BLOG: What is IBM Power Systems Hybrid Cloud?

August 4th, 2021 BLOG: What is IBM Power Systems Hybrid Cloud?

Ron Gordon
Director » Power Systems

We have all heard of “The Cloud” by now. And some of us may have heard of Power Systems in the IBM Cloud, called Power VS. Originally when “cloud” was a new concept, many of us said, “This is nothing new, cloud is just running something somewhere else on someone else’s computer and accessing it via the internet”. They pointed out that Google Maps is in the cloud; the weather applications are in the cloud, etc. The promise, however, of moving workload to the cloud was enticing: After you somehow moved your application(s) to the cloud, someone else would manage it for you and you would have cost savings over your in-house data center. However, moving workload to the cloud was not an easy feat since there were no processes, guaranteed pricing, cloud assistance and support, or VMs with definable SLAs in the cloud.

But today’s cloud computing is new in that IT organizations can now more easily move their workloads to a “cloud provider” such as Google (GCP), Amazon (AWS), Microsoft (Azure), or IBM Cloud (IBM Cloud—previously known as SoftLayer but renamed a few years ago) and many others that are providing modern “cloud” capabilities such as:

  • Onboarding assistance
  • Huge storage capacities
  • Networking to meet your needs
  • Management of the “cloud servers” by the cloud provider
  • Automated dynamic capacity
  • Security
  • Definable SLAs
  • A marketing promise of overall low cost

It all sounded great to the C-Suite since they believed they could achieve cost savings by downsizing their data center infrastructure, reducing operations complexity, lowering the burden of OS and hardware management, and having the ability to define their SLA. The cloud seemed to offer high cost savings and low risk, and their headaches are gone…Nirvana! They said, “Let’s go to the cloud”. And many did with varying success.


The Reality

The reality today is cloud technology still has some growing to do to meet those expectations. In fact, a survey indicated that 38% of those that moved workloads to the cloud found the resulting cloud implementations would not satisfy their needs and they had to migrate again, this time back to an on-prem solution and that reverse migration was costly. Smaller companies may be running single applications with small amounts of data and low security risks, minor performance problems, and minimal application dynamic capacity demands, and these customers tend to be successful. (I always think of the old commercial of Harry’s Rug store that only had 4 rugs to sell…wanted the internet presence but really his demands were very low. Harry should be in the “cloud” and focused on selling his four rugs and not worried about IT.

This is the perfect situation for a cloud implementation.) However, those larger organizations with complex IT architectures and mission critical applications did not necessarily find what they were seeking. So, they had to move back. The survey also said the 38% that moved back also did it at a high cost. (Later in this blog I will address how technology is advancing and helping to solve the shortcomings, making the cloud more appropriate for many businesses. And by the way, it’s called “application modernization”.)


Hybrid Cloud

Assume you are a larger organization with mission-critical workloads and you really like the idea of the cloud taking away some of your management and staffing concerns, risk procedures, and costly scheduled upgrades. What do you do? The idea that is now de rigueur is Hybrid Cloud. That may seem scary, but what that means is to use the cloud for what the cloud design can support today and leave the data center systems and staff to manage the mission-critical work on-premises whose requirements cannot be met in the cloud. Some system requirements may be hard to implement, such as high security standards, hardware data replication for HA/DR, high secure network bandwidth, and regulatory compliance. However, not all IT environments need these mission-critical requirements for all application areas.

Some examples are:

  • Dev/Test: Historically, Dev/Test is not mission critical, but it is necessary.
  • High Availability/Disaster Recovery: Businesses may not be employing effective HA/DR because of costs of duplicate systems, dual management, etc.
  • Archival of “cold” data: A great replacement for costly tape systems and media, a technology which is going obsolete soon (want to buy an 8 track music cassette?)

The commonality of these examples is they’re used in most larger businesses, they’re not mission critical, they use dynamic capacity, and the system resources used to accomplish the needs are not used at a high system utilization rate (some are “dark” for long stretches of time). These should be an easy entry and successful way into the cloud. Moving these application segments into the cloud as a Proof of Concept exercise provides value in learning and testing the cloud, should logically lower the overall IT costs, and the dynamic usage can scale up and down with lower security concerns.


Power Systems and Hybrid Cloud

But can those with Power Systems participate in this Hybrid Cloud concept since the AWS, Azure, Alibaba, and GCP clouds are primarily optimized x86 based clouds? The answer is a big YES.

Today, Power Systems are very popular and used in thousands of well-known companies that we interact with daily…banks, medical institutions, large retail chains, transportation companies, etc. These organizations chose Power System for their reliability, performance, capacity, security, and on-demand capabilities. These Power Systems are running AIX, IBM i, and Linux with great success. Customers are running 15 TB DB2 and Oracle databases, SAP HANA and EPIC, and they have huge networks with very high bandwidth demands that Power Systems can support easily. They have highly secure environments and HA/DR solutions using IBM Power HA System Mirror, IBM (and other) storage with petabytes of capacity, and they use leadership IBM technology such as PowerVM, PowerVS and PowerSC to optimize their environments.

All of these Power Systems technologies are available in the IBM Cloud Power VS. The IBM Power VS can provide the same Power Systems capabilities businesses utilize today, but they can also take advantage of a cloud implementation and not give up any of their on-premises capabilities. The IBM Cloud with Power Systems is the highest-rated cloud for security and uses the IBM Power Systems inherent built-in hardware security, which is the best in the industry. The IBM Cloud with Power VS also offers onboarding capabilities that do not exist in other clouds, such as a Mass Data Migration appliance, Aspera for high-speed network data transfer (compressed and encrypted), and the ability to exploit the OVA technology for capturing VM workloads and migrating workloads. (The IBM PowerVS environment is run by PowerVC where OVA capabilities are part of the PowerVC solution.)


Getting Started

Customers can move to the IBM Cloud where IBM Power Systems 922s and 980s reside with IBM 9100 Storage Systems and are provisioned with AIX, IBM i, or Linux based on their customer applications and can duplicate the on-prem Power environment. Yes, but how will it work and perform? And what if there are standards like HIPAA, PCI, GDPR, etc. that are too stringent for many of the other cloud providers today? In the IBM Cloud Power VS, many of these compliance regulations are already certified, and ISVs like SAP have also certified the IBM Cloud Power System implementation.

Rather than go through the pain of a cloud migration and reverse migration (i.e., back to on-premises) that some companies experienced, I suggest starting with a hybrid cloud Proof of Concept (PoC) of Dev/Test or HA and then broaden to a staged approach of selective applications, retaining the mission-critical workloads on-premises. Consider moving incremental elements like DR, data archives, IBM/HCL WebSphere Application Server interfaces to the cloud and let them interconnect to the on-prem applications that need the performance and security and dynamics. This also creates a cloud presence that can grow as cloud technology advances, which is happening.


Application Modernization – The Advancing Technology

Application modernization is the advancing technology that will help to solve many cloud issues. Moving applications to a containerized micro service architecture and environment whose execution is managed by a Kubernetes implementation will, when embraced, solve many of the concerns of performance, reliability, scaling, Dev/Test, HA/DR, etc. This environment is best implemented using Red Hat OpenShift where containerization of micro services and K8S is available and is mission critical ready. Red Hat OpenShift is also available in the IBM Power VS cloud today and can start to be exploited as a Dev/Test environment and lead to a modernized production environment aligned with the IBM Power VS cloud capabilities. Red Hat OpenShift can support the on-prem environment and the IBM Cloud Power VS as a single cluster. There are further capabilities to manage the data, perform governance, and expand into AI that incorporates Red Hat OpenShift as a base called IBM Cloud Paks, specifically called IBM Cloud Pak for Data, IBM Cloud Pak for Security, and IBM Cloud Pak for Multi Cloud Management. These can add to a successful cloud experience.


More Information

This was quite a lot of information for your consideration and analysis. Mainline is ready to go deeper into these concepts and help you design and implement your successful staged path to the “cloud” for Power Systems using the Hybrid Cloud approach and using your existing AIX, IBM i, or Linux skill set. Please reach out to your Mainline representative directly to explore your journey to the cloud using IBM technology or click here to contact us with any questions.


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