Blog May 7, 2014

Things to Look For When Hiring an IBM i Engineer- Interview

Interview with Connectria’s Manager of IBM Infrastructure

Connectria Hosting’s Manager of IBM Infrastructure, Josh Patterson, started out in Connectria’s Network Operations Center (NOC) more than 10 years ago. The company’s rapid growth created a need for an IBM i specialist to work specifically with its growing number of IBM customers and, after only six months of working in the NOC, Josh established himself as one of Connectria’s first dedicated IBM specialists.

We caught up with Josh to ask him a few questions about his job and what he looks for when hiring IBM i engineers:

What is your favorite part of your job?

It is ever changing; every day presents new challenges. Plus, I love working with IBM’s hardware. Many people say that the IBM i platform is a dying technology, but we are constantly acquiring more and more customers using IBM i because IBM expertise is so hard to find. Our IBM team has been consistently adding engineers to keep up with the growing customer base (which now stands at more than 275 customers.)

I particularly enjoy working with the Power hardware, specifically the flexes now coming out. They are very intriguing and are integrated with a number of different platforms. We currently have close to 10 of those in multiple data centers and are looking to add more.

Take us through some of your day-to-day duties.

My daily duties run the gamut, including anything from building IBM systems for new customers, maintaining systems for existing customers, managing operating system upgrades and program temporary fixes (PTFs) such as patches for the OS to troubleshooting performance problems, making sure backups are running, working on restores, monitoring availability and monitoring HA environments.

What skills should an IBM i engineer be expected to have?

If I were to hire an IBM i engineer, I would look for an expert in not just the operating system, but also the hardware. While some teams are less knowledgeable when it comes to the hardware, here at Connectria, we know it well. IBM can send us a part and we’ll replace it ourselves.

The person would also need to be comfortable with backup solutions, i.e. they need to know how to recover backups, operating system upgrades, PTFs, performance troubleshooting, etc. I would also look for someone who knows virtualization, like VIOS, because any of the new technologies are based on this hypervisor. On the HA DR front, knowledge of MIMIX or POWER HA would be a must.

What kinds of certificates are important for an engineer to have?

The main certificate we focus on is IBM’s certificate for IBM i administration.

What ongoing trainings do you take part in?

Connectria is a member of the IBM “Large User Group” and is also an IBM Advanced Business Partner. Therefore, we travel to the IBM headquarters for first-hand training from the IBM Development team on the platform and its new features. There are also side training sessions on topics like virtualization and BRMS. We are one of the first teams to hear about any changes IBM will be making to its products and we’re able to provide feedback, as well.

Some of the other trainings we attend are MIMIX (HA replication software), VIOS and Power HA.

What are some advantages of utilizing your team for running and maintaining IBM systems?

Our primary goal when taking on a new system is keeping it online 100 percent of the time. Our data center is rock solid with redundant power supply, redundant climate control and multiple UPSs, and a time-tested list of best practices. We have a 99.999 percent uptime on IBM systems and all other infrastructure we have in our data center. Moreover, we keep IBM-specific hardware here in stock and on the shelf. This allows us to complete certain jobs before the IBM techs can even get out to a customer. Finally, we have an IBM-specific operations group working on monitoring and maintenance 24/7. No one becomes sidetracked by other technologies or platforms because our duties are all IBM-specific. More importantly, there is no single point of failure when you have a team dedicated to your environment.

Have any other questions for Josh? Email us at blog@connectria.com and we’ll be sure to update this post.

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