Using HP Systems Insight Manager (SIM) 5.2 for systems management and monitoring

Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co.'s Systems Insight Manager (SIM) 5.2 offers systems management and monitoring for HP servers or WMI-, SNMP- or WBEM-enabled systems. SIM works with HP's Integrated Lights-Out (iLO) management modules to detect hardware problems and can monitor system information such as processor and memory utilization, network bandwidth, and more.

Hewlett-Packard Co.'s Systems Insight Manager (SIM) 5.2 is the latest version of its management system for monitoring and controlling HP servers, storage, printers, desktop systems and network hardware. SIM comes free with HP servers and storage, but it can also be downloaded from the HP website. SIM 5.2 not only allows administrators to monitor systems and get notifications of hardware faults, but it can also connect to HP via a secure channel, speeding the process of receiving support for system problems. Working with the Integrated Lights-Out (iLO) management modules built in to HP servers, it can detect hardware problems without needing to boot the operating system, and can access the BIOS and inventory add-on hardware in the system.

HP SIM 5.2 feature overview

The system consists of the SIM server running on Windows (Server, XP or Vista), HP-UX or Linux; a SQL database to store monitoring information; alerts and other data collected from each system; and the hardware and software components installed on each system. In addition to the iLO hardware, software drivers installed with the OS allow for monitoring of additional system information, such as processor and memory utilization, network bandwidth, and more. The HP system drivers support Windows Server and HP-UX. You can use SQL Express 2005, which is the default database installed with the server, or the database can be run on a separately installed standard Microsoft or Oracle database server.

Once the server is installed, SIM can automatically find manageable devices by searching the network for HP devices and other devices with Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI), Web-Based Enterprise Management (WBEM) or Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) drivers enabled. It is compatible with servers and workstations running Windows, Linux or HP-UX, providing performance instrumentation for all three.

The server is easy to install, with a wizard that leads you through the process of installing the database, the server and the initial configuration. Finding the devices the network will manage is also easy. For instance, there are filters available to find only specific models of servers running a particular OS, all inkjet printers, etc.

In addition to alerts and notifications of problems with managed systems, SIM can provide notifications of updates for installed hardware and software, including updates to BIOS, drivers and agents. The system can automatically download new drivers and identify systems that need updates, then apply the updates as necessary. The alerts and notifications can trigger scripts or be forwarded to email, pager or SMS messaging systems. In addition, the SIM server has a command-line interface, so it can be accessed programmatically from other management systems.

SIM 5.2: reporting, comparison and support features

SIM 5.2's reporting and comparison features are strong. In addition to detailed reports on hardware and software configuration, including BIOS versions for motherboard, add-in cards and other hardware, software and driver versions, a snapshot comparison feature allows you to compare the configuration of similar servers or the same server over time, capturing differences between the systems.

Administrators can assign really granular roles to delegates -- either users or groups -- enabling features as finely grained as the ability to see reports or to reset a particular printer, as well as the ability to enable or disable virtually any action through the interface. The support infrastructure makes handling problems simple, with the ability to pass notifications to second- or third-tier support personnel or to notify HP support. If support cases are escalated to HP, detailed information on the fault can be automatically forwarded along with the request, including warranty and support contract information, and installed software and hardware with update versions. The server also allows access to the HP knowledge base and other support information, including repair videos.

While Systems Insight Manager may seem most appropriate for large enterprises, it can be useful even to organizations with relatively few servers, storage systems, printers and network hardware. It offers a great deal of extremely useful functionality at no cost. While HP's intent is to motivate administrators to buy HP products, and SIM does provide the greatest functionality with HP systems, it does a great job of monitoring and managing any WMI- or WBEM-enabled system, which means virtually any Windows Server and many other devices. With support for Windows versions dating back to NT, any version of Red Hat or SUSE Linux as well as HP-UX, in addition to management of SNMP nodes, SIM is worth downloading for almost any network with more than a few systems.

About the author:
Logan Harbaugh is a freelance reviewer, network systems analyst and consultant, specializing in reviews of network hardware and software, including network operating systems, clustering, load balancing, network-attached storage and storage area networks, traffic simulation, network management and server hardware.

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