Utilizing Tivoli Provisioning Manager Express for Software Distribution

IBM® Tivoli® Provisioning Manager Express for Software Distribution is a Web-based product that places a centrally managed software distribution product at the finger tips of your administrators, allowing them various tasks to perform server-side distributions of third-party packaging formats or unpackaged executables to client-side machines. In addition, the product has inventory features that allow asset gathering and management, as well as, reporting features to track and capture in progress software installations. On the client-side, Tivoli Provisioning Manager Express for Software Distribution gives the user an on-demand client catalog that allows the user to install software on-demand, and allows the administrator to control the content of the catalog listing. In this article, we explore a first-time, server-side usage and client-side usage of the Tivoli Provisioning Manager Express for Software Distribution.

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Maurice Phillips (philips@us.ibm.com), IT Specialist, IBM

Maurice PhillipsMaurice Phillips is an IT Specialist in Integrated Technology Delivery, Server Operations, SSO integration and was an integral part of a team that developed an IBM Program Product for both PCD divison and Tivoli, capitalizing upon lessons learned in service delivery. Maurice has a Bachelors of Science degree in Computer Science from Jackson State University.



19 April 2006

Customer pain point

A small to mid-sized business, called SMB company, needs to deploy software packages from a client-side or server-side distribution without taking software media from machine to machine. Tivoli Provisioning Manager Express for Software Distribution, provides a simple and easy-to-use client catalog to install software packages to machines and a server-side push method of delivery, as well.

SMB Company needs an urgent patch installed to control the environment from unwanted threats. This is not a problem. With Tivoli Provisioning Manager Express for Software Distribution, SMB Company no longer has to worry about updating a Web page and directing users to a Web site to download a package. With the push method of delivery from the product, the administrator can schedule a push of the necessary patch to each client machine without requiring the user to be present at their client machine.

An SMB company needs an application installed with the next user sign on to the client-side catalog. They need a deferral of the installation if the user has more pressing needs to accomplish on the machine, while ensuring that every user has it installed to their machine. With the pull method of delivery from the product, the administrator can complete this task with its mandatory feature that allows a package to be installed upon start up of the client-side catalog with the option to defer a package depending upon how the package definition is specified by the administrator. Also, the administrator has the ability for asset gathering, management, and reporting capabilities to verify status of in progress installations.


Getting started with Tivoli Provisioning Manager Express for Software Distribution

Tivoli Provisioning Manager Express for Software distribution is built with a simple installation wizard. When the installation wizard is started, you can choose from quick installation, which installs the product with default values, or you can choose the custom installation. With the custom installation, you can configure user account privilege, scheduling options for the client agent and server, form settings, and other options during initial setup of the product. In addition, the product will install the WebSphere® Application Server Express Embedded and Cloudscape™ Rational® database during installation. After installing and configuring the product, the administrator can begin to create, view, edit, and delete many necessary tasks within the product, as well as, create and view inventory and detailed reports.

To start, the administrator will access the product by opening a Web browser and typing http://server_name/tpmx into an address bar to view the Welcome page of Tivoli Provisioning Manager Express for Software Distribution. From this page, the administrator will select Manage Assets to begin working with the Tivoli Provisioning Manager Express for Software Distribution console.

Figure 1. Welcome page
Welcome Page

From this point, the administrator can start to create the groups necessary to support the structure of the organization. When the structure is defined, you can create the groups and begin assigning the necessary packages, package bundles, and users to their respective groups. These groups control what packages and bundles the end-users will have access to on the client-side catalog. For example, if you need an accounting group or procurement group, you create the groups and assign the necessary packages to each group. This feature allows a company to control who has access to a specific package or set of packages, what packages or set of packages are available, and when they are available for use by the end users.

For the groups to be functional, the administrator has to create users to add to the necessary groups. When creating a user, you can collect user-specific information and register an asset for inventory from the product. You can set the authority that establishes permission for each user to access inventory resources and reports and establishes permission for each user to access software available from the client-side catalog. With groups created and users added, the administrator can begin adding software package definition to the product.

The logical place to begin is creating the software package definition for the software package library. By starting with the location of the repository, the administrator will again need to plan the structure, for example, should the packages be grouped by operating system, organization structure, and so on, for the server? Keep in mind that the administrator has to store the software package library, which is the file structure to the packages, under the document root established by the Application Server. After creating a software package library on the server, you can begin creating the package definitions.

The product provides an option to deliver a set of files to the workstation and an installation command can be executed to launch application installation process. The product is designed to support industry standard packaging tools, (InstallShield, System Management Server (SMS), Microsoft® Software Installer (MSI) and Wise Package Studio), to take advantage of existing software packages available in a customer environment. The package types available allow the administrator to support packages downloaded from the server or accessed from shared network drives.

Package features and benefits:

  • Restricted desktops
  • Installing packages while unattended or not logged into the desktop
  • Reboots
  • Mandatory and deferral
  • Purchase order
  • Network speed detection
  • Scripting

With restricted desktops in an environment, the product allows you to install software packages to these desktops with its secure feature for each package type available under the product. This feature gives the package administrative rights to install to the restricted desktop.

The product has the ability to install packages while unattended or not logged into the desktop by selecting the silent feature and using the installation parameter for silent in the package definition. This feature allows the user to install without displaying information about the package to the user, thus giving the package the capabilities to perform a silent push delivery to the desktop.

Because there are packages that are created to reboot a client machine, the product has the feature for you to define a package definition with package or client reboot. With the package feature selected, the product is aware that the package initiates a reboot of a machine after installation of a package. Otherwise, with the client reboot feature, if an administrator wants to reboot a machine after installation of a package, then this feature will call upon the agent to reboot the client machine after installation of a package.

The mandatory feature of the software definition gives the administrator the ability to install a needed package to the machine upon startup of the client-side catalog. With this feature, you have the option to enable deferral for the package and define how many times a user can defer and what duration will be established before prompting the user to install the package again.

If licensing is an issue and the company wants to restrict who can install the software, then the product has a feature for you to turn on the purchase order to allow controlled installation of the package.

Let's say you need a prerequisite check to run before installing the software package or a post check to run after installing a package, then, the product has a feature for you to allow before and after scripting of the software package.

If bandwidth is a problem in the environment, the product has a feature to enable network speed detection and a limitation on what network speed to allow for installation of a package.

Figure 2. Package definition page
Package Definition Page

With the software package definition created, the administrator can enable the packages for a specific group and users to pull the software from the client-side catalog or you can begin enabling the push capabilities by creating a distribution list and scheduling the distribution of the package.

Figure 3 shows Tivoli Provisioning Manager Express for Software Distribution pull process:

Figure 3. Pull architecture
Pull Architecture

The administrator can schedule the package or bundle for distribution to the client-side machines by establishing the start and end date and the daily start and end time for the schedule and by selecting a distribution list. Although silent package installations are recommended, you can provide the end user the ability to defer the installation of the package if they are logged in. In short, you schedule the time a specific software package is available to automatically be installed and define the set of machines to receive the distribution.

Figure 4 shows Tivoli Provisioning Manager Express for Software Distribution push process:

Figure 4. Push architecture
Push Architecture

Tivoli Provisioning Manager Express for Software Distribution includes inventory and can leverage the inventory data when defining the distribution. When establishing an evaluation, you have the choice to create a logical set of conditions from the data fields or utilize any inventory report to generate a fixed SQL query. This feature allows you a quick and easy way to create a desired machine list for distribution without manually selecting each machine.

The distribution list is used to define a set of machines to receive the scheduled distribution. The list of machines can be dynamically populated or manually selected. With the evaluation established, you can utilize the distribution list with the evaluation to query the database and include the resulting list of machines. If the administrator has a need to individually select machines, then you can manually select the desired set of machines for distribution. Either way, you have a set of machines ready to be scheduled for distribution.

The reporting function has views based on the package installed, the machine installed to, or the schedule executed for installation. The reports have in progress tracking to allow you a precise status of the installation. In addition, you have a complete transaction log to track all push and pull of software packages to client machines. With this feature, you have a simple and easy-to-read summary available for Monday morning status meetings.


Client-side Usage of Tivoli Provisioning Manager Express for Software Distribution

When the product has been setup, the end-user can install a Java™ technology-based standalone client catalog or you can access the Java Web Start applet from the server Welcome page to run the catalog. By downloading and installing the catalog locally to the machine, you can begin accessing the software packages from the catalog immediately after install of the product. Upon first use, the user can log on with an assigned ID or the user can create an ID that will access a set of packages defined by the administrator. After logging in, you have access to an easy-to-use client-side pull catalog.

By accessing the Welcome page of Tivoli Provisioning Manager Express for Software Distribution, the user can begin using the Java Web Start applet if the client system has Java installed. Otherwise, you have to install IBM 32-bit Runtime Environment for Windows®, Java 2 Technology Edition, Version 1.4.2 to the machine, then select the access catalog from the Welcome page to begin using the catalog. You can logon with an assigned ID or the user can create an ID in the same way as you did in the process of downloading and installing the catalog locally. When this process is complete, you will have access to the catalog without installing the client catalog code locally to the machine.

With installation of the standalone catalog or with IBM 32-bit Runtime Environment for Windows, Java 2 Technology Edition, Version 1.4.2 installed, you can startup an on-demand catalog to view details about packages and install packages with a few simple clicks of a mouse.

Figure 5. Client catalog
Client Catalog

Conclusion

From creating groups and packages, to scheduling a distribution, to using the client-side catalog for Tivoli Provisioning Manager Express for Software Distribution, you have a quick, easy to use, full functioning software distribution product that can use push or pull method of delivery, take advantage of inventory data, and provide complete distribution reporting.


Thanks

Thank you to the following people for their valuable contribution to the article:

  • Syed Irfan
  • Timothy Brown
  • Dudley Miller
  • Mickey Iqbal

Download

DescriptionNameSize
Tivoli Express Trial Versionl-md5crypt.zip3KB

Resources

  • Irfan, Brown, Miller, Iqbal, Everett, IBM Red Book, Deployment Guide Series: Tivoli Provisioning Manager Express 4.1 for Software Distribution, ISBN SG24-7236

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