Unisys, Microsoft Tackle the Data Center

Companies' Tools Aim to Automate Management of Windows Servers

New and upgraded software from Unisys Corp., Microsoft Corp. and other vendors addresses the need to cut management costs and improve performance of data centers.

The efforts are the latest steps in the trend to create data center systems that run, monitor and fix themselves.

Unisys this week will unveil the next generation of its Windows-based server self-healing and self-monitoring software, Server Sentinel 2.0, and a new suite aimed at easing application management, Application Sentinel.

A new feature in Server Sentinel 2.0, which is bundled in the Blue Bell, Pa., companys ES7000 servers, is a predictive health capability for clustered environments. Sentinel can anticipate conditions where failover is imminent and determine where to move workloads. Version 2.0 performs a vulnerability assessment that can highlight weak spots before a system is up and running.

The upgrade offers new security measures, such as expanded user role definitions and security breach detection capabilities, officials said.

Application Sentinel, which works with applications and databases running on Unisys ES7000 or ClearPath servers with Windows partitions, includes a module that tracks applications and migrates them to new Unisys servers. Other modules offer workload balancing, job flow management and Microsoft SQL Server monitoring.

Application Sentinel will also be bundled with a new ES7000 family of "building block" servers, code-named Dylan, that will run Windows Server 2003 and launch April 1.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture uses Server Sentinel software to manage its 32-processor ES7000 server, which hosts the agencys PeopleSoft Inc. human resources implementation. At least 59,000 employees can access the browser-based software, said Hans Heidenreich, project manager at the USDA, in Beltsville, Md.

"We have to be 24-7," Heidenreich said. "We need a system that stays up and active. It runs and lets us know whats wrong, [and] it fixes itself. The machine is self-healing. The big deal for us is, we have our computing center in Kansas City, [Kan.], and we administer it from Beltsville ... without anyone having to sit next to it."

Meanwhile, a new Microsoft offering released to beta last week is somewhat less extensive than Unisys, but it is part of a broader autonomic systems management push by the Redmond, Wash., developer. ADS (Automated Deployment Services) for Windows Server 2003, which was unveiled at the Microsoft Management Summit here, is the first deliverable in the companys Dynamic Systems Initiative data center automation initiative.

ADS enables a systems administrator to remotely deploy operating system software, reducing the time needed to deploy hundreds of Windows Server system images from weeks to minutes, officials said. It also provides image creation, editing and scripting; a script-based administration framework; and the ability to encode operational standards. It will be generally available next quarter.

Future automated manageability capabilities that will come from the Microsoft initiative include automated patch management, improved usability of remote administration and scripting, and simplified connections to SANs (storage area networks).