Shield Overhauls HA Product, Gives It New Name
November 30, 2010 Alex Woodie
Shield Advanced Solutions recently introduced HA4i, a major new version of its previous high availability product called Receiver Apply Program, or RAP. Shield rewrote some of the underpinnings of the product to make data replication and recovery tasks faster and more streamlined, while the elimination of extraneous features and the introduction of a new Web-based interface are aimed at making the product easier to use.
When Shield introduced RAP/400 nearly four years ago, it intended the product to function as a disaster recovery product. However, since RAP utilized remote journaling data-replication that’s built into IBM i, the base plumbing was there for a full HA product, which the company started to do in earnest with version 2.1 released three years ago.
Over the ensuing years, Shield fleshed out the RAP product with more HA features, such as the capability to execute role swaps between primary and backup machines, and automated detection of IBM i files and objects to be replicated. Support for more objects, such as user profiles, was added and auditing and notification functions became slicker. Shield even included a version of its flagship JobQGenie product–which Shield markets as the only product able to keep IBM i jobs synchronized in the course of an HA failover–to the product.
At some point, RAP became too top heavy with features that weren’t being used. The product was also not keeping up with how IBM i shops were setting up their servers, so the folks at Shield decided it needed an overhaul. The result is HA4i, which is being released at the version 6.1 level.
The biggest improvement over RAP is the new journal apply process, the critical job that takes data from the remote journaling facility and that ensures changes made to files and objects on the primary server are accurately reflected on the secondary server. HA4i borrows the new journal apply process that Shield introduced this summer with a new product called DR4i.
“With RAP, there was single apply process, which applied all journal data in a single stream,” explains Shield director Chris Hird. “With DR4i and hence HA4i, we now provide an apply stream per journal, so if 10 journals all get changed at once we can start the apply process for each one at the same time.”
The new apply process provides a lot more granularity to how HA4i can apply journal data. By having a separate apply process for each configured journal, the user can end, start, suspend, or resume each apply process individually, without affecting the others.
HA4i also has the capability to replicate additional objects, including a big one, PF-SRC (source physical files). “There were other objects added,” Hird says, “but the source files were one item users were concerned about journaling.”
The new PHP-based Web interface for HA4i was also borrowed from DR4i, and should provide a big improvement in the ease-of-use category compared to the previous green-screen interfaces. “We have added the ability to do more management using the PHP interface, which was previously constrained to the 5250 interfaces,” Hird says. Users will also find more information about audits and file synch checks in the HA4i user interface, he adds.
Shield also practiced a little “addition through subtraction” with the new user interface, particularly as it pertained to the old menuing system. “The biggest change was the removal of nested menus, which caused lots of confusion in the customer base,” Hird says. Shield also found it could safely eliminate some of the startup options as a result of the new receiver apply process in HA4i.
Two other components were eliminated, including the JobQGenie functionality, and a snapshot function. Hird found his target customers primarily to be P05 and P10 shops that had no use for the JobQGenie functionality, so he decided to remove it. JobQGenie is available separately at a reduced price for HA4i customers who find they need extra protection for their IBM i job queues.
The auditing process has been refined with HA4i, and users should find that the process takes less time now. One particular area of improvement involves auditing of user profiles and passwords. Now, the software automatically ensures that user profile and password information on the backup machine is an accurate duplicate of the source. Previously, users could have gotten out of synch with their user profiles if they had set up the save and restore process incorrectly, Hird says.
HA4i is available now. For more information and free trial downloads, visit www.shieldadvanced.ca.