IBM Gives iTera and MaxAv Entry into New VAE Program
by Alex Woodie
IBM last week introduced and implemented a new value added enhancement (VAE) program that widens the number of software vendors that can get their customers discounts on hardware when implementing their OS/400 high availability and disaster recovery software. Among other changes, the new policy creates a second class of software for data replication and disaster recovery beneath the level of full-blown clustering, which should give iTera and Maximum Availability the opportunity to form reseller channels and compete more effectively against establish HA players.
As of July 29, IBM has changed the application criteria required to gain acceptance into the VAE program. Most importantly, IBM has added the second category, which it calls Data Recovery/Replication Solutions, in addition to the existing High Availability/Continuous Operations category. Previously, there was only one application category, and that one required the ISV to support OS/400 clustering to qualify for the VAE enhancement. The High Availability/Continuous Operations still requires support for OS/400's clustering services, and has several other technological and company-oriented requirements that are stricter than those for the Data Recovery/Replication solutions.
The OS/400 software vendors qualifying for the High Availability/Continuous Operations VAE are DataMirror, Lakeview Technology, and Vision Solutions. The OS/400 HA vendors qualifying for the Data Recovery/Replication solutions VAE include all of the above as well as iTera and MaxAva.
Steve Finnes, IBM's high availability product marketing manager, says he thinks the new criteria--which also now apply to VAE for pSeries high availability solutions--are much more clear and easier to understand. "In a sense, what I feel I've accomplished is clarification. All of the different types of solution that address availability--it's confusing."
Finnes says he believes that the percentage of discount for both categories is the same. "It's not my thing," he says of the amount of discount that the VAE label brings. "The discounting structure isn't something that pertains to the ISVs. It's an attribute assigned to the reseller themselves."
The creation of the new Data Recovery/Replication category was good news for iTera and MaxAva, which had been trying--unsuccessfully--to get into IBM's old VAE program for high availability software (see IBM's Insistence on Clustering Baffles Some HA Providers). While officials with the two companies say they believe they should be in the high availability category, the new VAE category is an improvement.
"Some value add is better than no value add," says Dan NeVille, president of Salt Lake City, Utah-based iTera. "For the most part, we are grateful that they have given us some sort of value add." The new VAE certification is paving the way for iTera's new reseller partnership with Avnet Hall-Mark, the Phoenix, Arizona, iSeries reseller.
Allan Campbell, the managing director of Auckland, New Zealand-based MaxAva, sounded a similar note. "Let's face it: We had no recognition before. And now we have some," Campbell says. "It's better than nothing." Like iTera, MaxAva is actively looking to grow its reseller channel as a result of the new VAE.
"It gives the folks that are starting HA solutions, and that are specialized and more focused on iSeries and remote journaling, a place to play in the market. It gives them a chance to participate," Finnes says.
ISVs qualifying for either the Data Recovery/Replication or the High Availability/Continuous Operations VAE must meet certain criteria. Some of these criteria include: 30 referencable clients in each geographic region the ISV operates; local support provided in the same language spoken in a given region; complete product documentation and end-to-end implementation documents; support the latest release of OS/400 within three months; provide IBM data about your customer; and other support requirements.
In addition to these requirements, applications qualifying for the High Availability/Continuous Operations must be cluster-enabled, support files in the Integrated File System (IFS), and support four of the following six environments: OS/400, AIX, Windows, Linux, Domino, and WebSphere MQ. Additionally, ISVs qualifying for the High Availability/Continuous Operations must meet these criteria: provide local on-site support in the customer's native language; create and maintain customer run books; and prove that at least 10 customers perform roll-swaps at least once a quarter. There are other criteria that ISVs must meet, with their organization and their software, which may be challenging for both the newcomers and the established guard.
NeVille says he's interested in moving up the ladder to get certified with the full High Availability/Continuous Operations VAE category at some point. Earlier this year, the company introduced a cluster-enabled version of Echo2, partly in the hopes of being accepted into the existing VAE program. While the current setup should provide Echo2 users with the same level of discount as companies installing High Availability/Continuous Operations software, ISVs in the latter category may have access to additional soft money from IBM, such as assistance with marketing, NeVille says.
iTera will be looking to use the High Availability/Continuous Operations criteria as a check-list. "There are some good ideas in there," NeVille says. "By making sure we qualify for all the support criteria and development criteria, it makes us a better company."
While Campbell says that IFS support and clustering are in MaxAva's future (IFS before clustering), he's in no rush to get into the High Availability/Continuous Operations VAE, as long as the discount is the same. Campbell says some of the High Availability/Continuous Operations criteria appear to have been written around "the legacy HA products." "We're happier to be associated with companies using new technology than using old technology," Campbell says, in reference to the remote journaling on which MaxAva's product, *noMAX, like Echo2, was built on. "It's a bit like asking a jet airplane, 'Where's your spare propeller?'"
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