IBM Monitoring goes SaaS

Big changes in the IT market are taking place. We see cloud services all around changing the delivery model of software from product sale to a software as a service model.

IBM also delivers more and more parts of its portfolio in a software as a service model. One of the very first offerings is IBM Monitoring. Based on the IBM Service Engage platform the monitoring infrastructure is delivered to the customers.

But how does it work?

IBM delivers the server components in a Softlayer® data center. The infrastructure is hidden behind a firewall in combination with a reverse proxy. All customer agents and client devices are connected by using the HTTPS port (Port 443) on the announced service address.

How are the different customers separated from each other?

The user clients are connected to the correct customer specific monitoring environment based on the user credentials given on the login page.

The agents have customer specific credentials in their setup and are generated for each customer exclusively. These agents are provided upon registration for the service and can be downloaded on customer request.

How many agents should a customer have?

Well, there is no minimum number of agents a customer has to request to become eligible for IBM’s monitoring offering. However, there is a maximum number of agents a single instance of this monitoring infrastructure can serve. Depending on the complexity of the monitoring rules you apply we expect a maximum of about 1000 agents per infrastructure instance.

What kind of agents are available?

The following agents are currently available for the SaaS offering:

  • Operating Systems

    • Windows OS

    • Linux OS (RHEL, SLES)

    • AIX

  • Databases

    • DB2 UDB

    • Oracle DB

    • Microsoft SQL Server

    • Mongo DB

    • MySQL

    • PostGreSQL

  • Response Time Monitoring

  • Microsoft Active Directory

  • Virtualization Engines

    • KVM

    • System P AIX

  • JEE Container

    • WebSphere Application Server

    • WebSphere Liberty

    • Apache Tomcat

  • Languages and Frameworks

    • Ruby on Rails

    • Node.js

    • PHP

    • Python

There are several other agents planned to be released within the next few weeks or months, but I’m not authorized to write about in detail in this blog. If you want to more details, or if you have specific requirements, drop me a message, and I’ll come back to you with more specific information.

How are these agents installed?

The installation procedure is now pretty simple. The following videos show the installation on Linux and Windows. After downloading the appropriate packages for the target OS platform, the installation process can be initiated. The redesigned installation process on Linux follows now the standard installation rules for the OS platform (here now RPM).

The new IBM Monitoring is different from the previous one. The new lightweight infrastructure is available within a few minutes. The agents are easy to install and are simple to configure. The monitoring solution comes with a new user interface based on HTML without the need of any Java Runtime Environment. Because of that, the user interface is now also available on touch pads and smart phones.

Follow me on Twitter @DetlefWolf, or drop me a discussion point below if you have further question regarding the new IBM Monitoring.


Raising IT Monitoring Acceptance

After publishing my blog “IT Monitoring is out of style?” a discussion was initiated by several followers, how IT Monitoring acceptance could be achieved within the system administration groups.

To make that clear, system admins are not preventing monitoring in general, they complain about too often, toounspecific alerts which stops them from doing their daily business.

This leads to the refusal of such monitoring services. So what to do to get a commitment from the system admin team.

What system admins really hate?

  • Alerts, which indicate minor issues that could be also fixed later on within normal business hours, deranging them within their leisure time.

  • Alerts, which flip on and off within intervals (bouncing alerts)

  • Alerts, which are out of their responsibility

Well, I can imagine another bunch of bullet points, what system admins do not like, but remembering my own time as a system programmer, I believe these are the real eye-catchers in this area.

But there are also reasons, why they support a monitoring solution. They want to avoid the following situations:

  • Being hit by an outage of a service without an early warning

  • Upset users are floating the support team with calls, due to poor response times

You can fill this list with tons of other statements, so feel free to drop me your top reasons in the comment section.

 What really changed over the last years in the IT department is the service orientation. Formerly, we watched the system health, rather than the service health. Today we focus on the service health. And this offers a new approach to increase the acceptance of IT Monitoring solutions.



A business partner, currently implementing a monitoring as a service model for small businesses, stated the requirement to get alerted only, if key business IT functions of its customer are on risk or are already out of service. We used the Internet Service Monitor to check the named services (like email, internet accessibility, phone server, and so on). By using the approach of the End-To-End-Measurement the detection of critical service status is assured. For more sophisticated services like Web Applications or SAP Transactions the Web Response Time Monitor delivers deep insight into transactions. To track down the availability and performance of transactions in business off hours, the Robotic Response Time agent delivers valuable insight and informs about unexpected outages.

All events coming from this discipline are good candidates to be escalated also in business off hours.

Resource Monitoring

Resources, like CPU usage, memory or disk consumption, database buffer pools, JEE heap size or whatever are very important metrics to analyze the health of the operating or application system. A single metric is only an indicator but too often not a good signal to throw a high critical alert. This is exactly the question discussed in “Still configuring thresholds to detect IT problems? Don’t just detect, predict!” But yes, there might be single metrics indicating a hard stop of a system or application, which requires immediate intervention. And this knowledge comes often from resource monitors. Additionally, the resource monitors gather important data for historical projections and capacity planning. Based on this data, predictive insight becomes actionable, and gives us another source of meaningful events. Events detected by Predictive Insights are also good candidates to be escalated even in business off hours, if you are interested in avoiding interruptions in IT services.

Suppressing Events

When I was a system programmer, my team’s main goal was to have as little as possible calls in business off hours. We tried to catch up with the events – also with the less important ones – within our standard office hours. To achieve this goal, we created rules, what kind of events – or what combination of events – are critical enough, to initiate a call in business off hours. In normal business hours we monitored the system with an extended set of rules to get early indications of unhealthy system conditions. This helped us to maintain a pretty tidy IT environment, causing relatively seldom unexpected system behavior. All these extended events were suppressed by the event engine (here OMNIBUS) in business off hours. When we came on-site again, we reviewed the list of open and already closed events, recapped the number of occurrence in the monitoring system to understand the situation we’ve missed while being off-site.

In summary, there are ways to get the commitment from the system administrator team for a monitoring solution. The system administrator’s goal is to have a high available, high performance system environment with fully functioning service running on it. IBM Monitoring tools help them to achieve this goal and offer them the flexibility to get filtered information about the system status as they need it.

For those customers, trying to avoid maintaining a monitoring infrastructure by themselves, the new Monitoring as a Service offering fits perfectly.

So what is your impression? Are you also discussing with system administrators about a powerful monitoring?

Follow me on Twitter @DetlefWolf, or drop me a discussion point below to continue the conversation.