Instana Brings Observability to IBM i Applications
April 6, 2022 Alex Woodie
It can be hard to figure out what’s causing application performance problems in the modern cloud- and microservices-based era. One possible solution that IBM i shops may look to is IBM Observability by Instana APM, an application performance management solution that now supports IBM i.
Instana was founded in 2015 with the goal of providing observability into a new generation of applications that are cloud-native, which typically means that they run in a containerized fashion (often atop Kubernetes), and communicate using microservices. IBM announced its intent to acquire the Chicago-based company in November 2020, and completed the deal about a month later.
The deal made sense for Big Blue, particularly following its Red Hat acquisition and embrace of OpenShift and Kubernetes, as it brought IBM the type of sophisticated, AI-powered insight required to pinpoint application performance problems in cloud native applications. While containers hide a lot of complexity from operators and administrators, they add a lot of complexity for folks tasked with finding and fixing performance issues, hence the need for a new generation of AI-powered APM tools.
Containers and IBM i are like oil and water at this point, and there’s no indication that Docker or Kubernetes will be introduced to the platform any time soon. But that doesn’t mean that IBM i servers, applications, and data do not interact with containerized applications running atop RedShift or any other Kubernetes distribution.
When trying to track down issues spanning multiple applications, databases, systems, and platforms, it helps to have your APM tool support all of the relevant platforms. That is the most likely explanation for why IBM added support for IBM i with the delivery of version 1.0.197 last June.
From the looks of it, the support for IBM i in the Instana tool is quite extensive. According to this blog post, Instana supports not only operating system-related metrics, but also database-specific metrics related to IBM i servers.
“The monitored IBM i instance will be displayed as a tower on your Infrastructure Map, and the Db2 on i will be presented as a running process within the tower,” Priya Satheesh, the IBM integration executive for Instana, wrote in the blog post. “OS-related metrics are collected from various system tables, and the database-related metrics are collected using the built-in IBM i Collection Services.”
Instana now collects more than 100 IBM i OS-specific metrics, such as CPU rate; average CPU utilization; active jobs; interactive jobs; ASP usage; active threads; spool space; etc. You can see the full list here.
Likewise, it collects dozens of metrics specific to the Db2 for i database, including: number of active queries; logical, synchronous, and asynchronous database reads and writes; plans in SQL plan cache; etc. You can see the full list here.
IBM isn’t always the greatest at supporting its IBM i platform with its various software offerings. But you have to give credit to Big Blue for bringing IBM i support to Instana.
“We wanted an observability tool that was born on cloud, but can also expand all the way to the mainframe,” said Dinesh Nirmal, general manager of IBM Automation. “The huge benefit is it was born on cloud and it [monitor everything] all the way from your public cloud to your mainframe. It gives you complete end-to-end observability of your enterprise.”
While Instana was designed to run in the cloud, it can also be installed behind a firewall, Nirmal said.