PSGi Offers Help for Neglected IBM i Servers
September 17, 2013 Alex Woodie
As the redheaded stepchild of the server world, the IBM i server is used to being unseen and unappreciated. That’s fine, because it doesn’t require a lot of babysitting (like that Windows server over there). But when the situation escalates to the level of neglect, it crosses a red line. For organizations that need a little help with IBM i, signing up for a managed service offering, such as the one that PSGi launched last month, might be a good investment.
IBM i servers have a well-deserved reputation for stability and reliability. Many organizations have gone years without an abnormal shutdown, something that is rare in the Windows world. And not only is the software robust, but the hardware is rock-solid too, and has led to amazing tales of survival from tornados, earthquakes, hurricanes, and overeager drywall contractors.
But there’s a point where an organization can lean a little too heavily on the server’s reliability, especially when it coincides with shrinking IT staffs, decreasing IT budgets, and a business environment that demands employees do more with less. When these conditions prevail, the odds increase that an IBM i server won’t get the care and feeding it needs.
“It’s a trend we’re bumping into,” says Larry Dube, president of PSGi. “I don’t think it’s a matter of paying the administrators [too little] as much as maybe a symptom of how easy the iSeries is to support. It’s not like it needs a whole lot of handholding to keep running. That’s a beautiful thing. But on the flip side, as you get into that mode and you let it run itself for too long, you forget about what you need to do with it, or those people are off doing other things. Because it can run itself, those people are moved to other tasks, especially over the last three years.”
PSGi recently expanded its managed services offering, and is now offering to manage its customers’ IBM i OS environments, in addition to managing a select group of IBM i-based ERP systems, including JDE World and Infor PRISM and PRMS. Under the expanded menu of services, PSGi is responsible for the day-to-day management of IBM i tasks, such as backups, job monitoring, OS upgrades, security, and more.
PSGi says the exact mix of services it offers will vary from shop to shop. Its managed services offering will initially be adopted by companies for whom it’s already managing ERP applications.
The service will be particularly appreciated by organizations that have outsourced their hardware to a managed service provider (MSP) but find that the MSP simply lacks the expertise to perform some of the more detailed maintenance work or to troubleshoot problems in IBM i environments.
In other words, PSGi is aiming to fill the dreaded application-system gap.
“I think the difference between what we do and the MSPs do is we’re trying to be the bridge between the applications and the system itself,” Dube says. “In many cases, when an organization hires somebody to do managed services, they make sure the system runs, but if anything goes wrong with the application or there’s some sort of interconnectivity between those two things, things get tossed over the wall.”
For example, one of PSGi’s ERP clients fell headfirst into this gap when it outsourced its IBM i hardware, and found the outsourcer wasn’t as skilled at IBM i as the PSGi client expected.
“They quickly figured out there were a lot of things that weren’t happening. Something as simple as this particular report isn’t printing,” Dube says. “There are a lot of integrations to ancillary systems to take care of–communication functions on the iSeries, from FTP to XML. And all those things were in that black hole where nobody was really supporting them.”
PSGi can also help IBM i shops that may lack the bandwidth to research and execute a major hardware or OS upgrade. Dube cites a PSGi client that had two people in the IT department.
“They didn’t have the capability to understand whether they should upgrade their hardware,” he says. “They were actually paying IBM too much money for support on the old system they had. We helped them understand how they can upgrade that, and stay up to speed, so in the end their costs are actually lower on the new hardware, and they get better performance.”
The goal is to become a valued IBM i resource to organizations that, for whatever reason, don’t have operational IBM i skills in-house anymore.
“We hope to become a partner who comes in and really understands their applications,” he said. “At the same time, we understand their business because we’ve been working on those sites quite a bit. And on top of that, we understand the iSeires. So we can be more of a strategic partner that can come in and talk about where they want to be, where they’re going with the business, whether the applications can support that, whether the operating system and the hardware they have can support that as well.”
The one piece of the MSP puzzle that PSGi is not providing is the actual management of the hardware itself. The company is currently speaking with a number of MSPs and could be forming a partnership in the near future, Dube says.
In the meantime, the company is offering its new menu of IBM i services now.