IBM Extends Provisioning Software to OS/400
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
IBM last week gave a sneak preview of a tweaked release of its Tivoli Provisioning Manager, the heart of the server provisioning software that IBM acquired when it bought Think Dynamics last year. While the original software created by Think Dynamics was predominantly made to control the provisioning of the HP-UX Unix environment, IBM will in June launch Provisioning Manager 2.1, which will itself run on AIX, HP-UX, Solaris, Linux, and Windows, servers and will be able to control the provisioning of bare metal servers and logical partitions on OS/400, Unix, Linux, and Windows servers.
While IBM had promised that the Think Dynamic code would eventually be integrated with OS/400, that did not mean that it would actually run on AS/400, iSeries, and eServer i5 machines on top of OS/400 itself. IBM has a lot of different options for running Provisioning Manager 2.1 on the new i5 box and on iSeries boxes. In theory, it can run it on a Power-Linux partition starting in June (if the software is recompiled for Linux on Power) or on an Integrated xSeries Server (IxS) running Windows that hides under the skins of an iSeries or i5. When AIX partitions are available in the fall, Provisioning Manager 2.1 could be supported there, as well as when Linux is available on the IxS coprocessors. It could probably be run as an AIX application inside the OS/400 PASE AIX runtime environment that has been available in OS/400 V5. None of these approaches are, strictly speaking, native to OS/400. And IBM could surprise customers and actually port Provisioning Manager to OS/400 and very tightly integrate it with OS/400's existing workload managers. It would be interesting to see the software installed on the new hardware management console, which is a Linux server or PC that manages the logical partitions on a "Squadron" Power5 server, such as the new i5 Model 520 and Model 570 servers, announced a few weeks ago. Give that box some real work to do. Managing partitions is not that resource-intensive.
In any event, Tivoli Provisioning Manager is used to set up the operating system and application stacks on servers and to keep them patched as software is updated. The adjunct Tivoli Intelligent Orchestrator works with the provisioning software through a policy-based engine that controls how servers, storage, and network capacity are provisioned, based on business rules (such as making sure Web site and database servers have enough processors to yield a decent response time). Sandy Carter, vice president of marketing for the Tivoli unit, says that Provisioning Manager 2.1 will be available in June and IBM could have new pricing at that time. The current release costs $1,100 per server processor and $50 per network node. Carter says that a typical customer spends around $20,000 for a basic setup.
In addition to the new release, IBM is offering a bundled configuration on its xSeries 335 servers that has "one-button provisioning." The provisioning software has been preconfigured to implement a Windows or Linux operating system on the machine, and a WebSphere stack and a Tivoli monitoring agent. It also preconfigures the network resources and can do the whole shebang automatically within an hour. IBM is offering another software bundle on iSeries or pSeries server iron that allows for the automatic provisioning of application servers for the SAP ERP suite running in conjunction with its DB2 database. IBM will also debut workflows that hook into the Provisioning Manager engine that can provision HP-UX servers and machines running Microsoft's Exchange, SQL Server, and Active Directory, as well as IBM's own DB2 database and WebSphere middleware and VMware virtual partitions on X86 iron and application stacks from Siebel Systems, SAP, and Citrix. Presumably, one-button provisioning for IBM's own OS/400 and AIX environments and Sun Microsystems' Solaris is in the works, as are workflows for automatically provisioning OS/400, AIX, and Solaris servers.
IBM also announced last week that Provisioning Manager 2.1 will be able to hook into the Tivoli SAN Manager to better automate storage provisioning. The company also said that because it has done storage API exchanges with Hewlett-Packard and Hitachi, the Provisioning Manager/SAN Manager combo can now reach into high-end arrays from those companies and do automated storage provisioning. While the software helps a bit with EMC arrays, IBM and EMC have not swapped APIs and therefore the functionality is more limited. Customers who have EMC's provisioning software can apparently tweak it to work with Provisioning Manager 2.1. It would be interesting if a variant of the SAN Manager software was ported to OS/400 so it could provision native disk arrays as well as externally attached arrays from IBM and EMC, which support OS/400. Better still, it would be great to have such a program as well as the integration with Provisioning Manager, which would allow OS/400 shops to better automate storage provisioning. Most companies seriously over-allocate disk storage, sometimes by as much as 75 percent of total capacity, and this costs big bucks.