Friday, March 14, 2008

Netcool overview for Tivoli folks

The Netcool products are definitely upon us, and I just wanted to write a short description of some of the different products and how they fit in, from a traditional Tivoli perspective.

Tivoli has stated that the future of event management will be Netcool/Omnibus, and TBSM 4.1 *IS* Netcool/RAD, along with some additional cool integration pieces, so I'm going to focus on those products and their prerequisites.

Netcool/Omnibus is used for event management. It consists primarily of an ObjectServer and a database (Postgres by default). The ObjectServer receives events and performs functions similar to those provided by tec_server, tec_reception, tec_task, tec_rule and tec_dispatch. Specifically, it receives events, processes them according to configurable/definable rules, and writes them to the database. The rules you define can also perform automation - sending email, instant messages, running programs, etc.

The Omnibus database itself is quite a bit nicer (in my opinion) than the TEC database. There is essentially ONE table that contains your event information: alerts.status (there are a couple of others, alerts.detail and alters.journal that may contain information about events, but alerts.status is the primary one). All of an event's slots map to columns in this table, and if you define an event that needs more slots/attributes, you need to modify this table. This makes it a little less flexible than TEC's TEC_T_SLOTS table, but that's a good tradeoff in my mind (to this day I haven't been able to find a single SQL query that will show me all of the slots for all of the events with a particular value in the 'hostname' slot, for example).

The user interface for Omnibus itself is about as basic as the TEC event viewer. But because you normally will use other products along with Omnibus, most users won't actually see the Omnibus interface - they will use something nicer (like TBSM or Impact) as a front-end.

Defining the automation for Omnibus (using the Netcool/Omnibus Administrator tool, 'nco_config'), should be familiar to all TEC administrators out there. You have to write code to perform any automated actions you want. The product doesn't have any wizard interfaces, but Netcool/Impact DOES (more on this in a bit).

TBSM (Tivoli Business Service Manager) 4.1 sits primarily on top of the Omnibus database, though it can take feeds from a large number of different sources. Whereas previous versions of TBSM required that you send specially-formatted events to TBSM, this version performs the same function in a much more straightforward manner: by reading the database. As an administrator, you need to define your different business service hierarchy, and in doing so, you need to define which events affect the status of each service. You define these filters through the web-based interface, which is based on Netcool/Webtop, which is based on the Netcool/GUI Foundation.

TBSM 4.1 also includes some functionality that was not in RAD 3.x. Specifically, there is a new TEC EIF Probe, which allows the included Omnibus ObjectServer to look EXACTLY like a TEC server. This means that you can point existing TEC adapters to your Omnibus host as the EventServer. This piece also allows you to perform attribute mapping so that your events come in correctly.

Another new feature in TBSM 4.1 is that it can import Discovery Library Adapter (DLA) books that are created by other products. Most notably, it accepts the output from the ITM 6.x DLA, and even has rules built-in to handle events from ITM. Here's what makes this so cool:

- You can generate the book in your ITM environment. This book (a file containing IDML [an XML language] data) contains information about all of the agents you've deployed in your environment.
- You then have all of your agents visible within TBSM, and they can be included in any services you define.
- If you point your TEMS to send events to the Omnibus ObjectServer being monitored by TBSM, your systems that were imported from ITM 6.x will turn yellow or red.

TBSM 4.1 ALSO has tight integration with the CDT portion of CCMDB (aka TADDM). You can pull information from TADDM using DLA books OR using direct API access. This type of integration allows you to view CI status changes directly in TBSM. Additionally, you can launch the TEP or the TADDM GUI in-context directly from TBSM.

This level of out-of-the-box integration is what a lot of us have been hoping for for a long time. Additionally, TEC event synchronization capabilities are easily configured.

If you can't tell, I REALLY like this newest version of TBSM 4.1. It doesn't have nearly the complexity of earlier versions, AND leverages your event repository directly (the Omnibus database). Additionally, it ships with robust integration with ITM and TEC, which will make the transition off of TEC very easy for the vast majority of customers. For most customers who are using TEC for complex processing, it won't take too much effort to integrate Omnibus into your event management structure.

TBSM 4.1 also has an SLA (Service Level Agreement) component that can be used to track and manage your SLAs. Tivoli is still selling the TSLA product separately, and I believe they will keep offering that product, so hopefully they will soon come out with a statement of direction in this area.

With TBSM, you also get Netcool/Impact for no additional fee. *This* is the product that many of you have seen demonstrated with the ability to define your event management rules and automation just by clicking and dragging. This is accomplished through the Wizards that are included. Those wizards will guide you through many common automation tasks (running an external command, sending email, etc.), though like any wizards, to perform complex operations, you'll need to write code directly.

The main interface for Netcool/Impact is web based, and therefore, like TBSM 4.1, requires Webtop and the GUI Foundation.

Netcool also has a very granular security structure, where you can define exactly which users can access which resources depending on which tool they use for that access.

Notice in all of the above that Netcool has no interface that competes with with the ITM 6.1 TEP interface - all of the Netcool interfaces above are based on events being generated. That's a good thing, as this (to me) clearly indicates that the TEP is *the* operational view for real-time metrics moving forward.

That's all for now. There are definitely other Netcool products that I didn't touch on (Precision IP, Reporter, Proviso and Visionary, among a few others), but we will hopefully address those in a similar article soon. I know in particular that there is lots of interest in Tivoli reporting capabilities, and that Netcool/Reporter sounds like a good product to address that. However, Tivoli has announced that their future reporting solution will be based on the open-source BIRT (Business Intelligence Reporting Tool) application, so I don't really want to touch on that until Tivoli announces a more concrete direction.


Peter Tran said...


Can Netcool monitor a JMX enabled event?


Frank Tate said...

Netcool doesn't have anything that supports monitoring/querying JMX directly. However, the ITM Agent Builder does allow you to create custom agents that query JMX servers.