A New Era of IBM i Starts Now

the new era of IBM iIBM i and its predecessor the AS/400 have always been known for reliability, integration, dependability, ease of use, and of course full functionality. To this end, most of the systems even today are sold with internal storage.  It’s just another piece of the IBM i integration puzzle.  From the setup, to the administration, to the day to day use of the storage is so easy with internal disk.  Yet, the industry is changing.  External storage and specifically Storage Area Networks (SANs) are one of the hottest topics in IT today.  Why, I believe part of it has to do with virtualization, and the other part is cost.

If every server (Power, Windows, Linux, etc.) or partition has its own independent storage, then I have to manage all the storage independently.  This increases our administrative costs, as well as the skills required to manage our storage. In addition, if one system is using 20% of its storage, and another system is using 98% of its storage, it is usually not possible to move the storage from one server to the other.   This is where virtualization plays a key part to drive down our administrative costs and acquisition costs, but can increase the skills required to manage the new virtualization.  On the IBM Power platform, we have VIO Server (You might hear this called VIOS or Virtual I/O Server) to help with storage virtualization.  VIO Server is extremely powerful when it comes to virtualizing storage and networking, but it does require some additional skills that most IBM i shops don’t have, since VIO Server is a subset of IBM’s AIX operating system.  VIO Server can connect to almost any external storage.  This is probably its biggest virtualization benefit.  So, you may be wondering why IBM i can’t connect to everything.  IBM i uses 520 byte sectors for disk, and the industry uses 512 byte disk sectors.  Most SANs use 512 byte sectors, which provides difficulty for IBM i to connect to.  Although, you can connect VIO Server to the storage, and then let VIO Server virtualize the storage to IBM i.  This works great, but again you have to have VIO Server skills.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was an IBM i like Storage Area Network. One that was easy to use, easy to administer, competitively priced, had a great GUI front end, and connected to IBM i directly.  Well, up until last week I would have said that the IBM Storwize V7000 was all that, except you had to have VIO Server host the storage to IBM i.  As of today, the IBM i can directly attach to the IBM Storwize V7000 and its lower priced brother the Storwize V3700, and this is great news for IBM i.  It’s the best of two worlds coming together.

The V7000 is enterprise class storage at an affordable price that is ease to use and manage.  It has a remarkably easy to use GUI interface that is intuitive and almost self-guiding.  Each time I have used the GUI I am just amazed at the graphics.  The V7000 uses the same code that you will find in many of the IBM SANs, such as the SAN Volume Controller (SVC), and includes so many enterprise class options enabled.  By the way, if you have ever looked at PureFlex system, it also comes with an integrated V7000 for storage.  Some of the features includes with the Storwize V7000 are:

  • Thin Provisioning – storage is not allocated until data is written
  • Full Copy of volumes and space efficient snapshot offloads CPU resources from Hypervisor hosts
  • Easy Tier™ – automated tiering between SSD and HDD storage
  • Real-Time Compression – Automatically compress data with no performance impact.
  • Remote Mirroring – with Global and Metro Mirror.
  • Non-Disruptive data migration within and between internal and external storage

The Storwize V7000 Unified allows you to use this storage for both your block (IBM i & AIX) and file (Windows) capabilities. It has support for NFS/CIFS/FTP/HTTPS/SCP file protocols in addition to existing block protocols (iSCSI and FCP). There is file replication and snapshots for business continuity and disaster recovery in addition to existing block functions.

I believe we will see a new era starting right now in midrange disk with the ability of IBM i to directly attach to the IBM Storwize V7000 & V3700.  IBM i will be able to connect via a Fibre Channel Adapter over Fabric (via a Fibre Switch) or directly using a Fibre card. I see many new Power Systems running IBM i having a V7000 or V3700 to handle the needs of its storage, and the storage for the rest of the enterprise. I know this is what many of iTech Solutions customers will be requiring over the next few years as we work together to drive down their costs of storage acquisition, and allow for easier storage management all from a single interface.

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IBM i OS System Upgrades

RelaxAn upgrade to your current IBM i (OS/400 or i5/OS) operating system is something you’ve been putting off for quite some time. Can you afford to keep waiting? IBM already made the answer pretty clear by announcing that it will discontinue its support for V5R4 in six months. As we mentioned in our February newsletter after September 30, 2013, if you are running on V5R4 you will have no support from IBM, as you will be on an unsupported operating system.

Six months is all that stands between either having the latest IBM features or being locked into a costly system that will become obsolete.

What’s holding you back? For a large number of organizations, they are simply not ready for the time and financial commitment required for such an endeavor. Back in 2010, when IBM was contemplating pulling the plug on V5R4, the main issue businesses confronted was the recession. Budgets were leaner and tighter than ever. Today, the economy is on a slight uptick, but clearly, budget constraints are still a source of contention.

In an article that iProDeveloper published, they also highlighted other areas of concern:

  • Migrating directly from V5R4 to 7.1 (before 6.1) when 7.1 hasn’t reached maturity
  • Having extended support for older systems yet prolonging the move to 6.1
  • Missing out on the benefits of a newer kit around performance cost of ownership

The good news is that both 6.1 and 7.1 upgrades are primed and ready. IBM is certainly nudging IBM i users in that direction with their February Technology Refresh 6 release.

More good news: iTech Solutions can handle your system upgrade without putting a major dent in your budget or workflow. Our plan will enable you to upgrade to 6.1 or 7.1 seamlessly, affordably, and painlessly. Moreover, we can handle the entire upgrade process—from investigation, planning, and implementation—within the six month timeframe you are starring at. In addition, if you would like to run your applications on another machine at 6.1 or 7.1 to further test before your actual upgrade, we can provide you with a longer machine.

So there you have it. Beginning the upgrade process today will help you steer clear of added costs in the long run. iTech Solutions can help you take the first step. Contact us today to learn more!

Build your IBM i Strategic Roadmap from the Ground Up

RoadmapTrust is a hard thing to come by in any walk of life, especially when business is on the line. You wouldn’t trust just anyone with the responsibility of managing your critical IT systems, would you? A large number of organizations are faced with that very prospect. It’s either a case of handling everything on their own or reluctantly passing the keys over to someone else.

At iTech Solutions, we like to think of ourselves as a happy medium. We are fully capable of providing hands-on management support for all of your IT needs—with IBM i (AS/400, iSeries) support being front and center. We can design and configure specific IBM i upgrades, installations, and cloud migration projects. We can also take a step back and help you develop a long-term, IBM i strategic roadmap.

iTech Solutions understands  that you might desire your own in-house team to handle these odds and ends. However, when money, time, and resources are limited, we can fill the gaps. Why struggle for weeks on end with an upgrade project when we can take care of it in just two or three days?

No matter what, trust isn’t something you’ll have to worry about with iTech Solutions. We strive to be your partner throughout the process. Our goal is your goal, and vice versa. Ultimately, we want to help you gain the best i experience possible.

When it comes to IBM i, there really is no shortage of skills and devotion that we bring to the table. IBM i is in our DNA. We have an entire staff that has been trained and certified in IBM i best practices. Moreover, we want to pass our knowledge on to you through further training and technical support.

It’s all up to you. Whatever you need—from implementation and beyond—we can make it happen.  For more information about how we can deliver the IBM i support you need to boost your business, contact our team today!

Remote System Monitoring: The Smarter Way to Prevent Downtime

We’re going to go out on a limb here and guess that of all the activities that keep your IT staff busy, putting out fires is at the top of the list.

After all, when business systems go down, so does the business. In fact, even a relatively brief server outage can mean missed connections and lost opportunities – both of which translate to lower revenue.

When CA Technologies ran a study to measure the impact of downtime, they found that this dreaded problem costs North American businesses $26.5 billion per year. And according to the research, small businesses suffer more than any other market segment in terms of lost sales.remote-system-monitoring-connecticut

As CA Technologies found, businesses that experience major downtime struggle to maintain productivity as they scramble to recover lost data and repair the damage. The typical approach is to throw as much IT staff as possible at the problem and hope that customers, suppliers, and partners are understanding about the inevitable delays and miscommunications.

Wouldn’t it be easier just to prevent these incidents in the first place?

Why You Should Consider Remote System Monitoring

There’s a reliable way to prevent the most common IT problems. The best IT support partners now offer remote system monitoring services.

With remote system monitoring, you have a team of experts that are on your system and on your team, with the experience to prevent problems before they happen.

As your business users work, your IT partner can see where problems may be brewing behind the scenes. They can then take steps to intervene and correct issues before they result in system downtime.

With remote system monitoring, you can:

  • Get more value out of your IT investments. Let’s face it: your hardware and software are worthless when they’re not working. More uptime means greater payback on your capital expenditures.
  • Make life easier for your IT team. As they watch your system, your IT partner will be able to intervene in many situations without even needing to notify your IT staff.
  • Focus on strategic IT. Your in-house IT experts deliver the most value when they’re coming up with new ways to increase the productivity of your entire workforce. The more you have to pull them off these projects to get your system back up and running, the longer it will be before the truly strategic projects benefit your company.
  • Enhance your IT budgeting. System downtime is costly not only in terms of lost revenue, but also in terms of funding data recovery and other “cleanup” activities. Preventing downtime means avoiding these unexpected IT expenses. That means you can devote more budget to the areas that really matter.

Your Healthier Infrastructure Can Start Today
Getting up and running with remote system monitoring is surprisingly quick and easy. It’s also one of the best decisions you can make for the long-term health of your IT infrastructure. To learn how iTech Solutions’ remote monitoring services can help you get more from your network, call us today at (203) 744-7854. Or email us at info@itechsol.com

Are your IBMi systems running at optimal performance? Find out with our IBM i Health Check.

 

Expand Your IT Talent Without Adding IT Headcount

IBM System i Support Strategies

When you stop and think about it, adding more IT talent to your staff is easy.

You post ads on all the major IT job websites. You get the word out in your social networks that you’re hiring in IT.

You collect, review, and categorize the hundreds of resumes that come in. You hold several rounds of interviews and hire the most qualified people. And then you set them up in your payroll system, give them network credentials, and let them loose on your IT infrastructure.system-i-support-ct

It’s that simple – as long as you have unlimited financial resources.

But we’re assuming you don’t. So we’re suggesting an alternative approach.

The Value of a Good IT Partner
If money were no object, you would build an in-house IT staff that could handle any issue. You’d find the most experienced professionals for each type of technology in your server room and make it worth their while to stay with your company for as long as you needed them. You’d create a team of experts, with knowledge, experience, and know-how.

But this approach isn’t realistic for small and midsized businesses (and let’s face it – even many Fortune 500 companies are tightening their belts these days).

What if you could get access to a high level of IT expertise without having to commit to paying annual salaries and providing benefits packages? You can if you find the right IT tech support partner.

The best IT consulting firms are totally focused on supporting their clients’ implementations of today’s leading technologies, such as IBM i (System i, AS/400, iSeries) servers. They retain a staff of industry veterans who have worked with the same technology for at least 15 to 20 years. And they’re willing to hire out these professionals to you on an hourly or per-project basis.

That means you can get the technical savvy, project-planning insight, and hands-on experience you need, when you need it. You’ll pay only for the resources you use. And you won’t have to make a long-term financial commitment in the process.

Four More Benefits of Your Partnership
The advantages of working with a reliable technical support partner are many. Your partner can help you:

  • Get access to a higher level of IT expertise. Ever wondered where all the good IT help has gone? Many of the most skilled professionals are working for technology consulting firms. These experts would be too expensive to add to your full-time staff – but if you only need them for a few hours per month, they’re actually quite affordable.
  • Ramp up your IT staff during peak periods. Ever been in a situation where you expect your IT workload to double over the next two months? Asking your IT consulting partner to send you a few experienced technicians on a two-month contract can be a cost-effective way to meet the demand.
  • Fill IT skill gaps. Some IT teams have put together a strong group of database gurus or RPG programmers, but they’re a little weak in system administration. By working with an IT partner, you can bring in experienced system admins as needed.
  • Educate your junior IT staff. There’s something to be said for sending your IT staff to training – but there’s also much they can learn by working alongside the credentialed and certified IT professionals provided by your technical support partner. You can’t put a price on the kind of skills transfer that will occur during every day of even a short project.

Don’t go it alone in IT. Your business systems are too important not to have the “best of the best” working to improve your IBM i infrastructure. To find out more, email iTech Solutions at info@itechsol.com, call us at (203) 744-7854, or take the first step with our IBM i Health Check. For all of your System i support needs in Connecticut contact iTech Solutions.

 

IBM AS/400 and iSeries Users: Make Your Business Case for a Server Upgrade

Server UpgradeIf you’re making IT decisions for a smaller company that still uses IBM AS/400 servers, then it has probably crossed your mind that you could benefit from an upgrade to the newer IBM System i or IBM Power Systems servers.

Easier said than done, of course. In a tight global economy, it’s often tough to pry loose the budget you need for a major hardware upgrade. If you’re going to ask for servers that cost around $30,000 a piece, you’d better have a convincing business case that hits on a wide range of benefits.

With that in mind, we’d like to share a few thoughts.

Four Ways to Save with IBM System i

As you prepare your business case for a server upgrade, keep in mind that after you go live on new IBM servers, you can easily recoup tens of thousands of dollars in savings. How? In the form of power savings, greater processing speed, reduced hardware maintenance, and eliminated downtime.

Let’s explore each of these areas:

  • Power savings. This one is simple: newer servers are specifically designed to consume less electricity while delivering more processing power. They also generate less heat, which means lower air conditioning costs in your server room or data center. These costs are fairly easy to quantify.
  • Processing speed. It’s not easy to put a dollar figure on the benefit of having new servers that run faster. But think of it this way: when you’re getting 5 to 10 times the processing speed from all your servers, the productivity effects will trickle down throughout your organization. Newer servers offer much greater commercial processing workload (CPW) per dollar. When user queries are completed in one-tenth the usual time and reports end up in stakeholders’ hands sooner, they can make decisions more quickly, reducing the time for the month-end close so that everyone in the company has the numbers earlier. Everyone from accountants to manufacturing managers to distribution coordinators will be able to access information more quickly and run reports faster. These benefits will pay out all day, every day.
  • Hardware maintenance. Think of old servers like old cars. Your 1982 Subaru may still start every time you turn the key, in spite of the 300,000 miles you’ve put on it. But when you bring it in for repairs, you’re not looking at little tweaks – you’re looking at complicated and expensive overhauls that probably involve hard-to-find parts installed by specialized, highly experienced mechanics. Servers are the same way. The older they are, the harder (and more expensive) they can be to fix.
  • Downtime. Old servers often have a shorter mean time to failure, which can lead to lost productivity for your workforce. Because aging servers can’t run the newest version of each operating system, they won’t be able to deliver the latest features and functions your business users crave. And don’t forget that older machines also require more scheduled downtime for repairs, which further disturbs business processes.

Request Your Free Server Upgrade Consultation

Even after you’ve received the budget approval you wanted, you won’t be out of the woods. Many companies – especially on the smaller end of the spectrum – lack the time and specialized skills to pull off an upgrade.

At iTech Solutions, our team of IT experts deals with the unique challenges of upgrades and migrations every day. Before we start each project, we’ll take the time to consult with you and build a deep understanding of your account. And at the end of each project, we thoroughly test every aspect of your installation, providing whatever test hardware you need to make sure machines are talking to each other and data backups are working as planned. We can even upgrade your operating systems as part of the process. (And did I mention that we can also offer you project financing through IBM?)

What does this mean for your organization? A smoother experience for your end users, and more peace of mind for your IT staff. To request your free upgrade consultation, please call us at (203) 744-7854. Or email us at info@itechsol.com.

Are your IBMi systems running at optimal performance? Find out with our IBMi Health Check.