IBM i Shops Offloading Infrastructure
December 1, 2014 Dan Burger
Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) providers are gaining ground in the IBM midrange community as more organizations explore the IT strategic plan of outsourcing servers, networking, storage, and data center space. Connectria Hosting, a company with more than 15 years of managed services experience for IBM i, iSeries, and AS/400 customers, is noticing the change. It’s not dependent on existing customers. New customers are coming to the cloud.
“Our IBM i business is up 35 percent over last year,” says Connectria CEO Rich Waidmann.
On a percentage basis, that’s on par with the 40 percent-plus increase Amazon Web Services claimed at its recent Amazon re:Invent event. Granted, there is a significant difference in the amount of business represented in that comparison, but as Waidmann says “it’s a nice business for us.”
The increase in Connectria IaaS business comes from primarily new customers with existing iSeries boxes that no longer want to run enterprise computers. It could be influenced by no longer having a system administrator (left for a higher paying job or retired), or the company is consolidating its IT investments, or the expense of upgrading hardware is pushing new decisions.
“It is very similar to why people are moving to Amazon,” Waidmann says, “except that the iSeries customers are also looking for the administrative piece not just the compute platform. Some customers want production environments, some want test environments, and some want disaster recovery, but there’s been a change from a year ago when most of the interest was in DR. Most new customers are now looking to run production environments. People are comfortable now running production workloads in the cloud, whether it is IBM i or Amazon.”
“Customers want to maintain ownership of their business. They just don’t want to mess with the infrastructure layer,” Waidmann says. “The cost of the equipment and the cost of having a staff that needs to stay current on all the new technologies are factors. Also, people with IBM i skills are retiring and there aren’t young people coming out of school who have learned the iSeries.”
Each year, the IT vendors with the biggest soapboxes jump up on them to announce how their new technologies are removing complexity from IT. Not really. And actually not even close. Complexity is the driver that feeds the growing managed service provider business. Therefore, organizations turn to companies like Connectria so they can utilize technology without worrying about the underlying components that make it work.
According to Waidmann, about 15 percent of Connectria’s IBM i business involves full systems dedicated to a single customer. That leaves 85 percent that are shopping for a slice of one of Connectria’s Power 720s. He estimates 40 to 50 percent of the IBM i shops that reach out to Connectria want to bring more than just the i infrastructure to the cloud. In those instances, there will also be some AIX, Windows, Linux, and VM environments.
So although the Power 720 box has been the most popular choice for managed service providers, Waidmann says the PureFlex modular system–which integrates servers, storage, and networking under a single management framework–is gaining a presence in Connectria data centers.
It becomes a better choice than a bunch of smaller Power 720 machines if 20 new customers are signing contracts each month, Waidmann says. A PureFlex “starter kit” costs at least $250,000.
Connectria won an IBM Beacon Award earlier this year for the delivery of a HIPAA-compliant private cloud based upon the PureSystems platform. The system allowed the company, BioScrip, to consolidate more than 300 systems on a single platform located in the Connectria data center and managed by Connectria. A secondary system, at the BioScrip location, serves as a disaster recovery backup.
Approximately 80 percent of Connectria’s customers reside in North America. Within the IBM i customer base, the percentage is above 90 percent. Connectria has a data center in Philadelphia; two are located in St. Louis, and one in Dallas.
Connectria expects to grow its managed services business regardless of whether the physical infrastructure resides at the customers’ sites or in the Connectria data centers.