Help/Systems Delivers First Major Upgrade of CCSS Tools
October 8, 2013 Alex Woodie
Help/Systems last week unveiled updates to two of its products under the CCSS banner. This includes QSystem Monitor (QSM) version 13, which expands the breadth of IBM i operations that it monitors, and QMessage Monitor (QMM) version 8, which gives customers more automated responses to IBM i messages.
QSM 13 and QMM 8 are the first new versions of the CCSS product lines in years, and, it goes without saying, the first new releases of the IBM i system management tools since Help/Systems acquired CCSS almost exactly a year ago.
QSM gives administrators real-time performance data about their IBM i servers. It keeps track of the most obvious and critical log messages and performance metrics, such as DASD utilization or looping jobs, as well as some not-so-obvious ones, such as the state of the charge of the lithium ion batteries that power the cache on the I/O cards in the Power Systems servers.
With version 13, QSM gets three major new features, including support for a SQL interface for reporting on performance data; the capability to monitor objects in QTEMP; and an expansion of the instant drill-down capability.
The new SQL interface gives customers another option for reporting on IBM i performance metrics, including real-time data and historical data. In earlier versions, customers could use CL commands to provide the reporting parameters to QSM. The capability to use straight SQL in version 13 gives users a very powerful and easy to use option, CCSS product support manager Heather Beck tells IT Jungle via email.
“We make it very simple for you to plug in your own data via SQL,” Beck says. “All you have to do is configure an element using one of the usual user-supplied data types. No need to use any special APIs inside the SQL, or to create temporary files, or to compile something, or to distribute any objects. You just specify the SELECT statement and QSystem Monitor will use the result of the statement as the value of that element.”
Version 13 also expands the drill-down capability. CCSS previously gave customers the capability to easily drill into data with the click of a mouse button for just one monitored metric: cache battery status.
Now, QSM supports the capability across a much wider range of monitored metrics, including: subsystem transactions per pour; CPU usage; interactive CPU; database CPU; lock-wait time; faults per second; disk I/O; job count; interactive job count; active interactive jobs; active batch jobs; job status; response time; CPU seconds per transaction; temporary storage total; temporary storage per job; thread count total; thread count per job; and QTEMP object count/size.
The capability to quickly drill down to view job status information may alone be worth the investment CCSS made, Beck says.
“If you have set up an element for ‘job status’ for all jobs in a subsystem, and the element shows you that one job is in lock-wait, you can now simply use show details to find the job in question,” she says. “And you can even perform a work-with-job from the show details view. So the whole process is very simple. One click to show details and one click to work-with-job–issue resolved. No lengthy investigations required.”
QSM 13 also brings a new “drag and drop” feature on the GUI that allows users to instantly add new monitors via their data definition panel.
“We can see this latest release of QSM bringing new value to our company in terms of capacity, system history, enhanced monitoring capabilities, and ease-of-use through the graphical user interface,” states Richard Belles, principal operating systems programmer at Fidelity Investments.
QMessage Monitor 8
Meanwhile, the enhancements in QMM 8 bring even more automation to a product that that already had a lot of it in the first place. QMM, if you’re not familiar, helps IBM i shops by monitoring the various message queues, such as QAUDJRN, and watching for critical events, such as looping jobs, high DASD utilization, or unauthorized access of DB2/400, while weeding out the less-important messages.
With version 8, Help/Systems has added two major new features, including automatic responses to certain messages, and a new reply simulation mode.
According to Beck, customers can now set up QMM to automatically initiate an action or send a reply in response to a message or messages sent to monitored queues. The actions could include calling a program, executing a command, or starting an escalation procedure. QMM can also be used to automatically log an action, replying to the message, or changing the attribute.
What’s more, users can also track the usage of individual automated responses, “allowing you to easily identify redundant rules,” Beck says.
The new rely simulation mode is designed to help an IBM i shop fine-tune its responses to certain events that occur on the server. As Help/Systems’ Beck explains, it allows a customer to test the treatment of a message in the current automated response database without actually executing it.
To use this feature, users log into a dedicated simulation screen, where they can enter certain parameters, such as date or time, to simulate when the message is received. This is useful for testing messages and their rules against conditions such as shifts and calendars, she says.
“You can think of it as a ‘what if’ model for message management,” she says. “Basically the simulation mode matches the automatic responses against the message properties, but instead of performing the action configured on the automatic response, it only provides debug output.”
QSM 13 and QMM 8 are available now. For more information, see www.ccssltd.com.