IBM Systems Director offers a number of options you can configure to make the management experience truly unique to your environment. Erwin Earley shows you how to customize the UI, tables, initial landing page, resource groups, and security features, as well as update features to fit your specific needs.
IBM Systems Director is a management tool that provides a single-point interface for real-time management of the overall IT environment, including the platforms (e.g., IBM Power Systems, IBM System x, IBM System z), OSs (e.g., Windows, Linux, IBM i, AIX), and storage and network devices. What you might not be aware of is that there are a number of options you can configure to make the management experience truly unique to your environment. In this article, I’ll cover ways you can customize the UI, tables, initial landing page, resource groups, and security features, as well as update features to fit your specific needs.
Adjusting the UI’s Look and Feel
Let’s begin by exploring how you can change the look and feel of Systems Director’s management console. Clicking the Navigation Preferences option under Settings will bring up a dialog box that has a number of items that you can configure, as Figure 1 shows.
Figure 1: Selecting the navigation preferences
The first navigation preference indicates whether palettes should be displayed with the topology view. There are three palettes:
- Overview. You use the Overview palette to select the portion of the topology you want to display.
- Details. You use the Details palette to select the details (e.g., access state, status) you want to display with each managed resource.
- Filter. You use the Filter palette to select the status items and resource types you want to include in the topology view.
Figure 2 shows the topology view with the palettes displayed.
Figure 2: Topology view, displaying palettes
When the palettes aren’t displayed, the right side of the screen is blank. The palettes can also be shown or hidden by clicking the Show Palette View or Hide Palette View button on the Resource Explorer page.
In addition to being able to configure whether the palettes should be displayed by default, you can configure the default size of the topology map and whether the palettes’ states (i.e., which items are selected) should be saved. You can also use the Use resource table view as default view for topology perspectives option to indicate the default view to display when a topology view is selected. When this option isn’t selected, a graphical view of the topology (as shown in Figure 2) is the default view. When this option is selected, a table view of the topology (as shown in Figure 3) is the default view.
Figure 3: Table view of the topology
In Systems Director, tables are used to display the results of a function as well as provide lists of available items (e.g., managed resources). You can customize tables a variety of ways, making them a powerful tool.
For example, you can modify the number of rows to display in the tables by customizing the Rows per table and Rows per embedded table settings in the Navigation Preferences dialog box in Figure 1. After a table is presented in the UI, you can select the columns you want to display and the order in which they’re displayed; to do so, click Columns on the Actions drop-down list to bring up the Columns dialog box. As Figure 4 shows, you’ll see a list of the columns available for that particular table.
Figure 4: Selecting the columns to display
Another useful table customization is the ability to filter (i.e., select) the data being displayed in the table. To begin, select Show Filter Row on the Actions drop-down list. You’ll then see a Filter option in each column in the table. Clicking the Filter option will bring up the list of values for that column, which you can select for inclusion in the table. For example, Figure 5 shows the values you can filter on in the Type column.
Figure 5: Selecting the filter for the Type column
Selecting Operating System from this list produces the results shown in Figure 6.
Figure 6: Results of filtering by operating system in the Type column
The value being used as a filter (i.e., the filter item) is included in the column heading so you can see that the results are being filtered. When you use filters, you need to be aware of the following:
- Multiple columns can be filtered.
- Multiple filter items can be selected in a column.
- When no filter items are selected for a column, all values for that column will be included in the table; in other words, the filter is turned off for that column.
Changing the Initial Landing Page
As you might have noticed, when you first log in to Systems Director, you’re presented with a Welcome page. You can change this initial landing page by simply going to the page you want to use instead and selecting the Add to Startup Pages option from the Select Action drop-down list. Systems Director uses a tabbed view to display multiple pages, so multiple pages can be defined as startup pages.
You can also use the My Startup Pages function to define the default (or top) page and remove pages that have previously been defined as startup pages. Note that startup pages are a per-user configuration and are saved as part of the user’s Systems Director profile.
Customizing Resource Groups
The items I’ve presented so far mostly deal with changing the look and feel of Systems Director’s UI. Now I’ll describe some customizations you can make to Systems Director’s functionality.
The first customization deals with resource groups. When a resource is discovered, it’s automatically placed in one or more predefined groups. For example, when an AIX OS managed resource is discovered, it will be placed in the Operating Systems group. You can create additional groups to meet the specific requirements of the environment; for example, you could add groups for managed resources based on geographical location.
Let’s take a quick look at the process for creating groups. On the Resource Explorer page, select Create Group to bring up the Group Editor wizard. Clicking Next on the Welcome screen gets you to the second page, where you specify the name and description of the group.
On the third page, you enter the type and location of the group, as Figure 7 shows.
Figure 7: Specifying the type and location of the group
Using the Group Type drop-down list, you first specify whether the group is Static (resources must be explicitly added to the group) or Dynamic (resources are added to the group automatically when they meet a defined set of criteria). You then use the Member Type drop-down list to indicate the type of member that you want to include in the group. There are four options:
- Any (any resource can be in the group)
- Managed System (only system resources can be in the group)
- Update (only update resources can be in the group)
- Group (only existing groups can be in the group)
Groups can be located under groups, either in the user’s group area or as a subgroup (i.e., under an existing group). You use the Group Location option to specify the location for this new group. Groups can’t be moved after they’re created, so if you’re creating a hierarchy of groups, it’s important to create the groups from the top level down. You can specify the location using the drop-down list or the Browse button.
The remainder of the wizard is fairly straightforward if you’re creating a static group: You just need to define the members of that group. Note that you can later add members by selecting the managed resource, then choosing the Add to existing group option.
Creating a dynamic group is more involved because you need to define the criteria for determining when resources should be added. Systems Director has a large database that contains many attributes for each managed resource. A dynamic group queries the database using a SQL SELECT statement with a WHERE clause to determine which managed resources to add. For example, based on the dynamic group criteria I defined in Figure 8, this dynamic group will add only OS resources that have a name that starts with etc and an OS type of AIX (OSType=9).
Figure 8: Defining the criteria for a dynamic group
To add a criterion, you click the Add button to bring up the dialog box shown in Figure 9.
Figure 9: Adding a criterion for a dynamic group
The Type of system to add drop-down box lists each resource type in the Systems Director database. The Select criteria to refine group contents section lists the attribute categories. Each attribute category contains a number of individual attributes. The Value drop-down box is interesting because it lists all the values available for the selected criteria. Put another way, the values provided are valid values for at least one of the managed resources in the environment that Systems Director is maintaining. You can also specify a custom value, as Figure 9 shows. You use the Operators drop-down box to specify how to apply the selected value to the selected criteria. The options include equal to, not equal to, starts with, contains, and like (wildcard).
Customizing the Security Features
Systems Director has a robust security model that lets you define security based on roles and managed resources. You can customize the roles to make them specific to your environment.
A role is a list of the tasks that a user assigned the role can execute. Systems Director has a number of predefined roles:
- GroupRead. This role grants a user the ability to view or open a group.
- SMAdministrator. This role is given to administrators. It gives them full authority over all tasks and commands, including those related to security administration, product installation, and configuration.
- SMManager. This role is given to managers. It lets them perform a subset of the tasks performed by administrators. Typically, the tasks are related to systems administration, system health management, and configuration.
- SMMonitor. Users who have this role can access those administrative tasks that provide read-only access. It primarily lets them perform monitoring, notification, and status-checking tasks.
- SMUser. This role is given to authenticated users. It lets them perform basic operations such as viewing resources and properties.
In addition to the predefined roles, you can define custom roles to meet the needs of your environment. Clicking the Create button from the Roles screen will start the Create Role wizard. After specifying the name and optional description of the new role, you need to select the permissions to assign to it. The available permissions are fairly granular. Many of them are broken down by the resource type to which the permission applies.
After the role has been created, you can assign it to an individual user or group. To do that, select the Assign Role option from the Users and Groups security page. After the Welcome screen, you’ll see a page similar to the one shown in Figure 10.
Figure 10: Assigning a custom role to a user or group
Notice that the role assignment consists of both the role (tasks) and the resources that the tasks in the role can be executed against. In this way, role assignment can limit both the functionality and the resources to which a user or group has access.
Also note that multiple role and resource assignments can be assigned to a user or group. Because of this feature, you can use the same Systems Director management server to manage a heterogeneous environment and limit access to the appropriate administration teams for the appropriate resource types. For example, in an environment that has IBM i, AIX, Windows, and Linux resources hosted on both Power Systems and IBM BladeCenter servers, you can use roles and role assignments to ensure that the IBM i administration team can administer only the IBM i resources, the Windows team can administer only the Windows resources, and so on.
Configuring the Update Features
If you don’t want to manually download and import updates, you can configure Systems Director’s Update Manager to use the check-for-updates function and a compliance policy to automatically keep your environment up-to-date. When you select the Check for updates (Internet connection required) option shown in Figure 11, Systems Director will check for updates from service providers (e.g., Fix Central) and notify you when updates are available.
Figure 11: Configuring Systems Director to automatically check for updates
You specify the types of updates, which can be fairly granular, and then schedule the check as a recurring task—perhaps once a week or once a month, depending on your update policy. For those environments that have multiple types of endpoints (e.g., IBM i, AIX), it’s a good practice to create multiple recurring tasks for the different endpoint types.
The compliance policy checks to see if the software on an endpoint needs to be updated. As Figure 12 shows, the compliance policy consists of a resource (individual resource or resource group) and an update group.
Figure 12: Defining the compliance policy
There are a number of predefined update groups that are automatically populated as update information is obtained by Systems Director. You can define more update groups and add updates to them in much the same way as you define resource groups, which I covered in the “Customizing Resource Groups” section. A compliance event will be generated when the software inventory of the managed resource has a software item with a version that’s earlier than a version of the same software item in the update group.
Take Advantage of Systems Director’s Flexibility
Systems Director has a good deal of flexibility, which lets you customize its look, feel, and functionality to meet the needs of your environment. If you want to further investigate how to take advantage of this flexibility, see my companion piece, “The Up-Front Details for Implementing IBM Systems Director.” This Power Implementers blog entry provides additional information for you to consider before implementing the customizations tasks I outlined in this article.