HelpSystems Adds High Availability After Bug Busters Buy
October 11, 2016 Alex Woodie
You can add one more item to the long list of products that HelpSystems offers: high availability software. Following its recent acquisition of Bug Busters Software Engineering, HelpSystems last week unveiled its new Robot HA product, which will be targeted largely at small and medium IBM i shops that haven’t had HA before.
Robot HA is the new name for RSF-HA, the IBM i data mirroring product that Bug Busters launched more than 10 years ago at the bargain-basement price of $1,300. Over the years, Bug Busters president and sole developer Bruce Lesnick expanded upon the core functionality shipped in that first release by adding features like automated role swaps, checkpoint resets, and support for IBM‘s remote journaling (the first versions were based on Bug Busters’ own Remote Software Facility replication method).
It’s no secret that HelpSystems has always wanted a high availability product of its own, says Tom Huntington, vice president of technical services for the Minnesota company. So when Lesnick approached HelpSystems with an offer to sell Bug Busters and RSF-HA, the software giant was interested.
“We did an evaluation of their software and used some third parties to look at it,” HelpSystems CEO Chris Heim says. “They just came away super impressed with everything that was in the product, and the capabilities and the performance. We decided to acquire it, then have spent the last several months putting HelpSystems additional features and polish over the top of the product. That’s why we renamed it Robot HA.”
As a one-man band, Lesnick managed to not only write a full-fledged HA package, but to provide technical support for RSF-HA customers around the globe. “It definitely wasn’t backed by a huge company,” Heim says. “They did a great job, and they had a couple hundred customers running it. We were impressed with that.”
The technical underpinnings of RSF-HA are solid, Huntington says. The core product was very strong as is,” he says. “It’s a complete product in terms of what it replicates, in terms of library objects, data files, data queues, data areas, the IFS type files. And it syncs the program objects and others that aren’t handled by remote journaling.”
With the release of Robot HA version 12.0, the company has bolstered the software with several features, including stronger commitment control, some performance enhancements, templates to streamline implementation, and the capability to create replication groups.
HelpSystems is also touting the product’s capability to simulate role swaps. “We have the ability to do a test-while-active, so you can leave your production users as is, do a test while active on the targeted server, and have users modify data or review data to make sure that everything’s in sync before you go to a role swap, which we clearly expect customer to get to over time,” Huntington says.
About half of the IBM i installed base doesn’t have high availability software, according to HelpSytems market report. That’s a sizable opportunity that HelpSystems will now be addressing with Robot HA.
“We looked at the market and said there’s a lot of great vendors serving the space, including IBM Power HA and Vision Solutions,” Heim says. “But if you look at the low end of the market, people who wanted a simple straightforward affordable solution, we thought that was where there was an opportunity, and that’s where we’re focused. We want to market to customers who are looking for simpler, easier to use solutions.”
Looking forward, the company is considering adding a GUI to Robot HA, which currently sports only a 5250 interface. The product is already integrated with other HelpSystems products that do offer a GUI, such as Robot Monitor and the Halcyon monitoring tool. The company may also look at potential options for cloud deployments, but that is another discussion for another day.
Customers can expect a price hike compared to the last release of RSF-HA. That’s mostly due to the extensive technical support that HelpSystems can offer from offices in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia.