Product Review: Vision Solutions' iTera

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System i is one of the easiest systems to manage and administer, but it can't do everything on its own. Some administration, tuning, and clean-up activities are required to maintain peak performance while keeping processor and storage costs in check. Just as system developers build applications that automate many business tasks, system administration and optimization should also be automated to as high a degree as possible to reduce labor costs and improve the quality and completeness of that work. That's the product niche that iTera Director, from Vision Solutions, targets.

iTera Director is a highly integrated set of applications that proactively monitors, manages, and optimizes System i servers, databases, and application environments.
In addition, Director maintains a complete object cross-reference; tracks and analyzes file and object growth and rates of growth; analyzes resource usage and non-usage; analyzes response times; tracks, monitors, and reports on jobs and users; monitors, tracks, and manages system inefficiencies; and more.

A rich GUI simplifies navigation through Director and allows the results of Director's system information gathering and analysis efforts to be displayed as multicolored graphs where appropriate. This makes it easier to spot trends and areas of concern, such as the peaks and valleys of resource usage that occur throughout the day.

In addition to its graphical displays, Director allows system managers and administrators to query, sort, filter, and drill down into system data to find important nuggets of information that allow them to solve problems and optimize System i resource use.

Director's object and file query, reporting, and graphing features can help to bring storage costs under better control. The ability to easily find files or objects that, say, haven't been accessed for years, allows you to delete and/or archive considerable data that is no longer required. For example, Vision reports that one customer almost immediately found more than 8,500 unnecessary save files on one server and a temporary file with over 1 billion deleted records on another. Another customer learned that one of its programmers was storing several gigabytes of personal music on the IFS. These are specific instances, but Vision states that customers typically reclaim 15–40 percent of their storage space shortly after implementing iTera Director.

Director's file and object query, reporting, and analysis facilities work with all storage accessible through System i, including System i disks, IFS files, ASPs, and iASPs.

Improving Performance

iTera Director uses the information it gathers on storage usage and processes to recommend "best courses of action" to enhance performance, reduce disk usage, and improve CPU utilization. You can accept, reject, or modify the recommendations in real-time or make decisions and execute the specific corrective tasks at a later date.

A common recommendation, database reorganization, can often lead to significant performance enhancements and storage reclamation. Director performs reorganizations more intelligently than is the case with traditional tools. You can use Director to schedule reorganizations for times when system resource usage is usually low. If necessary, it breaks the reorganization process into smaller chunks that fit into the specified maintenance periods.

Scheduling is an important aspect because it allows you to perform "lights-out" tuning. You can specify times, such as the middle of the night or on weekends, when Director will wake itself up. During those times, it performs any tasks that administrators have assigned to it and looks for ways to improve performance. Director can include in its list of recommended best courses of action any performance enhancement options it finds, or, depending on the recommended action, Director can undertake it automatically if the appropriate parameter is set.

Most organizations initially have more tuning opportunities than can be performed in a single maintenance period. Consequently, Vision customers report that, because iTera Director looks for tuning options and performs tuning tasks only during its wakeup periods, performance tends to improve over time. Nonetheless, Vision claims that customers generally see performance gains of 15 percent or more within a short period.

A few specific tasks performed by iTera Director include the following:

Optimize and Manage Files and Objects

  • Map every object on iSeries servers
  • Reorganize all physical data
  • Optimize all logical file usage
  • Compress, clear, and resize objects
  • Generate complete object cross-referencing
  • Receive a complete analysis of object growth

Simplify the Management of System Resources and Objects

  • Manage message queues, out queues, and job queues automatically
  • Manage spool files, with advanced functionality for saves, restores, and archiving
  • Manage domains using a range of functionality—from the grouping of libraries at a high level to the granular management of specific objects at the lowest level

Simplify Activity Management

  • Analyze resource usage and non-usage
  • Analyze response times
  • Track, monitor, and report on jobs and users

Simplify Database Management and Performance

  • Reorganize-in-place to remove unused space and improve performance

iTera Director's comprehensive functionality can help system managers and administrators tackle an issue that has gained more prominence in the past few years: regulatory compliance. SOX regulations insist on the rigorous logging of all changes to data, yet commands executed through the command line are not logged. Director solves this problem because most things that system managers and administrators typically do through the command line can be done through Director. The difference is that, because Director maintains a comprehensive audit log, it's SOX-compliant.

One of the primary selling points of iTera Director is that, by intelligently managing locks and resources and providing scheduling capabilities, it can perform its data gathering, system analysis, and tuning tasks without impacting users. If you currently lock users out of the system while performing some system administration tasks, doing those tasks while users are active will add many hours of extra uptime each week.

For more information about iTera Director, contact Vision Solutions at one of the addresses below.

Joel Klebanoff is a consultant, a writer, president of Klebanoff Associates, Inc., a Toronto, Canada-based marketing communications firm, and author of BYTE-ing Satire. Joel has 25 years experience working in IT, first as a programmer/analyst and then as a marketer. He holds a Bachelor of Science in computer science and an MBA, both from the University of Toronto. Contact Joel at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
Vision Solutions, Inc.
17911 Von Karman Ave.
Irvine, CA 92614
Tel: 949.253.6500
Fax: 949.253.6501
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.