Symmetry Goes Big with Launch of ‘i In the Sky’ Cloud
May 10, 2011 Alex Woodie
Symmetry, a small IT solutions provider that few in the IBM i industry have heard of, is getting into the IBM i cloud hosting business in a big way. At last week’s COMMON show in Minneapolis, the Wisconsin-based company launched “i in the Sky,” a new cloud offering that will be spread across IBM i servers at Symmetry’s two data centers. The first applications on tap for the new cloud are the Real Vision Imaging (RVI) solution from Real Vision Software and ERP software from a little German company you may have heard of called SAP.
Like many companies that have become cloud providers, Symmetry started out as a consulting company 15 years ago, and gradually got into hosting and, eventually, cloud computing, Symmetry officials said at a COMMON press conference last week. Among the company’s specialties is implementing SAP on IBM i servers, a top-shelf combination of hardware and software that is becoming increasingly popular for midsize and large businesses.
According to Symmetry president Dan Wilhelms, IBM approached Symmetry with the idea of turning their SAP-on-IBM-i expertise into a cloud offering. The idea was to provide a simplified platform that supported the various stages of an application–from development and testing to production and disaster recovery–that leveraged the strengths of the IBM i platform.
Most SAP resellers push customers to run the ERP system on Windows, because that is all they know, said Wilhelms, who used to work for the German ERP giant, in SAP Americas. There is a small but resilient base of SAP customers who run the software on IBM i. “It runs real well there,” he said.
Symmetry currently offers SAP hosting for about 25 customers, who utilize Unix and Windows platforms. But with i in the Sky, the company hopes to spark an interest in customers adopting SAP running on an IBM i cloud, which can save them up to 50 percent off the cost of running it themselves, the vendor says.
The production aspect of Symmetry’s cloud offering is interesting. When the IT Jungle editorial team spoke with IBM Power Systems executives about their IBM i cloud plans last week at COMMON, they touted the benefits of cloud for development, testing, and DR–but not production. Customers are still too hesitant to put production workloads up in the cloud, they said. While it says one thing–cloud today is just for dev, test, and DR–IBM is doing something different: positioning its chess pieces to support production-level cloud workloads. And that’s a good thing.
i in the Sky–which is perhaps the most clever name for an IBM i cloud that somebody could come up with–features built-in DR. Symmetry officials say that the DR capability that arises from replicating customer data between two SAS 70 Type II data centers is part and parcel of the cloud offering, and that customers get it whether they know it or not.
The Symmetry cloud offering can also help to future-proof an SAP on IBM i implementation. Many businesses are facing the prospects of keeping their production systems running after key employees in the IT department retire or leave the company. Putting the system on the cloud can alleviate some of these concerns, Wilhelms said.
In addition to SAP, Symmetry is offering an IBM i-based imaging solution from Real Vision Software on its i in the Sky.
Real Vision’s RVI is an image capture and retrieval system that enables users to capture and index documents from various sources, including IBM i spool files, TWAIN and Kofax scanners, fax, e-mail, Topaz signature pads, multimedia files, and PCs. The software runs on IBM i, utilizes the server’s DASD or optical drives, and saves the documents in standard PC formats, like TIFF and IMG. With the documents centrally stored, workers can then retrieve them as needed, using Web interfaces, Windows clients, or even good old 5250.
“Symmetry’s IBM i cloud was the obvious choice to power our ‘cloud’ document management solution to keep it cost effective and easy to implement,” David Woodring, vice president of Real Vision Software, states in a press release. “The winning combination of enterprise-level architecture and expert technical support from i in the Sky ensures that our customers have the best possible experience while our teams focus on their core area of expertise–the software.”
Symmetry, which is based in Milwaukee, also announced that it has been certified for IBM’s Cloud Computing Specialty. For more information, see www.sym-corp.com.