eXc Software Connects iSeries to Microsoft's MOM and SMS
Published: January 10, 2006
by Alex Woodie
OS/400 shops have a plethora of options when it comes to systems monitoring and management tools. One only has to look through past issues of this newsletter to find reports on dozens of tools, which are valued for their capability to save administrators time and effort. Additional options can be found from Microsoft, including its Systems Management Server (SMS) and Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM), which can collect messages and issue commands to iSeries servers with some help from eXc Software's eXctender for AS/400 product.
MOM 2005 collects messages from a variety of sources and assembles them into graphical views that help administrators quickly determine the state of their IT assets, while SMS is an asset management tool used during the initial provisioning and ongoing maintenance of servers and PCs. Microsoft offers a number of agents that allow MOM and SMS to work with Windows operating systems and other Microsoft products, and it also helps outside developers create additional agents for non-Windows platforms and third-party products, such as databases, applications, and network equipment.
One of the companies taking advantage of Microsoft's plug-ins and integration points is eXc Software, a Las Vegas, Nevada, company that developed its first adapter for Microsoft's management tools in June 2003. Since then, the company has developed about 70 adapters connecting SMS and MOM to third-party products, including OS/400, mainframe, Linux, and Unix operating systems, enterprise security solutions, storage and network devices, printers and scanners, and applications and other management tools. eXc Software has signed nearly 100 customers to date, including the Borgata Hotel and Casino, which holds the honor of not only being its first customer, but also the first eXctender for AS/400 user.
eXctender for AS/400 allows OS/400 shops to automate the monitoring of important message queues, such as the QSYSOPR message queue. While QSYSOPR is the most important queue to monitor, any OS/400 program that can write data into a data queue can cause MOM to generate an alert, the company says. What's more, with a little bit of programming, users can also put MOM in control of their iSeries.
The product uses a combination of APIs from IBM and Microsoft, including scripts written using Microsoft's Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) API and IBM's Client Access APIs and Control Language (CL) programs, to collect information from OS/400 servers and to issue commands to them.
eXctender for AS/400 also provides a way to filter the messages generated by message queues before they're fed to MOM. eXc Software accomplished this by writing a Microsoft Access database that allows administrators to filter messages based on the type of message or based on other attributes, such as the name of a job or program that generated the message, the time of the message, or the severity of the message. This Access database can also reformat the text of the message, which is helpful when operators are not iSeries experts and are more accustomed to Windows names.
eXctender for AS/400 provides benefits even after it has helped capture and filter OS/400 messages and provided them to MOM. For example, if a message that hit the QSYSOPR queue required a response, the administrator could select their reply in MOM, and send that reply via eXctender for AS/400, the company says. The product can also help MOM accomplish other tasks, including issuing an OS/400 command and invoking a 5250 emulator. Users can also use WMI to write Windows scripts (in VBScript and other scripting languages) to issue commands to an iSeries server.
While eXc Software has received more interest in its MOM product, it also offers a WMI provider for connecting iSeries servers to SMS. This solution allows users to collect their iSeries hardware and software information, including PTFs, into the central SMS repository, where it can be reported on and tracked.
Anthony LaMark, who co-founded the company with a mainframe programmer, Norm Freedman, says eXctender for AS/400 is one of the company's most popular products, along with connectors for using MOM to monitor products from Cisco, VMware, TrendMicro, and various Linux distributions. The company's eXctender for AS/400 users include the New Jersey casino and the Denmark Post Office. There has not been as much interest in the SMS product.
eXc Software is charging customers license fees of $2,500 per logical partition to use eXtender for AS/400 for MOM. This is on top of the cost of acquiring MOM 2005, which ranges from $499 (for the Workgroup Edition) to $729 (for the Standard Edition), or $6,099 for a MOM 2005 server license and 10 Operations Management Licenses (OMLs), which are required for each directly managed device. However, eXc Software says its customers do not need to pay Microsoft any additional money for managing iSeries and other devices through its extension products.
For more information, visit www.excsoftware.com.