Earlier this month, IBM enhanced its Virtualization Engine to make the offering more attractive for managing workloads across multiple servers and operating environments. While the enhancements will affect all of IBM's server lines, the iSeries in particular will benefit from several new capabilities. These capabilities should make the iSeries more attractive as a manager of heterogeneous IT environments.
As I explained in an article last year, IBM's Virtualization Engine is an integrated family of management tools that run across all of the company's server lines. IBM is using Virtualization Engine to standardize how management functions are performed across its servers. It is also using the offering to provide a consistent technology framework for virtualizing the resources on those servers.
On November 8, IBM announced new releases of two Virtualization Engine tools, IBM Director and Enterprise Workload Manager (EWLM). As iSeries users who have worked with Virtualization Engine know, IBM Director monitors and manages hardware assets across multiple systems from a single point of control. In its current release, the product can monitor almost any operating environment, but users cannot host the management server on logical partitions (LPARs) running AIX. The new release—IBM Director 5.10—supports AIX LPARs as hosts for the management server. This will allow companies that are consolidating UNIX servers to the iSeries to manage all of their servers from an operating environment that is familiar to them.
In addition, IBM Director V5.10 sports a streamlined interface that lets administrators accomplish more with fewer mouse clicks. The new release also offers wizards that help in the process of discovering servers and creating resource monitors.
While IBM Director lets companies manage heterogeneous servers, EWLM lets them monitor the performance of applications that span multiple servers and balance workloads across servers when they do not meet performance requirements. Last year, IBM shipped the first release of EWLM with all iSeries Enterprise Edition models. The release allows iSeries users to manage applications that are running on OS/400 V5R3 as well as on Windows 2000, Windows 2003, AIX, and Solaris servers.
While the new EWLM release will support the above operating environments, it will also manage the performance of applications running on Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 (SLES 9), Hewlett-Packard's HP-UX, and IBM mainframes running Z/OS V1.6 and above. Just as importantly, the new EWLM release will be more "LPAR aware" when doing its job. For instance, the tool will notice when CPU resources are dynamically added to or taken from an iSeries LPAR and then adjust its load balancing algorithms to compensate for the change. In addition, users will be able to program EWLM to manage LPARs automatically to meet business requirements. For example, EWLM could manage iSeries LPARs so that response times for an application never exceed one second.
The new releases of IBM Director and EWLM will begin shipping with the iSeries version of the Virtualization Engine on January 10, 2006. The new release of IBM Director will ship with all new copies of OS/400 V5R3; existing V5R3 users can order it as an upgrade starting on December 16 of this year. By contrast, EWLM only ships with iSeries Enterprise Editions at the V5R3 level, so owners of such systems are the only ones eligible for an upgrade to the new release. By the way, IBM intends to ship support within EWLM for SLES 9 as a fixpack during the first quarter of 2006.
Though management tool discussions often evoke yawns from everyone but system administrators, IBM's latest announcement should catch the attention of everyone who uses the iSeries. While the server has long been a solid platform for consolidating workloads from other systems, it has not been as adept at managing workloads when they remain on those systems. Through Virtualization Engine, however, the iSeries is gaining distributed workload management capabilities that it never possessed. This could change the perceptions of many IT vendors and non-iSeries IT professionals who have dismissed the iSeries as an island of automation unto itself. Such a change would be a highly welcome one that could buy the iSeries greater acceptance as a management hub for distributed computing environments. That could give companies one more good reason to expand their use of the server rather than relegate it to the task of managing dwindling portfolios of legacy applications.