V4R4 Systems Management Gets Boost

With all the fanfare surrounding the logical partitioning, e-business and security features and enhancements included with last month's release of OS/400 V4R4, it is easy to overlook the large strides IBM has made in the area of AS/400 systems management.

Coinciding with the latest release of OS/400 were several key improvements to IBM's Systems Management Partners Group (SMPG) program, which is comprised of three main elements -- operating system, Tivoli Systems Inc. systems management software and IBM's SMPG partners.

Operating system improvements to AS/400 systems management manifested themselves in V4R4 in the form of Operations Navigator, a tool that provides a Windows Explorer-like interface for graphical database management.

AS/400 users in more complex network environments require a good deal of function, typically provided through Tivoli, an IBM subsidiary that provides systems management solutions, says Sandy Haydon, project manager for IBM's SMPG. "When Tivoli originally came into IBM, it did not have support for AS/400, but IBM has worked with Tivoli to change this."

Even with improvements to Operations Navigator and Tivoli offerings, IBM decided there was still a need for additional systems management options for its AS/400 customers. "Maybe they need more niche solutions, more complex than what we provide in the operating system," Haydon points out. "Or maybe some customers would prefer not to go to a Tivoli solution, but rather an AS/400-centric solution."

As a result, IBM began to enlist third-party software vendors for its SMPG, which focuses on the different areas IBM needs to work with partners to meet customer requirements, according to Haydon. "Solutions providers who participate in the SMPG work closely with IBM's AS/400 marketing and development teams," she says. "From a marketing standpoint, IBM communicates with its SMPG vendors the direction that AS/400 brand is taking."

This collaboration between IBM and its partners comes to fruition with the AS/400e Software Sampler II for Systems Management, delivered with V4R4. Sampler II builds upon its predecessor, distributed with V4R3. While the first software sampler was a pilot available to users in North America and shipped with all V4R3 upgrade orders, the V4R4 sampler represents a worldwide campaign, according to Haydon.

"The sampler contains information about each of the software products highlighted in the SMPG program," Haydon says. Within the sampler, vendors can provide information about their products as well as "try and buy" versions of their software, which typically includes a 30-day license.

New to this most recent sampler is software from CCT Ltd. (London), Help/Systems Inc. (Minnetonka, Minn.), SoftScreen Inc. (Princeton, N.J.) and Vision Solutions Inc. (Irvine, Calif.). Vendors returning to the CD sampler for a second time are: New Dimension Software (now a part of Houston-based BMC), PentaSafe Inc. (Houston) and Byteware Inc. (Grass Valley, Calif.).

CCT's DetectIT is a modular system security product that covers auditing, data management, application control, client/server, policy compliance, e-commerce, user authentication, object and multi-platform security for a large number of users and AS/400 networked systems.

"CCT was selected by IBM to become part of SMPG because we have a reputation in the marketplace for providing a complementary solution to IBM's own security system," says Minal Chouhan, marketing executive with CCT. "Our relationship with IBM through the SMPG program will continue to provide customers with an ongoing high level of security demanded by users of AS/400."

V4R4 represents significant progress by IBM in the field of e-commerce, according to Chouhan. "DetectIT's inclusion in the CD sampler incorporates e-commerce technologies such as remote token authentication, enhanced Internet controls, with detection and auditing functions, which will help customers wishing to play a major role in e-commerce," she says.

Help/Systems' Robot/REPORTS product specializes in AS/400 report management -- producing segment and summary reports, bundling reports, and printing these bundles at the user's choice of network printers.

"Part of the problem on the AS/400 today, performance-wise, is people don't have access to their old reports, so they have to write queries to get at old data," says Tom Huntington, VP of technical services for Help/Systems. "Queries are one of the things that are hardest on processors because most IT departments don't plan for how people are going to build access to their data. Robot/REPORTS was probably one of the best products we could offer through the program to make people really aware of the benefits of report management."

One of the greatest benefits offered by the CD sampler is providing users with casual exposure to different systems management options, without having to first go through a vendor's marketing department, according to Huntington. "There's some significant savings that can be done in the IT world if [users] automate and go more to an electronic processing of reports," he adds.

SoftScreen's CONFIG/400 is a systems management configuration software, designed to interrogate and manipulate the location, status, last used date and TCP/IP address of every object configured on an AS/400. CONFIG/400 is installed on any PC and -- using TCP/IP and FTP -- communicates directly with the AS400 without using any AS/400 commands.

IBM enabled SoftScreen to come into its systems management program and work on a product that would fit very well with Operations Navigator, Management Central and V4R4, according to Russell Ruggiero, VP of marketing and sales for SoftScreen.

"One of the benefits of CONFIG/400 is that it replaces the green screen with a simple point and click GUI," Ruggiero says. "It replaces more than 2,000 OS/400 combinations with simple point and click GUI; in essence this product enables the user to find out what lines, controllers and devices they have."

Vision Solutions' SOLO/400 is designed to allow users to automatically save transactional data to tape. Used in conjunction with any AS/400-supported tape drive, SOLO/400 provides continuous, real-time backup of mission critical transactions.

"IBM selected us to participate on the CD Sampler for the area of recovery management," says Terri Carr, director of strategic alliances for Vision Solutions. "SOLO/400 is a product that allows continuous real-time backup of mission critical transactions."

Using SOLO/400 AS/400 shops can save hours of re-keying labor in the event of a system failure, reducing the time and resources needed for data reconstruction, according to Carr. "There is complete flexibility in the selection of which files will be saved," she adds. "It is ideal for single system environments."

Haydon points out that IBM dictates which kinds of software and which vendors are included on the sampler. "[The software samples] address those areas where we know customers have needs and where either we do not have a solution or do not plan to provide a more complex solution," she says.