OS Solutions Relies on Remote Journaling for New HA Offering
December 6, 2004 Alex Woodie
There’s a new provider of iSeries high availability software in town. OS Solutions earlier this year introduced data replication and high availability capabilities to its flagship OS Director systems management product. Like most of the new high availability products to hit the market in recent years, this one relies on IBM‘s remote journaling technology. In addition to lowering the bar of entry for vendors, there’s another benefit to remote journaling, OS Solutions says: it makes high availability affordable to customers.
In the not too distant past, high availability was the exclusive realm of big companies, which could afford the big servers, the big service contracts, and the big price tags that high availability required. “A while back, high availability was dominated by three companies that were selling very overpriced software to companies that could afford the overpriced software,” says Pete Massiello, vice president of OS Solutions. “After 9/11 and Sarbanes-Oxley [a result of the Enron financial scandal], people started to realize that they need to protect their company assets.”
Three years ago, with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the Enron scandal forcing companies to rethink their strategies, two small startups, iTera and Maximum Availability, developed their own OS/400 high availability products that relied on IBM’s remote journaling technology, which pushed much of the work of transmitting changes to data and objects from source to target servers down below the operating system level. (There is not a causal connection between these companies entering the market at that time, but they have certainly benefited from the confluence of support for remote journaling in OS/400 and these disasters.) While IBM developed remote journaling with input by high availability software vendors for the purpose of using it for high availability, those dominant vendors largely ignored the technology, relying instead on their own proprietary “journal scrape” techniques. This provided an opportunity for iTera and Maximum Availability to differentiate themselves with lower-cost offerings. And differentiate themselves they did.
Several years from now, 2004 may be remembered as the year that high availability for OS/400 servers finally became affordable. The company iTera has experienced tremendous growth in the United States this year and is now expanding overseas. Maximum Availability has had its share of success in select markets as well. What the two companies have demonstrated to the rest of the market is that the dynamics of the high availability software market have changed. OS Solutions took notice, and as a result developed its own high availability solution based on remote journaling. (And to their credit, DataMirror, Lakeview Technology, and Vision Solutions have innovated with their products and pricing to meet the competition.)
It’s not too late to jump on the remote-journaling, high-availability bandwagon. While the number of OS/400 shops using high availability is growing, the penetration rate is still relatively low: around 5 to 6 percent. Massiello says there’s no reason why that number couldn’t be 20 percent. “I think the market for high availability is huge,” he says. “You’ve got to look at all these companies going 24/7. Three to four years ago, the number of companies taking orders over the ‘Net was small. Four years later, that number has skyrocketed, and they need to be up 24/7. . . . There’s a whole portion of the market that’s realizing they have a need for high availability.”
Rather than build a new high availability product from scratch, OS Solutions decided to build data replication and high availability capabilities into its existing offering, OS Director. High availability fits well into what OS Director was already doing, which is managing and enhancing the performance of OS/400 applications and systems. OS Director contains six modules, including Object Manager, O&M Manager, Task Manager, Job Tracking, Data Manager, and Storage Manager. These modules perform varied tasks, such as scheduling and tracking jobs, mapping object and file relationships, monitoring the growth of data and objects, archiving files, and reorganizing databases for better performance and to save DASD.
Since some of what is required for a high availability product was already built into OS Director, the company decided to augment the suite’s Storage Manager module with two additional components, which it calls Data Replication (the remote journaling component) and High Availability (the management component for failovers). Through remote journaling, the software already supports the mirroring of most of the things O/400 shops require in a high availability product, including replication of objects, data areas, data queues, and IFS objects. About the only thing OS Director doesn’t replicate are WebSphere MQ messages, but there aren’t many shops that need that, Massiello says.
OS Solutions has tried to make it easy to configure OS Director’s Storage Manager for high availability. “We’ve gone about it in a way that you didn’t need to hire somebody to stand there and manage it and watch it,” Massiello says. “From the top down, it was designed with a wizard-type approach. With a few policies that you give it, it will start the self-configuring that sets up the journaling and the environment.”
Customers that want the bare bones of high availability (just the replication, thank you) will be able to do that with OS Director, Massiello says. At this first level, users may be replicating data to another logical partition on the same box for the purpose of upgrades or running queries. As OS Director users grow, and find they need to automate the failover process a bit more, they can graduate to the next level of automated failover, which brings another unavoidable level of complexity into the picture. OS Director will support fully manual, semi-automatic, and fully automatic failovers, Massiello says.
GUIs, VAEs, and $$$s
Users currently interact with OS Director through a mix of green-screen and GUI interfaces. OS Solutions’ goal is to offer users the same level of management through their choice of GUI or green-screen interface. This means more GUIs, and the company has a couple of new GUIs under development, including a GUI performance monitor and an event manager for escalations.
Development of the new high availability capabilities of OS Director has been in the works for the last year and a half. The company decided to keep development under wraps, to ensure a high level of satisfaction with a smaller number of customers at first, before the wider roll-out.
OS Solutions brought in some new people who had high availability experience to assist with development, which is done in England. The company is also looking to qualify for IBM’s high availability value added enhancement (VAE) programs that offer discounts on iSeries hardware and help vendors to sell the complete solution. “We’re in the process right now of doing that paper work,” Massiello says.
The high availability software was initially rolled out to select customers in early 2004, and it is now generally available with OS Director Version 5.2. OS Director’s high availability add-on is being sold through OS Solutions’ channel and directly from OS Solutions itself. Massiello says existing OS Director customers will be able to license the high availability components for about $50,000 on average, while new customers will pay about $60,000 on average, depending on the size of the iSeries or i5 server.
These prices are on the low end of today’s high-priced availability spectrum. But that’s according to plan. “In talking to customers, they tell us, ‘We have a need for high availability, but we just can’t afford some of the solutions commonly being offered,’ ” Massiello says. “Now we’ve put a fantastic wrapper around that remote journaling technology, and implemented a product that we can bring to the masses at a great price.”