Want to know what's in the IBM Systems Director 6.3 enhancements? And maybe before that you'd like to know what Systems Director is and how it fits in with Ops Nav?
Written by David Shirey
Did you ever offer to do something and then be very sorry that you did? Yeah (raising my right arm), that's the case with me and this article.
In principle, I thought it would be pretty simple. Just get a list of the enhancements to the IBM Systems Director package release 6.3 for the i and write a short blurb for each one. How hard could that be? Can you spell "slam dunk"?
The problem, of course, is IBM and its penchant for giving multiple things nearly the same name, so that you're never really sure what they (or you) are talking about. So, before we start talking about what's new in Systems Director, we'll clarify just what it is and how it differs from other things with nearly the same name.
Navigator vs. Director
If you're in the i world, you're probably familiar with the System i Navigator or Ops Nav. This GUI product has been around forever; it lets you monitor and control your i without having to know and use a lot of command-line commands. In some ways (but not all), Systems Director is the logical evolution of the Navigator product, but does that mean you'll want to use Director instead of Navigator?
Part of the problem is that there are really four products that have the word Navigator or Director or both in their title. Let's start by taking a look at what each of these products is.
System i Navigator (or Ops Nav for the i) is the product that most of us are familiar with. Want to look at your IFS? Want to see what's sitting on the outq of a particular printer? Want to do most anything without having to enter clunky (but effective) command-line commands? This product has been around since 3.7, but 5.1 is the release where it saw its biggest jump in terms of capabilities and where most of us began to depend on it. Currently, it's primarily in maintenance mode. Nothing big will be added, and that's fine with me because it already does everything I need it to. It lets me quickly look into my i and do things without thinking about formal commands. But it's a Windows app, and in this day of multiple operating systems, wouldn't it be nice to have something more flexible (that is, something that's not just Windows-oriented)?
To be honest, there's a component of System i Navigator that's Web-based (System i Navigator for the Web). This product was IBM's first foray into a true Web-oriented System i Navigator, an attempt to provide the same functionality that's in the Windows client on a more open, Web-browser format. This came out in 5.3 but really hasn't replaced the Windows client of Navigator because of the limited functionality built into it. Consequently, this may not be your final answer if you're looking for something with more operating system flexibility.
IBM Systems Director Navigator for i was released in 6.1 and is commonly referred to as "Director Navigator." This is pretty much a full release of the Ops Nav built for the Web. A couple of the exceptions are the Management Console and some of the DB2 administrative/management functions. Again, because this is Web-based, it doesn't require that you be running from a Windows machine in order for it to work.
And finally, there's IBM Systems Director, which is a true multi-platform, mulit-environment management system. It's Web-based, runs on a server, and shows both real and virtual resources not only for the i, but for a variety of platforms. The server on which it runs can be Windows-, AIX-, or Linux-based, but it won't run on the i. Systems Director does lots of things, but it's really designed for those of us who live in a multi-platform world, rather than just the i.
And that's it. The naming makes perfect sense to IBM, so it should to you as well. Deal with it. In the rest of this article, we'll focus our attention on that last product, IBM Systems Director—specifically, the new release, 6.3. There's a ton of new features, and the list below isn't exhaustive. But hopefully I captured the mountain tops.
What's New in 6.3
So what's new in Systems Director 6.3? What's presented below isn't everything that's new, but it's most items, organized by category. For a more comprehensive list, see the references at the end of this article.
First, there are improvements to the installation process. For example, Systems Director 6.3 bundles the plug-ins so that you can download Systems Director and then two months later decide that you want to try one of the plug-in modules. At that point, you can activate it so that the 90-day "test period" begins right then, not when you brought Systems Director in. Within that 90-day window, if you decide you don't want the plug-in, all you have to do is deactivate it. The result is that you have a lot more time than the 90 days after you install Systems Director to make a decision on specific plug-ins. It's awesome, dude.
There is also an installation "pre-checker" that ensures the necessary resources are there for you to do a solid install. This will give you an upfront feel for what you can get away with.
Second, enhancements to the CAS agent allow it to pick up additional "inventory" information about the networks and devices that are in the system. Obviously, keeping this information is a main reason that you'd need a system like this; the more info you can gather, the greater the chances that you'll pick up the information you need to fully monitor everything from the director console.
Speaking of inventory information, a summary screen has been added that shows the most important items and the related resources.
Plus, the new View Report button provides single-click access to all of the inventory information related to a specific system or systems group.
Finally, the new Collect Inventory button lets you select a group of servers and then schedule the collection of information for those resources. This allows you to pick the times of the week/month to look more closely at that resource. This is so totally cool. (What? Too over the top?)
Third, a number of enhancements improve overall information view capabilities and simplify the setup of more automatic tasks. For example, the console itself has been improved with a new welcome screen, a special link to a page listing sex secrets of the stars (requires special licensing), the inventory view enhancements listed above, etc.
Even though the Systems Director server doesn't run on the i per se, a number of new screens are oriented around managing the i resources it encounters. These "i monitors" are found on the main monitor screen and feature drill-down capability.
Finally, there are general enhancements that allow you to view users/groups, authorize groups easily, support single-sign-on technology, and map a user to a remote user. I mean, it's almost like IBM was paying attention to what current Systems Director users wanted in the system. Weird.
Fourth, there are additional action-oriented or automation enhancements to Systems Director.
One new thing that you can do is set up day-to-day virtualization management for creatimg custom virtual servers, editing hosts, and moving and monitoring virtual resources. This capability is available not only for PowerVM, but also KVM (which is now supported for x86 and AIX systems), VMware, and Hyper-V as well.
Also, we now have the ability to not only create an automation plan, but also tie that to an activation threshold. That is, if you only want to track information in a given subsystem when a certain process total exceeds a given value, you can now set up that threshold. The really neat thing is that you can create multiple thresholds (high critical, high warning, etc.). Plus, you can export automation plans, event actions, and event filters to other systems using XML.
Another enhancement is the fact that now the system can monitor your system pools and alert you when there's a need to rebalance resources. Version 6.3 also allows you to grant a level of autonomy to the software so that if you are amenable, it can do the rebalancing automatically and remove that task from your to do list, something to think about as you gain more confidence in the system.
For the sake of ease of use, the Assign Role task structure has been simplified. With 6.3, all you have to do is click on the resource group you're interested in and then select the role that will appropriately provide and limit a given user's access.
And finally, Systems Director 6.3 will monitor the appropriate Web sites to see when new PTFs or other software updates are available. To do this, of course, the Systems Director server must have Internet access, and you can either do it manually or set it up as a scheduled event. Needless to say, you will still have to abide by your normal PTF/software update guidelines (load them into test first, try them out, yada, yada, yada). But at least this will keep you from forgetting to check for them.
A Peek from the Peak
And that's the mountain top view as I see it. Is there more? Yes, but I've used up my allotted space. For more info, please check out the references below: