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Blog April 6, 2021

IBM Customer Challenges and Paths to Modernization

In a recent webinar, we discussed how running IBM Power Systems (i/AIX) workloads on-net with AWS can create an ideal foundation for your long-term cloud adoption goals. In that webinar and in this article, we dive deeper into the discussion around IBM customer challenges and available paths forward. Over the past 20 years, Connectria has made several significant investments, but perhaps none more exciting than our recently announced AWS hybrid offering for IBM Power Systems. This solution opens the door to what’s possible when it comes to the modernization of IBM Power Systems with hyperscale cloud.

Many of our customers operate IBM Power Systems for their mission critical workloads and have been doing so for the past decade and beyond. The OS400 and AIX-based systems date back to 1988 and 1990 respectively. They merged into what IBM now simply calls Power Systems or IBM i. Over the years, popular and mission critical off-the-shelf applications have been written to run on this IBM platform. Oracle JDE and SAP S/4HANA are two good examples. They do this, and they develop them to run on the IBM platform because of its reliability and its robustness over the years.

Under the hood, however, we find that IBM Power and Intel-based x86 processors are very different. As a result, IBM i and AIX operating systems can only run on IBM Power processors. Why is this important? Because, hyperscale clouds, like AWS, are built on the x86 architecture with many dependent cloud native services. You can’t simply run IBM Power on AWS. This is the cloud migration and support challenges that many IT organizations face as they try to move to the cloud.

Today’s Challenges with IBM Power Systems

Customers are facing a number of challenges with IBM Power Systems and several companies are looking to get out of the data center business. For anyone hosting an IBM Power System in their facility, they need to figure out what to do with it. Obviously, you’re not going to bear the cost of running an entire data center for just the Power System workload. So how do you include your Power System in a cloud migration plan?

Managing a Power System is very different than the rest of your data center workloads. You may find yourself asking how you will provide ongoing support for this hardware and software? While you’d like to expand the capabilities of your Power System, the proprietary nature of the hardware and software stack by default limits your ability to adopt open source or third-party solutions. Connectria’s experts have answers to these questions and more.

IBM Power System Modernization Drivers

In a recent IBM i customer survey, respondents voted on their top five IT planning concerns. These same concerns are what we consider the drivers for various forms of modernization. In the survey, 75 percent of respondents expressed their concern with security. Interestingly enough, over 50 percent stated that they have no plans to implement solutions that would address things like antivirus protection or database encryption. 25 percent of respondents do not even adhere to ensure compliance mandates. High availability and disaster recovery was another major concern. Fortunately, about 60 percent of organizations have implemented some form of a solution. But with tape being the recovery method of choice for over half of these respondents, there exists yet another great opportunity to leverage alternative architectures and methodologies. Other concerns like modernizing applications, IBM skills gaps, and reducing costs round out the list.

Above, we discussed how the proprietary nature of the Power System in combination with homegrown customization makes it challenging to use open source or third-party solutions. If you combine that with the often limited in-house IBM i skills, it’s no wonder organizations are concerned about data growth, cost management, and the future of the IBM System. While the appetite for modernization may vary, it’s important to understand how to start a modernization journey. We suggest a phased approach, tackling some of the low-hanging fruit that can yield immediate benefit to your organization.

IBM Modernization Outlook

There are approximately 150,000 unique companies using IBM Power Systems. You may be surprised to learn that only about nine percent have a plan to migrate entirely off the platform over the next five years. Then again, it’s not really all that surprising since doing so would require replatforming to run on x86. As mentioned above, this is not necessarily an easy lift, and while possible, will likely take longer than expected to complete.

On the flip side, 91 percent of customers surveyed may not ever move off their IBM i platform. That said, they’re likely seeking alternative solutions to address those aforementioned concerns or maybe even to round out their cloud migration strategy. So, what if there was a way to address your top IBM i concerns while enabling you to retain the value of your IBM i investment? Let’s discuss an easier path to start your modernization journey.

Simplifying the IBM Modernization Journey

Let’s assume that the IBM Power System is currently sitting in your data center or co-location environment. The typical system includes both IBM Power and connected x86 application workloads, which represent about two-thirds of the infrastructure and support cost. These workloads are typically close-coupled to ensure low latency between the Power System and the application servers.

What if we could separate the compatible x86 workloads and run them on AWS? It’s not a novel concept, but it has certainly been the path less traveled due to the distance and resulting latency between the customer’s data Center and that of AWS. We’ve addressed this latency issue head on by opening two data centers in very close proximity to AWS. Simply think of these Connectria data centers as a new availability zone.

Lift and Shift

What’s nice about a lift and shift approach is that it’s simple and doesn’t typically require that you make any changes to your existing application. In this model, we simply rehost your Power System workload in a Connectria data center and then rehost the connected x86 workloads in AWS. The provisioned infrastructure will meet the performance and storage requirements to ensure an equal or better experience to the on-prem environment from which you came.

With our IBM and AWS experience, Connectria can perform a full discovery and assessment, we can develop and execute a migration plan and we can then provide the managed services to ensure operational excellence in the cloud for both workloads. Also, as an AWS advanced consulting partner, we’ll work on your behalf to secure assessment and migration funding for some generous AWS programs like OLA or Windows rapid migration program and migration acceleration program to offset most, if not all of your migration cost. At the end of the day, we want to make this as easy and cost-effective as possible, while avoiding any disruption to your business.

Innovate

Once you’re in the cloud and with everything operating as normal, you can then begin to innovate by taking on the more challenging effort of replatforming to move off IBM or the easier task of augmenting the x86 applications now running on AWS, utilizing their cloud native services. In fact, at this stage of your journey, we can also leverage an AWS funding program Windows Modernization Program (WMP) to help offset the cost of modernizing these connected Windows workloads.

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