Shield’s HA4i Now Ready for PureFlex
October 8, 2013 Alex Woodie
IBM i shops that are taking the PureFlex route have another high availability solution to choose from now that Shield Advanced Solutions has certified its HA4i software to run on Big Blue’s all-in-one server. The Toronto, Ontario, company worked with IBM to ensure that the software installation process for HA4i goes as smoothly as possible.
HA4i is a logical replication high availability solution that uses IBM’s remote journaling technology to move data and objects between two IBM i servers. Shield initially rolled out a bare-bones release of the software in 2007, and over the years, it has fleshed out the product’s additional features, such as synchronization checks, auditing tools, automated discovery of new objects, job monitoring, IFS support, and support for replication of user profiles.
The target customers for HA4i are small and midsize companies that are big enough to need HA, but small enough not to be able to afford the enterprise-grade HA offerings that still carry six-digit price tags to buy and configure. Shield, smartly, is not competing at the high end, because it realizes it would be trampled by bigger and more established vendors (can you say Vision Solutions?) in the still hotly competitive market for IBM i HA software.
Incidentally, that midrange swath of IBM i shops is also the target market for the converged PureFlex systems. The bigger enterprises typically are not interested in an all-in-one machine that doesn’t require a large IT staff to care and feed for it. Because they have larger IT staffs, these big companies will not pay a premium for the type of “load and go” simplicity that PureFlex systems are designed to offer. They also typically prefer the largest machines, and the PureFlex systems do not scale up to the realms of super-massive systems, like the 256-core Power Systems Model 795.
Chris Hird, the principle at Shield, says the majority of the work in getting HA4i certified on the PureFlex server was simplifying the installation process. Compared to the traditional install process on IBM i systems, the PureFlex installation process has to be as hands-off as possible.
“We cannot have any user interaction while the install is going on,” Hird tells IT Jungle via email. “This means we had to rebuild all of the installation programs to move the required data input from the 5250 screens to the initial loading program (configuration data such as the IP address and installation type.)”
Everything needs to be ready the moment the PureFlex machine fires up and goes to run the HA4i software. “It is a one shot deal and when the OS starts up, it has to have all of the bits configured and ready to run,” Hird says. “We actually have a fully functional Web environment running as soon as the system starts. The users don’t have to do anything other than add license keys.”
Shield had to make sure that all the entire supporting cast was ready for the installation. The company relies on some third-party components, like AURA Equipments‘ PHP middleware, which is used to serve the PHP-powered Web user interface. So Shield also had to build installation routines for PHP and the Eascom middleware. “Now when the partition (a fully functioning environment) is started, we make sure that the objects are all in place ready to start adding application object configurations to HA4i.”
With the PureFlex version of HA4i ready, Shield hopes to attract managed services providers (MSPs) to provide HA4i as a service in a cloud environment. Providing cloud-based HA environments is one of the hottest growth areas for MSPs at the moment. Many MSPs report that their ability to offer HA and disaster recovery (DR) services gets their foot in the door at IBM i shops, and is very often the first step they take toward running actual production workloads in the cloud.
Hird says he is looking to partner with MSPs to build customized HA solutions for specific ISV packages. “So let’s say you wanted a MRP package that includes HA. They can take the package from the MRP ISV and merge our package to add the HA elements to provide a total solution,” Hird says. “I think that’s a neat idea for the MSP’s to build repeatable solutions.”
The PureFlex version of HA4i runs on IBM i 7.1 and higher. Pricing has not changed, and starts in the low four figures. For more information see www.shieldadvanced.com.