Halcyon Launches SLA Reporting Tool, iPad Interface
May 3, 2011 Alex Woodie
Halcyon Software is using this week’s COMMON conference to launch several new products and updates to existing ones. Among the new offerings is the Advanced Reporting Suite, which tracks the performance of IBM i and Windows servers and allows administrators to keep on top of service level agreements (SLAs). The British company also unveiled a new iPad interface for its core operations system console, bolstered the performance of its Spool File Manager, and released Snapshot version 11.
The new Advanced Reporting Suite is a Windows-based tool that tracks the performance of IBM i and Windows server environments. The product covers all the basic performance categories, including CPU, memory, and disk utilization, I/O, and application response time. It also tracks some that are unique to the IBM i server, such as auxiliary storage pool (ASP) and disk-arm utilization.
For example, a customer could configure the software to adhere to certain performance metrics, such as ASP percentage never exceeding 90 percent and response time never exceeding half a second. “If any of those criteria are breached, Halcyon tells you about it. And we’ll flag that as not having met the SLA at that moment in time,” says Halcyon director of technical services Donnie MacColl.
The software piggybacks on a customer’s existing Halcyon systems management products to gather IBM i performance data using the latest IBM APIs. This is notable in that it doesn’t utilize IBM’s performance tools to gather data, as some other tools do, including Snapshot. Data is stored in a SQL Server-based warehouse, which some users will prefer for its lower cost and ease of access compared to running it on DB2/400, MacColl says.
Halcyon includes several pre-configured reports with the Advanced Reporting Suite for meeting SLAs. This is key, as many Halcyon customers are managed service providers who run IBM i server for their clients. Customers who want to write their own reports or customize an existing report can use the included Report Designer.
The new Advanced Reporting Suite is a different animal than the Snapshot product, which Halcyon acquired about a year ago.
For starters, Snapshot requires the IBM Performance Tools to gather IBM i data. And whereas Snapshot will continuously display IBM i performance data on the screen, Advanced Reporting runs behind the scenes, and will “tap you on the shoulder” when it spots a performance problem, MacColl says. And while both products can provide capacity planning capabilities, Snapshot is a better tool for telling the customer exactly how they should outfit their existing IBM i server to meet performance demands.
The version 11 update to Snapshot doesn’t add many new features, but addresses deferred maintenance and bugs that had lingered in the product, MacColl says. One notable enhancement in version 11 is the capability to automatically restart the IBM Performance Tools when they shut off, he says.
iPad, Meet i Server
Halcyon is also shipping an attractive iPad interface with Enterprise Console version 8.7. The Enterprise Console is Halcyon’s central management console for a range of scheduling and systems management tools running across IBM i, Windows, AIX, and Linux. The new iPad interface (it also runs on the iPhone and iPod Touch) offers the same functionality as the full Windows-based console interface, MacColl says.
“Unlike a lot of other mobile products, it’s not a limited version or cut down version,” MacColl says. “It’s a fully operational version of the Enterprise Console that allows you to not only view alerts and messages from your system, but respond to them as well.”
The Enterprise Console iPad app is available now on the Apple iTunes store. It’s a free download for existing customers. Halcyon is currently working on a similar app for the Android operating system, which powers a number of smart phones and tablet devices.
Enterprise Console 8.7 can also gather information from a greater number of sources, and with greater detail. The company is able to read more information from received simple network management (SNMP) traps. For example, an SNMP trap picked up from a Cisco router might not have meant much before, but with “enhanced” SNMP, now the software is able to glean much more information about the problem and route it to a smart phone, MacColl says.
This release also works more closely with the “Big 4” systems management tools used by Fortune 100 companies, such as IBM Tivoli, HP OpenView, CA UniCenter, and BMC Patrol, as well as any Syslog-based tool, such as security information and event management (SIEM) tools and log aggregators.
A bit of clever programming by Halcyon has overcome a limitation in the number of IBM i spool files that the operating system allowed an application to store. The enhancement was made in the version 8 release of Spool File Manager, which is used by a number of Halcyon customers as part of their utility billing activities.
According to MacColl, because IBM i stores spool files as members within a file, it restricted the number of stored spool files to 32,767. “We got around that cleverly, to make it appear to the people using the product that there is no limitation, while making sure performance is still quick,” he says. Performance is still sub-second, and now customers can store more than a million spool files, he says.
The release of one new product and three product updates is par for the course for the prolific developers at Halcyon, says MacColl, who’s based in the company’s U.K. headquarters. “We continuously enhance and improve products,” he says. “If you’re a salesperson, you’re going to struggle, because we’re churning new products out the door all the time.”