IBM announces new system management software

IBM Corp. last month announced new system management software designed to reduce server downtime by automatically predicting failures in IBM’s eServer xSeries servers, which are based on Intel Corp. processors.

The new IBM Director software includes a feature that predicts when failures will occur and automatically repairs them before they happen, said Tom Bradicich, director of architecture and technology for eServer xSeries servers. IBM Director is the successor to Netfinity Director 2.12, and Netfinity servers are now called eServer xSeries.

The key feature of IBM Director is its ability to predict a problem by monitoring the behaviour of the server for symptoms in the critical components, such as the processors, disks and memory, that indicate a crash is imminent, Bradicich said.

“With this technology the systems administrator will now be able to know before a software lockup is about to happen,” he said.

One of the major issues related to Intel-based servers is that software running on those systems exhibits an increasing failure rate over time due to “aging,” according to IBM. During the aging process, small programming errors accumulate and absorb ever-increasing amounts of a computer’s resources, eventually leading to server downtime.

Incorporated in IBM Director is technology developed by IBM that the company calls Software Rejuvenation, which Big Blue has been marketing for a few months. It is designed to correct system problems automatically, but previously didn’t predict them. Software Rejuvenation now has a “predictive dimension” so that the system responds to errors about to occur, Bradicich said.

This is important for systems administrators because it cuts down on a lot of tasks by responding only to predictions. Bradicich likened it to not having to bring an umbrella if there are no clouds in the sky and the weather report doesn’t forecast rain. The software also makes the system administrator’s job easier by allowing him or her to view the hardware configuration of remote systems in detail and monitor the performance of their critical components from a single location, according to IBM.

As systems management providers such as BMC Software Inc. and NetIQ Inc. have drifted toward application management, equipment manufacturers have had to build management tools for their systems, and IBM Director is an example of that trend, said Jonathan Eunice, principal analyst at Illuminata Inc. of Nashua, N.H.

The software’s predictive aspect is part of a new wave in system management to create tools that predict performance as opposed to just report on it, Eunice said. Similar products include Compaq Computer Corp.’s Insight Management. These offerings try to predict errors based on such things as the number of “soft read errors,” a high number of which typically indicates that a physical component of a driver is failing, or that a fan’s RPM is slowing, indicating it’s ball bearings are about to fail.

IBM Director works in conjunction with other tools that have been integrated into the software, among them advanced systems management, cluster systems management and RAID (Redundant Arrays of Independent Disks) manager, IBM said.

IBM Director supports Red Hat Inc. Linux as well as Windows 2000, Millennium and NT, Windows 95, Windows 98, Netware, SCO Unixware and OS/2. It can be used as a stand-alone product or incorporated into an existing enterprise environment.

It comes already loaded on eServer xSeries servers, which IBM sells to ISPs, application service providers, small and medium-size businesses, and large companies that are substituting lower-cost computers for jobs previously done by mainframes. The shrink-wrapped version is priced at US$659 and includes one server license and one client license. Additional server licenses cost US$599 and additional client licenses US$59. Netfinity Director users can buy an upgrade for less.

IBM is at

– IDG News Service

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