assistant Lite collector can be generated from the workbench for use on another system. When it is generated, it is packaged so that you can easily transport it to another computer and run it there. Refer to this technote to view a list of the available product add-ons for the Workbench. Each product add-on in the list includes an indicator for whether or not the add-on contains collection scripts. If the product that you are supporting includes collection scripts, then use the Workbench Update capability to install the desired add-ons.
Once the add-ons are installed into the Workbench, you can go to the Data Collection view in the Analyze Problem or Collect and Send Data activity and select the "Remote Collection using IBM Support Assistant Lite" option. From this panel, you can select a product for which you will generate an ISA Lite and the local filesystem location.
Use your favorite file transfer method to move the generated ISA Lite from your local machine to a remote machine on which you would like to collect data. This might be ftp, scp, copy/cp, or drag and drop between windows. The particular method used will depend on the transfer protocols supported by your local and remote machines.
Once the collector file is transferred, unzip the file and run the runISALite.sh/bat script (or runISALite.sh/bat -console if you want the text interface instead of graphical). Be certain to read the README.txt file in the readme folder for additional tips on running ISA Lite.
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:
./runISALite.sh -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:
./runISALite.sh -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.
If you are exporting your ISA Lite packages from the Workbench, then the automatic update mechanism built into the Workbench will keep you up to date with the latest versions. Any time that an updated add-on is available and installed to the Workbench, you should re-generate an ISA Lite and update the ISA Lite packages that you may have deployed to remote systems.
Read more in the developerWorks article for Collecting diagnostic information using the IBM Support Assistant