Putting a Stop to Box-Hopping
AIX tool helps simplify the software-installation process at Toyota
As anyone who works in a client-heavy IT environment knows, upgrading or installing new software on all of an organization's desktop PCs and workstations can be a chore. This is especially true if there's a pressing need to keep all of the PCs and workstations at the same application levels across the user base. Often, this requires "box-hopping," with IT personnel moving from machine to machine to install, reinstall or upgrade applications one at a time, one box at a time. And nearly as often, each of these boxes requires some sort of reconfiguration once new applications have been installed, including updating host names and IP addresses. This personnel-intensive task consumes valuable IT resources that might be better spent elsewhere in the organization.
Fortunately, AIX* offers a handy built-in tool that allows pSeries* administrators to remotely install bundles of software across the network, helping to reduce user downtime and resulting in the more efficient use of IT personnel. Called the Network Installation Manager (NIM), this no-charge utility may not be getting the attention it deserves.
"It's one of those things people may have heard of, but don't use a lot," says Ken Stamper, senior computer-aided design (CAD) administrator with the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Toyota Technical Center (TTC), USA. "If they did, they'd find that it can increase their productivity immensely and free them up to be more proactive."
Toyota is one company using NIM to its fullest extent. The automotive manufacturer uses the utility for various purposes, including installing software on newly purchased pSeries workstations and bringing existing workstations up to the latest releases of both AIX and any task-specific applications. Without this tool, Stamper's five-person staff would be working longer hours, with much of the time spent on box-hopping rather than day-to-day IT support.
A Never-Ending Cycle
The TTC is home to Toyota's North American design and engineering groups, with satellite locations not only in Michigan, but also California, Indiana, Kentucky and Canada. The Ann Arbor location, however, is the largest, having some 250 of the company's 300 U.S.-based engineering workstation seats. These client machines consist of a variety of pSeries workstations, including 44P 170s, 43P 260s and 43P 150s. Toyota uses these machines to run a variety of design and engineering applications, including the company's proprietary TogoCAD, a CAD application.
Stamper and his staff are responsible for making sure the workstations are loaded with the latest AIX versions and other work-related applications, including TogoCAD. Prior to beginning use of NIM, the company's North American IT support staff would load a workstation with the software it wanted to install on its other workstations, create a Make System Backup (MKSYSB) file based on that master installation, load it to tape and manually lug a tape drive to each workstation and load the MKSYSB file. While the company attempted to make this process more efficient by making multiple copies of the tape and installing the file simultaneously on multiple machines, the process was still too cumbersome.
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