Sometimes You Have to Think--and Look--Inside the Box
by Dan Burger
For all those companies that are taking delivery of new iSeries hardware or those that are upgrading their operating systems to i5/OS V5R3, there's something inside the box that your new box of hardware or software comes in that you should take note of. It's a bonus package of CDs loaded with software that introduces users to off-the-shelf solutions that IBM considers leading-edge technology and of interest to the iSeries customer base.
For reasons IBM attributes to "not wanting to play favorites among its partners," Big Blue chooses not to make a big deal of this Try & Buy CD program. So it's up to you to dig through the hardware and software, the manuals, the packing material, and the other CDs to uncover this nondescript set of CDs, but end users who discover them may be pleasantly surprised at what they've found.
All of the software solutions, which include a consistent installation process written by IBM and trial periods for temporary use of the full software (not just links to downloadable software), cover technologies such as Web application development, virus protection, data security, systems monitoring, system optimization, data replication, and report distribution. All have a common element: easy installation without a requirement for services to install or maintain the tools. It provides end users with an evaluation version of new and useful technologies.
There are six IBM partners involved in the Try & Buy program: Vision Solutions, PowerTech, Lakeview Technology, CCSS, Bytware, and BCD. Vision Solutions and BCD were the latest vendors to join the program. Bytware has been involved since the program's inception, which corresponded with the introduction of i5/OS V5R3 in May 2004.
All of the partners on the Try & Buy CD are members of the IBM iSeries Tools Innovation Program, a project that has added a great deal of momentum to the iSeries cause by spurring application modernization and new technologies within the OS/400 sphere of influence. And all the tools that are considered for inclusion on the CD have attained IBM ServerProven status. The ServerProven rating is important because it means the software has been put through the paces by IBM and its ISV partners to ensure it works properly on at least one (and possibly more) of the latest server hardware and operating system releases in the eServer portfolio.
All of these tools are also found on the iSeries Developer Roadmap. Currently the roadmap includes 100 vendors and more than 200 tools. To be included in the iSeries Developer Roadmap, a tool must be ServerProven. That status is not required for acceptance into the Tools Innovation Program, where some of the members are new and unfamiliar with the certification, technical assistance, and marketing programs that IBM has in place.
Here is a brief description of the tools on the Try & Buy CD:
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- Catapult: Automatically distributes iSeries reports via e-mail to Web sites or network drives with no changes to applications.
- WebSmart: An iSeries Web application development tool that generates ILE-RPG, CGI, or Java. It supports SOA, Web services, XML, e-mail, and output to Excel, graphs, and more.
- StandGuard Anti-Virus: Detects, cleans, and quarantines Windows and Unix/Linux viruses, trojans, malware, and spyware from iSeries stream files.
- StandGuard Recycle-Bin: Windows-like file recovery for accidentially or malicously deleted iSeries stream files.
- Qmessage Monitor: System management software that automatically answers and tracks informational and non-urgent messages.
- Qsystem Monitor: System management software that allows central management of systems by providing a real-time view of all activity.
- Mimix dr1: A no-journaling, information-availability solution that provides increased server uptime and protection from data loss. It is also available in a double-byte character set (DBCS-Enabled) version for Asian languages.
- PowerLock Authority Broker: Allows administrators to restrict the types of special authorities that users have access to. It also tracks all switches through an audit trail, and will generate regular reports on switch activity.
- OS Director: An integrated set of tools that automates, manages, and optimizes iSeries servers, databases and application environments.
- OS Data Replication: A disaster recovery solution that enables files to be backed up while users are online. It utilizes IBM's advanced Remote Journaling.
- OS Data Manager: A user-based tool that automates the modeling, testing, purging and archiving activities for IBM iSeries application environments.
IBMers John Quarantello, the iSeries executive in charge of the Tools Innovation Program, and Linda Cole, manager of iSeries tools innovation, are in charge of the Try & Buy CD program for the iSeries. They say the CDs will be refreshed twice a year and additional vendors may be added at each point it is refreshed. The selection process is ongoing, according to Quarantello, and IBM has plans to continue the program through the end of 2006--although the door remains open to extend it beyond that date based on evaluations by IBM and the participating vendors. The current set of CDs, featuring the above-mentioned vendors and products, began shipping October 7.
"What we are looking for in the Try & Buy program," says Cole, "are tools that are new and considered to be 'hot technologies.' They must run on all of our current V5R3 operating system--in other words, all the current iSeries models. And, of course, we must consider them to be of interest to our customer base."
With only six vendors out of the 100 that are on the iSeries Developer Roadmap, the Try & Buy program has a level of exclusivity. However, IBM also wants a separate program that is more inclusive, so Quarantello and Cole are organizing an e-catalog that will include all vendors and tools that are part of the roadmap. It will be organized like the roadmap, with five main categories and numerous sub-categories, and descriptions of the vendors and tools, and links to a Try & Buy download site and to white papers and case studies.
"Our goal," says Quarantello, "is to make the CD easier to use than the IBM Web site." (As an editor's comment, I would be surprised if they could make it any more difficult than IBM's Web site.) "We want to increase the opportunities to view information in different ways and to sort through information, so additional sort and search criteria is being built into the CD."
The e-catalog is expected to become available in November or December. Like the current Try & Buy program, it will also be on a CD and it will ship worldwide with every new iSeries server and every upgrade to the latest version of the operating system. Cole says it is also a likely candidate for distribution at conferences such as COMMON.