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101 Things You Can Automate on Your System i (iSeries) and 10 Top Tips for Peace of Mind

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Find out why automating systems management is crucial for minimizing risk, guaranteeing continuity, and remaining competitive in today's highly pressurized business environment.


Editor's note: This article introduces the white paper "101 Things You Can Automate on Your System i (iSeries) and Ten Top Tips for Peace of Mind," available free at the MC Press White Paper Center.


In today's environment—with computers and applications spread all over throughout most organizations—systems administrators are under increasing pressure to provide high levels of service and reliability. As the complexity of our networks has grown through extensive interconnectivity and global operations, the problem has been compounded.

The Importance of Automating Systems Management

Faced with the pressures today to achieve 100 percent availability and seamless business continuity, companies are realizing that automated systems management is the only way to ensure that their computer systems are performing at their optimum level to meet the demands of the business.


The most valuable, vital, and vulnerable asset of any company is its data, which is locked away electronically and is highly dependent on the smooth operation of the company's IT infrastructure and computer systems. Reliable and dependable systems management is an absolute necessity to ensure that key data is always available to the business.


Today's environment is complex. With computers, applications, and networks spread throughout organizations and often around the globe, it is difficult for system administrators to have a holistic view of the network and the computer systems they oversee.


IT managers and businesses need a solution that can be rapidly deployed across the entire organization to provide greater productivity to users by ensuring that data, key business applications, and processes are available 100 percent of the time and that the risk of unplanned downtime is significantly lowered.


Astute IT directors are using automated management solutions as part of their everyday systems and are operating under a policy of management by exception by introducing "smart monitoring." Most of the time, 80 percent of all computer systems will be functioning correctly. Smart monitoring identifies the other 20 percent and gives an early warning to system administrators if the status changes or conditions appear to be outside the norm.


Many managed service companies or IT outsourcing organizations are successfully using smart monitoring to take on more business without expanding their headcount and, in addition, are reducing the overall cost of managing their systems.


In today's competitive environment, automated systems management is no longer a luxury; it's a necessity for minimizing risk and ensuring the continuing viability of any business, regardless of its size.


Working with many different companies in various industry sectors, I have homed in on the common principles of how good systems management practices for your IBM i can lead to significant cost reductions for companies and help to keep the wheels of industry moving.


The impact on the business can be significant: a backlog of critical jobs held in a queue, devices failing or offline, applications locked or on message wait, authority failures, subsystems not being started when they should be, printers stopped, disks failing, slow response times, jobs looping or hogging the processor, thresholds being breached or approaching capacity.


So what can you do about it? In a word: automation.

Looking for Appropriate Solutions

In reviewing monitoring and automation solutions, make sure you look for:


  • A solution that is written natively for the i5/OS (IBM i). Why? Because solutions that have been written natively to run on the platform allow you to drill down to why specific jobs or processes have failed, which "agent-based" software can't provide on the iSeries.
  • A company that can provide reliable technical support. When reviewing software solutions always seek reference sites, case studies, or testimonials.
  • Scalable solutions. Ensure that, as your business grows, you can expand your levels of automation to minimize operational costs
  • Software vendors that keep their solutions compatible with the latest release of the IBM i. Ideally, they should have an IBM accreditation for their solutions.
  • Regular updates and new releases of software provided as part of your maintenance contract and evidence that vendors do continue to invest in their software.

What About ROI?

How many times have you heard the words "return on investment" recently? More and more, the IT manager has to prove to senior management that IT is delivering value back to the business. My own view is that good IT managers have been doing that for years anyway, but now more than ever, and particularly under increasing scrutiny, we have to prove the case.


With a good systems management tool in place, occurrences of events can be automatically monitored, and, most importantly, the appropriate action (or sequence of actions) can be automated. This avoids manual checking, human error, and the unexpected.


One thing to remember is that automation is a continuous improvement program. When planning your automation project, remember that you will need a phased approach.


An appropriate systems management solution allows you to automatically deal with all of the routine monitoring by mirroring what a real, live operator would do in a given situation.


In the white paper "101 Things You Can Automate on Your System i (iSeries) and Ten Top Tips for Peace of Mind," you will find both written examples and links to video resources that clearly demonstrate how systems management tools enable companies to grow (without increasing staff headcount), simplify the management of complex environments, and significantly reduce the risk of unplanned downtime. Download this free white paper today from the MC Press White Paper Center.



Michael Floyd

Michael J. Floyd is the Vice President of Engineering for DivX, Inc.



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