LightEdge Shops A “True Cloud” To IBM i Users
January 29, 2018 Dan Burger
IBM i-based cloud computing is not your average everyday IBM i environment. And it’s different from managed services that are sometimes called hosted services. True cloud – a term that’s being used to describe virtualized computing, storage, and networking available with utility-style flexible pricing – is still a rare sight with IBM i. But Roger Mellman knows where you can find one. He built it for LightEdge Solutions, a services provider with an edge on the typical managed service provider.
IBM first approached LightEdge five years ago about building an IBM i-based cloud, Mellman, the director of enterprise solutions at LightEdge, says. Value added resellers (VARs) were alarmed by the decreasing revenue related to hardware sales (some were very dependent on selling Power Systems to IBM i shops) and IBM was interested in keeping its VARs happy and prosperous. Of course, it was also interested in keeping its IBM i customer base, which was seeing some erosion. Big Blue came to LightEdge and asked for an IBM i cloud and a good relationship with the VARs.
The VARs were already hearing customers asking about the cloud. Companies were not ready to jump, but they were asking questions wondering about availability.
“I started going on sales calls with Ciber, an IBM i reseller and technology consulting company, to explain the pros and cons of cloud to IBM i customers,” Mellman says. “The result was often the purchase of an on-premise production system from Ciber, because the customer’s workload and business processes were not cloud ready. But at the same time, the customer often purchased DR from LightEdge.”
Before jumping into a cloud environment, companies should consider which applications and workloads are best suited for the cloud.
Core applications that run on an IBM i production box for years without ever taking down the system aren’t the first things that get moved to a cloud. Custom applications are often difficult to re-architect for the cloud. The first considerations for cloud services are typically things outside the core transactional system. There are also the communications impact to consider and the timeline for getting all your ducks in a row.
Mellman isn’t the only person who’s noticed that Power Systems boxes have been delivering more performance than many small to midsize businesses require. The soon to be released Power9 boxes that run IBM i are expected to deliver close to 20,000 CPW per core. “There’s no box for the small companies anymore. The average customer runs on a single core and only needs 4,000 CPWs to 6,000 CPWs. They need 16 GB to 24 GB of memory and maybe 2 TB of storage,” he says. “The Power9 is built for cloud service providers.”
And, we have pointed out, entirely different markets like HPC and AI that have little to do with IBM i and OLTP.
What is it that cloud service providers (CSPs) like LightEdge provide?
Start with virtualization technology that supports IBM i. It’s seldom recognized or repeated that virtualization technology has been available on Power Systems long before VMware appeared. PowerVM includes the capability to move LPARs from system to system, over the network between physical machines. That capability is referred to as Live Partition Mobility. Combined with Dynamic Logical Partitioning, which allows virtual CPU and memory capacity to be scaled up and down while applications are running in LPARs, and you have the key components to cloud architecture. It’s great as an HA infrastructure. And it also allows a full system saves onto data center, which Mellman notes is a key to right-sizing customer environments into LPARs. The virtualized infrastructure is one of the differentiators that put LightEdge in a different category than MSPs.
Utility pricing, also referred to as consumption-based pricing, is another differentiator. Organizations are able to acquire what they need today and have the flexibility to scale on demand. For instance, they can spin up LPARs for test and development environments and later delete them when no longer needed. And processing power can be added to satisfy peak periods of demand. The capability to deploy fast and flexible infrastructure and have flexible pricing should appeal to many companies, particularly those that are intrigued by the financial benefits of moving IT from a capital expense to an operational expense.
Mellman believes an IT transition is taking place. Part of that transition is due to owners of companies and members of the executive management teams have gone beyond asking about cloud services and have determined the strategic direction of their companies is to consume cloud services. “They are getting away from traditional capital expenses, but it’s also tied to the business need for greater agility. You don’t get agility by buying a box anymore.”
A shortage of skills and applying what skills they have to priority items that directly relate to a company’s core business is another consideration that is getting a closer examination, says LightEdge sales consultant Michael Brisbois.
“Purchasing hardware adds work for the IT staff and overhead cost to the budget. And the conversation these days is about how technology affects the business. Organizations are rethinking the idea that if they do IT in-house, it can be done better. Actually, there’s little chance that a company can buy technology and use it more efficiently than a cloud provider,” Brisbois says.
For the record, LightEdge has datacenters in Des Moines, Iowa; Kansas City, Missouri; and Omaha, Nebraska.