Tivoli Update Aims to Clarify Network Admin Picture

New version of IBM's Tivoli Provisioning Manager will offer a clearer picture of server dependencies across a datacenter.

Managing server farms could become a simpler task -- that's the promise of a new version of IBM's Tivoli Provisioning Manager (TPM), which offers improvements designed to provide a view of servers as they are provisioned and related.

The update comes as part of IBM's cloud computing initiative called Blue Cloud, which is designed to enable the building and management of large-scale, distributed, globally accessible datacenters.

TPM 5.1.1 includes enhancements to help simplify installation and improve distribution, monitor IT resources across an enterprise and create reusable automation tasks, so a complex task can be used again.

Ease of use and installation is something IT managers desperately need, according to Andi Mann, research director for industry analyst firm Enterprise Management Associates.

"I've surveyed IT administrators, and almost twice as many respondents wanted ease of use and ease of deployment over cost, specific feature sets and integration capabilities," he told InternetNews.com.

"People are looking for ease of use and ease of deployment as the top two decision-makers for purchasing datacenter software, and [IBM] addressed both of these," Mann said.

TPM is designed to give IT admins a clearer picture of their enterprise. Rather than displaying a datacenter as a row of servers, TPM segments machines by process: e-mail servers, CRM servers, Web servers, and so on.

This provides operators a better context before they initiate changes, because it shows the relationships between servers.

TPM covers up to 16 different relationships, from application to domain to database layers and everything in between, according to Chris O'Connor, vice president of Tivoli strategy and marketing management.

"Most problems in a datacenter occur because a change is misconfigured or happens erroneously," O'Connor said. "This eliminates it because it provides maps and forces a compliance and an audit on the change before it can be made. It will warn you that a server is a database for SAP, or this IP address might be associated with others, and cause networking problem."

The product achieved this feature through improved integration with the Tivoli Application Dependency Discovery Manager (TADDM). TADDM provides complete visibility into application complexity by automatically creating and maintaining application infrastructure maps.

Often, an enterprise application can stretch a great distance -- from, say, a Windows server to a mainframe -- and makes handling patches sometimes less than elegant.

The new cross-platform patch support in TPM 5.1.1 makes it possible to do the entire process in one swoop, covering all platforms at once.

Another new feature is what's called Web Replay, which lets users record the steps they take -- similar to recording a macro in Microsoft Office.

This allows others who might be less skilled to perform a task simply by running the "macro."

TPM 5.1.1 also will allow end users to submit for and receive new services without having to know how they are delivered: Admins can provision, manage and provide access to these services invisibly to the end user.

Mann said that even though TPM 5.1.1 is a point release, IBM did some major revisions with it, particularly in the relationship between servers and processes.

"It's important from a business service perspective that you can understand the relationship between bits and pieces in the datacenter," he said. "That makes it a lot easier to manage and deliver business relation services rather than its components."

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