Planet Tivoli orbits predictive networking

Washington – With a new GM and a new master plan involving the downsizing of its products, IBM Corp.’s network management arm says it is ready to make good on its promises of listening to its customers.

At his firm’s Planet Tivoli conference held here earlier this month, Tivoli Systems’ General Manager Robert LeBlanc, a former IBM veteran, told attendees that the company is refocusing its efforts to bring tighter integration, more ease of deployment and quicker return on investment to its customers – focal points which LeBlanc said users have been eagerly awaiting.

In order to ease customers’ frustration with rolling out the software and the amount of time required to get the products up and running, LeBlanc and the Tivoli team opted to consolidate its line of products in April, as a way to provide cost-effective and quick deployment of its portfolio.

“During the last nine to 12 months, Tivoli has been focused on helping customers deliver in the areas of configuration and operations in order to reduce costs,” Le Blanc said during a keynote address. “We are delivering on our commitment to customers with a simplified portfolio that is easier to deploy. We have gone from about 155 products down to about 50. We…want customers to understand how we can help them today and ensure that [we continue to help] down the road.”

And in order to keep its word, Tivoli is investing much of its strength into providing network administrators the means to predict and prevent network problems. Tivoli said it is following IBM’s Project eLiza autonomic computing initiative – a predictive and proactive approach to network and systems management. According to IBM, Project eLiza is an ongoing effort to develop servers that can respond to unexpected capacity demands and system glitches without requiring human intervention.

“Some of the really advanced guys like Deutsche Bank Group came to us and wanted to be predictive (with systems management),” said Christopher O’Connor, director of performance and availability solutions for Tivoli. “When nothing goes wrong, what happens? When nothing goes wrong, your systems are cycling and cycling. They get peaks and loads during the day, but what you want to be able to do is look at your non-problem data and be able to do true trend analysis. [Network management] is not just about reporting events. As these cycles take place, you can start to see patterns.”

According to LeBlanc, 18 of Tivoli’s 50 products are already equipped with autonomic computing capabilities, including the recently announced Tivoli Monitoring 5.1 packages, which all feed into the Tivoli Enterprise Data Warehouse announced in April. Version 5.1 enables systems to cure problems automatically at the server and take local corrective action, rather than using a centralized operations console. The middleware management software relies on a set of problem signatures that trigger the identify, notify and cure problem mechanisms.

Tivoli’s new directions resulted in praise from at least one customer. Toronto-based Royal Bank of Canada Financial Group (RBC) has been a Tivoli user for about five years, during which time the bank has relied upon Tivoli software to monitor and manage its more than 55,000 machines. According to Dan Shebunchak, senior technical systems analyst with RBC, the problems from a systems management perspective dealt primarily with deployment.

“I think Tivoli has really addressed that by bringing together a lot of their products,” Shebunchak said. “We still make the statement today that Tivoli is the only company that provides a full enterprise management solution.”

Shebunchak added that RBC is very much interested in the predictive, autonomic capabilities within the Tivoli offerings.

“We want to find a tool that will help determine trends that say, ‘Although we are in good shape now, based on these patterns we are going to have a problem with this particular system or this application in the near future,'” he said.

Although it has spent the last year repackaging and integrating products and revamping its overall strategy, LeBlanc said Tivoli has no intentions of stopping there.

“We are really trying to show our customers we are listening,” LeBlanc said.

And as far as Stephen Elliot is concerned, it certainly looks like LeBlanc is taking the helm and beginning to execute.

“I think that is what the company really needed,” said Elliot, research director for Hurwitz Group in Boston. “His background is with IBM. He has a good sense in terms of where Tivoli stands and has a very good strategic sense of where he wants to take the company and what that is going to require. Is it the right direction? I think the answer is definitely yes because certainly, users we speak with want easy-to-use products and integrated products. They want increasingly an option of having higher levels of automation.”