IBM readies upgrades of server management software

The next major revision of IBM's Director server management software will ship in the third quarter and will focus on ease of use and openness, a company official said last week.

IBM Director 5.1 will begin previews with a select group of customers this month and is expected to be released sometime after July, according to Rob Sauerwalt, IBM's global brand manager for systems management. In the meantime, a Director 4.22 upgrade is due to ship in mid-June with support for managing storage and networking devices, he said. Previous versions have been devoted to management and automation of IBM's eServer systems.

When it becomes available, Version 5.1 will be bundled with all of IBM's servers, including its mainframes, midrange servers, x86-based systems and BladeCenter devices, Sauerwalt said. Using standards such as the Simple Network Management Protocol, the Director software also can be used to manage hardware from multiple vendors, he said.

A Director server license costs US$599 for non-IBM hardware, and a client-level agent sells for US$59.

In response to requests from users, IBM has made improvements in openness and simplified some of the functionality built into Director as part of the planned 5.1 release, Sauerwalt said. "Customers said earlier versions were too complex and took too long to learn," he said. For example, a new feature coming in Director 5.1 is a simplified graphical user interface that relies on the Internet Explorer Web browser.

The new user interface "looks exciting," said John Encizo, a network engineer at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee in Chattanooga. The insurer uses a mix of the current Director 4.21 release and an earlier version to manage 400 x86-based servers and virtual systems used by 4,200 workers. Encizo estimated that Director has saved the company $100,000 over the past three years by preventing downtime and reducing the need for troubleshooting on systems.

Encizo had an early glimpse of Director 5.1, and he said its user interface is "more dynamic and reduces clutter" compared with the user interface in earlier versions of the software. The new interface also should make it easier for IT staffers to pinpoint problems in systems, he said.

In addition, IBM is making the agents that are installed on servers and send information to Director more lightweight, which should lower the amount of memory and processor capacity required to run the agent code.

Despite the improvements on the Java-based agents, Encizo said he would like to see them streamlined even more. "We've begged and pleaded for something less resource-intensive," he said.

Director doesn't provide all the functions of a broad management software framework such as IBM's Tivoli line or rival offerings from vendors like Hewlett-Packard Co. and Computer Associates International Inc., Encizo said.

However, Sauerwalt said that Director can work with those kinds of products.

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