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Project Monocle Will Simplify Patching

Patching is a critical component of maintaining your systems, and this is a tool that can simplify the data gathering and decision making.

Looking down at a desk with a mousepad, coffee cup, rubber band ball and paper clips scattered over the base of a computer. The computer screen has various pop-out windows open, including one that reads "SYSTEM UPDATED."

How do you go about determining what fixes you need for your system to remain up to date?

Do you use FLRT or FLRT LITE?

Do you just log into IBM Fix Central and start looking at what is available?

What if you had a dashboard that you could log into that showed you your system names across your whole environment, along with the current level of firmware and which AIX and VIOS OS version is running? What if it also showed you the recommended versions to upgrade to? What if you could also see the machine type and serial along with the IP address of your LPAR or frame? Would you be interested in getting a tool like this running in your environment?

What if it had a dashboard that gives an overview of what needs to be updated and what systems are up to date? And what if that tool allowed you to create and share plans with other stakeholders in your organization to help with change management planning? Moreover, what if it allowed you to filter on OS, or firmware, or VIOS. What if you could choose the types of machines, or the current levels you wanted to drill down on.

I was recently given access to a demo version of Project Monocle, which is a tool that provides for all of the functionality I described above, and I have to say I am very impressed with it. I look forward to getting it up and running so that I can do further testing in my environment. Right now, the tool is available at no charge as a technology preview, so I would suggest reaching out to the team ASAP so you can try it out for yourself. In order to get tools like this created and IBM resources assigned to work on them, users need to let IBM know what improvements they want to see. This is an example of a tool that can help simplify the lives of Power Systems administrators.

There were some interesting blog posts written about the creation of the project, including these:

http://www.jaredcrane.com/ibm-project/

http://www.stefanieowens.com/project-monocle/

““This is the best story of design at IBM in the last three years… The team came to them saying they need one-click firmware updates for Power Systems… By doing field research, they found out that this was a human problem, not a system problem. Not only did research inform what they built, but what they built was beautiful itself as well.” — Phil Gilbert, General Manager of Design at IBM

The blog posting continues with: “The Monocle team was tasked to explore the field of updates and upgrades that are mission critical to keeping all of IBM Power Systems server products secure. Think: these servers are those that run major data centers around the world that are the backbones of credit card companies, major retailers, and even governments in some instances. The sponsoring product team originally came to us asking for a ‘one-click update’ for all Power Systems. Through user research, we discovered that a one-click update was actually not the right way to go.

“We found that the current process of updating servers is rigorous and time intensive. It causes headaches for enterprises to not only find the appropriate fixes their servers need, but then it's even worse to actually schedule downtime on the servers to fix the issues and report those repairs for security compliance purposes. It's next to impossible to automate this process; in fact, automating it could even make matters worse! Even after that process is completed, an enterprise still has to report on its security patching in order to maintain compliance with industry regulations. As one of our Sponsor Users identified during an interview, planning and managing security patches and updates is not only a pain to perform, but also to report on.

“Not only does the security patching process take a lot of effort, but it is vitally important to the safety and security of the enterprise data; one mistake here could take an entire organization down.

Project Monacle is also described here, along with some screen shots and more details:

https://www.ibm.com/developerworks/community/wikis/home?lang=en_us#!/wiki/Power Systems/page/Monocle Patch Management

“We recognize that problem in IBM and set out to make your life easier. You may have heard of Project Monocle, but if not, it is a zero installation web application technology preview, providing a consolidated view of your inventory with the ability to drill down and view patch compliance. It actually works off existing IBM technologies such as the Technical Support Appliance (TSA), Fix Level Recommendation Tool (FLTR), and Fix Central. If you do not currently have TSA, contact the development team at bmonocle@us.ibm.com to get started. If you do have TSA and are interested in using Monocle send an email also to bmonocle@us.ibm.com and ask to get connected to Monocle.

“Finding the patch you need can be a daunting task. Project Monocle uses Fix Central and FLRT to provide you with recommended levels for each system type: AIX, IBM i, Firmware, VIOS, and HMC. Compare recommended and latest versions to see which is right for your environment. You can even see all of the APARs that are part of each update/upgrade to see how they'll affect your systems. Need to build a report for your internal review teams? No problem, that data is all there at your fingertips...

There is more information about the technology preview that is available here:

“Project Monocle is a zero installation web application, providing a consolidated view of your inventory with the ability to drill down and view patch compliance.

“This Technology Preview provides the opportunity to use Monocle at no charge. All customers who have, or are eligible to get, the Technical Support Appliance (TSA), can gain access.

If you do not currently have TSA, please contact the development team at bmonocle@us.ibm.com to get started.

If you are not familiar with TSA, you can get more information and watch informative videos here

“Benefits IBM Technical Support Appliance (TSA) helps you:

-Streamline IT inventory management by intelligently discovering inventory and support-coverage information for IBM and non-IBM equipment

Improve technical support management with analytics-based reports and collaborative services

-Mitigate costly IT outages via operating system and firmware recommendations for selected platforms

“How it works -Configure TSA to discover basic support-related information such as hardware inventory, code levels, virtual machines, and OS information from designated devices.

-Inventory information is shared with IBM TSS using security-rich transmission protocols.

-IBM uses advanced analytics and worldwide support knowledge to help identify code currency and support contract vulnerabilities.

-Continuously collaborate with your IBM TSS focal point.”

Image your workflow in this new environment. TSA is gathering information about your machines from your HMC, and it is sending that information to IBM. You are then able to log in to Project Monocle and see almost real time information about your systems and how current your environment is as far as patching is concerned.

Imagine you are now able to set up upgrade plans, share those plans with others, let them approve or deny them, and have an audit trail of the plan and subsequent decisions that is available for review by interested parties.

Patching is a critical component of maintaining your systems, and this is a tool that can simplify the data gathering and decision making. You will be able to tell in an instant which systems need to be patched and what level they should be running, all from one screen.

Additional Resources:

 

 

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