Worknet Says ‘Burstable’ HA Gives Its Private IBM i Cloud An Advantage
April 1, 2013 Alex Woodie
IBM i shops that are seeking a private cloud in which to park production or backup applications and data have a growing number of managed service providers (MSPs) to choose from. One you may not have heard about yet is Worknet, an MSP based in Naperville, Illinois, that houses the IBM i apps of highly regulated organizations, including banks and healthcare companies. Worknet says its “burstable” high availability offering gives it an advantage over other MSPs.
The private cloud business is becoming a commodity play (if it hasn’t already become one), and that’s good for customers. This includes IBM i shops that are seeing MSPs offer menus of IT and hosting services that look quite similar and don’t differ a whole lot on pricing.
MSPs, on the one hand, welcome this trend of cloud services becoming generic, because that signals to customers that cloud hosting is a regular, repeatable thing, that many customers are choosing it, and that vendor lock-in won’t be an issue. But on the other hand, MSPs also need to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Thus, you have everything from basic infrastructure as a service (IaaS) offerings to full-service management MSPs, such as Velocity Technology Solutions, which will manage and maintain your JD Edwards, Kronos, and Lawson ERP system, as well as the server and OS it runs on.
The folks at Worknet understand the spectrum, and have devised a couple of angles to differentiate themselves from the competition. The first is something it calls burstable high availability, which the company offers with its HA and disaster recovery (DR) services based on Vision Solutions‘ MIMIX and iTera High Availability offerings, as well as Rocket Software‘s iCluster.
Worknet’s “Burstable iManaged” HA and DR services save IBM i shops money by allowing them to rapidly scale up the amount of CPWs and memory they need in an emergency, but not to pay for that extra capacity during the regular, day-to-day course of business, says Worknet solutions director Biff Myre.
“When you’re replicating journals in an HA environment, you don’t need to have the full production power on the backup until you need to cut over to it,” says Myre, who worked at HA software vendor Lakeview Technology before it was acquired by Vision, which is a Worknet partner.
“So we don’t charge you for the full CPW or the full memory that you need until you declare a disaster and you need to cut over, for whatever reason,” he tells IT Jungle. “At that time we’ll burst up to the required CPW or memory, and charge you for the additional power and memory that you need.” DASD doesn’t vary as much, because full copies of the database are stored at each location.
Myre says that IBM i shops are overpaying for backup cloud capacity provided by some MSPs. “They are overpaying for that hardware sitting there. They’re overpaying for the cloud, for what their needs really are,” he says. “Part of the trick and the art of running a cloud is doing the homework on the front end–actually working with the client, looking at their system, putting some tools on there, and running some tests, so we can really figure out what their needs are. If you need 3,000 CPWs to run a production application, you might only be doing 500 or 1,000 CPWs on the DR side.”
Worknet’s HA and DR services include a dedicated LPAR with a dedicated disk arm, which ensures that customer data will never be intermingled even though they may reside on the same physical IBM i server. Even though companies may share a physical IBM i server and have large burst provisions in their contracts, no customer will ever be short of CPW or memory during a disaster. “We don’t do an oversubscribe model, like a Sungard or IBM BCRS. Everything you have on contract is guaranteed,” Myres says.
Worknet’s HA and DR offerings include two DR tests per year, and involve full user testing. Worknet has experience with actual disasters, too. Recently, a company in the real estate business in Chicago was flooded out of its facilities. In addition to providing IT services, Worknet welcomed the company’s workers to its training center, where the employees worked on its customers’ mortgage applications via laptops for three days. That was an unusual event, and Worknet also sells access to companies who provide mobile facilities, telephones, and electric generators.
Focus on Data Centers
The other MSP angle that Worknet is working will appeal to those organizations who treasure security, regulatory oversight, and good old Midwestern values.
The company has two data center locations. The first data center, located in Naperville, is owned and operated by Worknet, which ensures that it has total control of the facility. For the second, Worknet rents space in a co-location facility, in Indianapolis, Indiana. “If your data is with us, it’s either in Illinois or Indiana. There is no offshore support,” Myre says (although some Worknet employees telecommute from the very rouge state of Wisconsin).
Don’t try dropping into the Naperville site for an unannounced visit. “It’s an unmarked facility,” Myre says. “We don’t give the address out to customers so they can come and go. We attract highly regulated organizations. We have been audited on site for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. We have been audited on site multiple times by the National Credit Union Administration. And we have compliance for insurance companies and other healthcare industries, including HIPAA regulations, PCI compliance, Homeland Security, and the U.S. State Department. Anyone who has access to our facilities must be a US citizens or US permanent resident.” In other words, security at Worknet is likely tighter than security at your own site (especially if you’re from Wisconsin).
Only about 5 percent of Worknet’s 200 or so fully managed customers are using the company to host IBM i gear. As is typical, most of the workload runs on Windows, Unix, and Linux boxes. But the company is looking to grow its IBM i business, and even joined the MSP program that IBM launched last year to gain wider entry into the IBM i hosting business.
“We think there’s tremendous growth in front of us. We’ve had quiet a few opportunities in front us this year to double the number of iSeries hosting customers,” Myre says. “We’ve been helped along by IBM, which has introduced us to some of the traditional VARs. They have clients who want to move to the cloud for DR, but their VAR doesn’t want to go and invest in building an iSeries cloud, and having a truly robust data center, and so IBM has been recommending us as a option.”
Worknet’s Burstable iManaged cloud offering ranges in price from about $4,000 to about $7,000 per month, depending on the normal day-to-day capacity and the “burst” capacity in the agreement. Full production cloud hosting is also available. For more information, see www.worknetinc.com.