Research Report                    IBM’s System Director 6.3:           Improved Usability, Installability, FunctionalityE...
IBM’s System Director 6.3: Improved Usability, Installability, FunctionalityIn this Research Report, Clabby Analytics take...
IBM’s System Director 6.3: Improved Usability, Installability, FunctionalityFigure 1: IBM’s System Director 6.3 — A New, M...
IBM’s System Director 6.3: Improved Usability, Installability, Functionalityconfiguration details. With this much detail, ...
IBM’s System Director 6.3: Improved Usability, Installability, Functionality       In security, IBM has simplified securi...
IBM’s System Director 6.3: Improved Usability, Installability, Functionality        AEM allows IBM users to choose to trad...
IBM’s System Director 6.3: Improved Usability, Installability, FunctionalityThese enhancements lead to improved end-user a...
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IBM’s System Director 6.3: Improved Usability, Installability, Functionality


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IBM’s System Director 6.3: Improved Usability, Installability, Functionality

  1. 1. Research Report IBM’s System Director 6.3: Improved Usability, Installability, FunctionalityExecutive SummaryWhen Clabby Analytics last examined IBMs System Director systems managementenvironment we noted that IBM had created a common management database (CMDB)that enabled IBM’s System Director and IBM’s Tivoli management environments to makeuse of the data that each program environment had collected. Using this data, SystemsDirector was able to more effectively manage a systems environment from the firmwarelevel through the management of physical and virtualized servers (virtual machines).Tivoli could also make use of data found in the CMDB to perform advanced managementfunctions such as automated provisioning through application tuning and performancemanagement. We noted that the unification of these two environments created a verycomprehensive systems management stack that could span from firmware throughautomated provisioning and workload management.A new revision of Systems Director (version 6.3) has just recently been announced. Thisrevision focuses on: 1. Improved usability; 2. Ease of installation; and, 3. Extended functionality.From a usability perspective IBM has improved the overall look and feel of the product byreorganizing the screen flows, by inserting more and clearer instructional messages, and bymaking clever use of highlighting that draws users attention to what needs to be done next.From an ease of installation perspective, the new Systems Director greatly simplifies thedeployment of the Systems Director master program and related plug-ins. And it nowmakes use of an embedded IBM DB2 Enterprise Edition Database (meaning that to deploythis product systems managers no longer need the assistance of a database administrator).From an added functionality perspective, the new Systems Director adds new functions ininventory management, and virtual machine support (with full support for the KVMhypervisor), and in storage management (with extensions that allow informationtechnology [IT] managers and administrators to discover, inventory, and receive alertsfrom both IBM and EMC storage devices). Further, with the use of additional plug-ins(IBM System Director VMControl and Storage Control), System Director can be used toautomatically provision IBM and EMC storage.
  2. 2. IBM’s System Director 6.3: Improved Usability, Installability, FunctionalityIn this Research Report, Clabby Analytics takes a closer look at the recent improvementsmade to IBM System Director. We describe how IBM has made this product easier, morelogical, and more obvious to use; how IBM has simplified the installation and deploymentprocesses related to Systems Director and associated plug-ins; and we describe some of thenew functionality that has been added to Systems Director that gives it greater control overthe physical systems that it manages (including new monitoring functionality all the waydown to the firmware level); greater control over virtualized resources; and greater controlover IBM and EMC storage devices.Systems Director 6.3: An OverviewIn a nutshell, Systems Director 6.3 offers systems managers and administrators with asingle point of control for managing physical and virtualized systems environments andassociated peripherals such as storage. Its simplified graphical user interface has beendesigned to help reduce complexity and cost of IT management. Further, it creates a launchpoint for plug-in applications that manage virtualized resources and that can provideintegrated service management. And, most impressive, it has been designed to work acrossIBMs three server architectures: the IBM System x, Power Systems, and System z.From our perspective, we see IBM’s System Director as a master management programthat provides several monitor and control functions to systems managers andadministrators. These functions include:  Discovery and inventory;  Visualization of server/storage/network infrastructure;  Dashboard views with health and status information;  Monitoring functions (including the ability to automate these functions);  Physical and virtual systems management;  Security monitoring and administration;  Support for integrated service management (clothing support for integrated service functions, automated support response, an update management); and  Common cross-platform navigation and look and feel.Adjunct add-on plug-ins to IBM’s System Director include programs such as IBM’s ActiveEnergy Manager and IBM Storage Control….A Closer Look: What Has Changed in Version 6.3?The first thing users of IBM’s Systems Director 6.3 will notice is that the opening screenhas been reorganized around four functions (see Figure 1 — next page). These functionsare: 1. Update IBM Systems Director; 2. System Discovery; 3. Request Access (to systems and systems resources); and, 4. Collect Inventory.Using these tabs, users can perform initial setup tasks, view and/or activate various plug-ins (such as VMControl or energy management plug-ins), and gain access to additionalinformation.October, 2011 © 2011 Clabby Analytics Page 2
  3. 3. IBM’s System Director 6.3: Improved Usability, Installability, FunctionalityFigure 1: IBM’s System Director 6.3 — A New, More Streamlined/Logical Interface Source: IBM Corporation — October, 2011Notice on the left side of the screen in Figure 1 that a variety of tasks can be easilylaunched. What we noticed as several of these activities were launched was that there havebeen changes in functionality and in look-and-feel. In short, with System Director 6.3, IBM has simplified the discovery, installation, service, and update processes.A Closer Look at UsabilityAs an example of how IBM has improved System Director usability, consider whathappens when the “inventory” tab is launched. In the past, an inventory request wouldproduce a list of all sorts of inventory information that is important to x86 managers andadministrators — information as deep as firmware releases all the way up to systemOctober, 2011 © 2011 Clabby Analytics Page 3
  4. 4. IBM’s System Director 6.3: Improved Usability, Installability, Functionalityconfiguration details. With this much detail, managers and administrators were barragedwith information and sometimes had trouble finding what they were looking for. In thenew revision, IBM has redesigned the inventory screen to make it easier for SystemDirector users to locate the information that they need. Further, IBM improved the analysisand reporting function of this task — and made it easier to export information to othermanagement/reporting environments.From a look-and-feel perspective, IBM has improved usability “color coding” to drawattention to potential next steps in a process (the next step in executing a task) — and IBMhas added several new messages to help operators better understand what they are doing.Further, to inhibit operator errors, IBM has introduced what we call “halt” messages —messages that need to be read before an action is taken. For instance, a user may want tolaunch a wizard — but a halt screen shows up first to warn the user of the consequences ofhis or her action. To perform the action, the user needs to acknowledge the halt screenwarning — and can then move forward. In this revision, IBM has put a lot of effort into improving Systems Director usability while also focusing on finding ways to help eliminate user confusion that could result in operational errors.A Closer Look at Ease-of-InstallationIBM has done a couple of things to improve the installation process related to thedeployment of System Director and associated plug-ins. First and foremost, IBM hasintegrated its DB2 Enterprise Edition with Systems Director 6.3 — making the deploymentof the database that Systems Director needs to perform its job much simpler.Further, IBM has worked to make the deployment of plug-ins (programs that can beassociated with Systems Director to perform actions such as energy, storage, and virtualsystems management) easier to accomplish. Additionally, IBM has extended its free trialoffer for these plug-ins to 90 days from 60 days — and that 90 day time clock begins onlywhen a client first uses the plug-in.It should be noted that some of the functionality actually remains in systems director evenif the client chooses not to purchase a particular plug in. For instance IBM’s ActiveEnergy Management plug-in contains an energy monitoring function as well as advancedenergy management functions (such as power capping capabilities). The energymonitoring functions remain after the trial, even if a client chooses not to purchase. But theadvanced functions go away.Finally, it should be noted that license management has been simplified in version 6.3 —and activation is user-defined.A Closer Look at Changes in FunctionalityIBM Systems Director 6.3 introduces all sorts of changes in functionality, includingchanges in security, virtual machine management, storage integration, and in performance:October, 2011 © 2011 Clabby Analytics Page 4
  5. 5. IBM’s System Director 6.3: Improved Usability, Installability, Functionality  In security, IBM has simplified security administration by integrating certificate/key management and unified user management functions.  From a virtual machine perspective, IBM has expanded its virtual machine hypervisor support to include open source KVM. (In fact, IBM’s implementation will put KVM on a par with PowerVM — a very advanced virtual machine manager that performs functions such as create/edit/delete, power on/off, alert monitoring based on system health, virtual machine deployment facilities, and relocation services (mobile partitioning).  In storage management, the Storage Control plug-in now has support for EMC storage devices including the ability to perform discovery and inventory actions, as well as to receive alerts;And,  In the area of performance, System Director 6.3 performs inventories faster (with faster discovery and start-up times), while increase the number of endpoints that can be managed.Our Favorite Improvement: The Energy Management Plug-inClabby Analytics often produces white papers and webinars in the field of energymanagement (especially as it relates to system utilization and to overall data center powerusage and cooling. And given the positions that we have taken in the past (we likeproducts and programs that help prevent energy waste), it is easy to see why we gravitatetoward IBM’s Active Energy Manager (AEM) plug-in.IBM’s AEM plug-in is a software tool that performs certain basic monitoring functions thathelp enterprises monitor, measure and control their energy usage — giving customers theability to exercise certain controls to reduce energy costs. What it does is it gives IBMcustomers the ability to, from a single console, create a dashboard view of the actual powerusage across multiple platforms (this is a real-time view, not a benchmarked powerconsumption historical view). And, even better, AEM works across multiple vendors x86platforms. Using this tool set, IBM customers can find ways to conserve energy usewithout impacting response time of the systems theyre using and without interruptingsystems continuity. Several of IBM’s competitors can monitor energy consumption at a system level. But IBM can do this across all of its systems (including Power Systems, System z, i, and System x servers — as well as across storage subsystems).A closer look at AEM shows that not only does it monitor energy usage, it also allows IBMusers to to cap power usage at the system level (in other words, a system is given energyparameters in which it is allowed to work) This is incredibly important for those customerswho may have signed an agreement with their utility companies where they havethresholds in utilization of power — and if they exceed those thresholds they pay apremium for power.October, 2011 © 2011 Clabby Analytics Page 5
  6. 6. IBM’s System Director 6.3: Improved Usability, Installability, Functionality AEM allows IBM users to choose to tradeoff power consumption for performance in order to stabilize power usage or even in a an outage, to be able to throttle back their systems to reduce consumption. This is something that no other vendor offers our client.Figure 2 provides an overview of the energy building-blocks served by AEM.Figure 2 — Active Energy Manager Building Blocks Source: IBM Corporation — October, 2011Sunmmary ObservationsEvery major systems vendor offers a systems management environment that can monitorsystem behaviors, enable systems administrators to take actions on those behaviors, andthat can generate reports on system behaviors and management actions. All of thesesystems management environments offer a graphical user interface and the ability to launchspecial purpose “plug-ins” to perform virtualization management and storage integrationtasks.IBM’s System Director 6.3 is, in some respects, like these other vendor’s systemsmanagement environments. It provides monitor and control functions designed to enablemanagers and administrators to keep their physical servers up and running. But SystemsDirector 6.3 has several enhancements and benefits that separate it from other vendorsserver management environments. These differentiators include improvements in:  Usability;  Installation;  Serviceability;  Security;  Reliability; and,  Performance.October, 2011 © 2011 Clabby Analytics Page 6
  7. 7. IBM’s System Director 6.3: Improved Usability, Installability, FunctionalityThese enhancements lead to improved end-user and operations staff productivity gains —enabling an enterprise to achieve faster time-to-value. In fact, IBMs study showed thatthese improvements can increase IT staff productivity by up to 20%, while reducing ITadministrative costs by 34 to 42%. Further, IBMs installation improvements enable fasterand more flexible IT deployments that accommodate new and changing workloads.Overall, Systems Director 6.3 provides a single, unified and simple point-of-control thatspans x86 servers, IBM Power Systems, mainframes, and related storage.Clabby Analytics Clabby Analytics is an independent technology research and analysis organization that specializes inTelephone: 001 (207) 846-6662 information infrastructure and business process integration/management. Other research and analysis© 2011 Clabby Analytics conducted by Clabby Analytics can be found at:All rights reservedOctober, 2011