The company's refresh of its Systems Operations Suite adds application monitoring to an already-rich collection of message, monitor, and automation functions.
Think of the recession as an adventure in which you have to improvise and test your imagination and resourcefulness in ways that you haven't been challenged to do before. Talk about making an organization lean and mean—yikes. Pretend you're out there on the road and all you've got going for you is a good Swiss Army knife; could you survive?
I've tried it, and to be honest, I think you're going to need a little green in the wallet to go along with the knife. However, the saw, scissors, and toenail clippers can make life a lot more comfortable when you're short on resources.
Halcyon Software's new release of its Systems Operations Suite V3 is truly the Swiss Army knife of the Power Systems and IBM i world. It's so useful for messaging, monitoring, and automating operations that it's becoming the backbone in a trend toward remote managed support.
John Dominic, Halcyon's U.S. channel manager, sat down with me at COMMON last spring to outline what the company's plans were for the coming year. They included a refresh of Halcyon's major utility suites of which Systems Operations Suite is the middle offering. The others include the entry-level Message Management Suite and the upper-tier Operations Center, which also handles job scheduling. So far, the company has completed two of the three, and the refresh of Operations Center is scheduled for 2010.
One angle the company has taken with Systems Operations Suite is to make the suite even more useful to users by including support for major ERP and HA applications. Systems Operations Suite V3 runs on V5R4 and later and now includes support for SAP, Movex (Lawson M3), JDE in the ERP arena, and Vision Solutions' Mimix and Maximum Availability's NoMax high availability (HA) products. The company also offers an HA monitoring suite as a standalone product.
"These are the applications we found that our customers have installed the most," says Dominic. "We'll be working to expand the list as time goes on and as users provide feedback to us on what they want."
Support for the products comes in the form of templates that help users automate otherwise manual functions within the application, Dominic explains. By selecting SAP, for instance, the user will go to a detailed screen that includes commands for automating functions within the application itself.
"This is the kind of support that users told us they want; not just to automate the functions of the System i but also to automate the manual procedures within the applications themselves that users have to perform over and over again," says Dominic.
While Systems Operations Suite doesn't position itself as a security monitoring solution, in V3, Halcyon has added some limited, but very important, monitoring features to help users keep on top of security settings and activities within the operating system. The utility will do proactive monitoring of the IBM i audit journal (QAUDJRN) for security-related events. Users can stay aware of any changes in system values and configurations, authority failures, periods of inactivity, invalid sign-on attempts, user-selected commands, and user profiles that are either enabled or disabled. With Systems Operations Suite, administrators can set up rules that affect the QSECOFR user profile. For instance, a rule can be set up to ensure that QSECOFR is not left signed on but inactive for any specified period. Alerts can be set up to communicate when it is being used and for what. For users who wish to have an even more robust security monitoring solution, the company has teamed with SkyView Partners, Inc. to offer Security Compliance Monitoring Suite (designed by security expert Carol Woodbury), which Halcyon distributes in the EMEA.
To help organizations protect themselves from attempted or actual security breaches—as well as show anyone interested (such as an auditor) how well the company's defenses are working—logged events produce messages. These can be defined as any number of actions, such as an audible alert, an SMS text message, an email, etc. The real-time system and message log monitoring not only helps manage the security audit journal, the system history log (QHST), and all other message queues, but also now manages FTP requests. System administrators can see at a glance who executed an FTP transaction, who modified a system value, or even how many, and which, objects were not saved in the most recent backup.
With V3, Halcyon has introduced what it is calling "intelligent templates." According to the company, these predefined templates can have a significant impact on productivity. Needless to say, they can also make life easier for an operator charged with monitoring the system, be it any component, job, subsystem, or device. Repetitive tasks can be automated, and rules can be set up that define what happens when a message is sent, whether it's just an alert or an actual action, such as repeating a command that fails. Performance and activity levels—of CPU or disk, for example—are high on the list of things to watch.
Systems Operations Suite is now doing such a good job of messaging, monitoring, and automating functions that Halcyon sees a trend toward its use by resellers in providing managed services to SMBs on nights and weekends.
The typical small business customer may have one technical person managing four or five partitions, says Dominic. It may not make sense for management to pay someone to keep an eye on what's happening with the system afterhours or on someone's day off. Enter your friendly reseller who sees an opportunity to oversee 20 or 30 systems at night or during the weekends, pay someone to keep an eye on things using Systems Operations Suite, and then charge for the service.
The upgrade to Systems Operations Suite V3 is at no cost for current customers on maintenance, nor is Halcyon charging at the present time for any of the customized application interfaces where they are applicable. "The idea is to broaden the appeal of the product and invite more users to realize its benefits," says Dominic. To that end, Halcyon is finding a ready audience with its subscription pricing model, which he likens to renting the software and includes maintenance for a single monthly fee.
Users who aren't familiar with the Halcyon utilities may well find that they are an ideal Swiss Army knife in today's leaner environment, where IT administrators have to do more with less and automating functions currently performed manually is a luxury no one can any longer afford.