Test Drive of TelaConsole
Shawn M. Gordon
What it can do?
TelaConsole is software (and optionally hardware if required) that allows you to connect multiple devices such as host computer, multiport engines, or any device capable of transmitting a serial signal all to a single PC for management and reporting. TelaConsole eliminates the need to constantly visually scan all your consoles and devices in your computer center. Since all messages that go to the console are stored, there is never an issue of missing a message again because it scrolled off the screen.
TelaConsoles features allow you to:
1. Track all console messages, or only those you choose to see.
2. Filter out repetitive, non-informational messages and give the operators only what they need to see to perform their jobs.
3. Consolidate critical messages into a single window.
4. Create automatic responses to certain messages.
5. Scan console logs to find out when a certain event occurred.
6. Optimize operator efficiency by providing online, user-written procedures to access when problems occur.
7. Create timed tasks that perform commands on host systems at intervals that you can define.
8. Broadcast commands to the host systems based on any triggering event, including time.
How does it work?
Depending on how many ports you want to hook up, you can either use the serial ports on the PC, or use a Multiport Expansion Board. The TelaConsole manual goes into great detail on how to install a DigiBoard for this purpose.
I simply used the serial ports on the PC to hook up two HP 3000s. In this configuration you simply have a splitter from the console cable coming from your HP where one end goes to the physical console, and the other end goes to the PC running TelaConsole. Once properly connected you are ready to start letting TelaConsole grab your information.
Now that the data stream is coming into TelaConsole you are able to apply your various agents, filters and logging, which I will describe in a moment. See figure 1 for a snapshot of the application main startup screen.
TelaConsole is built around the following concepts:
This is the driving force behind TelaConsole. This is where you name and define the port and communications defaults. Later you can assign Agents and Filters to this Connection. See figure 2 for an example of what can be configured.
This agent is the direct connection to the input flow from the console. It monitors all messages that would normally go to the system console, and when used in conjunction with filters it can be adjusted to display only those messages that are important for the operator to see such as REPLIES and security violations. See figure 3 for an example of a Console Agent where I’ve applied filtering.
The log file is the permanent storage site for messages. By utilizing filtering this will be either the entire stream coming to your console, or will be something totally different that contains just the information that you requested.
These are designed to alert the operator that a significant event has occurred. As TelaConsole scans each message that comes in from the console, it determines if it meets any of the criteria that you have defined, and then places the information in the the event agent concerning the message.
Filters are used to trap messages that can either be routed to an event agent or excluded from the console. Filters are assigned at a connection level so that they are sitting above the agents to provide maximum flexibility. This is one of the most powerful features of TelaConsole. By making use of the sophisticated “token” feature, you can re-order and parse messages that come in to put them into a different display format. You can even assign colors so that certain types of messages will stand out in your display. Figure 4 shows an example of some
of the types of filters you can select from.
TelaConsole has been set up to be very modular, this takes a little getting use to for some people, but it provides great flexibility. Think of each of the Agents and Connections as objects. You really need to create Connections first, but you can create as many as you need. Next you would create your various types of agents, and apply whatever filtering you were interested in.
Now when you create an Agent, you can select one or more connections for it to apply to. Each connection can have any number and type of Agent applied to it. This allows you to define global reusable Agents, and also to create connection specific agents as required. The more you think about it, and work with it, the more you will start to abstract your requests so that they apply at a more macro level. This is a very cool feature.
Installation and Documentation
The software installation is quite easy as it is wholly resident on the PC. The only real challenge can be in physically connecting the splitters to the console cables. The challenge here is that you know the kind of cable that you are using, if pins 2 and 3 are crossed or not can be a big challenge if you don’t already know. Telamon attempts to address this issue by including every type of tester, null modem adapter cable terminator known to man. This helps make the process pretty painless, but sometimes it will take a little trial and error on your part to get it right.
The documentation weighs in at 85 pages and is very well written, easy to read, with lot’s of screen snapshot examples. Even the rather complex section on implementing regular expressions and tokenizing is done so that you shouldn’t have much, if any, trouble in understanding how to use the feature. While the manual has a table of contents, there is no appendix. The manual is organized well enough that this didn’t seem to be a problem.
The Test Drive
I had just a bit of a challenge getting the hardware right, but got it resolved quickly. Telamon is very responsive and knowledgeable. I hooked up two HP 3000’s to get a feel for the multi machine workings of the product. The connections were easy to configure, agents were also easy to create and apply.
I basically went through and created agents and applied them in a sporadic fashion to see if there was anything that might break the product. I was never able to generate a crash in TelaConsole, so that’s good news. The more I worked with the product, the more ideas it gave me.
Configuring TelaConsole is an evolutionary process. I found that you don’t want to get mired down trying to think of everything up front, just start working with it and applying agents, and as issues come up, apply more of them. Eventually you will probably get to a point where you will rarely make changes in the configuration.
I really found the filtering useful to create a log of LOGON and LOGOFF records which allowed me to trace logon times for certain sessions. Being able to send an event back to the HP based on messages was also very handy.
I didn’t make use of the expression parsing on filters, but as long as you can do what the manual indicates, you have a very powerful tool for scanning, parsing, and reformatting any line of text that comes through the line. These are unix style standard expressions, which can be fairly confusing, but the manual does a credible job of explaining them.
There are a lot of options and permutations you can go through because of the flexible architecture. I exercised a number of them, but by no means all of them.
I have one major complaint with TelaConsole. If you want to be able to manage your HP 3000 through TelaConsole (have true HP terminal emulation if required), then you must be using Reflection 1 version 6.0 or later. I personally think that this is a problem. Many shops that I’m aware of never upgraded from version 5.0, and many other shops use the MiniSoft terminal emulator. Keep in mind that this in no way keeps you from using the product as it is primarily intended, it just limit’s your ability to have TelaConsole directly manage your HP. You can still make use of the Broadcaster feature.
While I didn’t test the integration with TelAlert, it’s a great option, and a natural extension for TelaConsole.
TelaConsole is really a nifty product. There are some conceptual hurdles to get through initially, but the flexible design is really great. I’m not aware of a competing product for the HP 3000 (doesn’t mean there isn’t one). If you want to get a data center under control and make your operators lives easier, then it’s worth spending some time looking at TelaConsole.
492 Ninth St. Ste 310
Oakland, CA 94607
TelaConsole includes the MS Windows based application as well as the necessary cable connectors. If you need more ports then you will have to purchase the appropriate multiport expansion board separately. These can be purchased directly from Telamon for between $250 and $1,100 depending on the board.
Telaconsole for the HP 3000 runs on all HP 3000 Series computers (including MPE V), as well as any server capable of producing a serial console stream. The software is host based with the price being $1,250 per host (minimum of 2 hosts), there is an introductory special of $950 per host. Support is 15% of the purchase price per year and includes phone in, electronic support and new releases of the software. The first 90 days are included in the purchase price, a 5% discount is applied if support is purchased 2 years in advance, and a 10% discount for 3 or more years in advance. All prices are in US dollars.