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e -server magazine

September 1996: Volume 12, Number 1

AS/400 Systems Management

By Phil Bennett

"Systems management in the past was a deep, dark secret. Today it is one of the most important requirements for running an enterprise computing environment." - Lou Gerstner (President and CEO - IBM)

here are many different enterprise computing environments used by businesses today. A few AS/400s operate alone, with attached non-programmable terminals (NPTs), some are in networks with other AS/400s and many systems have attached PC clients. Regardless of the size or complexity of your environment, you will need some form of systems management. The goal of systems management is to get the job done reliably, in a timely fashion, and affordably.

The good news is that with the AS/400, many systems management functions are already built into the OS/400 operating system. It handles, backup and recovery, job scheduling, configuration management, console management and workload management (jobs, subsystems, etc.). Nili Young, from D. H. Brown Associates Inc, notes this in her report on V3R1: "OS/400 incorporates many systems management functions that its UNIX competitors either provide at addition-al cost or do not provide at all. "If you're dealing with a single AS/400 computer, the operating system may include all the features you need. As your needs become more complex, you might need to turn to specialized programs that perform additional roles.

Does your business need to control distribution of files and software? Do your operators have too much to do? Do you need to centralize control of system problems? Does the system allow quick response time? Could you benefit from the automation of daily tasks? What if a critical operation is missed? Can you quickly recover from a hardware failure or a disaster? Are you ready for client/server? Even if your system meets your needs today, will it be up to the job tomorrow? The answer to all these questions lie in the disciplines of systems management.

Systems management tasks can be logically grouped into disciplines as follows:

I will describe each of these in more detail and show how they relate to your AS/400 environment.

Business Management

Business Management involves automating administrative activities like asset management, software license management and security management. Automating these activities allows you to free time for staff professionals to perform other critical activities.

Security administration tasks can be daunting. It's easy enough to enroll users, but sometimes it's difficult to determine what authorities a given user should have. AS/400 security has many options and levels offering enough security to meet your needs. Security features built into the operating system are usually sufficient for a single AS/400. There are products available to manage security over multiple AS/400s if you need this function.

With the advent of user-based software licensing, you also need the capability of monitoring and managing the license terms. The operating system now includes provisions for enforcing user-based licensing terms, advising you when you are near or above the user limit. These provisions are available for both IBM-supplied and other software vendor supplied programs.

Change Management

Change management involves managing additions, deletions and modifications to your system and software. Managing software changes in a network requires careful planning, precise scheduling, and solid installation procedures. In most cases, all the nodes on a network must be at the same revision level of application or operating system to function efficiently. Automated distribution of changes and the ability to install the changes from a central location are required capabilities. With SNADS object distribution, OS/400 offers you the capability to distribute objects from one central site to various nodes in the network. Usually you can automate the installation of changed objects through a custom-written program or by signing-on to the remote location with display station passthrough. If your network is very large, or you want additional automation and scheduling flexibility, then you might want to look for other tools to distribute and automate software changes.

For the single AS/400, the OS/400 operating system provides the basic toolbox of change management functions. Automatic installation procedures and nearly single-step loading and application of PTFs contribute to easy upgrades and patches of system and application software. Electronic Customer Support (ECS) is also a valuable change management tool, providing a communications link with IBM or another AS/400 for reporting problems and downloading PTFs.

Configuration Management

Configuration management involves managing IT resources such as hardware and software. You need the capability of managing resource status and connectivity. For example, you want to be able to define and examine local and remote printers, workstations, and networks. OS/400 provides most of the requirements for single system AS/400s. One great feature is automatic configuration which makes it easier to add or remove devices.

With networks of AS/400s and attached clients, you might want more capabilities that are provided by add-on products.

Graphical interfaces are becoming readily available, enabling you to view your network as a picture. They also typically include discovery capabilities to detect and show you the status of systems in the network.

Operations Management

Operations Management involves managing data (backup and recovery), network status, print devices, workload distribution, and console management.

Console management, of course, involves handling of operator messages and general systems operations. There are some automation facilities available with OS/400, one being Operational Assistant. It features two automation schedules, one for system cleanup functions, and another to facilitate power down/restart schedules. Operational Assistant's disk reporting capabilities also enhance your operations by collecting and reporting information on your system's disk utilization.

Data management relates to managing the backup and recovery of AS/400 data, including files, folders and objects. OS/400 has these capabilities, but for larger systems, there are products available to manage tape inventories, control tape libraries, archive data and help with retrieval and recovery (both AS/400 and PC data).

System and network management solutions for a networked environment can minimize the need for a trained operations staff at remote sites. These solutions manage operations from a single AS/400 and automate many AS/400 tasks. Some of them offer GUI interfaces, showing network topology via icons.

Workload management helps you to automate and manage your workload. You want to ensure that the work planned to be done is actually completed as intended. The job scheduler available with OS/400 offers you the ability to store a job's runtime characteristics and then to specify when you want it to execute. If you need to specify more complex scheduling requirements or dependencies, then you should consider using an add-on Job Scheduler product.

Performance Management

Performance management helps you maximize the use of data processing resources and help you plan for change. Effective performance management helps you prepare for increased demands on you AS/400 and it ensures that you get the best return on your investment. OS/400 includes the ability to view performance data (jobs, disk status, subsystem status) and to collect and log performance data but it does not offer any analysis capabilities. To effectively use the collected data, you must use Performance Tools/400 or other performance analysis tools.

Problem Management

Problem management is the process of managing problems or potential problems from detection through final resolution. It encompasses the detection, analysis, recovery, resolution and tracking of problems occurring in your enterprise.  SystemView Launch Window for OS/2

Most of the problem management issues for a single AS/400 can be handled by OS/400 without additional products. OS/400 automatically detects, logs, reports and in some cases corrects problems that occur on the system. In a networked environment, you should consider additional products that enable centralized problem management and tracking. There are also different "help desk" software packages available. A "help desk" is a central point for resolving problems and answering user questions on applications, and operations.

There have been many enhancements to Systems Management, particularly with Version 3. The AS/400 can now be a Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) Agent. SNMP is a TCP/IP network management protocol and is based on a manager-agent interaction. The Agents gather management data while the managers solicit this data and process it. An agent can also send unsolicited information, called a trap, to the managing system to inform it of an event that has taken place at the agent system.

There is also a new graphical interface for AS/400 Systems Management function with V3R2 and V3R7. It is called the SystemView Launch Window and it is available for no-charge with a product called SystemView Base for OS/400. A sample of the OS/2 Launch Window is shown here.

The key point to remember is that Systems Management is an investment, not an indulgence. You need the proper tools to manage your AS/400 or multiple AS/400s, to control your operating costs and protect your AS/400 investment. As Wayne Madden, from NEWS 3X/400, puts it "Today, demands on computing resources, especially in client/server computing, require efficient multiple systems management. Management tools are no longer just a luxury; they are a must." T < G

Unfortunately, Phil Bennett passed away. He is greatly missed.