Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tivoli Policy Driven Software Distribution (TPDSD) Quick Overview

General Comments
We have been hearing about this product since Pulse 2008. The idea was to target a product on the desktop segment rather than one the covers both the server and desktop markets. This was done as these are two different worlds when it comes to management. IBM was hearing from customers that they wanted a more hands-off approach to dealing with desktops, in other words “set and forget” (my term I just made up, so don’t blame IBM for this possible bad phrasing). This was also what other vendors have been doing in the desktop market.

I have been involved with the beta of this product since it was available and will cover a few components of the product.

During the beta, this product was known as DTM. At release, it was renamed to Tivoli Policy Driven Software Distribution (TPDSD), which at least let you know that it was policy driven, but seemed to state that it only did software distribution, which it does, but also does more. It looks like this could be renamed in the next release to Tivoli Endpoint Manager (TEM). Which may seem to be a better name to some, it is actually really confusing to others that have been involved with Framework as this was the name of the component that responsible for managing information regarding the endpoints. For the purposes of this blog, I will use the current name of TPDSD. Who knows, maybe it will change again before TEM comes out ;)

Operating System Support
With the first release of TPDSD, there is very limited support for just Windows on both the server and target. The server can run on Windows 2003 and 2008 on 32 or 64 bit. The agents are supported on Windows XP, Vista, 2003 (32/64), 2008 (32/64).

The next release is supposed to have more support for both the servers and agents. There is even talk of MacOS support.

Agent Communications
In TPMfSW you were able to handle tasks to the targets using either RXA or the TCA. TPDSD only uses the agents for these tasks and the only time RXA is used is for the remote agent installation.

The great news is that the agent is now natively compiled, so no more JRE! The new agent is approx 30MB and that is the core agent and all other required support files.

Like TPMfSW, the agent also has various polling intervals. There are intervals for:
1. Checking local cached policies
2. Checking for new policies
3. Sending reports

All of these variables can be set at installation time or by an agent configuration policy.

What is a Policy?
The policies within TPDSD are what are used to do anything to an agent. If you want to install a piece of software, that is a policy. Scan the system, another policy. Configure the agent, you guessed it, a policy. When a policy is created, it is assigned to a target or a group of targets and will stay with that target until it is withdrawn or the machine is rebuilt.

Policies can be setup to either require or prohibit software from being installed. In order to require software to be installed, you need to first define the software to TPDSD and then define how the software is to be recognized on the target. For the recognition of software, there quite a few different ways that can be used to define how to detect software on a target.
1. If it is an MSI, you can define the GUID as the key. When importing an MSI, this is done automatically
2. If using a SPB, the state code is used when importing. This would take the name and version of the SPB and verify that it is in a successful install state on the target (IC--- for those familiar with TCM)
3. File existence – check for a specific file in a directory
4. Registry existence – check for a specific registry key

There are 35 different checks that can be done and multiple checks can be combined to determine if a product is installed or not. This can make the detection very flexible.

To prohibit software, you still need to create the software definition which would also define how to remove the software. The definition needs to exist so that the policy can be created and the uninstall instructions need to exist to actually do the removal.

Self Service Catalog
The self service catalog is a web interface that can be used be the client system to request the installation of software. The catalog contains a searchable section and a “Popular Software” section. The “Popular Software” could be something like a core set of products or free software that is allowed to be installed. This interface also allows the end user to remove software that is currently installed.

When the user requests software from the catalog, it is submitted and a new policy is created for the software to the specific target. This means that the agent will keep checking if the software is installed even after the initial request is completed.

The “set and forget” is the policy part of the product. You set a policy for a target, or group of targets, to have or not have software and the product takes care of maintaining the state of the target.

Integration with TPMfOSD
TPMfOSD is not included with TPDSD, but can be easily integrated using a couple global variables. It is very easy to include the TPDSD agent as a software module so that it will automatically be installed and connected with the TPDSD server. Once installed, the agent can be set to automatically install application or perform other configurations based on policies.

This product is looking really good and I cannot wait for the next release. Right now, due to the limited OS support and a few other things, it is not really ready for the primetime, and I do not believe that IBM is even stating that it is. It is really close and the concepts will continue from this version to the next. The next version will include much more OS support and I have heard of many new (and cool, as in good) features that people have been saying are missing. I do believe that this is a way better solution that has been designed from the ground up for the distributed environment, unlike TPMfSW, which will good, really was designed more for a datacenter.

Shameless Plug
Look for Gulf Breeze Software Partners at Pulse 2010. I will also be doing a presentation called “End to End computer management with Tivoli Policy Driven Software Distribution”. This session will be demoing the use of TPDSD along with TPMfOSD to perform a bare-metal install all the way to installing applications via polcy.

Hope to see you there!

No comments: