Tivoli and Enterprise System Management Middleware

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If your company's IT resources include more than a single-server platform and desktop PCs, you probably know something about enterprise system management products. And if your shop has IBM midrange systems, then you've probably heard of IBM's Tivoli.

This article will give you a quick view of Tivoli system management software so you can gain a greater understanding of the suite of products that make up IBM's system management middleware. Most importantly, this article will help you determine whether you have a business case for enterprise system management products. Once you have a better understanding of this kind of software (regardless of vendor), you will have a better foundation for understanding Tivoli.

Before looking at enterprise system management tools, the first consideration is whether your computing environment is truly a candidate. All it really takes is having two or more platforms, and/or two or more operating systems, and/or two or more databases, and/or two or more complex application environments.

Given this, there are thousands of companies that qualify, including many small and medium-sized firms. Many may already have one or more tools in place, although it is more likely that platform-specific tools are installed to handle backups/tape management, performance tuning, job scheduling, monitoring, etc. There are certainly good arguments for finding and using the best tools for each platform, but when systems proliferate into multiple platforms, you may need to consider more efficient ways to handle system management tasks.

It's All About Efficiency

It's no secret that efficiency is the driving factor behind many corporate decisions, particularly in today's IT environments where "do more with less" is the mantra. The need to increase efficiency is often the "point of pain" that drives companies to evaluate enterprise system management tools, especially given the maddening inefficiencies caused by operators in different domains trying to coordinate system management tasks and priorities with other computing domains. And don't just blame inter-platform communications. Storage and network people often work in their own little worlds, too.

When key system management functions are centralized and coordinated, significant cost savings are often realized through better system utilization, improved service levels, improved and simplified security management, and decreased time spent on IT-related tasks.

For enterprise system management tools to be effective, they usually need to monitor and control any kind of computing resource and then feed the information back to a central monitoring point. But system monitoring is only entry-level. Where these tools get really powerful (and expensive) is when centralized, policy-based information gets automatically pushed out to devices to resolve problems, share resources, and reconfigure resources for different workloads. Without this capability, operators must manually interpret information and perform corrective actions.

Policy-Based System Management

When system management functions are properly managed by software, the likelihood increases that the highest organizational goals are realized for service, security, reliability, and availability. When this happens, a system management tool moves from being a simple computing utility to being an extremely valuable IT resource.

Of course, one of the most difficult, time-consuming, and yet worthwhile tasks is having all corporate stakeholders--including IT and line-of-business managers--quantify and prioritize these policies. Because of the difficulty and importance of this task, companies often bring in consultants to guide stakeholders through the process and mediate consensus.

Without policy-based system management, you may have great tools that provide excellent information, but problem resolution and system resource distribution will continue to be handled manually, which usually benefits only the squeakiest wheels. Manual intervention typically overlooks root causes and can ignore choices that would most benefit the company.

For instance, continuity-of-service levels are critical in most organizations; therefore, policies that dictate how resources are allocated can be developed and plugged into system management products to ensure computing resources are available where and when they are needed. One example might be a policy that redirects resources from R&D servers to Web servers when e-commerce activity reaches predefined thresholds.

How Do System Management Products Talk to Each Other?

Enterprise system management tools typically place a piece of software called an "agent" on the IT resource that is to be monitored and managed. These agents usually monitor message logs, and when a threshold is exceeded, a message is sent to a centralized monitoring console and an "event" is recorded. Based on data from the monitors, actions can then be "pushed" to the device(s) via the agents, which can also perform management tasks on the resource, such as triggering programs, changing configurations, or allocating resources. Tivoli takes this one step further by giving agents their own "intelligence," freeing them from dependence on communications with monitor consoles to initiate tasks.

Depending on the product, situation, and configuration, enterprise system management tools can respond to events in three ways:

  • Automatically--Detect a situation and initiate an action without relying on the operator's response.
  • Semi-automatically--Detect a situation and prompt the operator to initiate a recommended action.
  • Manually--Detect a situation and alert the operator, who chooses what action to take.

It is natural that system administrators are initially reluctant to allow automatic responses. It takes time for operators to gain confidence that these tools are going to take care of system events appropriately. Furthermore, operators are often resistant because they are concerned about being replaced by these system management automation tools that line-of-business executives get so excited about. The reality is that operators are not usually put out of their jobs; instead, they are freed to do more high-value IT tasks. Considering that shops rarely add people these days, automation frees up administrators to handle the myriad projects that are usually piled up on either their desks or the desk of the IT Director.

Of course, IBM's direction and messaging for Tivoli products reflect most of what has been described so far about enterprise system management tools.

"So What's This Gonna Cost Me?"

Some studies put the deployment and operation costs of enterprise system management tools at three to seven times the cost of the software. That's not surprising when you consider the time and effort it takes to quantify business policies as they relate to IT, as well as the time to deploy, configure, monitor, and manage these products. And the software itself is by no means cheap.

It is critical, therefore, to perform a thorough business impact analysis before plunging into these tools. The costs of inefficiencies must be quantified and then compared to the total cost of tool purchase and implementation. As you perform your business analysis, keep in mind it can take time for these products to realize their ROI, although they do need to show some value soon after installation. In addition, they must fit into your road map of system automation goals.

The bottom line is that these tools aren't for the timid or cash-strapped. It takes some real outlay of money and human resources to realize the potential.

Single Vendor vs. Best of Breed

The hundreds of enterprise system management tools on the market manage everything from disk space allocation, to user identities, to licenses and software distribution. You have monitors, performance analyzers, service level advisors, Web site managers.... The list goes on and on. Tivoli alone has 70+ products. Some companies' needs are handled by a few tools, while others require dozens.

A significant issue that often arises is whether a company should choose and integrate best-of-breed "point products" or go with a larger, all-encompassing brand that offers integrated, end-to-end products (like Tivoli).

It used to be that to integrate system management products from a single vendor, companies had to purchase--from the vendor--a "framework" that individual system management products "plugged into." The framework provided the underlying infrastructure and was usually expensive, while the individual products were relatively less expensive. Today, system management products are generally designed to stand alone, and an open-source data structure is often included with the product.

For instance, all Tivoli products are shipped with the Tivoli Data Warehouse data model at no extra charge, which provides the basis for historical trend reporting, data analysis, and canned reports from individual Tivoli products. When other Tivoli products are added later, they plug automatically into this data model. Tivoli also publishes the schema to this data model so that products from other vendors can integrate as well.

When operations people evaluate system management tools, they are usually concerned about the tool that best fits their needs, which is why it's common for a variety of best-of-breed solutions to exist in many enterprises. The trouble is, these tools don't always fit well with the greater needs of a company (i.e., policy-based management). However, point solutions often provide capabilities that fit precise needs of IT problems, and when an excellent product is found, efforts are usually made to integrate it with other products. On the other hand, there are benefits to using tools from a single vendor: common GUI presentation, common infrastructure, common standards for installation and configuration, leveraging of knowledge and policies across products, and volume pricing. Plus, a single vendor gives you only one throat to choke when problems arise.

In summary, it is important when evaluating tools to ensure that both the operational needs and the organizational needs are met, regardless of the tools or vendor.

Let's Look at Tivoli

IBM calls Tivoli "intelligent management software," and among enterprise system management players, Tivoli is first worldwide and second in the United States, according to IDC (as quoted in an IBM press release). Also, according to IDC, businesses worldwide spent about $7 billion on systems management software in 2002, a figure that is expected to grow to $9.7 billion by 2007.

When it comes to end-to-end enterprise suites, Tivoli's major competitors are Hewlett-Packard's OpenView, Computer Associates' Unicenter, and BMC Software's Patrol. A slew of other vendors sell individual solutions or groups of solutions that typically have strengths on a specific platform and/or in specific areas, like storage or security.

Many companies start out buying a few Tivoli products to solve particular system management needs and then add other products as needs arise or as they can be afforded. Other companies already have several disparate system management products that manage particular processes across the enterprise, such as storage management. As the necessity arises to manage something else--like security or software distribution--they choose Tivoli and then, where applicable, integrate all of the disparate products together into some kind of monitor or console. As a company's needs grow further, they might choose to consolidate system management functions under a single vendor. Obviously, Tivoli and other end-to-end vendors try to sell companies on the consolidation concept, and as explained above, there are reasons for and against this approach.

IBM groups the 70+ individual Tivoli products in a variety of ways: by category, by solution, and by platform. Within each of these categories are dozens of products that cover the gamut of system management needs from broad to very specific.

The best way to get an overview of Tivoli products is to look at the major product categories. Each Tivoli product belongs to one of four categories: performance and availability management, configuration and operations management, storage management, or security management.

Performance and Availability Management

This category contains the most Tivoli products, as there are dozens of individual Tivoli products that monitor a wide variety of platforms, networks, databases, operating systems, and applications. Of course, Web sites and Web applications can be monitored through various Web-specific monitoring and management products.

Normally, these individual Tivoli monitoring products communicate events to a central console, which identifies and correlates problems, optimizes performance, provides root cause analysis, and either suggests or automatically performs corrective action.

Key Products

  • Tivoli Monitoring defines many of the policies that dictate how resources are managed and corrected.
  • Tivoli Enterprise Console correlates monitored information from most Tivoli products into a single console that provides automated diagnosis and resolution capabilities, especially when integrated with Tivoli Monitoring.
  • Tivoli Service Level Advisor predefines levels of service that are to be provided by systems and applications within an enterprise, and provides a means to measure whether these levels are being met--and if not, why.
  • Tivoli Monitoring for Transaction Performance performs transaction analysis within applications to evaluate transaction processes in their entirety. It can separate and show the response time of each part of a transaction, which is helpful when you have Web applications and one or more back-end applications that are integrated.

Configuration and Operations Management

More than a dozen Tivoli products handle a variety of system configuration and operation tasks, such as distribution of software to devices throughout the enterprise, provisioning of IT assets, management of software licenses, automation of workflows via enterprise-wide job scheduling, and remote control of systems and applications. There are even specialized Tivoli products that can send updates to ATMs, point-of-sale registers, and hand-held devices.

Key Products

  • Tivoli Workload Scheduler automates, plans, and controls the processing of workloads throughout the enterprise.
  • Tivoli Provisioning Manager allows defining automated workflows to configure and deploy devices, including the installation of operating systems . Once deployed, testing routines can be defined and automatically executed.
  • Tivoli Configuration Manager deploys software applications to multiple devices (from servers to handhelds) from a single point.

Storage Management

This sizeable group of tools centrally manages storage resources residing on all devices. In addition to enterprise-wide management of all backup, archive, and restore processes, there are other features that allow for allocation of storage resources to applications and business units. The tools in this category are very popular because statistics show that enterprise storage continues to increase by 50% to 100% per year (according to IBM), and the cost of managing storage can be several times the cost of the storage.

Tivoli's storage management products work for all kinds of platforms, databases, applications, and operating systems and integrate into a centralized storage management console.

Key Products

  • Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) automates data backup and restore functions on all devices in an enterprise, from laptops to mainframes, regardless of how they are connected. TSM has "progressive incremental backup" technology, which backs up objects only when they are added or changed.
  • Tivoli Storage Resource Manager includes a set of policy-driven tools for managing storage capacity, storage availability, and storage events throughout an enterprise. The tool can "discover" how storage is used, allowing easy identification of unused storage resources. Among other things, it can also automatically "provision" storage to applications when predefined thresholds are met.

For more information on these tools, see "Enterprise Storage Management Software Celebrates 10 Years at IBM."

Security Management

One of the biggest challenges for IT departments is managing security across a variety of servers, applications, and devices with a variety of interfaces, communications, and access points. Tivoli has over a dozen products that work together to provide single-point security management.

Tivoli products also address security concerns arising from Web-based applications and portals, which are particularly difficult to manage because these resources often reside outside of firewalls that protect larger systems.

Key Products

  • Tivoli Identity Manager and Tivoli User Administration work together to define workflows that automatically set up new users with a single sign-on and password on all approved devices and applications. Of course, user access can be removed with the same ease.
  • Tivoli Privacy Manager for e-Business is designed to guard personal information of consumers who purchase from Web sites by administering privacy policies.
  • Tivoli Intrusion Manager monitors for intrusions on computing resources throughout an organization.
  • Tivoli Risk Manager provides updates to administrators on the level of security risk in an organization based on events and alerts from all security management products, whether Tivoli's or not.

Tivoli Products by Solution

Tivoli also groups products from the above categories into a variety of solutions. These suggested combinations of products work together to provide comprehensive system management functions. For instance, the Web Management solution includes Tivoli Monitoring for Web Infrastructure to optimize Web site performance, Tivoli Web Access for Information Management to build Web-based portals for system administration, and Tivoli Web Site Analyzer for capturing and analyzing information on Web site usage and content.

Other solutions of note are Backup and Recovery, Identity Management, Systems and Applications Monitoring, and Job Scheduling. There are also specific solution groupings for the z/OS, OS/390, and Linux operating systems.

Tivoli and the iSeries

Since many readers have iSeries machines in their mix of computing resources, it is important to note that not all Tivoli products are supported for OS/400 on iSeries. Many of the core tools are supported, however, such as Tivoli Monitoring, Tivoli Storage Manager, Tivoli Workload Scheduler, and others. Of course, when Linux or AIX (coming soon) is running on an iSeries partition or when xSeries Windows adapters are plugged into an iSeries, Tivoli products are widely supported on these operating systems.

So There You Have It

In one article, it's tough to paint a complete picture of enterprise system management, let alone how Tivoli fits. But, hopefully, you can see the outlines of the picture, and if it is one that you think you need to fill in, you should now have a good start toward doing it.

Bill Rice is an information technology writer based in Salt Lake City, Utah. He can be reached by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..