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Using the Cloud to Protect Mission-Critical Workloads

Authors Photo Precisely Editor | March 20, 2023

Cloud computing offers a wide range of new use cases for IBM shops. Following the dramatic increase in remote work following the COVID-19 pandemic, the shift toward IBM i in the cloud has gained momentum. In addition to the inherent flexibility that a  cloud solution has to offer, this has opened up a host of new scenarios to support high availability (HA) and disaster recovery (DR).

Migrating to a cloud solution presents risks, however. With real-time logical replication, IBM shops can dramatically reduce risk and achieve faster, smoother migrations, along with switchable HA/DR cloud environments for ongoing flexibility and resiliency. For those who prefer to operate on-premise servers, the cloud offers on-demand HA/DR capabilities that support uninterrupted operations in the face of serious adverse events.

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Cloud Environment Basics

Cloud-based IBM i systems run on virtual LPARs – that is, virtual machines or VMs – typically hosted by a cloud hyperscaler and configured using a web-based management console. This raises some issues that must be factored into any migration or HA/DA plan, as virtual machines behave differently from on-premise hardware in several very important ways.

First, LPARs may be moved from one physical server to another at the hosting provider. This can even occur without your knowledge, but it has important implications. If physical serial numbers are not necessarily consistent from one day to the next if live partition mobility events occur, or if hardware features change, it could impact your system.

To support these scenarios, IBM has implemented a system for virtual serial numbers. This is an important step forward, but it may not yet be supported by third-party software. It’s important, therefore, to work with such vendors to ensure that their licensing mechanisms are designed to handle virtual serial numbers or to otherwise address scenarios in which an LPAR is shifted to different hardware.

Keep in mind that in a cloud environment, you must consider the same performance fundamentals that would apply in an on-premise deployment. Cloud LPARs must have adequate resources to support the workloads you’re running on them, including processing, memory, and storage.

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Backup & Restore: Tape vs. Sync by Wire

Keep in mind that physical tape drives and other hardware devices may be limited in a cloud solution deployment. Some cloud providers offer tape backup, but these can be impractical if tapes must be shipped to you should a restore operation become necessary. This is an especially important consideration when it comes to planning for disaster recovery.

In many IBM i cloud environments, a full system restore may not be practical. That’s especially true in the case of large, complex environments. LPARs are typically scratch loaded with an OS/TR/Cum level, so the best practice for many situations is to spin up a scratch-installed LPAR and then sync your existing environment with that instance over the network.

A hardware-agnostic replication technology platform such as Precisely Assure MIMIX affords significantly greater flexibility because it supports any hardware or cloud environment. You’re free to use a mix of different IBM i server models, operating system versions, and storage types – without creating conflicts or configuration errors when switching from one platform to another. MIMIX gives you the flexibility to move from ground to cloud, from cloud to ground, or from cloud to cloud, whether you’re operating in a managed services environment or a self-managed cloud deployment.

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Cloud-based HA/DR for IBM i

Assure MIMIX replicates your complete IBM i environment, enabling lower cost, lower risk migration to the cloud. When the migration is complete, you can continue to use Assure MIMIX to design and implement HA/DR for your complete IBM i landscape.

Many organizations choose to continue running their IBM systems on premise, using a switchable cloud instance for HA/DR. Real-time replication offers nearly immediate cutover, requiring mere seconds to switch to the backup system. Others run three systems in parallel, with both the production system and HA server on premise and a separate DR system in the cloud. Assure MIMIX makes it possible to replicate changes across all three of those systems in real time, ensuring they remain fully in sync.

Assure MIMIX enables a range of other replication scenarios as well, such as cloud-to-cloud replication between two or more production instances or sync by wire replication simply for backup purposes.

Taking the Pain Out of IBM i Cloud Migration

Migrating your IBM i system to the cloud can be fraught with risk. In 2018, UK-based TSB Bank learned this the hard way. In 2022, Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) levied fines on TSB totaling over £48 million after the company’s problems with branch services, phone operations, and online & mobile banking. Although they were successful in migrating their data, TSB’s systems experienced technical failures that led to substantial problems, reputational damage, and financial losses.

An IBM i migration to the cloud often involves some amount of downtime, with limited availability of tape backups. It’s critically important that enterprises perform adequate testing prior to cutover and that they have plans for fallback to the source system in the event that problems emerge.

A conventional approach to migration may involve as much as 48 hours of downtime. In today’s highly connected business environment, that’s a painful proposition. Fortunately, it’s avoidable. Assure MIMIX enables enterprises to replicate their production systems to the cloud, then to continue that replication on an ongoing basis. That affords them the opportunity to run two systems in parallel. IT teams can test their newly migrated environment exhaustively, dramatically reducing risk. When managers are confident in the results, they can cut over to the new system. If they deem it necessary to switch back to the source system as a fallback, MIMIX supports that as well.

Perhaps just as importantly, real-time replication allows you to migrate your IBM i system into a cloud solution with virtually no downtime at all. Because Assure MIMIX is hardware agnostic and OS agnostic, you can even move to a different operating system version, or a different hardware environment, or both.

Your investment in Assure MIMIX not only delivers tremendous value during the migration process, but it also supports a highly flexible, reliable, and efficient approach to HA/DR.

To learn more about modernizing your IBM i systems with the cloud solution, read Precisely’s free ebook: 5 Tips to Modernize Data Integration for the Cloud.