At their core, all companies must be careful investors. They need to invest in stable growth commodities and carefully monitor their return on investment (ROI).
The IBM Power Systems server hardware platform (System i, iSeries, AS/400 ), with its operating system software (IBM i, i5/OS, OS/400), is a sound investment strategy for a number of reasons:
- It is stable and available, with more than 99.9% reliability.
- It can be expanded to meet future needs (known as scalability) from a basic 2-core processor, up to a massive 256 processor server, in many cases without having to invest in a new server.
- It can balance resources and workload between applications running on the same system, and between physical systems, to maximize the efficiency of processing resources.
- It has solid, built-in security features, like auditing, in its operating system. This was the first general purpose system to attain the Department of Defense (DoD) C2 rating. And, its operating system (IBM i) has never been successfully attacked by a virus.
- It offers high availability (HA) and hardware mirroring (redundant hardware) tools, such as IBM PowerHA technology, to prevent downtime and speed up disaster recovery.
- It provides multilingual capability for international markets.
- It is easily automated, with a rich command set and programming interfaces (called application program interfaces, or APIs) that simplify customization.
- It offers many integrated vendor solutions for companies.
Solid Hardware: Invest in a High-Tech World
It’s a strange paradox: most institutions should be careful, conservative investors, yet they must provide their customers with a high-tech, leading-edge experience. Complete online banking solutions, secure online retail experiences, and electronic healthcare records are just a few features that customers now rely on constantly.
The Power Systems platform running IBM i is the “behind the scenes” system that makes these customer conveniences possible. This platform can host a website, support sophisticated software applications, provide AIX® (UNIX® ) or Linux® operating systems in separate partitions (physical or logical disk space areas), and offer powerful hardware and software functions such as virtual partitioning and shared processors, memory, and disk resources.
Meanwhile, the platform continues to support legacy applications that organizations have used for years to process and analyze the data that results from customer interactions.
Mergers and consolidation are a way of life in business. The Power Systems architecture offers an easily scalable platform to help organizations grow costeffectively. For example, a single partition can manage a huge workload; a single system can manage a large number of partitions that share a pool of CPU and disk resources. That means efficiency and lower hardware costs, both in manpower and energy requirements. And, that ultimately translates to a lower cost of ownership with an easy-to-manage, integrated, secure system
Another cost-saving factor is the platform’s ability to balance resources (and workload) between applications running on the same system (using subsystems), between system partitions, and even between physical systems (servers).
Commands can move memory and processing resources between workloads on a single system by taking advantage of the subsystem structure, the operating system’s built-in performance tuner, and the hardware’s capacity-on-demand feature. For example, capacity-on-demand can automatically activate and deactivate processor resources based on processing times, such as peak daily processing, or month-end or year-end processing. This helps institutions meet service-level expectations, shorten response times, and maintain Service Level Agreements (SLAs) between other companies and themselves.
Security on this platform is powerful and easy to implement. By securing against unapproved data access from inside or outside an organization, companies guarantee that their customers’ data remains confidential—good risk management.
Built-in tools (such as the DB2 database and secure system audit journals that track changes) work with vendor tools to enhance and organize built-in security features. Organizations can better secure and monitor their environment while they deal with strict regulatory requirements such as Payment Card Industry (PCI), Health Care Reform Act (HCRA), Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX), and others.
The operating system (IBM i) is strongly virus-resistant because it is an objectoriented system. Unlike the Windows or UNIX world, one object type cannot morph into another type, so viruses have a difficult time existing.
Multiple Cost-Saving Factors
The platform offers additional powerful cost-saving factors:
- Provides An Integrated Relational Database (DB2)
- Because the database automates many administrator tasks, there is no need for a database administrator. Even as companies acquire and merge with other organizations, and increase the number and size of their databases, there is rarely a need to add staff to administer databases.
- Understands Most Software
- The platform supports many programming languages and scripts. This support extends to C, C++, SQL, PHP, and 32-bit and 64-bit Java VM (Virtual Machine), in addition to legacy RPG and COBOL programs.
- Handles Multiple File Systems
- The operating system (IBM i) provides a UNIX-like directory structure called the Integrated File System (IFS) that can hold and organize most file formats, including common PC file types. And, for web applications and browser-based development, a lightweight IBM HTTP server (web server) is included with the operating system.
- Protects Your Software Investment
- Most software applications written for this system can still run on the latest hardware. Unlike some other types of servers, investments in application software are maintained and protected through code compatibility.
- Supports Partitioning
- Partitions are discrete, separate processing environments that you can create and access on a single physical system (server) to organize your resources and maximize the efficiency of your processing. Partitions can share processing resources, such as storage and tape devices, and companies often load a separate 2 operating system—IBM i, UNIX, or Linux—on different partitions and manage them from a single console (called the hardware management console, or HMC).
Automation Software: The “Sure Thing” IT Investment
Although there is no “sure thing” in investments, there is a sure IT investment— automation. Automation guarantees consistent processing, maximum use of system resources, better organization, and future expansion without adding staff.
Consumers hold many industries to high standards, and these industries should hold their technology vendors to the same high standards. Everyone is concerned with investment protection, which is why companies want to invest in technology solutions that offer a good ROI.
The marriage of software and hardware is critical—by investing in automation software, companies can make their processing more efficient and accurate through reactive processing (one process reacting to another) and reducing the amount of error-prone human intervention. This enables them to deliver services to their customers more efficiently. For example, for electronic deliverables, that can mean no more waiting for printed material—a huge cost savings and convenience.
Software vendors that specialize in technology, such as Fiserv for banking, SAP for manufacturing, and retail solutions such as JDA software, rely on the IBM i platform’s solid features and dependable technology to develop robust software for thousands of companies. These vendors offer complete, core solutions based on this platform, plus additional, specialized solutions.
Some of the processes built into applications and the operating system are fully automated. Other system processes that are not automated, or could be simplified, offer automation opportunities. These include:
- Batch processing
- Agent tasks
- Interactive processes
- Report management
- System and message monitoring
Automation assures that data is processed in the correct order—the next step does not occur unless the previous one completes properly. It also enables processes to run concurrently to use system resources efficiently. If processes run behind schedule or end abnormally, notification must be sent through defined channels. Batch automation brings organization and provides documentation regarding which tasks should have run versus which tasks actually ran—what should have happened versus what did happen. Auditors love that, and when the auditors are happy, everyone is happy!
In the vast majority of data centers, tasks that run on other systems (sometimes called agent tasks) such as Windows, UNIX, and Linux servers, directly impact data processing on core IBM i applications. An enterprise scheduling tool can integrate with agent tasks to make them part of the overall batch processing job stream.
It is often difficult to automate interactive processes without rewriting applications. If a vendor is unwilling or unable to rewrite an interactive application, companies need a tool to automate the process and make it part of the batch job stream. Data center processes that cannot be automated are unreliable and expensive, and require hands-on human intervention.
Backups should be automated as part of any batch automation strategy. (For example, many companies run a backup before starting their batch processing.) A number of companies use the IBM i server to consolidate their backups because it is easier to restore from a single large backup if a disaster occurs. To comply with industry regulations, it is critical for institutions to have software that tracks what was saved, when it was saved, and where it was saved. This software should work with, and help manage, the various backup media available today, including disk, tape, and virtual tape.
As much as we would like to think that paper statements are a thing of the past, some customers still appreciate a piece of paper. Reports can be very resourceintensive, so automating report management offers many cost saving opportunities, both internally and externally. Report processing is an area every institution must have under control—reports should be distributed and archived, using a records retention policy, automatically and securely.
System and Message Monitoring
It makes complete sense to implement an easy-to-use tool to monitor critical system resources, operating system messages, and log entries. The operating system (IBM i) was designed as part of a complete business platform and is very “message intensive”—it logs everything that happens. If something goes wrong, the system generates a message that may require intervention. However, many of these messages can be handled automatically, or conditionally based on their contents using rules.
If a message cannot be handled automatically or with rules, it should be escalated quickly to the Help Desk or on-call specialists to prevent system-wide problems. For example, if a process encounters a problem and starts consuming CPU resources and disk space, the monitoring tool should provide immediate notification that a large amount of resources are being consumed.
Tens of thousands of financial, manufacturing, retail, and healthcare companies rely on the technology of Power Systems running IBM i and automation software. And, as their business needs have changed, the technology has grown to meet them.
Investing in this technology is sound strategy because companies can drive costs down through a combination of server (hardware) consolidation and automation (software) to provide better value and service to themselves and their customers.