Address Those Fears And Move Your IBM i Workloads To The Cloud
August 20, 2018 Clayton Weise
You know the facts. Managing IBM i installations takes specialized skills and knowledge. In fact, many companies keep IBM i experts on staff, even though the amount of IBM i work they have may be sporadic. At the same time, the workforce capable of managing IBM i installations has been shrinking.
For these reasons, and many others, moving IBM i workloads to a cloud environment managed by specialized talent has become an attractive option. The aggravation savings alone can make it worthwhile, and that’s before adding in the other benefits of the cloud, like cost savings, security, and scalability.
Yet, many companies are still reluctant to move — or even touch — their IBM i workloads. Many of these fears are reasonable, but they shouldn’t stop you. Let’s look at a couple of the main things holding companies back before diving into four best practices for getting over those fears and migrating your IBM i instances to the cloud.
Losing Control Of Your IBM i Workloads
In general, IBM i instances are very specialized and likely house some of your company’s most important applications and workloads. Most IBM i instances have also been up and running for a long time.
So, what if you move to the cloud and something happens? This is analogous to some of the general fears companies had when the cloud was initially gaining traction. Back then, for example, people were worried about security, but the cloud has proven to be as secure – likely more secure – than on-premise datacenters.
The same is true for moving IBM i workloads. Yes, it’s scary, but in reality downtime and other “somethings” are actually less likely to happen with a cloud service provider than they are in your datacenter.
Fear Of Upgrading
Just as so many IBM i workloads are business critical, many of them haven’t been touched in years – they just run. There are a staggering number of companies out there running on version IBM i V5R4 that are afraid of what will happen if they try to upgrade as part of moving those workloads to the cloud.
At some level these fears may be a bit irrational. They’re also completely understandable, and grounded in years of tech experience. How do we move past them? As with anything in life, having a distinct plan for migrating your IBM i workloads is the best way to move past the fear and misconceptions, and ensure a successful move.
Here are the best practices for migrating IBM i to the cloud:
Plan for moving to a modern operating system: There’s no way around it, part of migrating IBM i instances to the cloud is upgrading to the latest version. This is for a few reasons, the biggest of which is getting support from manufacturers and third-party software providers. This doesn’t have to be so scary, though. Partnering with a cloud service provider is a good way to make sure you’re comfortable with the plan and execution. The provider can take a backup of your system, test different methods for upgrading and migrating, try to break it, and make sure it runs smoothly once you’re migrating your production environment.
Determine application dependency: One of the most important things on the migration checklist is application dependency. Lots of systems are either homegrown, or have been upgraded and changed so much in an ad hoc fashion, that they may as well be homegrown. For example, just because two companies use Salesforce doesn’t mean they’re exactly the same. Based on customizations, upgrade cycles, and even the reports each company wants to run, the actual implementations can look quite different.
If your company is like most, all these customizations and dependencies aren’t perfectly documented. So, you can’t just pick things up and move to the cloud. You need to know what workloads depend on what others, among other things, before you can move them. In many ways, this is a fringe benefit of cloud migrations: it forces you to document these connections and bring them to light. Again, this is a big benefit that the cloud can offer. Since hosting and migrations are part of their core business, they’ve seen a lot of different environments and a lot of different application dependencies.
Choose a datacenter that works for you: There are a few things to consider when deciding on a cloud provider, one of which is the physical location of your workloads and data. For applications that can’t handle any latency, make sure they’re located close enough to your location that latency won’t be an issue. Make sure the datacenter can accommodate access via VPN, MPLS, SD-WAN or however you connect your offices together.
The bigger question is making sure that a provider can deliver the specific security and compliance features you need. So ask, what are the security procedures and features? If you have any SOC or HIPAA requirements, for example, make sure the provider enables you to stay compliant and can provide you with access to their audit reports.
Consider a partner to help you migrate: It bears repeating that you don’t have to do this alone. Part of the reason for migrating IBM i is so your IT department can focus on your core business, well. The tasks and services mentioned here are the core business of service providers. Sure, maybe if you allocate enough resources and time you can do it just as well without one. The question then becomes, why? A service provider can let you continue to focus on your business, while they take care of the fears and best practices discussed here.
It is understandable why companies are afraid of moving their legacy IBM i workloads to the cloud. Fear of the unknown is a powerful thing. And that fear isn’t unfounded: IBM i workloads tend to be important.
You have to ask the question, though, what is the risk of keeping some of these workloads in house? As IBM i matures – it celebrated its 30th birthday this year – and resources to manage it become more scarce, that risk, and the associated costs, are increasing, making moving those IBM i instances to a cloud service provider a tempting option. Utilizing these best practices will help you get over the fears, and start reaping the benefits that migrating your IBM i workloads to the cloud can provide.
Clayton Weise is the director of cloud services for Key Information Systems, where he is responsible for designing, architecting, and implementing cloud solutions; managing production workloads; and employing cloud resources in disaster recovery, clustering, and hybrid (cloud and on-premises) infrastructure solutions.