SAS IT Newsletter February 17

Posted by Ian Hight on Feb 16, 2017 5:24:34 PM

Topics: Cloud services, Development integration & analytics, Hardware & software, Business drivers, Newsletter

Welcome to the SASIT February newsletter

In this issue

How to seize the future without abandoning the past
IT Security – Predictions for 2017
'The end of cloud computing'
SASIT Data centres – Cost effective local cloud
The challenge of IBM i staffing - sorted!
Why should “i” upgrade?

How to seize the future without abandoning the past

SASIT Application Modernisation Service – An introduction

seize the future

IT Leaders are under constant pressure to meet the business needs imposed by a rapidly evolving digital world, driven by the need for improved efficiency and new functionality. Typically 50% to 70% of IT operating spend is dedicated to maintaining older systems. 

The business environment is under constant change. Both customers and staff have demands and expectations regarding cloud and mobile adoption. Today's workforce expects modern adaptive web capabilities instead of outmoded text based screen interfaces. Add to this the increasing adoption of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) by organisations means that existing systems are being pressured by users to include flexibility to support the ever changing technical environment, the heat is on to tackle mission critical legacy systems. 

Companies that feel these pressures will find they have a number of considerations in front of them. 

  1. Is it possible to leverage the IT assets we already have? 
  2. How do we keep all our systems and external relationships connected? 
  3. Can we further optimise our applications to support our needs? 
  4. Is the level of risk associated with replacing core business systems acceptable? 

Replacing the old system means searching for a new systems that provides all the functionality of the old system as well as supporting additional functionality. Even if you are fortunate enough to find a product that has a reasonable mix of fit and then customise the balance, doing this could require substantial capital investment, and significant business interruption, not to mention risk. Opting to replace a system may also tie up key staff with data migration from old to new, training users, training IT staff to support it and a lot of work with key users to specify and configure the new system. Typically legacy systems replacement projects fail 50 % of the time. 

Keeping the old system but modernising user and B2B interfaces is often less expensive, less time consuming and substantially lower risk to the business. Application modernisation requires less retraining of key users, as they are already familiar with the user interfaces which can be modified to support specific business needs.  Modernisation can typically be carried out at an acceptable pace the organisation is comfortable with. 

So what does modernisation mean? 

Application modernisation means taking an application built in the past and changing it to be more appropriate to today's business needs. IT leaders often need to retain the investments made in systems over the years and retain information contained in them possibly for decades. They may also now need to extend the valued information and make it consumable by a much wider group of stakeholders. 

In the following table, we have provided some examples:

Existing Applications 

Modern Applications 

Tied to server and database technology. 

Business functions that operate independently of the database. 

Need specialist technical knowledge to support 

Development technologies and toolsets openly accessible.

Decreasing skill availability and vendor support 

Use readily available skills and are widely supported technologies.

Constrained by device type. e.g. 5250 terminal 

Can be accessed by multiple devices ranging from personal computers to Smart Phones and Tablets. 

Application code base is sequential and very large. Which means any change affects everything. 

Applications are componentised and reusable so changes are confined to a particular component making change much easier to manage. 

Text based user interfaces take users a lot longer to learn. 

Graphical user interfaces that are intuitive and easy to learn. 

Standalone applications make integration difficult. 

Simplified integration with accessible system functions opens up access to cloud, analytics, mobile and other enterprise systems.

SASIT specialise in mission critical systems support and we have developed our own methodology for systems modernisation. We know that no two businesses are the same, so we work alongside each organisation as a trusted advisor. Initial key questions we help answer are: 

    1. Where does the business need to be in six months/two years?/ive years? 
    2. What are the major challenges users of the systems have today? 
    3. What risks does the current legacy technology present to the business? 
    4. What are the challenges of supporting the current applications? 
    5. What technologies and IT architecture would you like to move toward, and also with what rationale? 
    6. What are the current costs of maintaining your environments? 
  1. Are there any revenue increases that can be achieved by improving, adding or changing technology and processes? 

We then take all this information and present to you a considered target architecture and roadmap to ensure your mission critical systems are still viably delivering business value into the future.

IT Security – Predictions for 2017

 'The end of cloud computing'

“I’m going to take you out to the edge to show you what the future looks like.” So begins a16z partner Peter Levine as he takes us on a “crazy” tour of the history and future of cloud computing — from the constant turns between centralized to distributed computing, and even to his “Forrest Gump rule” of investing in these shifts.

But… how can we say cloud computing is coming to an “end” when it hasn’t even really started yet?? Because the edge — where self-driving cars and drones are really data centers with wheels or wings — is where it’s at. So where does machine learning in the enterprise come in? How does this change IT? As software programs the world, these are some of the shifts to look at…

SASIT Data centres – Cost effective local cloud

As most of us appreciate 'Cloud Computing' is essentially just about using somebody else’s data centre and associated services.  With 'cloud first' being the increasing trend we have experienced growth in our local data centre services and as a result have recently undertaken a range of upgrades to our facility in Greenlane, Auckland including increasing the useable footprint by 50 %, increased power and cooling capacity by 70%, and upgraded our security systems including the addition of CCTV.

Learn more about our data centre services

The challenge of IBM i staffing - sorted!

Whether someone retires or they leave the company for a new opportunity, sometimes the people are not replaced – and the responsibilities are moved to others in the organisation. The reality is that in many situations the “knowledge” is not transferred, which leaves a gap in the technical capability available – which often doesn’t surface for some time – when something goes wrong and has material consequences. Eventually, a scenario can eventuate where no one is actively managing the IBM i, instead they are just reacting to problems; which can leave the entire business exposed.  It also highlights another issue; putting all your eggs in one basket. When you have one resource who has the knowledge and the skills to maintain your IBM i, your systems, and by default the business, is at risk. If that person outsourcing stock image.jpgleaves for any reason, you have to try to transfer the knowledge to another resource, if that is even possible. With Managed Services you have a team of people who are familiar with your environment and you never have to worry about someone leaving as coverage is maintained across a greater number of people.

Without a real time monitoring solution, your staff have to either react to user complaints or spend their time manually looking through logs to ensure that everything is working as expected. Sometimes, not even finding the problems. None of these options are good.  With Managed Services your organisation gains the benefit of having proactive monitoring, without the cost of licensing and maintaining a monitoring solution.   Proactive monitoring notifies SASIT when a problem occurs (and often when a threshold is breached – before it causes an issue) and allows us to take appropriate action. 

With a Certified IBM i Administrator receiving the alerts, you also gain the benefit of the experience that SASIT has from solving problems for other customers.  Both of these benefits allow for faster problem resolution, increasing system performance and availability.

System Maintenance tasks like IBM i OS upgrades and PTF Maintenance are things that usually have to be done after hours, and they typically require a lot of planning. When you are already short staffed, or you have your programmer doing system maintenance, it seems like updates get further and further apart.  If they happen at all. Having a regular maintenance schedule performed by a Managed Services provider helps ensure that your system remains healthy, optimised, and secure.

If you are in one of these situations, SASIT can help you.

Why should 'i' upgrade?

Reasons to upgrade

There are many reasons to keep your IBM i operating system up to date, for example:

  • To take advantage of new functionality and enhanced database capabilities
  • To get better performance
  • To make the system more secure

Security is currently the top concern for businesses according to the 2017 IBM i Marketplace Survey conducted by Help Systems. While IBM i is one of the most secure operating systems around, if using SSL communications to connect your system to trading partners or want to use Internet based APIs, you will probably be required to use new encryption ciphers that are considered to be the most secure. This may cause problems for customers running IBM i 7.1 as some of the newer ciphers are not available and are not planned to be supported on 7.1. To use the newer ciphers will require an upgrade to either version 7.2 or 7.3.IBM-Power-7[1].jpg

There are lots of cool things in IBM i 7.2 and 7.3, too many to list here. This is a great website to explore all the details www.ibm.com/developerworks/learn/ibmi/index.html

Factors to consider

  • SASIT can perform an upgrade readiness assessment. This assessment will check whether your business software is compatible with the new operating system release as well as verify all requirements for the upgrade are met   
  • Plenty of time should be allowed for planning and performing any updates that may be needed to either your application software or the current operating system level before the upgrade
  • The upgrade will require some downtime, this downtime could be minimised by using High Availability software and performing a role swap to the standby system while the primary system is upgraded
  • If you want to mitigate risk by testing your applications in advance on the new release, SASITcan help by providing a short term test environment
  • If you are currently running Version 6.1 and looking at upgrading, consider skipping 7.1 and going straight to 7.2 if you can. Upgrading from 6.1 directly to 7.3 is not supported.

What are the risks of older versions?

    • Apart from missing out on all the new features delivered in versions 7.2 and 7.3, the main risk of staying on an older version is primarily in the area of security and encryption support as mentioned above  
    • Version 7.1 was announced in 2010 and is the most popular operating system version in use. IBM have not yet announced the end of support date for 7.1 and will give at least 12 months’ notice. However, this version is no longer being enhanced so don’t expect to see any of the cool 7.2 and 7.3 features being introduced to 7.1.
  • Both 7.2 and 7.3 will continue to be enhanced with IBM Technology Refreshes, probably twice a year. These refreshes are applied using standard PTF update processes and usually deliver significant enhancements to the operating system and database without having to do a complete version  

To learn more, visit www.ibm.com/developerworks/community/wikis/home?lang=en#!/wiki/IBM%20i%20Technology%20Updates

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