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Project Monocle Will Simplify Patching

system updates

How do you go about determining what fixes you need for your system to remain up to date?

Do you use FLRT or FLRT LITE?

Do you just log into IBM Fix Central and start looking at what is available?

What if you had a dashboard that you could log into that showed you your system names across your whole environment, along with the current level of firmware and which AIX and VIOS OS version is running? What if it also showed you the recommended versions to upgrade to? What if you could also see the machine type and serial along with the IP address of your LPAR or frame? Would you be interested in getting a tool like this running in your environment?

What if it had a dashboard that gives an overview of what needs to be updated and what systems are up to date? And what if that tool allowed you to create and share plans with other stakeholders in your organization to help with change management planning? Moreover, what if it allowed you to filter on OS, or firmware, or VIOS. What if you could choose the types of machines, or the current levels you wanted to drill down on.

I was recently given access to a demo version of Project Monocle, which is a tool that provides for all of the functionality I described above, and I have to say I am very impressed with it. I look forward to getting it up and running so that I can do further testing in my environment. Right now, the tool is available at no charge as a technology preview, so I would suggest reaching out to the team ASAP so you can try it out for yourself. In order to get tools like this created and IBM resources assigned to work on them, users need to let IBM know what improvements they want to see. This is an example of a tool that can help simplify the lives of Power Systems administrators.

There were some interesting blog posts written about the creation of the project, including these:

““This is the best story of design at IBM in the last three years… The team came to them saying they need one-click firmware updates for Power Systems… By doing field research, they found out that this was a human problem, not a system problem. Not only did research inform what they built, but what they built was beautiful itself as well.” — Phil Gilbert, General Manager of Design at IBM

The blog posting continues with: “The Monocle team was tasked to explore the field of updates and upgrades that are mission critical to keeping all of IBM Power Systems server products secure. Think: these servers are those that run major data centers around the world that are the backbones of credit card companies, major retailers, and even governments in some instances. The sponsoring product team originally came to us asking for a ‘one-click update’ for all Power Systems. Through user research, we discovered that a one-click update was actually not the right way to go.

“We found that the current process of updating servers is rigorous and time intensive. It causes headaches for enterprises to not only find the appropriate fixes their servers need, but then it's even worse to actually schedule downtime on the servers to fix the issues and report those repairs for security compliance purposes. It's next to impossible to automate this process; in fact, automating it could even make matters worse! Even after that process is completed, an enterprise still has to report on its security patching in order to maintain compliance with industry regulations. As one of our Sponsor Users identified during an interview, planning and managing security patches and updates is not only a pain to perform, but also to report on.

“Not only does the security patching process take a lot of effort, but it is vitally important to the safety and security of the enterprise data; one mistake here could take an entire organization down.

Rob McNelly is a Senior AIX Solutions Architect for Meridian IT Inc. and a technical editor for IBM Systems Magazine. He is a former administrator for IBM. Rob can be reached at

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