OpenView Delves Deeper Into Systems Management
Hewlett-Packard has been delving deeper and deeper into crossplatform enterprise systems management, through a series of technology investments in OpenView. Now, users and analysts are definitely feeling the impact.
When it comes to heterogenous environments, OpenView is a strong player, according to Bill Emmett, solutions manager at HP. "OpenView compares favorably to IBM Tivoli and CA-Unicenter on the basis of both cost effectiveness and modular, plug-and-play architecture," he contends. Aside from its myriad API interfaces, Emmett emphasizes OpenView's support for myriad operating systems and multiple "open standards."
Emmett's enthusiasm isn't surprising, since vendors typically tout their own products. Some users and analysts, though, are equally gung-ho.
Tim Hagan, VP of IT operations and engineering for Zurich Life, says it took him and a couple of other people less than 90 days to deploy OpenView in a complex call center environment.
Zurich Life is using OpenView to manage about 110 servers and 65 databases in two physical locations. The systems are running HP-UX, Sun Solaris, IBM AIX, and Microsoft Windows 2000, NT, and XP. Zurich is operating OpenView on HP-UX servers, but the systems management platform runs on Sun Solaris and Microsoft Windows servers, too.
No Longer "Just a Network Node Manager"
When Hagan first came to Zurich Life in January of 2000, the insurance firm was still using HP's old Network Node Manager. "That was one of the reasons I was hired. It didn't hurt that I'd had prior success with OpenView in an earlier job. I knew that OpenView has a very open architecture, and that it would very quickly tie in with our (other) existing platforms and tools," according to Hagan.
The current OpenView product does include Network Node Manager as one of its myriad optional modules. Used for network element discovery, layout, inventory and performance, it connects with HP OpenView Operations for cross-discipline administration.
"The old Network Node Manager (alone) was a very reactive environment, though. We kept hearing about outages from our internal customers. We'd get the symptoms and descriptions after the events had already happened. We'd end up looking not so good, and sometimes we'd need to bring in a bunch of people to help fix the problem," Hagan says..
"With OpenView, however, we've become instantly proactive. We can prevent problems, and we're aware of problems that do occur before the users even know about them. If a customer calls, we can say, 'A trouble ticket has already been created, and a page has been sent out. Such-and-such application will be up in an hour or two.'"
HP needs to be a software player
Some critics argue that OpenView can't be all that important to HP, since HP's hardware revenues far outweigh the software side. However, industry analyst Jasmine Noel disputes that conclusion.
Noel points to a number of industry trends affecting HP, as well as other industry providers. "Margins on computing hardware keep declining; computing-based business services are now critical to enterprise success; and successful delivery of business services requires management of the entire compting stack," she says.
"The computing stack in every large enterprise continues to be heterogenous," adds Noel, who is principal at JNoel Associates. "This combination of trends requires HP to have a heterogenous management solution (in order to present) a credible software story to enterprise customers."
Noel also likes the investments HP is making in "intelligent" management, for more efficient administration, and in industry partnerships, for better interoperability with other vendors' products.
Emmett notes that HP first moved into systems management with Network Node Manager in 1988. "We used what technology was available at the time, including SNMP. We then started adding more and more capabilities," he adds. Acquisitions helped HP to build up OpenView. In 1997, for instance, HP bought Prolin, the Netherlands-based maker of the IT Service Manager suite.
At this point, HP's large OpenView family revolves largely around Operations Monitor and Performance Monitor. Each monitoring product has agents running on all major platforms, ranging from Linux to MVS.
Operations Manager is the central enterprise console, for an end-to-end view of the enterprise that includes client PCs, the network, applications, and database. Performance Monitor provides tools such as a graphing function and reports for monitoring and analyzing resource utilization.
For better interoperability, OpenView complies with standards ranging from SNMP and RMON to OMI. "We often sit on standards committees, in fact," according to Emmett.
HP also offers a set of templates, known as Smart Plug-Ins (SPIs), for configuring third-party tools. "The Smart Plug-In knows where to find the log files in Oracle, for instance," Emmett illustrates.
The HP Operations Manager can also be combined with OpenView Service Navigator, Service Information Portal, Service Desk, and Internet Services, as well as with Network Node Manager, for example.
Service Navigator uses information captured in the SPIs to let administrators drill down to discover root causes for potential problems. If a warning flashes because application performance is degrading, the administrator can drill down through the database and storage system to find out that a disk is overheating, for instance, according to Emmett.
Service Navigator also includes "impact analysis" capabilities for determining which databases and applications are likely to suffer, and the level of severity of the impending hit. OpenView uses color coding to indicate six different severity states.
Administrators can automate response sequence, such as paging an administrator or failing over to a backup server, for example. An optional add-on known as Advanced Security provides authentication and data encryption.
As Emmett sees it, OpenView has two main sets of competitors: "framework vendors" (such as IBM Tivoli and CA) and "point tool vendors." BA Patrol, he says, "falls somewhere in between."
Deployment in 88 days
"My company granted us 180 days for OpenView deployment. I set up a much more aggressive schedule of 90 days, but we were able to finish up in 88 days," Hagan says. Hagan worked on the rollout at Zurich Life with one fulltime consultant, plus one employee. The employee spent 50 percent of his time on the OpenView rollout, and the other half of his time on Unix administration.
"One important piece was to make sure we got the requirements for alarms monitors and thresholds from all of the associated systems managers. We didn't want to be paging someone at 3 am, just because server capacity had reached 90 percent," Hagan recalls.
Hagan claims that he's gotten extensive cooperation from all across his company. "Our e-commerce team thinks OpenView is wonderful. What you can do with OpenView is limited only by your imagination."
Zurich Life has already used HP's SPIs to integrate Oracle, Sybase SQL Server, and several third-party management tools. Hagan says the company is now testing SPIs for Lotus Notes and Ciscoworks, for instance.
Zurich did consider other systems management products, such as Tivoli, Unicenter, and Patrol. "Some products, though, don't provide data that's as meaningful, and some have longer implementation times. We didn't have a huge staff to roll this out," Hagan points out.
More automation on the way
"Windows, Solaris, and HP-UX. Those are the server environments that systems management products typically run on, although sometimes you get one or two others, depending on the vendor's partnerships," Noel observes..
Beyond that, Noel doesn't want to compare OpenView with other systems management products. "Each one is too different," she maintains.
The analyst is especially impressed, though, with HP's future plans for simplifying systems and automating service level management with OpenView.
"HP's message it their target market is that corporate IT departments that operate as business partners will be more successful, less prone to costcutting measures, and less likely to be outsourced," according to Noel.
"HP has two overall messages about its solutions. The first is (that) HP solutions help corporate IT deliver better services with fewer resources and lower costs. The proverbial silver bullet HP OpenView offers is service level management. HP expands the definition of service level management from the current understanding of monitoring and alerting on SLA violations to one of a process of defining,provisioning, managing, and optimizing the resources delivering the service," according to Noel.
"HP's second message is (that) their solution set is both comprehensive and innovative. (The message) is comprehensive in that HP has solutions for every aspect of service level management and continues to add capabilities. (It is) innovative in that HP's newest products address how new technologies change the management requirements."
HP's three-year roadmap calls for further improvements to integration, infrastructure, and storage management; development of a Service Level Object Model; and delivery of products "that aid in the diagnostic process," the analyst notes.
On the integration side, for instance, HP is now in the process of consolidating its multiple integration APIs into a single toolkit for third party vendors.
With the Service Level Object Model, HP is looking to "grab all the information, and put it into a common format, so it's easier to share information as you move from one step in the process to the other," according to Noel.
In terms of infrastructure coverage, HP is working on Web Services standards and protocols such as J2EE, WebMethods' OMI initiative, and Microsoft's .NET servers.
Some of OpenView's latest products, such as OpenView Transaction Manager, can monitor J2EE and .NET services and applications. For the future, though, HP plans to build in more intelligence.
"You can monitor 100 things in J2EE, but which ones are most important? Right now, you only get that by using (OpenView) for a while. Also, you can trace the path a transaction took through .NET, but you can only do this after-the-fact. HP wants to bring this into realtime," she says.
HP now offers SPIs for WebMethods, Microsoft .NET, and SunOne Web Services - SOAP Engine, for example. At least 40 SPIs are provided, all told.
Other recently added OpenView products include Service Activator, for automating the delivery of services offered by hosting providers; and Data Protector, a replacement for OpenView Omniback II.
Data Protector is designed for integrated management of disk-based and tape-based recovery across multiple OS, applications, and storage architectures. Administrators can manage both recovery time and recovery point objectives.
HP integrates Compaq
With the Compaq acquisition, HP is now working on integrating Compaq's products into its systems administration mix. Compaq Insight Manager will continue to be used only in Wintel environments, since its administration capabilities are hardware-oriented, Emmett says.
However, Compaq's TeMIP product for telco administration is now being ported by HP from Tru64 - which was originally DEC Unix - to HP-UX and Solaris, Emmett adds.
Essentially, editions of OpenView for HP-UX, Solaris and Windows offer the same capabilities. "But we're also taking advantage of the characteristics of each platform. The Windows version was designed for Windows from the ground up. It makes use of Windows drag-and-drop, for instance," Emmett says.
OpenView is Windows 2000-certified. On he Windows side, the product also uses Microsoft technologies that include MMC, WMI, CIM, DCOM, Visual Basic scripting, HTML/XML, HTTP/SOAP, Internet Explorer, and IIS.
"Meanwhile, we're also keeping our eyes open for other potential server platforms, including Linux," adds HP's Emmett.