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Applications

IBM Tivoli plan knits in Rational tools

Next month, IBM's Tivoli systems management division will detail Eclipse-based tools designed to improve IT administration.

IBM next month plans to highlight products from its Tivoli systems management division meant to reduce glitches in complex business applications.

The initiative, which will be detailed in May, aims to smooth out the process of making changes, such as updates or security patches, to applications, said Al Zollar, general manager of the Tivoli division. Zollar took over as chief of IBM Software's Tivoli division after heading up Big Blue's iSeries mid-range server and Lotus divisions.

Al Zollar
Al Zollar

The products, which will be released this year, are being developed by Tivoli but will draw on existing software in IBM's Rational tools division, he said.

"One of the things that's important, from an IBM perspective, is that we are bringing together capabilities and assets that many competitors don't have," Zollar said.

The intent behind the forthcoming product announcement is to provide tools that allow programmers to add useful management information to business applications during the development process, he said. For example, a developer could set an application's desired performance thresholds and security policies in application code.

The added information makes it easier for system operators, who run and maintain applications, to fix problems and make changes, particularly when companies roll out business applications for their networks, said Zollar.

"Right now, management is an afterthought," he said. "I think this is bringing the notion of operational science into the world of managing IT."

IT systems will be simpler to operate if they have better up-front design, much in the way automakers consider the manufacturing process when designing cars, he said.

IBM's approach mirrors a similar effort underway at Microsoft. Later this year, Microsoft will release a development product called Visual Studio Team System, which has a modeling tool designed to reduce problems that occur when an application is deployed for the first time on a company network.

With Microsoft's modeling tools, programmers can provide information useful to system operators. For example, a person can specify that a given application will run optimally on four Web servers and two databases.

In IBM's case, it has built connections between its Tivoli software for "provisioning," or installing applications, and Rational's ClearCase and ClearQuest products, which are designed for managing source code and tracking defects, Zollar said.

The products will be released as plug-ins to the Eclipse software, which allows IT professionals to use different tools via a single user interface.

The new Tivoli management tools will be particularly useful for complex business applications that include several components and that also might be running on different machines, he said.

"We've created a standardized way of using XML to create (program) package definitions that include the ability to check dependencies and have that drive the provisioning engine of Tivoli," said Zollar.

Other Eclipse plug-ins under development will be aimed at monitoring applications.

Rich Ptak, a systems management analyst, said IBM's strategy is to help companies of different sizes add more discipline to their IT operations.

"One of the problems with IT (shipments) now is that everything is solved on an ad hoc basis--all of the processes for doing things like adding a user or resolving a problem," Ptak said. "(IBM) is trying to make it easier, so you don't have to have years of experience to be effective."