Vision Bolsters Entry-Level HA With iTERA 6.2
August 22, 2016 Alex Woodie
Small and midsize IBM i shops that are looking to adopt a high availability (HA) solution to protect their businesses from downtime have a lot of options available to them these days, including cloud solutions and hardware-based offerings from IBM. SMBs looking for in-house logical replication solutions will eventually call on Vision Solutions, which recently added some enterprise-level features to its entry-level solution with the launch of iTERA Availability version 6.2.
It’s a great time to adopt HA for IBM i shops. The combination of dropping hardware and software costs, higher levels of affordable network bandwidth, and the rising cost of downtime are helping customers of all sizes to justify the additional complexity and expense that an HA setup necessitates. While most large companies in regulated industries have already adopted HA, there’s a long tail of smaller shops for whom HA has traditionally been to of reach. That is now changing.
Vision Solutions is the largest provider of IBM i-based HA software. The company develops and sells two main IBM i HA product lines, including MIMIX Availability, which is based on the technology it acquired from Lakeview Technology in 2007, and iTERA Availability, which it acquired from iTera in 2006 . Both of the products share core technological elements, including the underlying remote journaling-based replication engine. But the greater capability for customers to tune MIMIX makes it a better fit for bigger shops. (MIMIX also offers a GUI console, which is handy for managing complex environments, while iTera offers only a green-screen interface.)
The Irvine, California-based company recently completed its first major release of iTERA in nearly four years. IT Jungle caught up with Vision’s senior manager of product strategy, Becky Hjellming, to get the low-down on 6.2.
There are three main areas of enhancement in iTERA Availability 6.2, Hjellming says, including usability, replication and auditing, and role-swaps. You can read about these enhancements below:
On the usability front, iTERA customers will benefit from the new capability to export replication statistics to an external product, such as Excel or an analytics tool. The data can be exported as an outfile or as a comma delimited file.
The idea is to help customers spot problems in replication, Hjellming says. “They can understand if there’s any replication backlog being created or spikiness during particular time of day,” she says. “They’re mostly looking for that sort of stuff.”
Vision has also bolstered its license key program in response to customer demands. With iTERA 6.2, it’s a simple matter to request, retrieve, and refresh the license key from within the HA software. This is important because sometimes customer need to refresh their license keys outside of the normal maintenance windows for the HA software, often due to a server upgrade or a serial number change, Hjellming says.
iTERA customers are now able to customize important aspects of role swaps with this release. In previous releases, for example, the HA software would automatically begin replicating data across the wire upon the completion of an initial role swap (from production to backup) or upon a second role swap (moving back to the production machine).
Now, the iTERA software can be configured to wait for the administrator to tell it to resume replication. “In the past it would [automatically begin],” Hjellming says. “People would ask for the ability to have control over exactly what that timing looked like.”
A few years back, Vision added a new feature to MIMIX that bolstered the audit process, which is a critical process all HA products use to ensure that files are property synchronized between source and target machines. The feature allowed the MIMIX audit functionality to skip individual DB2 files that hadn’t changed since the last audit, which bolstered performance.
“That was something that was so beneficial to our MIMIX customer that we wanted to make it available to iTERA customers as well,” Hjellming says. “It can significantly decrease the time that’s required for audit and increase the efficiency. We had one customer in Nordics who actually dropped their audit time by 75 per. They didn’t have a highly active environment where everything was changing every day.”
But not all critical data is stored in DB2 files. In the IBM i environment, many shops are increasingly using the IFS to store important information. With iTERA 6.2, Vision has bolstered IFS replication by enabling the product to automatically restart IFS replication jobs if the jobs stop for some reason.
That can save an IBM i shop hours, Hjellming says. “It’s great for somebody with a really large IFS environment,” she says. “If they ever had subsystem stop for some reasons, they can now pick up and just finish it, as opposed to re-starting at the beginning.”
Role Swap Confidence
Vision bolstered the all-important role-swap in other ways, besides the ones mentioned above under the “usability” banner. According to Hjellming, Vision did “a whole cluster of things” to provide more automation in role-swaps.
“We did things around automatic repairing of any issues we found in journaling or database relationships,” she says. “We have a large, robust, and extensive set of audits that are reporting on the target data. So if we found journaling or database issues, things we might previously have warned on and left the administrator to go in and correct, we’re now doing automatic repair on a number of issues.”
Last but not least, iTERA Availability 6.2 adds support for IBM i 7.3. The company is currently planning for the next major release, which is slated for the 2018-19 timeframe. For more info, you can watch a tour of the 6.2 features on the Vision website.