IBM to Launch "Autonomic" Assault This Week
IBM Tivoli will debut a large set of new products at IBM developerWorks Live! later this week, giving star billing to an autonomic engine, toolkit, and assessment tool. Many observers see the upcoming announcements as boosting Tivoli's stature in the areas of crossplatform management, security, and autonomic computing vs. industry rivals, particularly HP's OpenView.
Other announcements to be made during the event include a configuration manager for automated teller machines (ATMs), a new zSeries Performance Management product release, increased integration for Tivoli Access Manager, and upgraded editions of Tivoli's Enterprise Console, Remote Control, Service Level Advisor, and storage management offerings.
"The big noise, though, is autonomic. This won't be IBM's first move into autonomic computing, but it will be a continuation. With these announcements, IBM steps out ahead of HP," asserts Rick Sturm, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates.
"There's still a lot of skepticism out there about autonomic computing. What people have to understand, though, is that autonomic computing is real. It is not just hype; it's different, and it's going to change how we run IT," the analyst continues.
"Systems administrators will become more specialized, but more productive," he adds. "There will be a real demand for subject matter experts -- somebody, for example, who is a real guru in the internals of Linux, who can drill down in and quickly identify problems that are beyond the scope of a product's management capabilities. Or somebody who really knows about the interdependencies between pieces of network topology -- who can see problems in dynamic rerouting that might not be apparent to the software."
"Tivoli is taking a very broad approach to autonomic computing across everything -- hardware, security, and management tools, for example," notes Paul Mason, an analyst at IDC.
Tivoli's Autonomic Trio
The new Autonomic Engine to be launched this week is a component of IBM Tivoli Monitoring. The new engine is designed for analyzing errors, finding root causes, and starting corrective actions, according to Steve Wojtowecz, Tivoli's director of strategy.
About 15 ISVs are working with the engine today. The Autonomic Engine is expected to enter beta this summer, with general availability in the fall.
ISVs have also begun to use Tivoli's Autonomic Toolkit -- a product that is available now -- to write applications for the forthcoming engine. Sturm predicts that autonomic computing announcements will also be made by IBM's ISV partners, including third-party vendors in the management space.
"These products will be alternatives to Tivoli. Third-party vendors have always found ways to differentiate their management products. People will be able to buy autonomic computing tools from a number of vendors, instead of just getting everything from IBM or HP, for instance," he elaborates.
The Tivoli Autonomic Assessment Tool, on the other hand, is designed to help users "assess their readiness for autonomic computing -- what stage they're in," says IDC's Mason. Specifically, the tool will offer specific insights and recommendations in six operational areas. Customers will also be able to get a high-level view of the "potential business value" of autonomic computing.
Sun and Microsoft Going Autonomic, Too
Analysts also give nods to both Sun and Microsoft for making forays into autonomic computing. Sun's N1 initiative, though, is still limited to provisioning and storage management, according to Sturm. "What Sun is doing is less mature than the IBM and HP initiatives."
In Mason's opinion, Microsoft's announcement at its recent Management Summit was largely a statement of direction. "There will be some limited autonomic capabilities in the next edition of Microsoft's OS. Microsoft is looking to a high degree of integration. At this point, however, the integration will be done in typical Microsoft style," according to the IDC analyst.
Tivoli's Wojtowecz says he's impressed with the Microsoft initiative. "It's too bad, though, that we made more or less the same announcement last fall," he quips. Turning serious again, Wojtowecz acknowledges that Tivoli might encapsulate some of Microsoft's autonomic processes for Windows into its products at some point.
Tivoli Leads in Crossplatform Management, Including Linux
Among systems vendors, IBM Tivoli is widely regarded as the leader in business process re-engineering (BPR) and as one of the top two players -- along with HP -- in crossplatform management.
Aside from its other functions, Tivoli's new Autonomic Assessment Tool will let ISVs integrate best practices for autonomic computing into their applications.
"We've done a lot of work with vertical markets," states Wojtowecz. The new Configuration Manager for ATMs reflects IBM's work with financial institutions.
About 50 percent of Tivoli's current lineup runs on Linux servers, according to the Tivoli strategy manager. Another 80 percent supports Linux clients. The only Tivoli offerings that won't get Linux support are legacy products.
Among products being announced this week, zSeries Performance Management will add mainframes to the list of platforms getting "end-to-end performance management." The new Enterprise Console 3.9 will include a Web console, auto-discovery and problem diagnosis, and preconfigured rules for event management.
Tivoli Remote Control 3.8 will add support across firewalls, along with full datastream encryption. The Web console and central logging have also been enhanced. Tivoli SLA Advisor 1.2.1 offers a new SLA Wizard, enhanced visualization of SLA reports, and other ease-of-use improvements.
IBM will also announce integration between Tivoli Configuration Manager and network application installation software from third-party vendors Wise Solutions and InstallShield.
Security and Storage Enhancements
On the security side, Big Blue will announce integration between Tivoli Access Manager and nine third-party tools: Verity K2 Enterprise, nCipher's nForce hardware security module, Blockade's ESConnect, Cash-U's Pecan Entertainment Platform, Sena Systems's PortalPass, Wincom Systems's Platform, Kintana software, and OpenConnect Systems's WebConnect with its Single Sign-On.
IBM is also expected to play up integration between Access Manager and its own Tivoli Identity Manager, Tivoli Privacy Manager, IBM Directory Server, and IBM Directory Integrator. Both directory products are now being re-branded as Tivoli products.
Privacy Manager provides built-in privacy policies for vertical markets such as health and finance, according to Wojtowecz.
In the storage area, IBM will promote new autonomic enhancements to Tivoli SAN Manager, Storage Manager, and Storage Resource Manager (Enterprise Storage Forum's "IBM Plans Major Upgrades to Tivoli Storage Software" offers additional details on the storage-related news from Tivoli).
Room for Improvement?
Analysts, however, do see room for future improvement in the Tivoli toolset. "In terms of overall management, HP's management suite is still broader. The announcements at the upcoming developers show, though, will give Tivoli a big leg up," contends Andy Butler, an analyst at GartnerGroup.
IBM has done more than any other systems vendor to integrate support for business processes into its infrastructure, said Roddy Martin, an analyst at AMR Research, during the recent PharmaIT conference in New York City.
As Martin sees it, though, third-party product lifecycle management (PLM) vendors such as SAP, for instance, are still way out front in terms of encapsulating business processes in their software.
"IBM hasn't yet fulfilled its strategy for autonomic computing. They're on their way, though," states IDC's Mason.
With IBM's announcements this week, Tivoli will be able to give HP and other competitors a stronger run for their money, especially in the groundbreaking area of autonomic computing. Few things in life are perfectly complete, though, including management tools from systems vendors.