Visually simplifying the environment through dashboards accompanied by automation is a primary way vendors are addressing the complexity challenge. “The enterprise data center may include three or four platforms and multiple middleware tools. When someone calls with a problem, how do you triage that? The problem could be anywhere,” says Re. Think about the “email is down” problem previously noted. CA’s Clarity and Wily Introscope tools help address the complexity challenge, as do tools from BMC, IBM, and others.
IBM’s new management vision and the new Tivoli toolset, however, may be more complex than some customers need. “For us, a lot of the Tivoli suite is overkill. The footprint is more than we want now. We’re more incremental in our management approach,” says A. Harry Williams, director of technology and systems at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY.
Instead, the college runs a mix of homegrown, IBM, open source, and third-party management tools. For example, it uses Nagios, an open source host, service, and network monitoring tool; IBM’s Host Management Facility to monitor applications running under z/VM; and DirMaint for z/VM. Williams also tested the Tivoli Provisioning Manager on an Intel system.
At this point, System z shops like Marist want the flexibility to piece together multiple tools for different purposes. “We need to manage our Oracle database one way, because that’s our bread and butter application, and the student Virtual Machines (VMs) differently,” says Williams. He’s willing to loosen the reins for students to experiment with their VMs, something he’d never do with the critical Oracle applications.
Similarly, Sweden-based Svenska Handelsbanken Group, a dominant bank in the Nordic countries with a global presence reaching as far as the U.S. and China, manages its z9 Parallel Sysplex (scheduled to be upgraded to z10 in September) with a smattering of IBM tools. These include Omegamon XE for DB2 on z/OS, and Tivoli System Automation for Multiplatforms, but Svenska IT managers report they are only just starting to explore greater use of the Tivoli toolset.
Whether you’re a conventional big iron mainframe shop like Svenska, or a loose, multi-platform operation like Marist, your users increasingly will regard the data center as just another service. To them, the CICS application is no different from a Google service, a Linux machine, or a mashup overlaying MapQuest data.
Underlying the jockeying among Tivoli, CA, BMC, and others for leadership of this new generation of data center management is “the issue of full lifecycle cost, which can give one vendor a tremendous advantage,” says Day. This dramatically changes the tool selection equation.
For example, the System z New Application License Charges (zNALC) reduce the cost of running a qualified system such as popular Java-based business applications, effectively lowering the full lifecycle cost. Tivoli stands to gain from zNALC in the competition with CA and BMC. “If the full lifecycle cost is less, then the management tool only has to be good enough,” says Day.
That still leaves the data center manager wrestling with the challenge of actually delivering strategic BSM. Re tells of a Wall Street firm where business managers solicit bids for IT as business services. The mainframe data center won a large share of the bids by emphasizing Quality of Service (QoS), availability, and performance. “Often the mainframe footprint grows when you approach it this way,” says Re. The lesson: strategically manage the data center as a service.