By eweek  |  Posted 2006-09-18 Print this article Print

With Unicenter Network and Systems Management r11.1, CA is jumping onto the centralized management database bandwagon. The company also is adding to its venerable platform support for Microsofts SQL Server database products, and it is changing the systems primary user interface and enhancing its notification services.

CA is leaping several version numbers—the previous version of Unicenter NSM was 3.1—to bring Unicenter NSM onto the database that is now the central repository for management information that other CA products, including those that handle storage and inventory now use.
The new MCC (Management Command Center) is backward-compatible with the previous administration client, allaying eWeek Labs concerns that the new interface would be disruptive for current users.

Click here to read more about the introduction of Unicenter NSM r11.1. Of importance to IT managers who are looking at an upgrade from the previous version of Unicenter NSM is the fact that r11.1 now focuses on the "S" in NSM over the "N." As a result of CAs acquisition of Concord Communications, which itself had snapped up Aprismas Spectrum network management tools, Unicenter NSM r11.1 is primarily a systems management tool that integrates with CAs network management systems.

What remains unchanged is that Unicenter NSM r11.1 is a power tool that is best suited for organizations (usually large) that have a heterogeneous systems environment, including mainframe, Windows, Unix and Linux systems, along with a variety of network elements.

Additionally, Unicenter NSM r11.1 is an especially good fit when the number of these systems is large—in the thousands—and the systems are spread across geographic and logical boundaries. In other words, Unicenter NSM is for organizations whose IT managers must monitor and manage diverse systems that are tied together by business processes that exceed the capabilities of single-platform management tools.

As such, Unicenter NSM r11.1, which was released in September, requires a professional services engagement and considerable planning and staff training to support ongoing operations.

According to CA officials, organizations can expect to pay about $30,000 to $100,000 for a typical implementation, along with 20 percent annual maintenance. This pricing is in line with IBM Tivolis Enterprise Console, but it is more than Attachmates NetIQ AppManager suite or BMC Softwares infrastructure management tools.

Command and Control

The Unicenter MCC, a replacement for the Unicenter Explorer, is one of the most significant advances in the revamped Unicenter NSM. We used the MCC to get information about particular systems and other assets in our network, including SNMP-enabled network elements, without having to navigate through a number of component viewers.

The MCC quickly let us see information in the content pane of the user interface and let us switch among different views of the system, depending on whether we were looking at application performance measures or physical system measures (including how much of the system RAM or CPU was in use at a particular time).

The MCC adds other functions that should assist IT operations staff.

One of these new functions allowed us during tests to bookmark items, such as our e-mail systems, and then access those items by clicking on them in the favorites bar on the MCC screen. Because Unicenter NSM is designed for use in large-scale environments, this addition will likely be greatly appreciated by frontline operations staffers, who routinely have to access management information about the particular systems for which they are responsible.

The MCC is a big step forward for Unicenter NSM, but it also will require a significant effort for IT managers to configure for optimal use. This is certainly an area where professional services—usually provided by an organization other than CA—will come into play. We recommend that IT managers specifically call out MCC implementation when evaluating third-party professional services organizations. Ask to see examples of MCC implementations, and look for multiple displays of system, application, and network monitoring and management.

The MCC integrates plug-ins that were previously available in Unicenter and adds support for the Alert Management System, Enterprise Management console logs and information from the Adaptive Dashboard Services and Web Reporting Services.

These components, along with several others, can share information with the MCC. This let us create actions for use as part of troubleshooting routines. For example, we were able to create an ICMP (Internet Control Message Protocol) ping with a WorldView command that we assigned to a hot key. When a specific system reported a problem, we were able to select the system on the WorldView display and then use the hot key to ping the system to see if it was able to reply. The actions are stored by user and arent shared.

Next Page: Possible disruption for current Unicenter users


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