The latest iteration brings some diagnostic and installation features found on higher-priced hardware down to IBM's lower-cost Intel-based server line. According to IBM Users will now be able to run diagnostic checks on their servers while the hardware is still running.
Tom Bradicich, director of architecture and technology for IBM's server group said: "You had to take the system down or offline to do diagnostics in a Windows environment in the past."
Another enhancement to Director is a server "self-protection" feature. This monitors parts of the hardware such as power supplies, hard disks, and fans to see if any of these components are showing warning signs of a possible failure. A fan, for example, might begin to slow down, letting the server know it could stop working in the near future. The updated Director software will automatically send out alerts to administrators when a failure appears imminent. In the past, users had to wait for the component to fail before receiving an alert.
Director 3.1 also sends out alerts when resources such as computing power or memory are running low.
In addition, the software should help users configure new hardware such as PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) cards that help connect servers and storage. New tools help configure the cards and then tune I/O levels for the best overall data delivery.
Because parts of Director were first developed as a software tool for complex, high-end servers, IBM says its systems have an advantage over rival products developed for lower-end platforms.
"The price of a server is not in the acquisition costs, but in the down time and human element involved in administration," Bradicich said. "That's the hidden gotcha in other servers."
IBM claims that its expertise as a technology developer gives it an edge over companies like Dell, which is often cited for its ability to sell bundled technology from other companies at a low cost.
Version 3.1 of the management tool, called IBM Director, will ship with all xSeries servers. Users of Director 3.0 will be able to upgrade to the new version via a download on IBM's Web site.