IBM manages the competition

IBM will escalate the systems management war this week when it gives NetWorld+Interop show attendees a peek at a collection of products, featuring one that integrates with the systems management environments of major competitors, including Microsoft.

Tentatively called Netfinity Director, the environment is a completely reworked version of the company's Netfinity Manager that leverages key pieces of the IBM Tivoli management system. It lets administrators manage IBM clients from competitive server environments, including Microsoft's Systems Management Server (SMS) 1.2 and 2.0, Intel's LAN Desk Management Suite, Hewlett-Packard's OpenView, Computer Associates' Unicenter, and the Tivoli Enterprise Management System.

"If you are in SMS and you want to manage a RAID subsystem on a Netfinity server, you can now do that from your management console," said David Walker, a program director for systems management at the Personal Systems Group, in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The piece of Director that resides both on the server and on an IBM desktop or ThinkPad portable system, called Universal Management Agent, is also compatible with other management software products such as SMS and Tivoli.

These latest products represent the first step in IBM's push to differentiate its PC servers and desktop systems in a market in which products are increasingly viewed as commodities.

"Competitors have been leapfrogging each other in systems management tools. I think IBM this time has done something no one else has, as far as coming up with a system that supports standards and helps users manage PCs in a multivendor environment," said one analyst briefed by the company.

Netfinity Director features a new Java-based interface and complies with the Common Information Model (CIM) standard.

Crafted by Microsoft two years ago, CIM is a specification that helps define the way applications and hardware talk to each other and how interfaces and objects should interoperate.

A single-click management system, the Netfinity Director console presents administrators with a three-column screen. Column one lists defined groups of users in the network, column two lists the contents of each group, and column three lists tasks.

IBM will also announce its Systems Migration Assistant (SMA), which aims to simplify the chore of migrating dozens or hundreds of systems from one desktop or server environment to another.

The new tool allows administrators to save individual settings for printers, TCP/IP communications, and the customised appearance of a user's display to a server file.

A tool also debuting this week, Capacity Manager, is built around an IBM artificial intelligence engine. It analyses memory usage, disk utilization, CPU cycles, and LAN traffic in subsystems; alerts administrators to existing and latent bottlenecks; and makes repair recommendations.

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