Wednesday, September 20, 2017

IBM Control Desk is available


IBM has released the ICD FixPack:

Installation issues

On linux, the service_portal.bin installer crashes unless you use the "-i silent" install option. See this link for more information:

New/Updated Functionality

Here are IBM's links for the new capabilities:

I've found a couple of additional things that have been fixed that I didn't find in the documentation. Specifically:

Service Portal

- Default values for specifications now completely work. This means that you can specify a default value for a specification for an offering, and you will see that default value filled in when you go to request that offering.

- Specifications tied to Table Domains now work again. This function existed in, but was broken in, and is now back. Specifically, if you define a specification to be tied to a table domain, when you click in the field for that specification in the offering, you'll get a popup with all of the possible values. 

- Users can add an attachment before hitting the Submit button. One thing this allows you to do is require an attachment through the use of an "Add to Cart" or "On Submit" validation script.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Force change of global system property in Maximo


I recently encountered an issue in one of my ICD 7.6 installations where a global system property had an incorrect value set that I needed to change without rebuilding my MAXIMO.EAR file. This post is a description of the problem and my eventual "fix". It's just a test environment, and this is NOT a resolution that I would recommend for a production system. But I wanted to document the details to possibly help others in similar situations.


I installed ICD 7.6 and chose to use the maxdemo DB2 database script during configuration. This apparently set the global property to , and that is an invalid value. This system property should either be unset or set to   (with no trailing "s"). The problem that this causes is that any attempt to click on the "Run reports" action gives an HTTP 404 error. 

It took a while to run this down, but finally looking in System Configuration->Platform Configuration->System Properties showed me the setting for this system property:

Notice that I'm unable to modify the value AND "File Override?" is checked. So this means the value is set somewhere in the filesystem. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the value anywhere in any file on the system, so the only normal way around this is to modify on the Admin workstation, rebuild MAXIMO.EAR, then redeploy the EAR file. But I didn't want to do that for various reasons. Also, since "Global Only?" is set to true, I couldn't create an instance-specific property with the same name and different value. 

My "solution"

I tried several different tactics, but the one that finally worked for me was to directly update the database to set "User Defined?" true for this property so I could then delete it and create an instance-specific property with the same name. The SQL command I used to make this change was:

update maxprop set userdefined=1 where propname = ''

After running the above SQL command from a DB2 command prompt, I could then create an instance-specific property with the same name but with the correct value. Once I did that, I was able to successfully run all* BIRT reports.

All* reports?

Actually, the demo database script has at least one problem. Specifically, the CI named RBA_SERVER has a problem that causes the "CI List" report to fail. To get around this issue, you need to first find and delete the WORKORDER that references the RBA_SERVER CI, and then you can delete the RBA_SERVER CI. Once you delete that CI, you'll be able to successfully run the "CI List" report.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Disabling IE Enhanced Security Mode on Windows 2012 Server

Here's a handy PowerShell script I found to disable IE Enhanced Security Configuration on Windows 2012 Server. This needs to be run as Administrator:

function Disable-IEESC
$AdminKey = "HKLM:\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Active Setup\Installed Components\{A509B1A7-37EF-4b3f-8CFC-4F3A74704073}"
$UserKey = "HKLM:\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Active Setup\Installed Components\{A509B1A8-37EF-4b3f-8CFC-4F3A74704073}"
Set-ItemProperty -Path $AdminKey -Name "IsInstalled" -Value 0
Set-ItemProperty -Path $UserKey -Name "IsInstalled" -Value 0
Stop-Process -Name Explorer
Write-Host "IE Enhanced Security Configuration (ESC) has been disabled." -ForegroundColor Green

Friday, August 18, 2017

A new IBM Redbook on writing applications with Node.JS, Express and AngularJS

IBM just published another great Redbook, this time on application development with Node.JS, Express and AngularJS:

It describes the process on BlueMix, but it is applicable to a local application also.

What I like about it is the intricate detail it goes into for each and every step of the process and line of code in the application. It includes a ton of details about exactly what is going on with each step. If you're just learning these technologies or want a primer, this is an extremely informative resource.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Debugging Remote Control in IBM Control Desk


One of the many great features in IBM Control Desk is the ability to have a service desk agent remotely take control of a user's machine for troubleshooting (or repair) purposes. This function leverages the IBM BigFix for Remote Control agent on the target machine and a JNLP file on the server that launches a JAR file on the agent's machine.


The architecture is fairly simple. The JAR file running on the agent's machine communicates DIRECTLY with the BigFix Remote Control agent on the user's machine, which listens by default on port 888. This means that any firewalls between the agent's machine and the user's machine must allow a connection to port 888 on the user's machine.

Installing the Agent on the User's Machine

If you manually install the agent, it prompts you for the server name and port, but these values are ignored if you don't have BigFix in your environment. So if you don't have BigFix in your environment, these two values can be anything you want - it doesn't matter. It also asks you for the port that the agent should listen on. This is 888 by default, but can be changed to anything you'd like.

Launching the Controller Interface in debug mode on the Agent's Machine

This can be done in several ways from the ICD GUI, but going that route doesn't actually allow you to put the Controller interface into debug mode. To do that, you need to copy the TRCConsole.jar file from any of your ICD application servers or from the Administrative Workstation. Search for the file by name and you'll find it. Copy this file to the agent's machine.

On the agent machine, you need to launch the JAR file with the --debug flag:

TRCConsole.jar --debug

This will create a file named trctrace_<date_timestamp>.log in your %HOMEPATH% folder. This file will contain detailed tracing information that can be used for debugging.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

DevOps and Microservices Architecture done right - IBM Netcool Agile Service Manager


Our last article described just how easy it is to upgrade any or all of the components of Agile Service Manager. This article is meant to describe some of the design, patterns and processes that had to go into the application itself to allow a two-command in-place upgrade.

Microservices Architecture

Yes, this is a trendy buzzword these days, and that's only part of the reason I'm using it here. In general, a "microservice" can describe almost anything you access over the web - a website, a document, etc. Absolutely anything. But one very important concept about microservices when designing an application is separating functions that then expose all of their capability through some interface. In ASM, there are several "services", each of which is implemented in a Docker container. Each one of these "services" actually provides a number of related "microservices", which are then exposed via URLs accessible through the host system. All of these services communicate with one another through the exposed microservices. 

ASM's strict separation of functionality allows a lot of flexibility in application development. For example, one service is the File Observer, which is used to read a file of a specific format, which contains topology information. The main purpose of this service is to read a file and convert it into data that is then sent to the Topology service, which is responsible for processing the data for its purposes and ultimately sending it to the Cassandra (database) service, which will persistently store the data on a filesystem that's available on the host and accessible via the Search/ElasticSearch service. Notice that this application pattern is very similar to existing application patterns, but in this case each service is provided by a separate container.

Containers vs VMs

Docker containers are MUCH smaller than full virtual machines. Additionally, Docker has defined and implemented numerous usecases that make containers easier to create, deploy, configure and orchestrate than VMs. So, while ASM could have been delivered as multiple VMs (via OVA files and some type of hypervisor-specific orchestration), the use of Docker containers makes deployment and management much simpler. I'm saying that a similar result could have been achieved with VMWare vSphere, but IBM's Docker solution for this application seems to be sleeker to me.

Containers vs J2EE Applications in an App Server

In many ways, Docker can be seen as similar to a J2EE Application Server like WebSphere - it provides a common architecture with functions, capabilities and services that are shared among the applications/containers running within it. However, Docker containers can run applications written in any language you want - from Java to R to Haskell. Anything you can run on the host OS can be run inside a container. Containers can also be given strict resource limits for CPU usage, memory, file access, etc. To me, containers seem to be much more like atomic units than J2EE applications. 

As an example that I believe many people can relate to, an Application Server can be thought of as your browser, with each tab being an "application". It doesn't happen often, but one tab can crash your entire browser. Docker has been written specifically to avoid this with containers, which is a great thing.

IBM's Design Choices

IBM appears to have chosen this particular pattern in order to make the application as manageable as possible from both perspectives - development AND administration. When upgrading the components of the application, each service/container is basically free to do whatever it wants as long as it continues to adhere to its published REST interface (since REST is the only interface IBM has created for the services).

What does this have to do with DevOps?

DevOps requires frequent building and deploying, ideally in a manner that does not cause any regression test failures. The structure of this application wholeheartedly adheres to this requirement, and it is brilliant. 

I'm certain you can think of thousands of ways that this doesn't apply to some application that you deal with, but you should ignore those thoughts when thinking of the future. I truly believe that most, if not all, enterprise-scale applications will be rewritten using either this pattern or one that's extremely similar to it. And everyone in all areas of IT needs to be ready for the new opportunities and challenges that will come with it.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

IBM Agile Service Manager application maintenance is very easy

The Agile Service Manager team has done an amazing job on installation and upgrade. If you've never managed an enterprise-scale application, the information in this post probably won't impress you much. But really, if you've never managed an enterprise-scale application, you probably quit reading our articles a long, long time ago.

So now that I've got a technical audience, here's the amazing thing:

I just received some updated ASM components from IBM. To install them took TWO COMMANDS:

yum install *.rpm

docker compose up -d

THAT'S IT, and the new components are up and running, with the new functionality. I didn't even have to manually stop or start any processes. It was literally THOSE TWO COMMANDS. This, to me, is absolutely stunning, and hopefully a sign of more good things to come.