Can You Get There From Here? The Road to the Cloud
August 31, 2020 Pete Czornohus
(Sponsored Content) The Connectria team presents a three-part series addressing concerns IBM users have about the platform and its future. Part One: System and remote administration.
Digital transformation, modernization, application agility, blah, blah, blah.
While esoteric buzzwords seem endemic of our times (see what I did there?), we’re all tired of them. Digital transformation is more than a trending buzzword or common phrase. It’s a lengthy and involved process. Before getting started down that road, ask yourself these questions: How old are your applications? Are they older than your kids? How about older than your married kids? Has your application outlived your application support? Is your aging application the Choice of a New Generation? Probably not.
IBM’s Power Systems are the gold standard in platforms for mission-critical business systems. They continue to play a foundational role in many enterprise IT departments around the world. However, if 2020 has taught us anything, it is that things change. And things are changing rapidly.
Does your CIO and CEO look down their noses at the Power System and forget that 90+ percent (in many cases 100 percent) of the most vital transactions of your business run through that box? Are they constantly talking buzzword bingo about the Cloud, Hyperconverged Infrastructure, Artificial Intelligence, IoT, or Mobile First? Do they think they need to move off the IBM i platform because it’s a boat anchor?
Interestingly enough, a boat’s anchor is what keeps an entire ship grounded rather than drifting off to sea. . . but I digress. Do they think their only option is sunsetting the platform? Refactoring, replatforming, rewriting, re…whathaveyou.
And even if you have a CIO or CEO with a few greys on their temples, do they understand the value of the platform? Maybe you even have a good plan to cover the eventual retirement(s) of your aging resources. Is the data you’ve been nurturing all these years, the lifeblood of your organization, as safe as it was in 1989? 1999? 2009?
Security threats are varied and rampant. Can you defend yourself if it happens to you? What about network attacks? What about attacks from the inside? Is your data secure? Do you have proper auditing and reporting? Is it backed up properly? Have you tested to ensure restores are 100 percent accurate, if they are ever needed? Do some users have more access than they really need? Do you have a sound DR strategy? Have you tested it? Have you quantified how much an outage would cost you for an hour, or a day, or (god forbid) a week? Would you survive as a business?
As the managers of one of the world’s largest IBM i footprint, we’re constantly asking ourselves these same questions. We have to. And you have to. The longevity and security of IBM workloads is dependent on having the expertise in managing, securing, and effectively future-proofing your IBM i systems. So, let’s have an honest discussion about those areas and how it impacts companies that rely on IBM i; including us.
First, let’s talk about resources, and that starts with your most important resource, your system admin. IBM opened their first data processing (hosting) center 65 years ago. Coincidentally, that’s about the average age of retirement in the United States. Candidly discussing future retirement plans with your system administrator is important because without this conversation, your team and your mission-critical systems are left in a compromising position. “Even in the best-case scenario where your retiring admin gives substantial notice, replacing them is no easy feat. Especially, when that employee was responsible for your company’s mission-critical systems. If you’re outside the reach of a major city, your replacement just became next to impossible,” says David Wiseman, Connectria vice president of solutions architecture.
Do you have process documentation? Runbooks? Monitoring? Troubleshooting, remediation, and escalation trees? How will you train your next administrator?
Rather than worrying about a replacement, a better option to support your systems and workloads is expert 24/7 third-party remote support. Remote support can be in the form of Remote Monitoring and/or Remote Administration. This type of service enables your system admin and IT team to spend their time focusing on more strategic initiatives and other projects that matter more for your organization. This in turn, also puts you in a better position for the inevitable retirement moment acting as a small step towards digital transformation without a significant disruption to any of your processes.
Oftentimes, remote monitoring adequately provides advanced warning to detect problems and address them in a timely fashion. Companies that are experts at remote monitoring also have the wherewithal to do troubleshooting when things go awry and if they can’t solve the problem can do proper escalation, as your company defines it, to the developer, engineers, or third-party application providers who can do deeper triage. No more carrying beepers or text messages at 2 AM for simple issues. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Remote administration is more comprehensive and can include change management, PTF applications, O/S upgrades, troubleshooting, vendor management, etc. Whereas remote monitoring simply alerts your IT team to a potential problem, a remote administrative solution is more like an extension of your team. By implementing remote administration, you can free up strategic time for projects and let an organization, like Connectria, handle the meat and potatoes, the day-to-day, the general housekeeping.
Connectria is in a unique position to help organizations stay on the platform. We’ve had to address the same issues as you. It’s tough to find experienced IBM i admins and engineers. Because of that, we recruit employees from colleges and trade schools and teach them IBM i technology. Why? Because it’s as important to us as it is to our customers. Back in 1998, our first hosting customer environment was an IBM environment. We’ve been supporting and promoting the platform ever since.
“What Connectria does is agnostic, regardless of where you’re at and where you want to be,” says Jeff Swartz, Connectria regional director. While we’re equally as passionate about embracing cloud technologies, we continue to recognize the reliability of Power Systems machines. That’s why we’re here. Whether you need help extending and securing the life of IBM workloads, migrating to the cloud, or managing public or private cloud environments, Connectria and our partners have the skills and the teams to help.
Power Systems excel at running mission critical applications. With decades of code modifications and customizations, done to fit the needs of the business, it’s not an easy platform to move away from. These applications present a variety of intimidating challenges that Connectria can help address. We’ve developed our business relationships to preserve the platform. We safeguard this technology for you as much as protecting it for our future, doing all we can to promote the longevity and stability of the platform and keep it relevant. We know that the decision to move or stay is not a trivial one, or one that should be taken lightly. We’re simply here to share our thoughts in the hopes that it helps your team make strategic decisions about the future of your mission-critical systems.
Pete Czornohus is regional director at Connectria Hosting. Czornohus started his career in 1983 as a systems admin and RPG programmer on a System/34 and progressed to working on System/36s and AS/400s. He also spent 10 years at IBM in Consulting, Hosting, and Cloud Computing before coming to Connectria in 2011. He currently specializes in helping clients move their existing IBM i infrastructures to the cloud.