Informing the IBM Community

Is the new HMC interface enhanced or not?


IBM has rather quietly brought out a new interface to its Hardware Management Console (HMC). This became an option in V8R8.1 Service Pack1 of the HMC. IBM has called it the enhanced interface and you will have an option to select it at log in. Don’t worry, you’ll know it when you see it.

Before we go any further, it’s worth mentioning that if you decide you don’t like the enhanced interface, all that you need do is log out and take the option to log in using the classic interface. You can switch per user, per session. There is no forced change here or need to uninstall anything if you don’t want to use it.

Classic log in screen

HMC Classic Log In Screen

Enhanced log in screen

If you are still with me at this point, you may well wonder what I think of it? Well, if I’m honest, when I first saw that there had been a change, I was actually quite excited. That may seem a little sad on my part but I’ve often said that the HMC interface could do with an overhaul to make it more user-friendly and perhaps a little more modern.

Then, as I hunted around it, I was quite disappointed as the vast majority of the HMC GUI is unchanged. It actually took me several minutes to find any changes at all. The style of the majority of the views (Welcome, System Plan, HMC Management, Service Management and Update) was unaltered. For the pedants out there, I accept that one option has been added to the Service Management view but the style is the same (I’ll let you work out which option that is – it’s useful but nothing to get excited about).

In fact, even in the Server Management view, you won’t notice much difference if you don’t use VIOS or create new LPARs. But to give you an idea of what the new style looks like, here is a screenshot of the PowerVM option.

HMC Enhanced PowerVM View

There is also a whole new section for “templating” LPAR creation. This could be very useful to folks with lots of LPARs or who regularly need to create new LPARs that are similar. Perhaps this will benefit managed service providers or ISVs that have to create lots of new LPARs but more typical users of Power Systems are much less to use this function.

What is my conclusion? It’s good that IBM is investing time and effort into the HMC interface but this does not go far enough. I would like it if there was more time spent on making the interface as a whole more consistent, more responsive and generally more intuitive.

So, what is new? Well, to be fair to IBM, it does actually spell it out on a link on the log in page. This gives you a table with a list of all the changes in the enhanced Interface (see below) and they go on to explain how the functions map between the old and new interfaces.

HMC Enhanced Interface Changes to Server Context

HMC Enhanced Interface Changes to Partition Context

The main difference

To most users, the main difference will be shown when they go to look at an existing LPAR. In the enhanced interface you will need to use the Manage option.  Below is an example from a friendly client’s Power8 (thank you Annette).

HMC Enhanced Manage LPAR - General

The new look is easy to understand and navigate but, as previously mentioned, is radically different.  If I did have to criticise one thing it is the Attention Light control switch. The thought that having a red indicator for the amber light being off and green for the light being on is idiotic.

IBM has added simple help bubbles all over. Just hover over any of the question mark symbols and you will get a pop up explaining what a particular section does. There is also a “learn more” link in the bottom left of each screen which explains the context of each screen at a higher level.

It would have been better if this new look was carried through into the Manage Profile screens. These simply revert back to the old style. This is just so obviously inconstant and so unlike IBM. If I didn’t know better, I would say it released this by mistake as it does not seem complete. Then again, I don’t want to jump on IBM for attempting to improve things.

Should you use it? This is, of course, a matter of personal taste . While I would not make a special effort to install V8, if I were planning on patching a HMC it would be just as easy to upgrade to V8 as it would to install the latest V7 release.

There are a couple of caveats:
•    You will need to have a minimum of the CR5 or C08 model HMC to run V8 of the HMC code.
•    You cannot manage a Power5 server with the V8 code, i.e. it only supports Power6, 7 and 8 hardware.

While the new style in V8 is radically different in places, this level of change is nothing new. It is, in fact, less radical than the HMC interface changes between V6 and V7. To me, the difference this time is that the new styles are only introduced in a handful of areas and seem to be bolted on top of the old interface.

That said, you could argue that the main difference this time is that IBM does not force you to use the enhanced interface; you can just log in with the classic and carry on working just as you always did.  That was not an option between V6 and V7. Then, it was simply “upgrade and get used to it”.

Hopefully, many of you will want to upgrade to it (or get a new HMC with it preloaded) as you need V8 on your HMC if you want to manage a Power8 server.

Summing up

Personally, I like the new style that IBM is trying to introduce. The cleaner design of the screens and the wizard approach do make some of the processes more intuitive. If this new code works consistently in all major browsers, then great, that is itself would be an improvement.

But (and is a huge but) the inconsistent way in which it is implemented, coupled with the fact you cannot manage Power5 servers with it, means I will not be upgrading many of my HMCs to V8 any time soon.

I think it’s fair to say that many HMCs don’t get the love and attention they deserve. I will go on to share a few tips and tricks with you in future articles but if you have something in particular you’d like me to discuss, you can contact me via the feedback below or through my website.

Nice to see you…

Our next i-UG meeting will take place at IBM Warwick on November 20. We’ve already confirmed a number of excellent guest speakers including Alison Butterill, Dr Frank Soltis, Trevor Perry and Paul Tuohy. Hope to see you there, more details at the i-UG website. P.S. This one is free courtesy of our lovely friends at the iBelieve Common Europe Tour, so don’t miss out!

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