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Volume 9, Number 37 -- October 13, 2009

Vision Analyzes i OS Server Health with Free iSCORE Tool

Published: October 13, 2009

by Alex Woodie

A pair of free tools unveiled by Vision Solutions last week will help i OS and AIX customers maximize the performance and uptime of their critical Power Systems-based information systems. The tools, called iSCORE and the Availability ROI Tool (ART), will be discussed in a Webinar this Thursday that features former IBM chief scientist Frank Soltis, who now works as a consultant to Vision Solutions.

With most things in life, there is a direct relationship between performance and cost. If you want higher performance, it's going to cost more money. The equation is also applicable to the Power Systems server, a powerhouse of a platform that can be equipped to run like a top-of-the-line Porsche when money is no object.

For small and mid size companies on Chevrolet budgets, however, it makes sense to maximize computing resources to the fullest extent possible. After all, the days of upgrading to new hardware every three years are over. Today, companies are squeezing five, 10, or even more years of useful service between major upgrades of IBM midrange hardware--and still keeping old iron around for backup when upgrades eventually are made.

For companies trying to stretch their AS/400, iSeries, and System i investments, there are ways to maximize the performance of the servers and the applications they run. But before fiddling with the system, it makes sense to find out where one stands, performance-wise.

That's what Vision is providing with iSCORE, a new i OS performance analysis tool that's can be downloaded, for free, at www.visionsolutions.com/iscore.

iSCORE works by analyzing attributes of an i OS environment, such as the number and size of objects, jobs, indexes, journals, records, spools, queries, and save-files, as well as the IFS directory. Based on proprietary algorithms developed by Vision, iSCORE then generates a score that corresponds with the relative health of that particular attribute, with zero corresponding with poor health and 100 being very healthy and fit.

The software generates a graphical report that displays its findings, and gives the customer a total health reading for an individual partition, or the system as a whole. Based on this number, customers can tell if their boxes are running fast, like a brand new Porsche 911 GT2, or if it's running slow, like a 20-year-old Yugo.

iSCORE also tells customers what parts of their i OS environments need the most attention. This identifies what kinds of maintenance or configuration changes may help to resolve the issue. Or in some cases it will give Vision a chance to sell the customer a license to Director, a systems optimization and performance utility that automatically performs i OS maintenance tasks, and which Vision acquired several years ago with its acquisition of OS Solutions. (iSCORE is considered a component of Director.)

Customers more inclined to save a buck and do their own maintenance should watch the Vision Webinar later this week, which will feature Dr. Frank Solitis giving performance tips, as well as Bill Hammond, Vision's knowledgeable director of product marketing. Interested parties can register for the Webinar here.

ART ROI Tool

Vision's other new freebie, the Availability ROI Tool (or ART), is designed to help AIX and i OS shops get a better handle on the costs associated with high availability and disaster recovery projects, including the costs of suffering a full-blown disaster or just meddling through backup windows. However, Vision's decision to not include the cost of implementing an HA or DR solution in its ROI equations disregards part of the investment equation.

ART, which can be accessed at www.visionsolutions.com/solutions/ART-Tool.aspx, calculates how much money an organization stands to lose as the result of downtime. The tool guides a customer through a series of questions, such as the size of the server, the method of backups, and the number of users.

Based on the answers to these questions, ART computes monetary losses related to a disaster, in terms of lost productivity, the hours to recover, the cost of recovery, and any outside financial impacts.

ART then allows the customer to see how much money could be saved by implementing one of three products, including an automated DR solution, a high availability setup with manual failover, and high availability with automatic failover.

Unfortunately, Vision did not include the cost of an HA or DR solution in the ROI equations performed by ART, which limits the tool's usefulness. Instead of factoring in the costs, Vision included a bar chart showing the costs of HA and DR as miniscule compared to savings in excess of $1 million. Next to that line, Vision included the words "The costs with Vision are now so small that you can't even see them!"

While the costs have come down recently, they can still be substantial. For starters, an HA solution requires a second System i server with roughly the same capacity as the production machine. Users must also factor in the cost of the software (subscriptions for iTera can cost from $1,000 to $2,000 per month), and the time employees' must spend administering the solution (an hour per day for an administrator that costs $60 per hour is about $12,000 per year).

Ed Vesely, vice president of business development with Vision, acknowledged that ART may not provide a complete ROI picture. He says the company drew up two versions of ART, one that factored in the costs, and one that didn't. In the end, the company decided there were too many variables to account for with the costs, and that they added too much complexity.

"We didn't want to turn it into a pricing tool," Vesely says. "There are so many options available, we decided not to focus on the cost of the solution itself."


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