Companies Are Taking a Fresh Approach to Private Cloud
Meet the IBM Power Systems innovators who are helping their organizations succeed.
By Brett Martin11/01/2018
Businesses turn to the cloud for myriad reasons. Chief among them are accelerating and streamlining processes in environments such as the IBM Power Systems* platform, which enable increased speed of execution, agility for applications and better cost efficiency.
“Organizations are concerned about time to market and how long it’s going to take to get IT services in support of new marketing programs, promotions, or other lines of business projects that will access business critical data on their Power Systems,” says Alise Spence, senior offering manager for Power Systems, IBM. “Being able to execute quickly, improve time to value, and ultimately improve competitiveness by being able to deliver applications faster is why clients like our private cloud.”
Cloud capabilities benefit a Power Systems environment by introducing self-service and automatic deployment for large, popular environments like Oracle, SAP and Db2*. This helps database administrators quickly spin up environments without having to wait or request a new infrastructure.
“There are fundamental efficiencies of private cloud that benefit the IT teams tasked with managing the enterprise infrastructure, including virtualization, optimized placement of workloads, automation and insight into system utilization,” Spence says. “Private cloud also provides on-demand self-service for all—whether it be developers, test teams, application end users, or business partners—providing automatic deployment of services for all of the various roles within the organization.”
Solving Challenges With IBM Cloud Private
IBM Cloud* Private is a platform that enables organizations to provide tools for rapid application development, testing, deployment and management for cloud native applications. It’s built on Docker containers, leverages the container orchestrator Kubernetes, and uses open-source technologies such as Helm, Terraform, Nagios and more.
“Kubernetes is becoming the preferred management tool for containers. It wasn’t always the most common platform, but we were one of the first to standardize on it from a private cloud standpoint. Kubernetes is now the industry darling for container management,” Spence says. “We’re also using many other open-source tools to support monitoring, logging capabilities and management of the platform. It’s the best of both worlds because we provide the benefits of rapid innovation from the open-source community with automated installation, integration and enterprise-grade support from IBM solutions.”
Petra Bührer, offering manager, Power Systems Software, IBM, agrees. Various options to run Power Systems as a private cloud are available, such as using PowerVC* to manage a private cloud infrastructure, provide capabilities, facilitate hybrid cloud deployments and enable multicloud environments. Clients can deploy IBM Cloud Private with PowerVC to manage their cloud applications, thereby exploiting both containers and VMs.
“The benefit here is that PowerVC and the Power Systems software stack are built for each other and are deeply integrated,” she says. “Thus, IBM Cloud Private can take advantage of the unique aspects of IBM Power Systems such as performance, availability, scalability and security.”
Clients have infrastructure choices for their cloud environments, enabling them to run traditional workloads side-by-side with modern data platform workloads and leverage a multi-architecture environment.
“The uniqueness is the openness and the interoperability. There’s no vendor lock-in,” Bührer says. “You can bridge to public clouds and thus establish hybrid cloud scenarios while protecting and running your ‘crown jewels’ on Power Systems on-prem with its outstanding RAS capabilities. In addition, clients can integrate these types of traditional workloads running within AIX* or IBM i VMs with IBM Cloud Private containerized solutions leveraging APIs. If clients prefer, IBM Cloud Automation Manager on IBM Cloud Private even allows them to deploy not only Linux* containers, but also VMs on AIX or IBM i.”
Bridging Gaps With Open Source
A private cloud built on Power Systems makes sense for a many reasons, Bührer says. “PowerVM is the rock-solid foundation for private cloud deployments on Power Systems. PowerVC, sitting atop PowerVM*, provides a set of simplification and automation capabilities in terms of VM provisioning and management at scale, including a web-based, self-service portal supporting role-based-access control, VM deployment templates, deployment policies, metering and more.” This simplifies private cloud deployments at scale, including facilitating the ability to plug into hybrid and multicloud environments.”
“Because PowerVC is built on OpenStack, every operation in its GUI can also be accessed via an open API, allowing third-party multicloud managers, such as VMware vRealize, to perform lifecycle management of virtualized resources on Power Systems servers,” says Ian Robinson, virtualization offering manager, IBM.
Compared to public clouds, private clouds offer several advantages:
- Having predictable and stable workloads
- Owning versus renting can be a more cost attractive option
- Utilizing an environment that’s more secure than leveraging externally shared resources
- Meeting compliance mandates Using dedicated resources that clients own and run in the private cloud
- Choosing from more customization possibilities
Another way to think about the unique benefits of private clouds, in particular IBM Cloud Private, is that they provide a bridge between traditional environments that run on Power Systems today with agile, cloud-native applications.
“It’s a bridge in that it can provide self-service and automation for traditional applications running on AIX and IBM i along with a complete catalog of modern, open-source development tools, databases and frameworks to enable the rapid creation of new, cloud-native apps,” Spence says. “From this Private Cloud platform, you can implement a modernization strategy that lets you start from where you’re at and apply cloud efficiencies for your business on the same integrated platform that you can start building new cloud native applications and services on. These new cloud-native applications can, of course, access data that’s in your traditional system of record securely, under close IT control and with minimal latency.”
Business leaders realize cloud enables them to quickly deliver critical IT services. Today’s clouds enable enterprises to rapidly leverage new and innovative API services such as location, weather and even chat bot services. With IBM Cloud Private, companies have a centralized platform from which they can manage, control and ensure the security of the enterprise cloud while also providing on-demand access to the existing infrastructure, data and services the lines of businesses need.
A Power Systems platform-based private cloud is positioned to become the standard for accelerated cognitive services such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and deep learning (DL), Spence predicts.
“For Fresh Faces, or other young people, it’s absolutely imperative for their future jobs to understand AI, ML and DL, and how they can play a role in each and every industry going forward,” she points out. “A private cloud on Power Systems with industry- leading NVLink is the platform that’s going to ensure those services are accessible, easily operated and able to complete operations tens of times faster than other platforms.”
Spence expects IBM Cloud Private on Power Systems to emerge as the standard, preferred and default platform for performing AI, ML and DL operations faster.
Recent college graduates are realizing and embracing the power of the platform and other IBM solutions. For example, Robert Fluth, advisor, Systems Engineering at Fiserv, says his company is at the forefront of PowerVC and IBM Cloud Private, and is pushing solutions in environments for patching and automation.
“We’re always looking for ways to enhance our cloud offering,” says Fluth, who’s helping implement a private cloud environment at Fiserv. “I helped build and troubleshoot the PowerVC implementations in four data centers and performed the installation of an IBM Cloud Private proof of concept. I’ve been maintaining and testing it since deployment.”
He says he’s surprised when he hears a customer or a peer talking about barriers to implementing the private cloud. “When you hear people talk about setting up a private cloud, it sounds complicated and a potential management nightmare,” he notes. “With both PowerVC and IBM Cloud Private, the installation was easy, and IBM’s documentation has made it straightforward to maintain.”
Bartlomiej Grabowski, principal system support specialist for DHL, recently finished a new POWER9* scale-out Redbooks* publication, which earned him the Platinum Author recognition. Active in the IBM Large User Group community, he regularly blogs and tweets in addition to having authored more than 10 Redbooks. He also cooperated in developing a certification test for the latest POWER9 servers.
“In my free time, I’m working on a tool to simplify and significantly speed up the commissioning of IBM i logical partitions using PowerVM*. I believe this will be a very interesting product for an IBM i administrator because it allows quick deployment of a virtual machine without touching the virtual I/O server and can provision the OS from the predefined template. Everything is managed from the green screen,” Grabowski says.
I’ve been working on IBM i since 2009. I’m currently working to push it beyond old-fashioned practices to the latest IBM i level and modernize our system. At KUHN SA in France, I’m responsible for providing IBM i training, including Rational* Developer for i (RDi) 9.6, RPG and web services. I also work for the logistics department, on the IT side, to develop programs that communicate with web services, FTPs, SFTPs and TCP/IP.
As the leader of a Unicode project at my company, I’m working to use Chinese, Cyrillic and other characters on IBM i. We recently replaced 3,000 client access devices with a new modern UI (Newlook from looksoftware) in 13 countries to manage all languages in the same screen.
I’m involved in the IBM i University in France, which is very important because it offers many options to answer our business needs. One example is web services on IBM i. The University helped me improve my work with web services.
In addition, I contribute to the French GitHub with IBM Champion for Power Systems Christian Masse, who I met at the IBM i University. I work to serve business needs and overcome challenges. I want to advance the IBM i platform through networking, publishing and sharing information about the platform and related technologies.
Northern Wholesale Supply
I’m modernizing RPG applications with free-format RPG. We use PHP technology to provide our users with a web interface to perform their jobs. This enables users to view pertinent product and customer information all in one screen. Our PHP applications integrate with SQL and RPG programs to boost productivity. Our users can upload files of information to update database files, which eliminates single-line data entry.
We’ve developed a PHP application for our warehouse employees that enables them to scan item barcodes with a tablet and view information in one screen. This mobility allows users to essentially take IBM i with them throughout the warehouse.
We have many fixed-format programs still running in our company. I’ve been able to modernize many of them with free-format RPG. I’ll become a COMMON Certified Associate Application ILE RPG Developer this fall.
Learning IBM i from Jim Buck and imPower Technologies was great. The course is taught from a free-format perspective. Every chapter of the textbook has the sample programs written in legacy format. This has been helpful in modernizing many fixed-format programs in our company. The course started with simple concepts, and by the end, I was writing robust service programs, subfile programs and APIs.
System Developer, Lincoln
Heritage Life Insurance Company
I’ve had multiple roles within my company and joined the development team in 2007. RPG is not a language I learned in college, but I was able to pick it up fairly quickly on the job. What surprises me the most about working on the IBM i platform is its compatibility. Legacy programs can run alongside modern developments in multiple native and open-source languages.
The last time I attended COMMON, I learned more about the features of modern development tools such as RDi and how languages such as SQL and XML work within RPG. This has helped me create more efficient processes and learn more about what options are available to developers. In addition to the conferences, there are always new articles and webinars available to help me stay up-to-date.
My current projects primarily consist of modernizing our critical legacy programs. My other focus is researching processes to identify the necessary changes that our development team needs to employ to meet our customer requirements. While we do not currently use Profound UI, modernization has been a high priority and it will be exciting to see what the future holds.
Advisor, Systems Engineering
I started working with Linux* on x86-based systems in college when a colleague, Josh Peacock, suggested that I apply for a position working on AIX*. I really like its maturity, reliability and scalability. I’ve been on the platform 11 years.
Currently, I’m working on our POWER* platform engineering team. Fiserv utilizes the platform for some of our core business systems, so it’s a critical component to our business. We’re bringing BigFix*, PowerSC* and PowerVC solutions to the business, and running a proof of concept (POC) on IBM Cloud* Private for our business units.
At the IBM Systems Technical University in Hollywood, Florida, in October, I gave a presentation on BigFix* in the real world, covering how to use it with security solutions such as Trusted Execution. I also explained the benefits of patching with BigFix and how easy it is to extend it to Virtual I/O Server (VIOS) with upgrades.
My second presentation at the conference discussed setting up Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) and Kerberos on AIX with third-party providers like FreeIPA. I explained the methodology of mapping out the attributes and tools for querying the LDAP directory and working with the Kerberos settings and mappings to get a working centralized authentication for HMC, VIOS and AIX systems.
After graduating from college, I was hired by Sprint as a systems administrator to help with AIX*. I learned it, and I’ve been supporting the platform for the last 19 years. I’m now working on AIX and PowerHA* systems on virtualized POWER7* and POWER8* hardware.
As part of a large systems administration team, I support internal and customer-facing applications throughout Sprint. Many pieces of the business are critical to our company’s success. While the systems my team supports aren’t the only ones vital to that success, I feel comfortable saying that we’re a very important ingredient in most things Sprint does.
The power and flexibility of AIX, optimized for POWER* hardware, are pretty incredible and my favorite features of the platform. The ability to do so much dynamically, and the virtualization capabilities it offers, really make it easier for us to adjust systems as needed and handle relatively large migrations and upgrades without much difficulty.
People working on AIX are often surprised by its capabilities. We hear people say, “Wait, it can do all that without rebooting the system? Even removing memory?” The answer is yes, it can.
Università degli Studi di Roma
I became interested in IBM i because it’s the OS my father used. Since I was a kid, I’ve had the opportunity to work with him and practice with the system. I approached it in earnest at 17, using the free system PUB400. Last year, I bought a low-cost System i5 on the internet to continue studying.
When I attended the FAQ400 user group event in Italy recently, I learned the IBM i ecosystem is very active here and IBM i customers love this OS. I’ve been able to deepen the functionalities and solutions that companies develop for the platform by creating a complete system for customers’ needs. This provides a strong link between IBM, communities, partners and customers.
I’m passionate about IBM i because it’s a modern and powerful OS. It has a unique architecture that makes it safe, easy and open. I Iove the integration with modern programming languages like PHP, .NET, Java* and Python. I’m also fascinated by its ability to simulate the RPG code written for Systems 36 and 38. I encourage other students by talking about IBM i, explaining its history and what it offers.
I created the blog sys-i.it that’s dedicated to IBM i because I want all people, including students, to try it. I explain through simple articles how IBM i is powerful and what it can provide. My goal is to let everyone know about IBM i.
APPER Systems AB
While studying at Gothenburg University in Sweden, I knew I wanted to work closely with a company’s core business processes. APPER came to our university and gave a presentation on IBM i, which exposed me to the platform. I learned the platform and RPG while finishing my degree. I worked on a project at APPER and got hired when I was done.
I teach at Gothenburg University. I help create a general education plan, assist with assignments, and facilitate the learning of both the platform and RPG. I was in college not too long ago myself, so it’s rewarding being able to help students.
At APPER, a colleague and I are the first two employees to be involved in a program to help revitalize our IBM i culture. The mission is to get younger people onto the platform and interested in IBM i and RPG. We hope to mix experienced and young employees to have a “knowledge exchange.”
When working with standard analytical and modernization techniques, I’ve learned many customers and peers don’t know enough about those techniques and there’s also a lack of knowledge that they can use those very techniques on IBM i.
After graduating from pharmacy school, I began my career with the IBM hybrid cloud team serving healthcare clients. When I met the president of UCG Technologies, I was impressed with UCG’s history and work with IBM i, I took a job with the company.
We provide custom systems and LPARs for clients to restore their cloud backups remotely in a disaster. We also design systems for clients to serve as development and/or test environments to facilitate the modernization development efforts we’re seeing in the IBM i community. Furthermore, with clients looking for more deployment options for their POWER* infrastructure, we design creative hosting configurations.
I work with the Toronto User Group to provide backup and disaster recovery expertise to members through seminars and workshops. I’m currently learning about challenges with modernizing IBM i applications, basics of RPG programming, and web and mobile development.
Much of the difficulty with implementing new initiatives comes from organizations maintaining the status quo. We find that 80 percent of IBM i users still use tape as the primary backup strategy. Because it’s been the strategy for so long, it requires a mindset shift to make the organizational change. I suspect other areas of modernization face the same challenge.
APPER Systems AB
When APPER came to Gothenburg University to gauge student interest for a course on IBM i, it got my attention. I’d never heard of the platform or the programming language, nor did other students. The fact that it was rare intrigued me, and several of us signed up. During our last year at the university, we completed an in-house project for APPER and got exposed to RPG. I went to work for the company and have been using IBM i for two years.
After graduating, I also began teaching IBM i and RPG at Gothenburg University. The interest and ambition to learn RPG and IBM i are definitely there. Teaching helps me learn because it challenges my way of thinking.
Questions that students ask about why we take specific actions make me think, “Is there a better way to do this?” Teaching makes me constantly think, keep an open mind, and want to evolve myself. As a Fresh Face on the IBM i platform, I can translate concepts that may be hard for students to understand because they’re not used to that way of thinking.
I work with a client running systems in RPG 2 and S/36 mode. The company is on the verge of making a giant leap in modernization. It’s exciting, but it struck me that the company has so much technical debt.
Banyan Air Service
To get up to speed on the company’s technologies, I enrolled in Jim Buck’s three-month online course for ILE RPG and IBM i. Although this class was online, he was heavily engaged in my learning. He routinely reached out to help improve my ability to learn and, more importantly, pushed me to put myself in a position to succeed. In three months, I went from not knowing what RPG stood for to building full-on ILE RPG programs.
My favorite part about working with IBM i is that it offers simplicity. The IBM i community is also great. Programmers are passionate about the system.
Principal System Support
My IBM i journey started when I joined an IBM delivery center in Brno, the Czech Republic. I later moved to DHL. I’ve been working on the IBM i platform for 14 years. At DHL, I work with systems from all over the world in different configurations, serving various functionalities.
I have a hands-on architecture position that includes designing new server configurations, implementing new solutions and deep diving into serious performance problems. We’re actively trying multiple artificial intelligence platforms—IBM Watson* is one—to gain new benefits.
IBM i and Power Systems* are critical to DHL and our IT infrastructure. If you compare the Power Systems footprint to commodity platforms, it’s small but we run many business-critical systems on it.
DHL IT Services has been a member of the IBM Large User Group (LUG) for more than 10 years. It’s important to be part of this community. LUG gathers the biggest IBM i users in the world, and believe me, big companies have completely different problems and goals than small customers. These problems usually can’t be solved by a business partner or local IBM support. Having the opportunity through LUG to see what will happen with technology in next three to five years helps plan the future.
Become a Fresh Face
Interested in becoming a Fresh Face or know someone who would be a great candidate? Reach out to Brandon Pederson to learn more.
Q: What is it about IBM i that still excites you and why do you think younger people should be excited?
A: Of course sometimes I have a developer that says “Oh, I hoped I was going to develop a gaming application.” OK, this is not gaming application. This is not the front end and this is not the app for Android or Apple. This a back-end system. It is important. For example, in Sweden, we have a lot of credit card applications around this platform. If you look at the process, how many things are involved in this, how accurate it has to be, that is pretty amazing.
Q: Could you tell me about the role that you play with COMMON Sweden?
A: I’ve been involved with COMMON Sweden since 2009. I have been president since 2013. We have an annual conference, COMMON Sweden Conference, with around 200 attendees, which is pretty amazing. We always have a great lineup of speakers from around the world. It’s a lot about networking also, of course. This is why I really like the COMMON community, because of all the great people.
Q: You’ve been working with IBM solutions for a long time. What have been some highlights?
A: I was involved in going from CISC to RISC computing. No one else in the industry did that. They tried but they had to do so many things around their applications and OSes that I guess more or less, all other alternatives died. The AS/400 didn’t. You made this transition from CISC to RISC in the ’90s and you can run the same application on POWER9*—the biggest machine is the IBM Power Systems* E980—with the same code, which is amazing.
Q: What is the goal of IBM i Competence, the resource sit you created?
A: So the big goal is to get rid of the false reputation that it is impossible to learn this platform. It is a little bit tricky. One of the things that I, early on, put into the agenda and the schedule is vocabulary because much is about vocabulary. We’re talking about the same things but without the words so no one knows what a physical file or logical file is but they know the tables, view and index wordings. RPG is still a very, very efficient language for business applications and the platform. It provides stability, security and all the good things that a system should have and should provide.
Q: You’ve helped companies with compliance topics like General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). What have you learned by helping others make that transition?
A: So GDPR is pretty new, but the compliance area is more or less the same. We have regulations similar to GDPR everywhere—such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, which governs credit card data—but the big difference now is that there’s a penalty if you don’t follow the rules. That was not around before and this is important when it comes to the overall security work, I would say. Now, there is money and focus to solve issues in a totally new way. In May, GDPR was in effect but now everybody is waiting to see what will happen. In the future, similar things will happen because data is important.
Brett Martin is a freelance writer based in Shakopee, Minnesota. He’s been writing about business and technology for more than a decade. More →