Self-Healing Infrastructures: IBM Positioned in Gartner's Magic Quadrant for Workload Automation

The fastest and most efficient response to technical challenges is an automatic one

Service Management in Action

As organizations strive to get the highest possible business value from managing complex workloads, one of the best available strategies lies in smart use of workload automation.

Partly, this is due to the ever-increasing sophistication of the infrastructures used to do the job. Workloads today often span multiple systems, operating systems, and even complete architectures—not just multiple operating systems and distributed systems, but also mainframes and even private or public clouds. As a result, tracking down and resolving problems that threaten workload fulfillment has become more difficult in proportion.

Automatic management solutions that really put the focus on workloads per se are the answer. And as infrastructures continue to evolve, and the need for the fastest, most cost-efficient management of technical issues increases, that answer will only become more and more appealing.

IBM has historically been a leader in the area of smart IT automation, and that's particularly evident in the case of its workload scheduling solutions—the IBM Tivoli Workload Automation (TWS) family. These are available in versions designed specifically for IBM's System z mainframe solution, distributed data center infrastructures running commodity operating systems, and ERP applications (a particularly mission-critical element of complex workloads).

And recently, IBM's leadership was recognized by analyst firm Gartner, Inc. Gartner included the TWS family in its Magic Quadrant for Workload Automation.

By deploying TWS solutions, organizations can ensure that workloads execute more optimally—on time and under budget—while also simplifying management and increasing management flexibility, regardless of how complex the underlying infrastructure may be.

IBM Tivoli Workload Scheduler: Straightforward, workload-centric planning and automated problem handling

"Business process mapping is straightforward, thanks to the way TWS renders job types intuitively—essentially, via a bird's eye view that is relatively easy to understand and modify over time. Because managers can see at a glance how jobs execute, troubleshooting those jobs is rendered a much faster process—and the business impact of technical issues falls."

The flagship solution of the family, IBM Tivoli Workload Scheduler, illustrates these points very clearly. This offering targets workloads executed in complex, distributed infrastructures. It provides a centralized perspective on how well those workloads are being fulfilled, takes automatic, policy-driven action when common problems occur, and also generates alerts that bring more complex issues to the attention of IT managers.

For instance, if a system somewhere in the workload chain is stalled and needs to be stopped and restarted, the solution can automatically discover the stalled system, then carry out the appropriate stopping/restarting sequence. It can also route jobs to alternate, failover systems if the restart is unsuccessful (whether due to hardware or software root causes).

This comprehensive, automated oversight helps prevent workloads from stalling even when the systems they rely on stop working entirely. The result is a workload infrastructure that is, in a sense, “self-healing”—and also remarkably efficient in the healing process because in most cases, manual oversight and action won't be needed.

For instance, management is remarkably flexible; it can be handled either on the mainframe side or the distributed side of the infrastructure—whichever best suits the organization's needs and convenience.

Business process mapping is straightforward, thanks to the way TWS renders job types intuitively—essentially, via a bird's eye view that is relatively easy to understand and modify over time. Because managers can see at a glance how jobs execute, troubleshooting those jobs is rendered a much faster process—and the business impact of technical issues falls.

Furthermore, organizations chartered with living up to SLA terms (a specific issue Gartner brought up) will find the workload timeline simulation capability directly on point. This generates an accurate estimate of just how long it will take workloads (or subsets of them) to run, and thus empowers organizations to plan more effectively by allocating more resources and capabilities where they turn out to be most needed.

That claim is proven by the fact that TWS now includes simplified integration with IBM Service Delivery Manager (ISDM)—a Tivoli offering that provides end-to-end orchestration of all the underlying tasks a cloud must perform in order to render IT services optimally. If, for instance, more virtual servers turn out to be needed to accelerate a particular workload, TWS can work with ISDM to create and provision those servers, then assign them logical tasks.

The need for higher priority of a given workload has thus been met by the cloud's increased capacity to handle that workload, and yet the whole process has been handled by business policies—not IT team members.

IBM Tivoli Workload Scheduler for System z: Use the mainframe as a centralized management platform and oversee it from anywhere

Organizations fortunate enough to have made the investment in System z will find that its extraordinary performance, uptime, flexibility, and security make it a truly optimized platform of workload management.

That, in a nutshell, is the idea behind IBM Tivoli Workload Scheduler for System z—a lightweight yet powerful workload management solution that applies effectively to the distributed infrastructure too.

How? This offering utilizes agents that are deployed on distributed systems as a control layer—tracking what those systems are doing, and how they're performing, and reporting that information back to the mainframe. This agent-obtained information is aggregated by the TWS Controller running on the System z. The Controller can in turn be overseen by the IT team from any standard Web browser for management convenience.

Additionally, a new, intuitive GUI in this offering helps make management easier, faster, and more straightforward than ever. Using a graphical view, for instance, administrators can actually model job streams abstractly simply by dragging and dropping logical elements. Other views zero in on related topics, such as the projected business impact of a proposed workload, or the interdependencies of key elements—both critical considerations. For those users who prefer a simpler view of workload activity, mobile interfaces allow them to access the product from anywhere, any time.

And toward improving the odds that SLAs will be fulfilled in accordance with contractual terms, workload service assurance capabilities help by informing managers, in a simple color-coded manner, about both performance levels and risk levels.

If the estimated risk falls outside acceptable guidelines, in fact, the solution can in many cases solve the problem itself, by automatically changing workload prioritization—routing the workload in a different way, such as through higher-performing hosts. Any workload found in danger of an SLA violation, in other words, can be dialed up in importance, finishing it earlier to avoid the anticipated violation.

IBM Tivoli Workload Scheduler for Applications: Optimized performance for ERP-dependent workloads of all kinds

Another area where advanced workload management is badly needed: enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications.

These are particularly mission-critical, leveraged by many other applications and services for myriad business purposes. They're also unusually complex, spanning many dependencies, resource pools, and systems. And while ERP environments typically come with limited workload management tools of their own, those tools are environment-specific; they don't apply to the larger architecture in which ERP applications exist.

IBM can supplement ERP workload management along just these lines. By integrating with and collaborating with the ERP tools, both the ERP applications per se and the host environments are managed optimally for workload fulfillment. That means jobs finish on time, reliably, and create all the value they're supposed to create. And all the applications and services that rely on ERP capabilities can continue to work as expected as well—a positive ripple effect that spreads throughout the IT infrastructure.

For one example of how that might work, consider the specific case of SAP, a leading ERP solution. SAP applications depend on a master node; if that master node were to fail, SAP-driven applications would go down as well. This is a threat to the SAP infrastructure—a potential single point of failure.

Fortunately, IBM Tivoli Workload Scheduler for Applications can create a failover master node. If the original master node becomes unresponsive, threatening SAP application execution and workload fulfillment, TWS for Applications will detect that fact, engage the failover master, transfer operational responsibilities to it, and thus bring critical workloads back to life—all without requiring direct oversight of IT managers or database analysts.

This solution also includes key features like resource throttling, that can detect runaway jobs that are consuming too many resources and pare back that consumption, and load-balancing, that prevents one element of the workload infrastructure from being unduly overburdened. Both of these features play a powerful role in automatically making sure that SAP-specific workloads run smoothly and reliably, despite what might otherwise have been performance-threatening developments.

And this solution is additionally attractive because these benefits and capabilities apply not just to one SAP instance but multiple instances.

As you multiply the number of SAP instances in order to perform a growing number of business tasks, you'll find you can continue to use the Tivoli solution to improve workload execution in every case—multiplying its value as well.

Additional information

About the Magic Quadrant

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product, or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner's research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

*Gartner, Inc., Magic Quadrant for Workload Automation, Milind Govekar, Biswajeet Mahapatra, February 27, 2012.

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