IBM on Wednesday introduced a slew of tools and services designed to more closely link users' IT processes with their business goals. Under the umbrella of its eLiza research initiative, which unites efforts within IBM related to IT automation, the company rolled out updates to its Tivoli software; revealed a number of partnerships designed to bolster eLiza activities; and formally introduced its E-Business Management Services offering, a suite of technology and services that lets execs define and monitor the performance of key systems from a desktop.
"Customers have told us that their technology use is increasing at an ever-increasing rate, and along with that the cost and complexity associated with that continues to rise," says Greg Burke, director of project eLiza at IBM.
The Tivoli products are designed to help IT managers deal with complexity while ensuring system security in an age when companies are becoming increasingly concerned about data protection. The Tivoli Identity Director application manages user information across an entire infrastructure chain, letting IT managers centralize and automate the monitoring of such data. The software will also work in concert with Tivoli Policy Director to control user access to specific applications. Meanwhile, the recently introduced Tivoli Intrusion Manager will watch for hacking attempts, threats, and other security exposures across a number of systems.
Beyond software that monitors specific systems, IBM introduced a service designed to give execs an overall picture of infrastructure performance. E-Business Management Services--a combined software and services package offered through IBM Global Services--lets users define performance levels for key business processes, then ensures that those levels are met, regardless of interruptions such as a server malfunction or an entire site going offline. That is, a user could decide that electronic transactions for a particular customer set must be processed within three seconds, regardless of other demands on the system. Those transactions would be given top priority and, in the event of a system malfunction, would be automatically routed elsewhere within a company's IT network for processing.
Among other things, the service uses new patented technology that IBM calls Active Middleware Information Technology. The technology matches IT resource availability with business requirements to ensure performance. "What differentiates this from existing monitoring technology is that it starts with the business objective and then identifies any performance degradation that might affect that," says Mike Errity, segment executive at IBM Global Services. Observers say that approach makes sense. "You can have all the technology in the world, but it isn't worth anything if it doesn't support the business goals of an organization," says Jim Casell, group VP at Dataquest Research.
IBM also revealed that it's working with a number of users to test and further develop products that fall under the eLiza initiative. Among them are portal and Internet service provider Terra Lycos, Danske Bank, and Merrill Lynch. Terra Lycos is testing many of the new technologies on IBM zSeries and pSeries servers. Tim Wright, chief technology officer and CIO of Terra Lycos, says he likes IBM's direction. "What's attractive about the eLiza technology is that it will enable me to manage a global network without having to have people on location at each site," he says. However, Wright admits that at times he has difficulty determining what exactly is new about some of the eLiza initiatives: "A lot of this seems to draw on technology they already had in place."