More important than ever, performance monitoring and tuning solutions for IBM i are expanding to help keep an eye on other platform servers as well.
Given how the dependence of enterprises on their computer systems is doing nothing but growing, it follows that the importance of monitoring the performance of those systems is increasing too. Particularly in 24/7 operations environments, maximizing throughput for business systems can be key to productivity and, by extension, profitability.
Performance breaks down into three general areas. Hardware performance, which includes such elements as processing speed, I/O output, and efficient management of memory and partitions, is the first area. Second is application performance, which, although it can be affected by hardware aspects, brings into play the efficiency of application code and the coordinating of actions between different software programs. Third, particularly for the IBM i, is the aspect of database performance, the speed at which data can be pulled into memory for calculations and other operations.
Performance monitoring and tuning solutions for the IBM i provide help for enterprises in all three of these areas, though not necessarily all in the same products. The largest group of products monitors and analyzes performance and sends alerts to operations personnel, and perhaps takes some elementary remedial actions, but by and large, corrective actions are left to humans. Other products focus on automatic system performance tuning, or monitoring and analyzing performance of applications and databases specifically. All these areas are important, but selecting a product depends on what aspects of computing are most important to business needs.
Solution Providers See Shifts in Demand
Although the need for performance-monitoring products in particular has been prevalent for many years, the nature of the demand has changed in some important ways. One key change has been away from the "standalone island" mentality that used to characterize enterprises using the IBM i and its predecessors, in favor of embracing the reality that the i often now exists in multiplatform environments.
"Since 2009, we have seen an increased demand for enterprise-level performance monitoring and reporting," notes Halcyon Software Vice President of Sales John Dominic. "Before that point, it was helpful to monitor multiple System i servers/partitions in a central place like a console or dashboard, but the demand lately has been to also include Windows and AIX performance information as well. This is because there are now less platform-specific resources available at most client sites, so being able to manage/monitor/tune different platforms for a single point has become essential in today's economy where everyone is under pressure to do more with less."
"The level of demand has increased, but today's requirements are different," observes Tango/04 Computing Group President and CEO Raul Cristian Aguirre. "IT people are maturing in the sense that they know they cannot present isolated views of technical components anymore; they need to go for the big, holistic picture. They need to be closer to the business. The only way to really know whether the systems are really working is to understand the end-to-end transaction, and that means understanding the process, the transaction itself, the different layers underneath, and the boundaries of what it is acceptable for the business or not. And this is a good thing, as [it] makes the IBM i team closer to the business, and hence more relevant. They just need the proper tools to represent a holistic vision."
Centralized Views of Wider Networks Are on the Radar
Both vendors report their customers are asking for even more information from their monitoring solutions in the future.
"The main request [that we see]," offers Dominic, "is to view performance issues on all various platforms (System i, Windows, AIX) in a single place, and also to be able to provide a single performance report that covers all platforms. This is because there are now less platform-specific resources available at most client sites, so being able to manage/monitor/tune different platforms for a single point has become essential in today's economy, where everyone is under pressure to do more with less."
"[Customers want a] single-pane view of different layers and systems," agrees Aguirre. "Transactions today can be really complex and span through several pieces of middleware and stuff, including DB2 and WebSphere and RPG or COBOL and Java and distributed clients and networks and browsers. To make sense of all that, you need proper modeling, you need to control service-level agreements (SLAs), and you need to be able to predict the future through forecasting mechanisms to be proactive and know the root cause of a problem even before it occurs."
Customer requests also include monitoring a wider range of devices as well. "Recently, we have been asked to consider allowing other systems and devices to feed performance information and thresholds into a central system," reports Aguirre. "Some of this is driven by 'sweating the assets' and making the most of what you have."
Self-Policing Systems: Yes or No?
The solutions for performance tuning often take remedial actions on their own in specific areas to improve system performance. Is this something performance-monitoring solutions might adopt in the future, or are performance-problem fixes still unique enough that actual corrections should mostly remain under the control of operations personnel? The two solution providers agreed that corrections need to be a blend of automation and human intervention.
"There is no limit for automation, and whatever can be done by a machine saves human time," is Aguirre's take. "In fact, we can do, for instance, hundreds of corrections per hour on some IBM i performance parameters, and it is great because no human can be so responsive, and even if he/she is, this is really boring stuff! But still, there is no substitute for people. The operations personnel will always be required. We just strive to make their lives easier."
Dominic emphasized the multifaceted nature of many performance problems. "We already take auto-correction steps for many performance problems on various platforms, but of course it's up to the individual client to decide what they want corrected. We are scoping out ideas to auto correct multiple linked error conditions. [For example,] if a customer calls to say their email is slow, it may be due to a slow server, inefficient database, network issues, a backup running, or a combination of some or all of these conditions. It's important to realize that an error condition may be caused by more than one reason."
Moving into the future, the two executives have slightly different visions. Dominic views the main thrust of demand in performance monitoring as continuing to look for consolidated views of a wider range of platforms and devices. Aguirre thinks demand will be driven by the need for greater business relevance on the part of IT in general.
Dominic: "[Current demand will continue.] Since 2009, we have seen an increased demand for enterprise-level performance monitoring and reporting. Before that point, it was helpful to monitor multiple System i servers/partitions in a central place like a console or dashboard, but the demand lately has been to also include Windows and AIX performance information as well."
Aguirre: "I think that the most radical change will be cultural, not technological. IT is going from an inside-out approach (when you start with technical stuff and eventually try to make business sense of it) to an outside-in approach (where you start with business objectives and decompose them into the technical pieces). It's all about maturity. And [that's] great, because the more aligned with the business the IBM i team is, the more relevant they are, and greater the chances for a promotion."
Tackling Your Performance Problems
Whether your performance problems are primarily hardware- or software-related, there are plenty of resources to help you improve processing efficiency.
IBM offers an assortment of library materials on performance management, as well as several pertinent products, but there is also a significant assortment of third-party products that can help with these types of decisions. For the IBM i, the two dozen or so products that are available to help with performance monitoring and tuning fall into three general categories.
First are performance-monitoring and analysis tools, which are solutions that report and analyze multiple system metrics (e.g., response times, system overhead, CPU use, disk use, output queues). These solutions sometimes make specific change recommendations, but they leave to humans the task of actually taking any remedial actions.
The members of the second group are utilities that do automatically take some kind of performance-tuning action, but generally those remedies are limited to several specific functions, such as interactive CPW performance.
Third are solutions that analyze how efficiently your application software or databases are using system resources (e.g., resource use, code execution efficiency). These generally point to remedial actions that can be taken by operations personnel to improve application or database-transaction performance rather than the solutions taking action themselves.
The product listings below divide the available solutions into these three general groupings. Please note that the descriptions offered for each product are simply indicators of the most pertinent features and are in no way a complete description of each product's capabilities. You should consult the links provided and other documentation available from the respective vendors to get a true picture of each product's feature set.
And as always when looking for products or services, be sure to check the MC Press Online Buyer's Guide.
Performance-Monitoring and Analysis Solutions for IBM i
Bytware (a subsidiary of Help/Systems)
Messenger Console monitors networks of servers for performance or other operational problems, sends alerts from a central console, and automates problem message-handling throughout a server network.
Messenger Plus handles 24/7 system and message queue monitoring and automates message-handling in single or networked servers, sends alerts of problems from a central console, detects common events, tracks configuration changes and history, and lets system managers design custom monitors for specific problems.
QSystem Monitor is a multipurpose system-monitoring and capacity-planning application that operates in real time and provides a graphical interface and graphical reports. Monitoring services include DASD, IFS, system availability, job runs, network activity, application performance, cache battery, high availability, and BRMS logs. Other capabilities include historical system-performance data over multiple time periods (e.g., day, week, month) and long-term retrospective analysis.
Available on a Software as a Service (SaaS) basis, iSeries Watchdog monitors IBM i servers remotely and provides key system health statistics in a graphical dashboard format. Areas analyzed include disk/DASD usage, system messages, tape status, object tracking, and system problem interrogation.
Advanced Automation Suite is a central-console product that helps users monitor and manage a wide variety of system activities, including system performance, SLA compliance, output and distribution queues, and disk space. Performance tools include Halcyon Performance Analyzer, which provides up-to-the-minute performance statistics and trends for any number of networked servers.
Operations Center Suite is a multiplatform monitoring and performance solution for AIX, UNIX, and Windows, as well as IBM i. The suite gives users and system managers a control point for managing system performance, job scheduling, disk space, system messages, and spooled files. Both Halcyon products include the Halcyon Enterprise Console, a color-coded GUI that lets staff monitor all networked systems from a single PC console.
Robot/Network monitors networks of servers or partitions from a central console. It oversees application performance, partition and server management, TCP/IP support, and control of multi-host networks.
Robot/SPACE keeps an eye on ASPs, IASPs, libraries, IFS objects, active job-storage levels, and other system-storage attributes to make sure system managers are aware of disk capacity problems and can anticipate future needs. Robot/SPACE also performs more than 20 disk-space cleanup functions.
IBM's iDoctor for IBM i is a suite of real-time analyzers (including the PEX analyzer), designed for both novices and experts, to inspect all aspects of system performance. Tools include analyzers for job, thread, and task performance data; database waits, I/O activity, and CPU use; job-run average response times, I/O rates, and memory-pool use; and heap analysis for systems using the Java Virtual Machine (JVM).
PM for Power Systems is a performance-analysis and capacity-planning software application for IBM i systems running i5/OS or AIX. It provides summary-level information on a system's current and long-term utilization trends, provides interactive access to 24 months of historical performance data, and provides data on virtualization capabilities.
Systems Director Navigator for i5/OS Performance displays summarized information in multiple charts and graphs with drill-down capabilities. It helps system managers spot and diagnose performance problems quickly.
MB Software & Consulting
Workload Performance Series is an integrated suite that analyzes System i application-processing environments. The suite includes customizable data collectors that help investigators zero in on a wide range of potential problems. Suite functions include monitoring and analysis of system resources, source-code execution, historical data, trends, resource utilization, and statistical overviews. The product can also help with database tuning, job analysis, and user tracking, as well as enabling users to set alert notifications to predefined thresholds.
Athene is a performance-management suite for servers running Linux, UNIX, Windows, and z/OS. It captures, collects, and transfers performance data from target servers to a central console. Core applications include alert management, performance analysis, Oracle performance reporting, and trend analysis and analytical modeling.
Midrange Performance Group
Performance Navigator is a graphical application that runs on a PC and carries out performance analysis of IBM i servers. It provides graphs and reports on various hardware and software aspects of system performance and lets users run different "what-if" scenarios for capacity planning.
SuperVisor is a tool set that, among other functions, provides a framework for analyzing and maintaining IBM i applications and operating environments across multiple servers or LPARs. SuperVisor lets personnel interrogate the OS and extract object attributes and system information for use in restoring system operating efficiency, integrity, and control.
Tango/04 Computing Group
VISUAL Control Center is a suite of integrated products that help monitor and manage performance of up to 999 networked IBM i, AIX, Linux, and UNIX servers and report data to a PC interface. The solution helps detect abusive users and programs, monitor system and end-user activity in real time and historically, and tune LPARs and memory pools.
Although designed primarily to handle system messaging,
MIMIX Director is a multifaceted suite for reporting on system resources and objects, automating system management tasks, tracking changes to physical and logical file dependencies, and assisting with system capacity planning. Specifically, in the areas of performance tuning, the suite automates disk optimization and enhances system performance, monitors and enforces management-designed usage rules, makes (and optionally carries out) recommendations for increasing performance, and maintains complete audit trails of all its activities.
System Performance-Tuning Solutions for IBM i
Fax*Star, a division of SEPE
Max400 tunes and maximizes interactive CPW performance of System i servers running OS/400 V4R1 through V7R1. Designed for situations in which the interactive capacity of the machine may have been set at a suboptimal level as a function of the machine model, the product installs and runs in five minutes.
Robot/AUTOTUNE monitors up to 25 networked IBM i servers for system performance factors such as memory allocation, CPU use, disk-space consumption, transaction rates, and response times. The solution displays data graphically on a PC console, as well as automatically making adjustments to help tune systems and keep them at peak operating performance.
Kisco Information Systems
GoFaster is a performance accelerator for older System i machine models that have artificial limitations on their interactive operations, but it doesn't offer performance analysis functions.
CPUScope is a performance enhancer for IBM i that monitors CPU and I/O activity. It searches for jobs that are consuming excessive resources and either takes predesignated remedial actions or sends alert messages in response to problems. Users can vary product-action execution based on time of day, day of the week, or day of the month.
Application and Database Performance-Tuning Solutions for IBM i
HomeRun is a suite of tools that improve SQL performance, optimize DDS logical files and SQL indices, audit data access, control resources used by queries, secure data, and help managers define system resource-use policies.
GiAPA gathers application performance data every 15 seconds and helps system managers see which applications are causing performance problems, as well as identify specific threads, programs, and statements that might be causing problems. In addition, GiAPA helps programmers discover how programs might be improved to run more efficiently.
JENNIFER is an application performance-management solution for Java and IBM WebSphere environments on IBM i and other platforms. Tailored for production environments, JENNIFER monitors network operations, database activity, system load and performance, and other application internal services. JENNIFER reports data via Ecclus, a PC-based user interface with 3D graphical displays.
AutoPilot is an application performance-monitoring suite for applications based on WebSphere MQ or Java .NET. It offers realtime analytics, tracks business transactions across multiple technologies, and provides a solution for administering and monitoring WebSphere MQ.
jKool is a Web-based service that monitors J2EE environments on any server worldwide to provide a lightweight performance measurement and monitoring tool for live J2EE, Web, and Web service–based applications.
Designed for use with IBM/Lotus products only, Collaboration CONTROL! is an application-performance and collaboration-management solution that analyzes application and database use, identifies unused resources (e.g., abandoned mailboxes, databases, user IDs), measures Domino application adoption, and helps monitor service-level performance. The solution makes all information available via customizable Web portals or reports targeted to specific individuals.
DASD-Plus is an automated disk-management utility that offers 25 disk-maintenance routines, with a special emphasis on DB2 performance. It analyzes disk usage based on multiple parameters, gathers data using the PEX analyzer of IBM's iDoctor tool, and runs disk-optimization routines at user-specified intervals.