IBM's Tivoli Intelligent Orchestrator Makes Data Centers More Efficient

Orchestrator, along with IBM’s own IT Director product, will form part of IBM’s best practices to provision almost anything in the data center.

IBM dusted off its May acquisition and relaunched Think Dynamics ThinkControl, renamed the Tivoli Intelligent Orchestrator. The product is at the center of a radical transformation of Tivoli to the new IBM mantra of “On Demand," where data centers should be more efficient with less staff and, potentially, less wasted hardware.

It appears that the tiny Canadian systems management firm was acquired as one of the missing pieces of a grand strategy to harmonize offerings across Business Services Management: availability, optimization, security, provisioning, and what IBM calls orchestration.

IBM also used the opportunity to expand on the glimpse it has already given of its Project Symphony when it announced the availability of a single iteration of the Orchestrator product, the Web Infrastructure Orchestration, earlier in October. The Web product uses predetermined business rules to manage a blade server. When activity is high, the blade server can apply more server power to your web infrastructure; when it is not so high, it can carry on with what it was doing before.

Given that IBM now ships blade servers with spare servers inside, this Orchestrator software can also provision from scratch—that is, install an operating system, add middleware and an application server, and add itself to the Web workload. Then, after the peak is over, the blade server can drop out of the cycle and go back to sleep, all based on agreed Service Level policies.

Far from being just a simple way to provision bare metal in a blade server, the Orchestrator, along with IBM’s own IT Director product, will form part of IBM’s best practices to provision almost anything in the data center, and IBM promised many more Orchestrator versions and an automated provisioning tool for SANs early next year.

The tools will control servers running Windows, AIX, Solaris, Linux, or OS/400, although it can only run directly on Windows and Linux, and prices for Orchestrator alone will begin around $25,000. The key to this is that the effect of Project Symphony is a slow modular process, says IBM. There is no “rip and replace”—these elements work with everything you already have installed.

As far as we can determine, there will be many smaller incremental steps over the coming months on Business Services Management, availability, optimization, security, provisioning and what it calls orchestration, from all the divisions of IBM, each one aimed at delivering savings by automating some element of traditional IT, all under the aegis of Project Symphony.

Robert LeBlanc, general manager of Tivoli software for IBM says, “We did some research and found that it takes 6 to 7 weeks to deploy a new server at most companies. Now that’s not on demand is it? But 80 percent of this time is due to problems with applications that are manually loaded. When things are not automated, you lay yourself open to a lot of human error and it takes time. We plan to provide a workflow-style provisioning engine, called Provisioning Manager, which will come with 135 preset workflows. We have 40 just for configuring Cisco products.”

IBM also says it will have 150 of what it will call Innovation Centers around the world by the end of year 2004 where all of these best practices will go into an IBM Universal Management Infrastructure, which can be delivered as easily from IBM, its consulting group or its Global Services teams.

ThinkControl was written using open standards J2EE and XML, which now fits in well with Tivoli, which IBM says is midway through a rewrite into the same Web services standards.

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