Review by Shawn Gordon
Bradmark is offering a new kind of
datacenter management tool in its Command Center product, one
designed to help administer 3000s from either a tactical or a
strategic level. Its important to note that this product really
consists of two products: one is the Command Center, the other is
WinMPE. They are actually priced separately, and can be purchased and
used separately but they work so well together, and make sense
together, that I am going to review them together.
I see the Command Center as a system
manager/operations staff tool, and WinMPE more geared to an
individual HP 3000 system manager type of user.
How does it work?
The software requires that there be a
server job for each product, so if you are using both, then you will
need two server jobs running. The Command Center software will spawn
WinMPE if requested, but the reverse does not appear to be true. The
two products work in different directions. In other words, under
WinMPE you will essentially get a GUI on top of standard MPE
functions such as managing jobs, spoolfiles, and MPE accounting
structure. You are interacting with the server and machine. See Figure 1 for an example.
Under Command Center, you essentially
define your environment, along with various thresholds and alarms.
You can also have a window running that collects the system console.
If an event takes place that sets off an alarm, you are notified. In
this scenario you have taken a more passive role, waiting for the
software to tell you about problems it is having. See Figure 2 for an example.
There is a very nifty ability to use
customize the environment to do whatever it is you want.
While you can do machine-to-machine file
transfers in WinMPE by simply dragging the files, this feature is
only supported via DSLINE so if you dont have the
ability to DSCOPY between your 3000s, then you wont be able to
use it. Adding FTP as an option would be a nice touch.
One of the really neat features of the
console logging in Command Center is that it picks up all the
commands, not just things that display on the console. So if you have
a background process that handles virtual job queues, for example,
you will see all the manipulation of the JOBFENCE, LIMIT, and job
INPRI. There is filtering available, so you can distill it down to
what you really need. This reminded me of the TelaConsole product
WinMPE gives you a graphical interface to
pretty much all your system manager commands such as PURGE and NEW,
executed on objects such as Files, Users, Groups and Accounts. You
get full access to the HFS to manage that as well. One interesting
surprise I had while testing WinMPE was finding a ton of files in our
/tmp directory that were chewing up the system volume set. We had
been trying to get space on the volume set for some time, but just
couldnt find the files.
You can also configure external programs
to interface with the environment. So if you want to be able to logon
to the HP from Command Center, you can configure MiniSoft/92 or
Reflection, and when you select the option to logon, the program will
be spawned for you. Other hooks are for editing files, to use the
products built-in editor or Robelles Qedit for Windows,
or perhaps other editors. This is a pretty neat feature that makes
the product that much more usable.
Installation and Documentation
This is about the only area where Command
Center falls down. Its packaged up nicely on a CD which
contains all the client and server software, and for the most part it
installs easily. However, there are two major problems. The software
installed on the server has a number of bugs and typos in it, so the
permissions on the groups arent right. That meant the server
failed on me because of missing files and directories. It seems that
Bradmark recently changed their naming convention, and Id say
that more testing would have been appropriate before shipping.
The other problem is that there is
absolutely no printed documentation included, short of the install
instructions. There is nothing to tell you how to start or stop the
servers, or where to get started with the client software. With that
said, there is a movie on the CD that does a 20-minute walk-through
of the products, and this was a good place to get a feel for it
You can run certain chapters of the movie, so
you dont have to sit through it all at each viewing. All the
documentation is included on the CD, but a short manual with the
basics of how to start, stop, and get started would go a long way
toward getting people to begin using the software. I spoke to
Bradmark about it, and they seemed keen on the idea.
On the upside, the installation process does
try to be as complete as possible. To upload the server software, you
can choose between WRQ, MiniSoft and FTP as the file transfer agents.
This should cover pretty much every 3000 shop out there.
There were some challenges getting
started, but once I got the software running, it was pretty easy to
use. Command Center is a bit more confusing, and I didnt really
use it for anything more than showing console messages, as I found
WinMPE was more interesting. My main complaint is that the software
doesnt really follow MS Windows standards on dialog boxes. For
example, if you go to delete a list of files, instead of saying
Okay to delete? Yes/No, it says You are about to
delete one or more items. Abort operation? Yes/No. So normally
a default key press would respond YES to confirm the operation, but
here you are responding YES to terminate the operation and it
is the default button. This type of syntax is consistent throughout
the product and takes some getting used to.
There really does appear to be a memory
leak in WinMPE. I was testing on a lightly configured machine with
32Mb of RAM, and I was always running out of memory, even with no
other applications running. There also appears to be a conflict with
Netscape Navigator and/or Lotus Notes, as the product would crash
pretty consistently when running with one of these applications.
The only real comparison would be to
GUI3000 from OmniSolutions. Originally these two products were almost
identical, but they have since gone down different paths. They both
still handle system management functions, but that is about where the
similarities end. I would say that GUI3000 performs much better than
Command Center, but Command Center looks better (other than the
non-standard dialog boxes).
I really like Command Center 2000. The
Command Center portion, if set up correctly, is a great tool to give
those operators and system managers who are managing multiple
machines. Instead of having to constantly hunt around looking for any
problems, the information is pushed to them instead. I found WinMPE
to be a very handy tool for managing a system, especially for the
system manager. Being able to have a visual interface to functions
such as purging, copying, and creating various types of objects is
very handy. These are very useful and powerful tools.
With that said, the release that I got was
very bug-ridden. Many functions didnt work, and whenever a
failure occurred, the application appeared to leak memory all over
the place, causing other applications to fail, until I killed the
WinMPE process. The version that I saw was more alpha release
quality, not even beta, because these things were failing immediately
without my doing any work to make them fail.
I dont want to come down too hard on
Command Center, because I think this will be a terrific product once
its fully tested and finished. But it just wasnt finished
at the moment I test-drove it. Hopefully, it will be soon.
Shawn Gordon, whose S.M. Gordon &
Associates firm supplies HP 3000 utilities, has worked with 3000s