IBM i Clouds Proliferating At Rapid Clip
October 2, 2019 Alex Woodie
Summer has come to a close, but what a season it was for cloud computing and IBM i. We had two major public cloud vendors, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure, delivering IBM i on Power Systems (although Azure’s IBM i service is delivered via Skytap), adding to IBM’s service, which was unveiled earlier in the year. But how much better will it get?
IBM i customers who were frustrated at the lack of public IBM i cloud options a year ago now have three to choose from. In early September, Skytap and Microsoft Azure publicly announced their joint offering to provide IBM i, AIX, and Linux infrastructure as a service (IaaS). The service, which actually became available earlier in the year, is based on Power 922 servers, which is the go-to server for IBM i cloud providers.
Two weeks ago, we told you about IBM Power Systems for Google Cloud, a joint offering that has IBM staff running Power Systems environments (IBM i, AIX, and Linux) in a single Google Cloud data centers on the East Coast. The offering was officially (although quietly) unveiled in April at a Google tech conference.
The year’s first public cloud announcement involving IBM i was made in February, when IBM finally brought IBM i to its public cloud. The offering, which based on the Power 922 server, provides customers with a range of configurability for RAM and storage. It was slated to be rolled out first in IBM’s U.S. East (Washington D.C.) and U.S. South (Dallas) regions, with plans to support it in EU Central (Frankfurt) by the start of summer.
Obviously, we have yet to hear any indication that the third major public cloud vendor, Amazon Web Services, by far the biggest public cloud, is close to rolling out an IBM i IaaS offering. AWS runs millions of servers in hundreds of data centers around the world, and is fast becoming a dominant force in business computing. But chances are, it’s just a matter of time before AWS gets hip to the IBM i gig.
“We partnered with Google because Google wanted to partner with us and Amazon didn’t want to partner with us,” IBM i Chief Architect Steve Will said during a panel discussion at the inaugural POWERUp conference in San Antonio, Texas, in June 2018. “So hey Google is going to succeed with Power. Now I have Amazon calling, asking us.”
IBM i customers could be the big winners with all these IaaS offerings running on public clouds. If the X86 IaaS business is any indication, as the number of IBM i customers running in IaaS mode goes up, the costs should come down, due to the public cloud’s advantages around scalability and operational efficiency.
We’re at the early stages of public cloud IaaS adoption in the IBM i world, and it’s unclear if customers are benefitting from cost savings yet. There aren’t many — if any — solid reports of IBM i shops running large production workloads on public clouds at this point. Just as IBM i customers did with private clouds and managed service providers (MSPs), they tend to start with development, test, backup, and high availability environments.
IBM i shops that are looking at their cloud options right now — and by all indications, many are — should not be in a hurry to jump to public cloud. There are many companies offering IBM i in private clouds and MSP setups, and many of these companies have decades of experience running IBM i systems.
Connectria, for example, has many IBM i customers running in its private cloud. The St. Louis, Missouri, company has co-located its Power Systems servers close to AWS and Azure data centers, which enables its IBM i and AIX customers to benefit from fast network access and low latency to their public cloud assets.
There are dozens of MSPs and private cloud providers servicing the IBM i community, although few of them are as large as Connectria.
As the cloud expands, we’re seeing new business models emerge. For example, IBM i ERP provider Software Concepts last month announced that it has launched a cloud service for IBM i developers to create and test their new programs. For $128 per month, the customers can get an IBM i logical partition (LPAR) with 480 CPW of processing power, 2GB of memory, 500GB of storage, a Cisco firewall and two static public IP addresses. The offering, which Software Concepts president Stephen Cataldo says is hosted on a public cloud, includes IBM software subscription, and access to basic developer tools.
As IBM i shops become more familiar with the public and private cloud options available to them, usage of these services will increase, which in turn will spur richer options with better capabilities and, of course, better pricing. The future looks bright for IBM i clouds.