Public Sector IBM i Users Living in the Cloud
September 27, 2011 Dan Burger
A lot of people would say that government organizations lag behind private industry when it comes to efficiency. But here is some evidence that in the IT arena that may not be true. It also goes to show that the IBM midrange community is not necessarily mired in the past. Let’s take a quick look at one of the largest IBM i-based clouds in North America, where governmental organizations using SunGard Public Sector’s NaviLine software is being protected by Maxava disaster recovery and high availability software.
SunGard has a specific division referred to as SunGard Public Sector that serves primarily municipal governments and public safety agencies. Its installed base consists of approximately 1,400 municipalities, with approximately half of those running core ERP software on IBM i, System i, iSeries, and AS/400 servers. SunGard would not discuss specific figures regarding its IBM i installed base.
Although statistics are unavailable, SunGard’s IBM i-based cloud is likely to be among the largest in existence. What I like about this example of cloud computing is that these aren’t survey figures based on what IT managers are thinking about doing. These are organizations that have moved core business systems to the cloud. It doesn’t represent potential interest in the cloud. It shows commitment.
Based on this singular cloud, it’s reasonable to conclude that the public sector is a leading advocate of cloud computing. That seems odd when you consider the high expectations for cloud computing that abounds across the private sector. It’s impossible to breathe without hearing at least three predictions of the cloud computing takeover.
Briefly stated, here are the basic benefits: By delivering software, services, and infrastructure over a network connection, IT costs–particularly in the areas of normal operating expenditures related to capital assets–are reduced and the sharing of IT resources among multiple agencies will result in the accessibility to hardware and software technologies and more highly trained staff than is affordable to smaller organizations.
After conversing with Peggy Serena, director of product management for services at SunGard Pubic Sector, and Simon O’Sullivan, executive vice president at Maxava, a few conclusions can be reached regarding the popularity of the IBM i-based cloud.
“When we started the SunGard Public Sector iSeries ASP (application service provider) business in 2003, there were still a lot of IBM iSeries boxes at individual city halls or counties, but the trend has shifted,” Serena says. “The economy hurt the government sector in 2010 and 2011, but the hosted business is still robust because cost savings are attractive to customers. We also see the hosting business as part of a consolidation trend for municipalities running multiple iSeries that can be centralized in a more efficient data center environment. It allows them to reduce their capital expense and shift to a more predictable and controllable operating expense. It’s like a rental. And they don’t have to justify $40,000 for a new machine, software, and personnel.”
Relying on his experience in the disaster recovery field, Maxava’s O’Sullivan notes that recent disasters such as Hurricane Katrina in the U.S., the Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand (home land of Maxava), and the earthquake and tsunami in Northern Japan have put government entities on notice, especially those segments charged with public safety, where short recovery times are expected.
“Whether it’s public or private sector, both sides have been affected by limited funding the past several years,” O’Sullivan explains. “But because of a heightened awareness of certain natural disasters, there is probably additional public scrutiny on governmental agencies. Therefore, we see a bigger uptake of ‘real time’ solutions having a short RTO (recovery time objective).”
O’Sullivan notes that Maxava is protecting about 20 percent of SunGard customers running on IBM i. These include a combination of the ASP (cloud customers), on-site disaster recovery, and DR in the SunGard data center protecting SunGard NaviLine software running at customer sites. Widely cited statistics pertaining to disaster recovery and high availability in the overall IBM i market generally range from 10 to 15 percent, which leads O’Sullivan to believe Maxava is exceeding the average in its business with SunGard.
Maxava provides various levels of disaster recovery, which can be tailored to customer specifications. It includes basic data replication as well as object and IFS replication, and is capable of both one-way and two-way replication, among other capabilities.
SunGard Public Sector’s NaviLine suite of products for IBM’s System i supports public administration, public safety, and justice needs.