IBM launches systems management in a box

The company has launched two Tivoli-branded, systems-management appliances aimed at smaller businesses and departments of larger enterprises

IBM has launched two Tivoli-branded, systems-management appliances aimed at companies with fewer than 1,000 employees and departments of larger enterprises. The company said the launch brings Tivoli's enterprise-level technology to smaller companies for the first time.

IBM is not breaking new ground. Kace has pioneered the systems-management appliance market with its KBOX Systems Management Appliance, designed to help small and medium-sized businesses build helpdesks, along with software-only competitors LANDesk with IT Service Management and Service Desk products, and Symantec-owned Altiris with its Client Management, Asset Management and ServiceDesk suites.

The Tivoli appliances are also up against systems-management software from rival HP; according to research house Datamonitor, IBM leads the enterprise systems-management market with "very advanced features and IT concepts", while HP has a larger presence in the SME market.

The Tivoli Foundations Application and Service Manager appliances package standard Tivoli software into a box, an approach that allows quicker deployment in organisations with few available IT staff and cuts support costs and configuration time, according to IBM's Tivoli enterprise sales and strategy manager Mark Fieldhouse.

The Foundations Application Manager allows IT department staff to discover systems, to manage availability, and to provide insight into the performance and processes inside a company's systems. "It allows you to understand core things you'd be concerned with: what are memory and disk doing for example, and applications as well," said Fieldhouse.

The Foundations Service Manager appliance allows companies to implement service desk functionality using an Itil-based approach to systems-management practices. "Customers may not want full-blown service desks which are expensive to deploy, so our appliance, which is running the Tivoli service request manager, has best practices built-in," said Fieldhouse.

"Customers can be up and running in under five days, including discovery and design," said Fieldhouse. "Using the tools in the boxes, customers can gather data and align their monitoring to their environment, and then set priorities according to business needs."

The systems use a self-service and knowledge-management portal that helps end users address their own issues, and this means IT can respond to performance issues faster and more accurately, and that IT support staff workloads are lower. Fieldhouse said buyers could expect a return on their investment inside three months.

Both appliances communicate with remote systems, either by using agents or directly in the case of IBM systems, and are multi-processor systems with Raid array storage.

The 451 Group's enterprise software analyst Dennis Callaghan said: "Appliance-based systems management technologies are disruptive and are filling an important and immediate need for medium enterprise organisations."

Prices start at £1,000 per month, including systems integration consultancy. According to Stuart Wilson, managing director of IBM systems integrator Pirean, a service desk with five operators overseeing 50 servers would typically cost £2,500 monthly.

Fieldhouse said IBM would be launching other appliances next year focusing on storage security and energy management.