Tivoli Puts AS/400 in the Driver's Seat

When Tivoli Systems Inc. releases the latest version of its IT Director management solution in August, the AS/400 market can expect to take advantage of the product's broadened horizons. Whereas IT Director was initially released last year with support for Microsoft's Windows NT only, AS/400 system administrators will soon be able to choose either NT or AS/400 as their primary management server platform.

In addition to running natively on AS/400s with V4R3 and above, IT Director 2.1 also provides client support for Novell NetWare 5.0, database support for DB2 and Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 and continues existing support for Windows NT/95/98/3.11 and OS/2.

For the AS/400 market, the availability of IT Director native on the platform means network administrators have a solution that helps them manage attached clients from a central location. "With Version 2.1, we now support AS/400 on the server and at the client level," says Doug Kern, market manager for packaged solutions at Tivoli (Austin, Texas). "We're giving customers the flexibility to manage either from an NT box to an AS/400 desktop, or manage natively on the AS/400 to all of their desktops."

IT Director's raison d'être is to help small and medium sized businesses manage increasingly complex IT environments. "We see that 70 percent of the AS/400 installed base is in this SMB market," Kern says. "Currently, we have a number of customers who have been using IT Director from an NT server in managing their Wintel platforms, but they also have a number of AS/400s that they would like to include in their day-to-day management. What this new version allows is for the IT administrator to include AS/400 in their management. It also gives them the flexibility to manage from NT or from an AS/400."

IT Director also enables network administrators to look at their environment as a common whole, providing the flexibility to use AS/400 reliability and scalability as its integrated IT management server, according to Baron Unbehagen, product manager of Tivoli's IT Director. "In the AS/400 market, typically the Netfinity manager has been the only management product available to this segment," he says. "[Within] this type of distributed environment, where you have a mix of AS/400 and NT, the IT managers were having to manage each platform independent of the other."

According to Kern, IT Director targets shops with a single IT administrator who has the responsibility for managing all the aspects of keeping IT assets up and running -- including managing the network, managing and distributing new applications, keeping servers up and running, and being the help desk as well. "When we look at the needs of this particular group of customers, we felt they were not being served capably by their alternatives at the time," Kern says. "There were a lot of products out there that were either point solutions or solutions that were one-size-fits-all."

IT Director includes basic management and extended management. Basic management consists of: automated discovery of hardware and software inventory; software distribution; remote control; network management; and a single, flexible Java browser for remote viewing over IP.

"In order to perform software distribution from an AS/400 server, there needs to be an NT server present, because you have to perform a re-directed software distribution through that NT server," Unbehagen points out. "This Windows NT server does not have to be the management server, however."

On top of the basic functions, Tivoli wanted to give IT managers the flexibility "to continue driving IT as a valuable part of the company," according to Kern. This goal resulted in extended management features, such as: applications management (for applications like Domino, SQL server or Microsoft Exchange); extensive product partner, or "snap in", integration; and event action plans (an automation management routine where administrators can take specific monitors and apply thresholds to them and then associate different tasks with them).

Enhancements available with Version 2.1 fall into four groups, according to Kern -- expanded platform support; expanded language support; expanded industry standards support; and improved performance. Expanded industry standard support is of particular interest to the midrange market, as IT Director now manages the Common Information Model (CIM) and Desktop Management Interface (DMI) standards that leverage the Web-Based Enterprise Management (WBEM) initiative for accessing and managing asset information from desktops, servers and applications.

Richard L. Ptak, VP of systems and applications management for Hurwitz Group (Framingham, Mass.) gives IT Director 2.1 high marks for its support of the AS/400 platform, which "gives Tivoli a more consistent set of user interface and functionality across a wider set of operating system environments, so that you don't have to learn a new set of interfaces and functions."

Interest in Version 2.1 has reached high levels within the Canadian government, as IT professionals at the Royal Canadian Mint consider an upgrade from Version 1.21 to take full advantage of the solution's native support for AS/400. The decision to roll out IT Director on one of the Mint's three AS/400's hinges upon first upgrading those servers to V4R3, a move not planned for this year.

The Mint became interested in Version 2.1 as a way to expand its use on the AS/400, the heart of the organization's enterprise management system, according to Robert Longpre, manager of computer services for the Ottawa-based Canadian Royal Mint. For the past six months, the Mint has been using Version 1.21 installed on Windows NT as a tool for facilitating asset management, software distribution and help desk.

Version 2.1 appeals to the Mint, according to Longpre, primarily for its espousal of the AS/400, but also for its full DMI standards compliance and PC support performance.