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Remotely manage servers with a mobile app

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by IBM Senior Technical Staff Member Patrick Bohrer, a research scientist working in mobile systems management.

You can start a car and read a book with a smartphone. But manage a server?

A systems administrator can now monitor an IBM BladeCenter or System x server with the IBM Mobile Remote Systems application – for free.

Walk down an aisle of servers and it’s a myriad of buttons and system indicator lights. Checking on or making changes to a system can be confusing. The IBM Research team in Austin, Texas put the entire interface into a mobile app. Now an administrator can manage and monitor multiple servers from anywhere.

Currently only available for iOS devices (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad), the app can check systems’ health in a single view, then drill down to examine an individual system’s state, and even perform tasks such as restarting blades, and changing ownership of the media tray or keyboard-video-mouse (KVM) on BladeCenter servers.

Securing access

In a datacenter, an administrator logs in to a system via a power-on password or maybe a screensaver password. On a mobile device, this credential check may mean unlocking a phone through a simple power-on password.

Once unlocked, the user – and when an administrator is away from work, the “user” may be friends and family – has access to every application on the device.

To avoid this potential breach, the Mobile Systems Remote app requires its own application password. The password is required again when the user wants to make a system change. And the app will erase all of its data after too many incorrect password attempts.

User feedback: expanding devices and systems

Administrators can currently access BladeCenter management modules and System x racks that have RSA2 cards (a PCI card service). The app will soon expand to System x boxes with the latest System x Integrated Management Modules (IMM).

The app is only supported for the iPhone right now, but based on customer and user feedback, look for Android and Blackberry options, soon. Have feedback for the team? Add comments to the user forum.

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