HP is readying server management software that should give users control of Unix, Linux and Windows machines from a single console, a capability analysts say will be particularly important as businesses consolidate workloads to boost efficiencies in their data centres.
The software, code-named Nimbus, would be the first integrated tool from a systems vendor that handled the nitty-gritty of server management regardless of platform, from updating server BIOS and driver agents to updating patches, analysts said.
According to sources, Nimbus will be an amalgamation of HP's server management tools: Insight Manager, the old Compaq technology that monitors Windows and Alpha servers, and Servicecontrol Manager for HP-UX and Linux systems. HP Toptools Device Manager, which managed multiple platforms, was discontinued last year, but its features are expected to be integratedin Nimbus.
HP declined to comment on Nimbus, but sources said a base version was expected to ship with HP servers within months.
The package is an upgrade to Insight Manager, which brings HP's management and monitoring expertise to the legacy Compaq product, director of technical services at Crossmark Holdings, Jason Robohm, said.
Crossmark, which is testing the Nimbus software, is a longtime ProLiant customer.
"The advantage for us is we're seeing thinner and thinner load on the server and more (remote monitoring) and SNMP-type polling, which means you have less overhead and fewer things to update in the way of agents," Robohm said.
"That's the direction where we see this new version of Insight Manager heading: almost an HP OpenView look and feel, but not meant to be providing network-related uptimes and correlation, but instead give you the kind of information about a specific box and performance of that particular box.
The capabilities in Nimbus are important, according to analysts, because server management software feeds into larger, higher-level network management systems such as HP OpenView and IBM's Tivoli product, which are used to manage heterogeneous servers, storage and other resources.
"It's been a common problem for server management - having different tools for different server operating systems," a senior analyst for The Yankee Group, Jamie Gruener, said.
Insight Manager identifies, isolates and resolves problems on HP ProLiant servers, blades and their Alpha servers; Servicecontrol Manager performs fault monitoring, configuration and workload management of HP-UX or Linux systems; and Toptools performed fault and inventory management on former HP Netservers and HP-UX machines.
With Nimbus, users will no longer have to jump from console to console to control the various server nodes on their networks. Instead, they will have an integrated view of systems running Windows, Linux and HP-UX.
Today, server management software from all systems vendors require console-hopping to manage heterogeneous systems. IBM, for example, has IBM Director to manage servers running Windows, Linux and NetWare, but AIX systems are handled through different software.
Sun's Sun Management Centre would handle only Solaris running on scalable processor architecture and Intel-based boxes, although there were plans to extend that software to encompass Linux, analysts said.
Sun's Cobalt appliances use the Sun Cobalt Control Station software, Sun officials said.
But while the focus has been on server consolidation, "the management stuff has lagged behind," principal analyst at Illuminata, Jonathan Eunice, said.
"Management, from a user point of view, is one of the first places you should go. IBM has been counter-intuitive about working on hardware consolidation before working on management consolidation. Only this year have they talked about managing other IBM platforms such as AIX."
Eunice said users should expect vendors to move in this direction, however, as barriers collapsed in data centres with Unix, Linux and Windows environments working more in tandem as workloads were consolidated.