CNX Ships IBM i Administrator App for Smart Phones
November 27, 2012 Alex Woodie
CNX this week introduced a new mobile application called Nitro iAdmin that lets administrators monitor and manage their IBM i servers from the comfort of their iOS, Android OS, and Blackberry smartphones. The modern looking Web app lets administrators deal with common IBM i tasks, such as responding to jobs in MSGW status, re-enabling user profiles, and moving spool files to different printer queues. There’s even a red button that will IPL the server.
Ever since pagers started to become popular in the 1970s, system administrators have looked for ways to stay hooked into their servers while outside of the office. The introduction of the BlackBerry in 1999 ushered in the smartphone era, and administrators started receiving messages and sending AS/400 commands via SMS or email. When the iPhone launched in 2007 with a full Web browser, administrators found they could access their System i servers through Web-based 5250 emulators.
Today, administrators all over the world have tried managing their IBM i servers through a Web-based 5250 emulator loaded on their iPhone or Android phones. The problem is, it’s really hard to navigate through the IBM i OS when all you have is a four-inch screen, says Robert Swanson, a principal at CNX.
“If you try to do this on a green screen on a phone, you’ve got to pinch your way around, and it’s really cumbersome,” Swanson tells IT Jungle. “That’s what we had been doing ourselves, since we help maintain a lot of client systems. So we developed Nitro iAdmin for ourselves, and when someone saw us using it, they wanted to know what it was, and it evolved into a part of Valence.”
iAdmin lets users accomplish common tasks such as allowing users to view and sort active jobs, including moving jobs to different job queues; killing misbehaving jobs; or drilling down to view what’s going on with a job at the individual record level. Users can view system status (such as ASP utilization and CPU usage) and can even IPL the machine by pressing a red button on the system screen. (It’s password protected, thankfully.)
iAdmin also lets users work with print queues, moving print jobs to different queues, or kills print jobs entirely. The software lists user profiles that have become disabled so the administrator can re-enable them, and optionally reset their passwords in the process. Server jobs, such as the Apache Web server, can also be started and stopped.
The handiest feature of iAdmin will likely be the capability to quickly identify and kill runaway jobs. If the administrator is out of the office and receives a call from someone saying the system is running slow, he can quickly confirm that with the CPU tab on iAdmin, and then open a screen that is the equivalent of WORKACTJOB.
After sorting the jobs by percent of CPU consumed and identifying the problem job, the administrator can then drill down into the job to see what programs it is using. One more click, and the administrator has drilled down another level to see what files it’s using. One more click, and he can identify the relative record number that the program is stuck on.
“So I might use that information to call up a programmer and say ‘Your program is chocking on this PO,'” Swanson says. “And while waiting for him to do that, I can go back and say, ‘Put this job on hold, so it’s no longer using up all the CPU.'”
It’s clear that CNX developers didn’t try to cram too much into the iAdmin UI, because they understood that it would make the product unusable. Instead they focused on several key tasks that are most often needed while an administrator is away from his main workstation.
“iAdmin effectively demonstrates to IBM i developers how an app designed explicitly for a mobile device can be so handy, as it takes familiar green-screen concepts like WRKACTJOB and makes them mobile friendly,” Swanson says. “It’s much easier this way to check on the system and answer messages, as opposed to pinching and scrolling through a tiny green-screen emulator on your iPhone, or lugging your laptop around.”
iAdmin is one of the Nitro products, which are special add-ons that make up the Enterprise Edition of Valence, CNX’s Web and mobile development framework for IBM i. iAdmin is the biggest new feature in Valence 3.2, which is also being formally released this week. But the folks at CNX decided to make iAdmin available as a stand-alone product as well.
Nitro iAdmin is available now. The company is selling iAdmin licenses for $995 per server through the end of the year, after which the price will go up to $1,495. CNX is offering a free 30-day download of iAdmin. The trial version of the software is fully functional; if a full license hasn’t been purchased after 30 days, it resorts to “inquiry only” mode (i.e. users can no longer submit commands).
For more information and downloads, see the company’s website at www.cnxcorp.com.
This article was corrected. Nitro iAdmin can re-enable user profiles that have become disabled, not disable active user profiles. IT Jungle regrets the error.