Capgemini Finds Tango/04 a Cure for Systems Management Woes
December 6, 2005 Alex Woodie
When the Dutch office of Capgemini Outsourcing needed a systems management tool to manage an iSeries server it was running for a client, the company first considered bringing the iSeries under the fold of its existing enterprise-level systems management framework. While the well-known framework excelled in a Unix environment, it left much to be desired on the iSeries. The consulting firm’s product search eventually led it to a Spanish ISV named Tango/04 Computing Group, which specializes in iSeries systems management.
Capgemini manages a range of servers for its customers, including large OS/400 and Unix systems. In the OS/400 family, the company’s servers run the gamut from old to new, including models S30, 50S, 620, 170, 500, 520, 825 and an i5. Most of these servers are running ERP applications, such as J.D. Edwards, SAP, and BPCS.
One of Capgemini’s clients is a 130-year-old company that manufactures printers and printing presses, imaging systems, X-ray machines, and specialty film products through 120 subsidiaries around the world. (At Capgemini’s request, we have agreed to keep the customer’s identity anonymous. See Editor’s Note at the end of this story.) In the Netherlands, Capgemini Outsourcing manages a custom-written application that supports the customer’s technical customer service and repair organization. An iSeries model 825 with three of six processors activated and 10 secondary partitions supports 500 to 600 users in the customer’s customer service organization, according to Rob Freeling, an IT specialist with Capgemini in Holland.
The service level agreement (SLA) between the two companies calls for the customer’s application to be available between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Freeling says Capgemini usually checks the server at 7 a.m. to make sure the backups have been successfully completed, that interactive systems are up and running, and that everything is working properly. Another less comprehensive check is performed in the evening before Capgemini employees leave for the night.
In-Sourcing at the Outsourcer
Previously, Capgemini co-operated for the system-checking functions with their IMSC (Infrastructure Management Service Center) in India to cut costs. When Capgemini decided to bring that function back in-house for the customer’s iSeries Model 825, it needed a system management tool to help automate the checks. That tool would have to comply with ITIL, a British standard that provides a guideline for how to implement certain IT functions, such as generating trouble tickets, contacting the help desk, and change management, Freeling says.
ITIL is a framework of an integrated set of processes that are designed to provide best practice in the support and delivery of IT services. ITIL was initially designed and developed in the 1980s, but has recently been revised and updated to bring it in line with modern practices, distributed computing, and the Internet. ITIL is the most widely used management approach to the worldwide delivery and support of IT services and infrastructure.
Since it was bringing the monitoring of the customer’s iSeries back under Capgemini’s roof, the company figured it might as well use the systems management tool it already had in place for Unix, Hewlett-Packard‘s OpenView. There were several benefits to this approach, including the fact that Capgemini was already familiar with the product, and it would support ITIL best practices. However, Capgemini found some shortcomings in the HP OpenView OS/400 agent, Freeling says. These shortcomings had to do with the complexity and skill-level required to implement and manage the software on OS/400, as well as cost, according to Freeling.
Hunt for Alternatives
So Capgemini began looking for an alternative. The company already had a native OS/400 monitoring and messaging product that kept an eye on some of its other AS/400 and iSeries servers, so it consulted with the developer about hooking it into the OpenView framework. The company said it had developed something along those lines, but they had never bothered to test it, Freeling says. The possibilities of expanding it were somewhat limited, Freeling says, so Capgemini kept looking.
At one point, Capgemini attended a demonstration of Tango/04’s Visual Message Center (VMC) suite. Tango/04’s Dutch reseller, PST Business Solutions, set up the meeting, which included IBM‘s chief iSeries scientist, Frank Soltis, and a presentation by Raul Aguirre, Tango/04’s chief executive officer.
Capgemini was pleased with what it found, according to Freeling, who participated in the meeting. Freeling says his Capgemini colleague tasked with selecting a new product found VMC to have very good coverage of OS/400 logs and queues, and it could be configured to support ITIL best practices. Particularly pleasing were the graphical Windows interfaces and its capability to run with lower authority than the OpenView agent.
Perhaps most importantly, Tango/04 was willing to do the work to integrate VMC into the larger HP OpenView framework that Capgemini still uses to manage its Unix servers, according to Freeling. The OS/400 group at Capgemini would use VMC to check the availability of the iSeries before the 8 a.m. deadline, and again before on-site personnel leave for the day. But for nighttime messaging, the company would continue to rely on the OpenView framework, so any OS/400 monitoring tool would need to plug into OpenView.
Capgemini decided to install VMC and trial the software in 2003. Consultants with PST Business Solutions worked with Capgemini specialists to set up VMC, including the Windows-based SmartConsole and the browser-based WebConsole interfaces, and all the agents, except for the security agent. (the customer is not a bank so it does not require real-time security monitoring, Freeling says.) The group set up filters, business views, alerts, and automatic actions that occur under certain conditions. The company was happy with the product, and decided to license it from Tango/04 and put it into production.
Benefits of Automation
When Freeling assumed his current role, VMC was already being used. However, his predecessor was not using the product very wisely, he says. There is such a wealth of functionality in VMC that the Capgemini implementation resembled “a kid in a toyshop,” he says. Freeling rectified this by concentrating on getting a single function working–sending messages from VMC to HP OpenView–and then going onto something else once that first function was working.
Today, Capgemini uses VMC to monitor the customer’s iSeries server during the day, and to automate some actions in response to certain conditions during off-hours. Capgemini has configured the software to use e-mail messaging to inform operators of the condition of the client’s server, which Freeling says comes in very handy. This functionality is required by ITIL, and involves VMC sending messages to OpenView, which then forwards them to the call registration system to create support calls for any incidents that may have occurred.
Instead of using OS/400 or in-house-developed CL programs to check the state of the system, a quick glance at a VMC console tells Freeling the iSeries will be ready when the customer employees start logging on at 8 a.m. The software also streamlines the afternoon check, which is less comprehensive than the morning check.
“It makes my life easier,” Freeling says. “I think it’s worth every penny, but I don’t have to pay for it. I’m satisfied with the product, very satisfied with what it can do.”
From the customer’s point of view, the iSeries just keeps running. Aside from knowing their systems management software is implemented to be compliant with ITIL best practices, they do not interface with VMC, Freeling says.
Freeling offered this advice for getting the most out of VMC: “The most important thing to keep in mind when implementing VMC is to start small. Don’t get overwhelmed by all the possibilities there are. Get the product working with the basic monitoring functions you require, then start adding functionality to make your job easier. I don’t think we’ll ever finish the implementation of Tango/04 VISUAL Message Center. Every time I use it, I discover new features.”
Editor’s Note: This article has been changed since it was first published. While Capgemini’s customer had given us permission to use its name in this story when it was published, the customer has since requested that we remove their name, and we have granted that request. (Change made 1/24/06)