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iSeries Navigator V5R3 Polishes and Expands Systems Management

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In past articles, I introduced you to important new iSeries Navigator functionality that had been long requested and finally delivered. The V5R3 release is unique. iSeries Navigator has become a rich systems management interface. We at IBM polished existing functional areas and then expanded into other areas.

In this article, I'll explain what we have polished in iSeries Navigator for V5R3. In addition, I'll mention the exciting areas that we are expanding into, such as intelligent agents and Web-based systems management tasks.

Polishing Our Gem: iSeries Navigator

In V5R3, iSeries Navigator was enhanced in many ways. We updated almost every area of the tree to help you improve your IT management. Here are some highlights.

Management Central

In our pursuit to help you clone systems, we added another element: Synchronize Functions (Figure 1). To complement your ability to compare and update fixes and system values, the Synchronize Functions wizard allows you to synchronize key functions across systems. For V5R3, the key functions we chose were Enterprise Identity Mapping (EIM) and Kerberos. These two functions are the key ingredients to achieve system-wide single sign-on, which means that you can configure single sign-on on one system and synchronize the values across all of your systems so you are up and running with single sign-on much faster.

http://www.mcpressonline.com/articles/images/2002/V5R3%20Polishes%20and%20Expands%20Systems%20ManagementV4--05100400.png

Figure 1: The Synchronize Functions wizard allows you to synchronize key functions across systems. (Click images to enlarge.)

Management Central had an Achilles heel. No matter how fancy we made our monitoring and multi-system tasks, if your central system shut down, everything shut down. Now, in V5R3, Management Central is highly available and scalable. What does this mean? Simple. If you use any clustering solution, you can now include Management Central data in your failover schemes. For example, once you set it up, if your primary, central system goes down, all of your monitors, tasks, systems groups inventory, and other Management Central data will be swapped to your backup, and you won't miss a beat in keeping your IT shop managed. Because Management Central is now scalable, you can collect inventory and run across many, many more systems than before. We have improved the time required to collect inventory as well as how the data is collected.

We also added new Collection Services categories to Management Central so you can collect cross-partition data as well as data port services data. We added new properties to our system monitors, too; if you monitor Disk Arm Utilization (Average or Maximum) or Disk Storage (Average or Maximum), you can monitor multi-path disk units and remotely mirrored independent auxiliary disk pools data. And we developed a new, more-accurate method for calculating CPU utilization in partitions.

Finally, Electronic Service Agent is now integrated into the base operating system. This means that if you want to collect inventory and send it to IBM so we can help you analyze your system, there is nothing extra to install.

Configuration and Service

This is where administrators go to, well, configure and service their iSeries. For V5R3, we polished a number of areas.

We added more system values in the Auditing, Date and Time, Jobs, Performance, Security, and Save and Restore categories.

We also added Time Management. Now, you can not only manage time zones, but also adjust system time in an intelligent way. It's just a fact that some objects in OS/400 don't like to be sent back in time. But that's exactly what happens when minor time adjustments are made, such as a clock gets set back for Daylight Saving Time. Now, in V5R3, you can tell the iSeries to slow time down or speed it up so it synchronizes with the time you prefer. You can even use Management Central's Synchronize Date and Time action to synchronize multiple systems, and it will take advantage of this new intelligent time management.

In V5R3, Disk Management lets you configure and manage geographic mirroring for independent disk pools, optimize parity sets for availability, retrieve disk unit logs to gather information about specific disk units, and view multi-path disk unit connections from several input/output processors on an iSeries server to a single disk unit in the Enterprise Storage Server. There is also support now for a Windows disk drive maximum size of 1000 GB. The ability to print the Graphical View for records and reference was a common request, so we implemented that, too.

Network

Network is where administrators who are working on connecting their iSeries to the outside world live. If you have integrated xSeries servers or want to set up single sign-on, this is also where you want to be. The following enhancements were made to each area under Network.

Windows Administration was polished to provide greater flexibility in managing integrated xSeries servers. Additional properties and information on Windows disk drive volumes are now shown. Windows disk drives can now be 1000 GB. And OS/400 users who are enrolled in the Windows OS can now have a different user ID on Windows than on OS/400.

Directory Service, the place to manage LDAP on the iSeries, was enhanced in a variety of ways. The Performance property page now lets you specify cache settings for the server. There is now a new Password property page with security enhancements. Kerberos Authentication was added to the Connect to Directory Server action. And the Search property page allows you to control sorted/paged search results and restricts access to access control list (ACL) attributes on entries. Finally, a new Web-based user interface was added to help administer the directory server from one common UI. Check out the IBM iSeries Information Center for more details on that.

A Simple Network Time Protocol (SNTP) server is now available to configure so that your iSeries can be used for time synchronization across your network.

Enterprise Identity Mapping (EIM) was updated with the ability to work with digital certificates as a type of user identity. EIM now works with mapping policies to define many-to-one mappings through policy associations as well as to test your EIM mappings.

Databases

One of the best examples of how we were able to polish iSeries Navigator is our Databases function. In the new structure, objects are organized by container, which is more industry-standard in that it supports the SQL object schema. You can still create simple libraries if you want. From iSeries Navigator, you can also sequence objects, manage your check pending constraints, view the SQL used to perform a database action, and launch the iSeries Graphical Debugger to debug your SQL statement from Run SQL Scripts.

Because partitioning has become so popular, V5R3 allows you to partition tables to help you more easily manage large amounts of data. Reorganizing tables was enhanced to allow stopping and resuming table reorganization as well as viewing the progress of the reorganization.

Integrated File System (IFS)

The polishing of this function for V5R3 took the form of security and scanning enhancements. We all know how rare it is to have a virus infect the iSeries, but we are also now aware that it's possible to have an iSeries host a virus on the IFS. That virus won't infect OS/400, but it may infect other networked computers if users aren't careful. Because of that, we added a new security page that lets you set scanning settings for objects created in files and folders. In the properties, you can also specify auditing value, change options, user ID, and primary group ID. See Figure 2.

http://www.mcpressonline.com/articles/images/2002/V5R3%20Polishes%20and%20Expands%20Systems%20ManagementV4--05100401.png

Figure 2: The new IFS security page lets you set scanning settings for objects created in files and folders.

We added some other features, too--like the ability to make objects savable, the ability to set objects created in a folder to be scanned, and the ability to restrict rename and unlink.

User Defined File Systems (UDFS) enhancements also made it into V5R3, including the abilities to set objects to be scanned, restrict rename and unlink, specify a default file format for UDFS, and change user and group ID settings on a mounted UDFS.

AFP Manager

The AFP Manager is the place to go for detailed print and image management. In V5R3, AFP Manager has extended its capabilities by providing intelligent routing, which lets you specify any combination of stream file, spooled file, or email for the PDF output files. You are now able to re-spool the input file (or a segment of the input file) as AFP for printing or faxing functions. You can also specify a PDF administrator to receive emailed failure messages with the PDF file attached for simplified reprocessing. You can even specify encryption options for the emailed PDF and work with PDF mapping objects, which let you access functions that require a mapping program without having to write a program.

Other Usability Enhancements

On top of all the functional enhancements, we also made a number of great usability enhancements across iSeries Navigator.

When running tasks in Management Central, you can now choose to automatically open the task results window when starting a task. This means that when you kick off an inventory collection or if you send a set of users across systems, the task status will open up so you can instantly see how the task is doing. This is turned on by default, but by opening User Preferences, you can change it to not open automatically.

In the past, initially opening the Management Central container took some time, and the only indication that work was being done was the hourglass and the tiny status at the bottom. Now, when it takes longer than five seconds to open the container, we will bring up a dialog showing what is happening. In many cases, we are successfully connecting, but it's just taking time to start the TCP/IP servers we need. Other times, there may be configuration problems, so we now show a "Verify Connection" button to help you troubleshoot configuration problems.

One of my favorite enhancements is to the message and file monitors. In the past, when a monitor triggered, you could call a program and set up some really nice automation. However, frustration soon set in because there was no way to automatically reset the monitor. This meant that if you were monitoring for any inquiry message and wanted to automate how it was responded to, you could respond to the first message that triggered the monitor, but then the monitor would just sit there until it was reset. Meanwhile, all kinds of inquiry messages could have been missed. Frustrating! In V5R3, we added a checkbox to automatically reset your file and message monitors after a command has been run. Now, your automation program will be called every time the trigger criteria have been met.

One sore spot with some users regarding iSeries Navigator is its perceived performance problems. We have worked very hard to improve your performance experience and have also added a performance advisor that is designed to help determine why you're experiencing slow performance. Many times, the PC, network, or iSeries environment limits how fast iSeries Navigator can perform. I'm impressed by the detail the performance advisor shows and the suggestions it offers to improve performance.

If you search for users in V5R3, you will find that we show you more complete search results when searching for users across systems. Copy from Media, the action you need to take if you want to copy PTF save files from your Cumulative media to your iSeries, was enhanced to allow concurrent copying from different systems.

In the area of usability enhancements, gold stars for polishing go to Printer Output and Messages folders, and TCP/IP. These areas have been overhauled to include many usability enhancements:

  • Improved Include criteria
  • Changes to default columns to improve performance
  • Improved status values
  • New columns
  • New properties
  • Improved ability to uniquely identify a printer output file
  • Improved arrangement of properties
  • Improved drag/drop and cut/copy/paste support
  • Integration with Output Queue and Printer functions
  • New action allowing files to be exported to the client desktop or file system
  • New action for sending printer output via TCP/IP
  • New action for Restart Printing
  • New Printer Output taskpad
  • Use of common iSeries Navigator dialogs, standard controls, and consistent terminology

Other usability enhancements include the ability to edit the IP address of endpoint systems, the ability to export inventory to Unicode, enhancements to SNTP and SMTP server support, the addition of CIMOM server support, the addition of new Quality of Service (QoS) function, and enhancements to eCare connectivity, which is used for setting up a connection to IBM support.

Expanding Systems Management Capabilities

In this new world of On Demand and autonomic computing, we realize we need to expand into new areas to help you manage your IT shop better. Here are two new ways in V5R3 that we're helping you get a handle on these new technologies.

Intelligent Agents

The age of autonomic computing is here. A technology we introduced on the iSeries back in V5R2 is the Agent Building and Learning Environment (ABLE). What ABLE does is let you, us, and Business Partners create intelligent agents to find problems and decide what actions to perform, based on environmental criteria. But what happens when you have a bunch of intelligent agents running around your system trying to make decisions about problems and deciding to take actions based on its own knowledge and experience? What you need is one place to go to interact with these agents. We don't expect you to just let these agents start automating any action, so we've added levels of trust.

The Intelligent Agent folder in iSeries Navigator enables the agent to request permission to perform an action, based on environmental conditions it found. You then can review the agent's suggestion and either tell it to proceed or change the action to something else. This way, the agent learns what you would have done and begins to respond accordingly, and you start gaining trust that it knows how to fix problems. This folder can connect to multiple ABLE platforms, so agents running across systems and potentially across multiple platforms can be viewed in this one area.

We're still fairly early in our ABLE exploitation, but we are hoping Business Partners and even customers will start exploring the possibilities.

iSeries Navigator Tasks from the Web

In V5R3, we are starting to provide iSeries Navigator tasks from the Web. In this release, you can access core systems management tasks from your browser. There are over 30 tasks you can perform from the following categories: Printer Output, Jobs, Messages, Work Management, System Values, and Databases.

Since all of these tasks can be directly accessed by a URL, you can embed these tasks into your own Web applications. The URLs are basically the parameters to help customize the viewing so that you can show jobs for a certain user, etc. We also realize that URLs are not the easiest thing to memorize or look up, so we provide a URL Advisor that asks some questions, such as what system you want to go to, which task you want to perform, and what user you want to run as. Then, it generates the URL for you. You can then copy it and use it as you see fit.

One last important element in these Web tasks is that you only need one iSeries to have a Web server running. This function allows you to point to one system as the Web interface but do systems management tasks on a different system. We also added access control to Application Administration so that you can control which systems can be a Web server for the iSeries Navigator tasks for the Web, and you can also control which systems can be managed by the iSeries Navigator tasks for the Web. See Figure 3.

http://www.mcpressonline.com/articles/images/2002/V5R3%20Polishes%20and%20Expands%20Systems%20ManagementV4--05100402.png

Figure 3: Now, you can access core systems management tasks from your browser.

V5R3 Has a Lot to Offer

V5R3 is quite a release. For more information on what you can do with iSeries Navigator, check out our Web site. From there, you can link to functions by release, frequently asked questions, or the Information Center, which delves into these topics in great detail.

Greg Hintermeister is an eServer user interface designer at IBM Rochester and has worked extensively with iSeries Navigator, iSeries Navigator for Wireless, and several Web applications. You can reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

GREG HINTERMEISTER

Greg Hintermeister works at IBM as a user experience designer and is an IBM master inventor. He has extensive experience designing user interaction for IBM Systems Director, IBM Virtualization Manager, System i Navigator, mobile applications, and numerous Web applications. Greg is a regular speaker at user groups and technical conferences. You can email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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