IBM Shares Wealth

IBM is merging tools to expand provisioning.

IBM this year will broaden the reach of the on-demand provisioning tools it acquired last year with ThinkDynamics Inc. across a spectrum of its products and services.

More than 70 people work on integration projects to extend the capabilities of IBM Tivoli Intelligent ThinkDynamics Orchestrator and IBM Tivoli Provisioning Manager, building on the WebSphere integration that ThinkDynamics created before the acquisition last May.

In the first half of the year, IBM will extend the pair to work with Tivoli monitoring tools and with IBM Tivoli Storage Resource Manager. In the second half of the year, IBM will integrate the pair with IBM Tivoli Identity Manager security software.

The projects will build on a base of work that has already yielded integration with provisioning tools for AIX, with IBM Director for managing IBM xSeries Intel Corp.-based processors, with Linux on IBM zSeries mainframe processors and with Tivoli Configuration Manager, said Eric Stouffer, program director for On Demand solutions, in Austin, Texas.

IBM Tivoli Provisioning Manager is a workflow engine that provisions resources such as servers, networks and software. It understands how to bring additional resources to bear for an application. IBM Tivoli Intelligent ThinkDynamics Orchestrator provides the intelligence to analyze an environment "to decide when, why and where additional resources need to be added or removed. It can take resources from one application thats a lower priority and give to others," said Stouffer.

That is what IBM did for the U.S. Tennis Association last year during the U.S. Open to help with the wild swings in demand on the USTAs Web site. It worked "flawlessly," said Ezra Kucharz, the USTAs managing director of advanced media, in White Plains, N.Y. "Our infrastructure needs during the U.S. Open are 50 times greater than the rest of the year," Kucharz said. "Why set up infrastructure for 49 weeks a year that I dont need?"

With the help of IBM Global Services and in conjunction with an IBM program on cancer research, the USTA used the tools to borrow computing resources from a Web-based, protein-folding application when hits to the Web site exceeded its processing capacity.

"The day of the womens final, there was a huge spike in interest. Eighty-five percent of that [protein-folding] computing resource was executing for the USTA Web site and 15 percent for the IBM application. We could dynamically watch arrival rates of Web transactions and dedicate resources based on the need," said Stouffer. "The policy we set up with the USTA was that their application was more important than the research application if it needed the resources."

"We had a dashboard control panel we could [use to] monitor what was going on at any given time," said Kucharz. "With our business, there are no second chances. If something goes down, you cant play a match over. It has to work flawlessly, and it has."

In extending integration to Tivoli monitoring tools, observations made by the monitoring tool about what is going on and what corrective actions need to be taken can be fed into the Orchestrator tool, allowing it to be more accurate in determining why and where resources need to be shifted. "Well be able to deploy additional Tivoli agents on new resources as we provision them, and we can essentially catch information from the [Tivoli Enterprise Console] as it gets rolled up and does its analysis," said Stouffer.

The integration projects with storage management and identity management will call on those offerings to operate as "subject matter experts" on storage provisioning and authorizations, said Stouffer. "Provisioning Manager and Orchestrator can call on those to do the details of provisioning additional storage," said Stouffer. They can also call on Identity Manager to perform detailed security management.

Beyond those projects, IBM is working on "Project Symphony," which will allow customers to add their own best practices and expertise to the tools to solve problems in specific environments. IBM Global Services is using the tools as part of a broader set of management services, and they are being used as a core part of IBM Global Services outsourcing architecture, Stouffer said.

But because of an extensible workflow engine in the tools and their ability to analyze what is going on and respond based on policy, they will ultimately be applied to an even-wider spectrum of offerings. "That and the ability to leverage [the tools capabilities] across IBM was the reason for the [ThinkDynamics] acquisition," said Stouffer.