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i Can … Manage i with IBM Systems Director

March 8, 2010

IBM Systems Director is a multi-platform management solution that provides a consolidated view of your physical and virtual resources from a consistent Web-based user interface.

The marketing Web site linked to above, as well as the IBM Systems Director Information Center do a good job of explaining all of the “cool”solutions the product provides, but the real questions are:  What does it do for i and what makes it the right solution for an i environment?  While those are very good questions, there’s not one simple answer that’s applicable to all i users.

Director is geared toward the management of power, hardware, firmware, and basic monitoring of the health of the operating system, as well as maintenance of firmware and operating system updates. If you must do operating-system specific tasks, such as investigating the performance of an application, you would use the i platform-specific solutions.

Director can make it easier to have people not familiar with the i platform work with i partitions.  You need i skills to get Director properly configured. An example is only an i person knows what an appropriate level is for “critical storage condition” and what the standard first-level response to that condition should be. Once that expert has configured Director, either Director could handle the condition itself or a help-desk person could see the Director message and use the GUI to start a task that does the actual i commands.

In a multi-OS environment that contains i, the decision isn’t to either use Director or the i tools, but how to blend the two together.  When Director is installed there will be cases where IBM i tools are the best choice.  For those cases, it can be decided if Director should be configured to use or launch other tools or the tools remain outside of the Director interface. 

The IBM Systems Director Navigator for i Web console that was introduced with 6.1 is also integrated with IBM Systems Director. It’s no accident that the name of both products begins with “IBM Systems Director.”  When using IBM Systems Director with i, you can drill down into the IBM Systems Director Navigator functions when you’re working with an i partition. In addition, by using IBM Systems Director, you can also use IBM Systems Director Navigator Web console for partitions at the 5.4 release. The figure below shows how you can navigate from tasks related to an IBM i partition in Director to the functions available in Systems Director Navigator.

Ican3.8.10 Fig1

IBM Systems Director also has extended features that provide additional support that you won’t find in the Navigator Web console. For example, the Update Manager within Director handles obtaining, distributing and installing IBM i group and cumulative PTFs. Director also has the capability to collect inventory and monitor for new PTF groups to help ensure all the i partitions are in compliance with the company defined policies. In addition, Director is where you’ll find those functions that support multiple partitions. Functions such as Management Central that can be used to monitor multiple partitions won’t be supported in the IBM Systems Director Navigator Web console; rather, you’ll find those types of solutions being delivered with IBM Systems Director. 

To use Director to manage IBM i, you’ll need to install the Director Server on another operating system, since the 6.1 version of the Director Server doesn’t run on IBM i. This was a conscious decision made by the development team–it was felt that it was much more important to provide functional enhancements that the IBM i community has asked for, rather than spend the time and resources to get the Director Server running on i; and you really shouldn’t run your management server on the partitions you’re trying to manage.

With the Director server installed, you’ll be able to discover, collect inventory, run updates and use Systems Director Navigator functions without installing any Director code on IBM i.  Just by configuring and enabling Secure Shell-SSH, those functions will work with IBM i. After the initial  Director setup is done and you've taken the time to learn about the features of Director, you can then be decide if the i partitions should be “Agentless” (just using SSH), use a “Platform Agent” with Common Information Model (CIM), or use the full Common Agents Services. “Using IBM i resources with an IBM Systems Director Server”  describes how to enable each of these options and the features available with each.

If the interest is integration with Director Navigator, sending PTF groups and/or collecting inventory, there really is no reason to install the Common Agent Services code on i. i, with its OS options and Licensed Products, provides the required functionality to start using a Director server.  You may end up wanting the agent but there’s no reason you need to start with the agent. Both will look the same in Director, there will just not be as many options available to use on a SSH agent.  When a full agent is installed there will be additional things to monitor and tasks like file transfer, distributed command, etc. Also if your i platform is running a 5.x Director agent (5722DA1 V5R2M2 product), that agent level will provide about the same agent functionality as the Systems Director IBM i 6.1.2 agent. The Systems Director 6.x server may be used without changing the  Director agents that are currently installed. Note: To work properly with a Systems Director 6.1 server, IBM i should be made current on PTF levels, including PTFs for 5722DA1.

By installing an IBM Systems Director Server, i can be managed without installing any IBM Director Agent product. There’s no need to start by trying to use all of the Director functions. Just by using Director to get to the IBM i specific Navigator functions, a user will begin getting familiar with the product. That familiarity will help when expanding Systems Director's use to other capabilities.With Systems Director’s core functions and Systems Director being the foundation for many interesting extensions that provide energy, virtualization, network and availability management, being familiar with Director will be important. 

Finally, as a side note, I'd like to mention that IBM has published a redbook on IBM Systems Director Navigator, "IBM Systems Director Navigator for i."

P.S.  I'd like to clarify the naming and terminology I used in this article. Using the full product names repeatedly made the article somewhat cumbersome, so I shortened the names a bit. 
“IBM Systems Director,” “Systems Director” and “Director” all refer to the cross-platform management solution.  “IBM Systems Director Navigator,” “Director Navigator,” “Navigator,” and “Web console” refer to the IBM i administrative interface that was new with the 6.1 release.

I'd like to thank Scott Urness for his input and assistance in writing this article.  Scott is the lead developer for IBM i working with IBM Systems Director.

Posted March 8, 2010| Permalink