Alison Butterill on Solutions Edition, the Latest TR and More
In this episode of iTalk With Tuohy, IBM i Offering Manager Alison Butterill talks with host Paul Tuohy about the IBM i Solutions Edition, what was included in the latest Technology Refresh and more.
By Paul Tuohy06/09/2020
Alison Butterill: Hi Paul.
Paul: Oh so we have a lot to get through Alison to—to talk about in this—
Alison: Well things are happening.
Paul: Aren't they just? What a strange, strange world we live in. So let's see, where to start? Well let's start with the most recent TR, the technical refresh that just came out in April. Go [laughs]. Talk to me.
Alison: Yeah, well we were pretty excited. We delivered—even from everybody being at home, we delivered IBM i 7.4 TR2 and we delivered IBM i 7.3 TR8. They were announced on April 14 and they just became available, I think, about ten days ago. It's pretty exciting. We made some major enhancements in a few areas. As you know, a technology refresh just builds on the underlying release. So a year ago with the announcement of IBM i 7.4, we announced a new product: Db2 Mirror, which was pretty exciting technology and provides continuous availability. Last fall we announced that IBM i would support the attachment of NVMe storage devices. Now while those two things seem to be independent, in TR2, which we announced on the 14th of April, we put them together, and now Db2 Mirror supports the use of NVMe storage. Now you're probably wondering what that means, why is that a big deal? NVMe storage is state of the art storage technology, and it is significantly less expensive than spinning drives or SSDs, any of those kinds of more traditional storage devices. So by having Db2 Mirror support direct attach storage—some of which could be NVMe—we have significantly reduced the entry point price for people wanting to move into Db2 Mirror. Now that to me is pretty exciting, because it means that many of our smaller and medium sized clients can start looking at this new continuous availability paradigm for their businesses. Soo that was probably one of the biggest highlights of the release—or of the technology refresh. The other—the other more hardware kind of related thing is the attachment of NVMe was also built into some of our other offerings. I mean, obviously our whole product line supports the attachment of NVMe. Now at first glance you'd wonder why do I care about that? As I mentioned it is a lower price point than traditional drives, and so for many of our clients on the small end it reduces the cost of entry into new boxes by—I don't know—somewhere around 15,000 U.S. dollars, which is significant when you're talking about these solutions. We certainly made additions and enhancements across the board. We added in some new parameters in RPG. We added in some languages into our open source environments and updated some of the RPMs—or some of the downloads that are available from our RPM site—really just to get current in the industry, so it's new versions of Perl and Python.—we We added things across the board as we always do but I think the highlights were this ability to provide NVMe support across the board in our—in our different boxes, in our different solutions.
Paul: Yeah. So yeah so but apart from that then, it was just another normal TR, just a whole bunch of good stuff in there.
Alison: Exactly. A whole bunch of good stuff.
Paul: Yeah so boring [laughs].
Alison: Well you know sometimes we think that, and then you think that all of our development team was working from home and we still put it together and delivered it on the date that we had planned internally. We didn't miss a beat and I give full credit to the development team and their management for being able to, you know, keep it all together.
Paul: No. Actually you know there are great stuff—actually just—I'm actually right in the middle of writing an article on one of the things on the—in the TR at the moment, so which I will get back to when we're finished recording this. But actually just interesting since you touched on it, there Alison the whole thing of—of working from home. So there is something I know that I heard you give a talk recent—actually on the Lunch and Learn that you did for us recently—with that, and you touched on this about how well geared IBM i is for this working for home paradigm.
Alison: Yeah, absolutely and I think in many regards IBM i is in a unique position as a business server operating system to provide that, but you have to look—or we refer to it as our entire IBM i portfolio of products—because we have built into the operating system some things like Navigator, which helps you manage the system and you can do that from a remote site. But on top of that when we look at our whole portfolio with Access Client Solutions, there is so much you can do from a remote site using Access Client Solutions to manage the system, to answer, you know, different messages, to redirect workload, to manage traffic on, you know, various different capacities, and actually to do 50 to 50 as well. but on top of that we have other products that assist so I mentioned Navigator, Access Client Solutions. We also have Mobile Access, which was a part of the original Access for Web product, and some of that has been rolled back into the operating system. For people who are trying to generate and send reports, I know we still in the IBM i world do a lot of printing, but we have the ability to turn those printed reports into PDFs and you can email those to, you know, executives and managers that are looking for data analysis. Additionally we have Db2 Web Query, which takes those into graphical output. So it makes it very simple to take those reports, turn them into graphical information, and send them to business executives. And for many clients, they may not realize that they may already be entitled to have some Db2 Web Query capability, so might want to look into that. And then of course we've known for years—I think since probably the mid 90s we have had the ability to do remote programming. And that's the desktop tooling that we have, Rational Developer for i, and you can use that unattached from the server to add in new code. Of course eventually you have to upload that code to the server to have it actually compile and create objects, but you do have the ability to work remotely from anywhere and code—and periodically reattach or reconnect and upload things. I mean these products are fabulous for the work at home environment. And then on the other side of the coin, we've been talking a lot about thing like PowerHA—and I mentioned previously Db2 Mirror—these are the products that allow you to do that stability, have availability of your applications and your system for all of the remote worker that are you know doing business applications from home,and those are the products that really keep the system available. So I would strongly encourage people to have a look at some of those in the portfolio and decide what suits them as they try to support workers working from everywhere.
Paul: Yeah, yeah. I mean I was interested when I—when I heard you in that in the talk that gave that mentioned this because the thing that struck me—as you know I've been working from home for years, so none of this was new to me, you know. I just suddenly went, oh yeah. What I've been taking for granted all of the time—and I do know for a lot of people, it is a little bit different. So yeah, I concur.
Alison: I agree and I think people—you know you can use those tools locally too, and so lots of companies have been using those tools for a long time and they forget that they can also do it across the internet from home. I think—so you're right. They take it for granted but they haven't sort of figured out "oh, the same product I'm using at home I can also use on my home computer."
Paul: Yeah, yup, exactly. The—the other thing that actually since we touched on it now, the whole thing of working from home and that Alison: I mean from your position—or maybe from IBM's point of view—I mean as—as the world has been in lockdown with Covid and everything like that, I mean how has business been going? I mean where have you seen the changes in—within business?
Alison: Oh, that's an excellent question. We—it's really interesting. I think we all assumed the world shut down when we all were you know confined to home, and it really has not been the case across the board. We have seen a lot of growth in the companies that run IBM i, that do things like supporting hospital software, hospitals running IBM i software for you know tracking patient care for—I was going to say on boarding patients, that's not what I really meant—but admitting patients into the hospital. We have a number of ISVs that provide excellent healthcare software, and all of the hospitals that are running that kind of software, they have seen incredible demands on compute power, of course, as more and more patients are coming in. Then in the countries where IBM i is prevalent in the healthcare and insurance areas, we've seen tremendous uptake on machines as well. So much so that our whole Power team has provided—some capacity relief I think is probably the best way to put it. Where companies that are doing healthcare and health insurance processing could come to IBM and get some capacity at a lower price, or in some countries they've offered it for free depending on, you know, what's going on in the country. So we've tried to support those industries because we've seen such tremendous use of the compute power. What's interesting—I mean we all think—when I mention that I'm sure everybody is going "oh yes, of course, that makes sense." What was really sort of an eye opener for many of us was the other industries that support that. So for example think of all the home workers that have had for years internet in their home but not high speed, or they've taken the lowest capacity option. And now they have, you know, students that are trying to do online schooling and we have people trying to work from home, both mother and father, and so we've got full-time people on the system all the time. Well the utility companies that support that: the telco companies, the, you know, cable providers—all of them are seeing tremendous growth of, you know, requirements, upgrading of accounts, all kind of things online activity as people are trying to demand the serviceability that they need to have to support multiple home workers, and so all of those companies are growing as well. Of course we're seeing, you know, on the smaller end of the business, many of those businesses have not yet opened up again, and so in countries like Italy for example, they're just starting to open businesses back up. And so on the lower end I would say that we are still waiting for that—for the growth to happen there, and I think it will over time. It's just a question of getting those people back in their offices so that they can do things—especially in companies—as you well know especially in companies where you cannot work from home. So you know, if you're working on an assembly line—
Alison: In a manufacturing plant, you can't do that from home.
Alison: So I expect we'll get back to normal there, but it'll take a little time—but like I said, across the board: some up, some down. It just depends.
Paul: Yeah, yeah. It's interes—going to be interesting times ahead I think, you know as countries come out of lockdown and that. Yeah, because in a lot of companies—especially in manufacturing and that, you know, when people are going to be practicing social distancing and all of that. Just different—different times coming up.
Paul: So one last thing that I want to ask you about, Alison the—because I've just seen mention of this and so you're going to have explain it to me, because I haven't read it, all the stuff on it, yet—is this Solutions Edition.
Alison: Oh. Yeah we're pretty excited about this. So the Solution Edition—if you remember when I was talking about the new TR and we talked about the fact that NVMe devices could be attached to—across the product line now and significantly reduce the cost of entry systems. We have this thing that we've had for—for a number of years. It's called a Solution Edition and a Solution Edition from IBM is packaging together hardware plus IBM i software. And if you are buying services, support, or software from an ISV, and you have a certain spend with the ISV—as you've laid out money to get the latest versions or to get some additional support of whatever—if you spend—and on the small, small end, it's the equivalent of 6,000 U.S. dollars. If you spend that much money with an ISV, then you qualify to get this bundle—I hate using that word—package of hardware and software. And it includes hardware and attached storage devices as well as software that includes IBM i Access Client Solutions. It gives you some entitlements to Rational Developer for i, Rational Development Studio—and so we tried to package commonly used components together for software. Now, why am I going through all of that? This package with NVMe support and this software, is packaged at approximately, a little higher, a little lower, but approximately $20,000 U.S., which means you can get your entire bundle of IBM i hardware and software for a really low entry point. And all that it takes is spending that amount of money with the ISV. Now as I said this Solution Edition program not only allows our clients to upgrade to the latest versions of the ISV software—and you would have to negotiate the price with the ISV—but we're supporting that by providing this solution edition. Now all of that was announced on April 14. What we're looking at doing—and it will be announced shortly, so by the time this posts, it will be out there—we are opening the door to any ISV software that,software support or service with whom you deal. So until we announce it on June 9, it will be the 150 registered ISVs: you have to have your spend with one of them. From June 9 until Sept. 30, we will allow any ISV spending to be qualified. So if you are not working with one of our registered vendors, just apply for it anyway and we'll support it. It does have to match that $6,000 entry fee, but other than that you would be qualified. Additionally to help everybody with this working from home and getting things done efficiently and effectively, we are doubling up on the services vouchers that business partners can use to come in and help you in installing this—the machine. So instead of—on the 914 4-core box, instead of four hours of service, we're doubling up to eight hours. It gives you a full day of service from a partner or an IBMer to come in and help you install it. This is huge because it means that our partners don't have multiple visits. They can come in, they get the work done and IBM basically is paying for that service. So just wanted—thanks for mentioning that Paul, because it's a great offer that we'll have available from June 9 to Sept. 30.
Paul: Okay so it will be running just for the summer, so far?
Alison: Just for the summer.
Paul: Okay, cool. Okay so one—one last thing then just to ask you about Alison. Usually I have a really difficult time whenever I got to do an iTalk with you because I have to schedule it between your flights [laughs].
Paul: So—so—so what's it like not being in the air half the time?
Alison: Oh it's—you know it's—it's very interesting. I—yeah. I miss—I really miss the face to face and the chance to sit down with people face to face and talk about, you know, what they're doing with the system. Luckily with all the technology available today—Zoom and WebEx and, you know, teams and all the meetings—meeting capability that we have—it does allow you to see face to face. So I guess we don't have to travel quite as much to still get the same input, but I think there's nothing that replaces the networking and the you know the—I guess they call it water cooler conversations that you might have—
Alison: Face to face. I miss that. I do enjoy being at home. It's kind of nice to have a, you know—to not be packing my suitcase every minute [laughs].
Paul: So—so there was a comment you made to me earlier just before we started recording about your closet.
Paul: Go on. It's a good one to finish on.
Alison: Well I sometimes walk into my closet and look at all my clothes, and think, why do I have these? Because you know your wardrobe for working from home is quite different than the wardrobe from working from an office or you know speaking at events and talking to clients. It is quite different [laughs].
Paul: Yeah, why do I have more than two tshirts? So Alison thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me. I know that you are especially busy at the moment and I really do appreciate it.
Alison: Oh no, Paul, thank you very much for having me. I'm always glad to do an iTalk with Tuohy.
Paul: Okay—and we leave it there for this one, folks. Catch you all on the next one. Bye for now.
Paul Tuohy has specialized in application development and training on IBM midrange systems for more than 20 years.