Go forth with the announcement of Cloud Pak for Integration 2020.4.1

December 2, 2020

Good news as 2020 comes to a close with the announcement of Cloud Pak for Integration 2020.4.1 and you can read the announcement letter here. The release date is December 11th 2020. 

With one release of Cloud Pak for Integration every quarter, you are never far away from good news. And just in time for the end of year holidays, there are lots of glad tidings to be had when you read the latest updates about what has been improved.

The first item to cover is that this release is built on Red Hat OpenShift 4.6 EUS. We should explain what that means. Red Hat’s support lifecycle is primarily built around a continuous delivery model where releases are delivered rapidly, but the support on a particular release ends after there have been 2-3 follow on releases. Their lifecycle is explained here. The exception to this rapid cycle is the EUS (Extended Update Support) release which is supported for around 18 months. As Cloud Pak for Integration 2020.4.1 is built on the OpenShift 4.6 EUS release, IBM have announced that the 2020.4.1 release will be supported by IBM for a longer period, with fixes being made available until the end of March 2022.

Another major change in this 2020.4.1 release of Cloud Pak for Integration is the inclusion of entitlement to a limited version of IBM Storage Suite for IBM Cloud Paks. For offerings like Cloud Pak for Integration which are deployed on Kubernetes, there is a need for software defined storage to support storage which can be used for container deployments. Storage Suite for Cloud Paks includes a range of different storage options, and as part of the Cloud Pak for Integration entitlement some of these capabilities are included. There is entitlement, at no extra cost, to 12TB of allocated storage with Red Hat OpenShift Container Storage, and also 12 TB of allocated storage that can, in aggregate, be used in IBM Spectrum Scale, IBM Spectrum Discover and IBM Spectrum Virtualize for Public Cloud. These storage allocations can be used for 36 months, starting when the License is first accepted for the Cloud Pak for Integration 2020.4.1 release, and is limited to one period per customer ID. Should additional storage capacity be needed, or if the storage is needed beyond the 36-month time period, then customers should purchase additional entitlement to the Storage Suite for Cloud Paks offering, which also includes additional storage options.

There are other enhancements to Cloud Pak for Integration 2020.4.1. The DataPower Gateway Virtual Edition now also includes the Integration Module which was previously only available to standalone DataPower deployments. And there are further enhancements and additions to other features such as improvements to the Operators, more connectors including a Kafka Connect. Along with this Kafka connector, it is fast to create Event Driven flows in App Connect Designer and then deploy them.
As part of the continuing investment in Kafka that IBM is making, the choice for Kafka has been extended with a strategic relationship with Confluent having been announced.

Finally, for deployment on AWS, there is now Quick Start for Cloud Pak for Integration on AWS available to help deploy a highly available instance of Cloud Pak for Integration on AWS in minutes.

As we contemplate the end of 2020, which has been an unusual year, we can at least see the benefits of the ongoing enhancements to the Cloud Pak for Integration, with plenty more to come in 2021.

Another version of this blog is available on the IBM Middleware Community site here

Plenty of Zs but no need to sleep with Cloud Pak for Integration 2020.3.1

September 22, 2020

It is easy to imagine, should you assemble the right set of technical people, an argument breaking out about what’s the best technology for the enterprise? You would have a group of people confident that their preferred solution – containers, Kubernetes and CI/CD devops pipelines as the best solution.

Then you have another set of people confident that the best solution is the enterprise mainframe with the promise of rock-solid security, complete resilience, and fantastic scaling.

If you had a face-off between these 2 groups, who would win? This doesn’t need to be the Sharks vs the Jets, or the Montagues vs the Capulets. It’s an interesting question, but not a tragedy. Why do you need to make a choice? With the latest release of IBM Cloud Pak for Integration 2020.3.1, announced today, there is no need to make a choice. Read the announcement letter here.

One of the key new features available in this latest release is support for deployment on IBM z hardware – specifically those running Linux on z. As Red Hat OpenShift is also supported on Linux on z, it is now possible to run some of the components of Cloud Pak for Integration on this platform. Many customers choose to deploy applications and integrations on Linux on IBM z to take advantage of the many benefits, such as co-location with other z applications and data, along with the security, resilience, performance and management benefits.

In the previous release, 2020.2.1, Cloud Pak for Integration moved to an Operator model, enabling far more simple, consistent and powerful approach to configuration and deployment. In the latest release additional work has been done to improve the Operator experience.

Achieving good outcomes from using Cloud Pak for Integration is likely to be a key goal from any user. To assist in making the best use of Cloud Pak for Integration, there is now access to a repository of demo assets, not just to allow the demos to be run, but to allow any user to see how to build and recreate the demo in their own environment.

While Cloud Pak for Integration provides a rich set of capabilities for integration, customers might want to make differing choices in storage providers to use with their integration deployments. In addition to OpenShift Container Storage, in the latest release Cloud Pak for Integration now supports Portworx as a storage provider. Customers can now choose the storage provider that meets their needs.

If you are keen to learn more, you can of course visit our website, or learn about some of the benefits of Agile Integration from this redbook. But a great place to visit is Red Hat Marketplace here. Not only could you learn about and buy monthly licenses for Cloud Pak for Integration, but also here you can get access to a free trial. That’s right. Look no further to get entitlement, for a 45-day trial, to both Red Hat OpenShift and Cloud Pak for Integration. Start your integration journey today. No need to stand under the balcony and wait for Juliet to call out “where for art thou Romeo?” when you can be deploying Operators on OpenShift.

A slightly edited version of this blog can be found on the IBM Middleware Community site here

Is being consistent the same as being equal? Changing how your business works with IBM Cloud Pak for Integration

September 8, 2020

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” is an interesting turn of phrase by Ralph Waldo Emerson. What does it mean, and how can we learn from it today?

Imagine trying to do calculations without an equals sign. What is on one side of the equation is the same as what is on the other side. But does being equal mean the same as both sides being consistent?

Things might seem the same but be different. Are they consistent? Are they equal? It depends how and why they are being used.

In the world of integration, solutions have been crafted, sometimes over years, to be works of art. Beautiful but complex. Valuable but fragile. However, this leads them to become slow and expensive. You can only afford to have a small, limited amount of these integration solutions. In today’s fast-moving world that’s not enough. Your business needs more. And now. It is no good working for months to connect 2 systems together as the business need will change and evolve over that time. The business needs to respond rapidly with a solution as possible as quickly as possible. Does it need to be a work of art? It needs to be consistent, producing reliable results, but it doesn’t need to be equal to a work of art.

Let’s look at Andy Warhol’s picture of a can of soup. His original canvas paintings are hugely valuable. But one of the reasons it is famous as art is that prints were made to replicate it. Are they the equal of the artwork? No. But they are consistent, both with each other and with the original. This is much the same decision that many businesses face around deploying integration as containers. A business might want some art on the walls, but it would seem hugely foolish to spend millions of dollars on the original when the print can do the job, and be replicated around the corner and in the next building, spreading new joy, happiness and meaning to each person that sees it.

With a modern agile deployment of integration in containers as enabled through Cloud Pak for Integration, a business can rapidly deploy containers, on Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform to run integration consistently anywhere needed, and to address any need. The integration available to your business will transform from being that unique and expensive work of art, accessible only to a few parts of the business, to be a widely available, consistently valuable asset, used and cherished by all parts of the business. Additional integration can be added or changed quickly and cheaply as needed. Need different integration? Deploy it. Need a new picture? Hang it.

A modern IT infrastructure can be re-thought to allow integration to be provided by a consistent set of highly available integration capabilities, quick to scale up and down. Easy and consistent to add value to meet new needs. Equality is making something available to all, not making everything the same. This change in integration will drive a change in mindset, allowing new problems to be overcome, and new opportunities to be addressed like never before.

Not a hobgoblin, but a new path through the wilderness, where none existed before.

Feast on more than a potato with IBM Cloud Pak for Integration

August 27, 2020

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The humble potato might not look like much, but it is certainly a reliable food item for many around the world. There are even a number of instances of people eating nothing but potatoes as a diet. I have been reading a fascinating book (Rory Sutherland, Alchemy), which as part of an example looked at eating potatoes. Imagine being only able to eat 1 food item for the rest of your life. If you can only eat one thing, then it can do the job, although you would likely get pretty fed up. However, if you could choose, say, 6 or 10 items of food, then you would get a far more varied and balanced diet. You could have combinations of foods and eat an enjoyable feast every day. You might well still include the potato, or you might not. You would have a choice.

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Now let’s consider integration software. There can sometimes seem to be as many choices of integration software and solutions as there are food choices. Certainly as many as you might find in a restaurant menu (Cheesecake Factory, I am looking at you).

And in the same way that you might have different menu sections with Salad, or Pasta, or Pizzas or Burgers, there are many different styles of integration, depending on what and how you are trying to integrate.

Sometimes the choice can be confusing. But it is good to have a choice.  With some integration vendors, they have a single style of integration. They will insist that is always the best way to solve any integration problem, including whatever integration need you might be trying to solve at that time.

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The old joke goes, if all you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail.

With integration, you need more than just a hammer. Sometimes you need to stream events at scale. Kafka would be great at that. Sometimes reliable delivery with once-and-once only is key, as well as needing a high volume of messages. That might be a good time to use the leading enterprise messaging offering like IBM MQ. Perhaps, to drive new business opportunities, you need to publish and manage API calls and protect your business as requests are made through the firewall. Then a solution such as IBM API Connect and IBM DataPower would be ideal. You need to connect different applications together, enriching and adding value to the data between these applications? IBM App Connect would be a great choice. Or perhaps you are looking to ensure that different sites or different clouds can work together more efficiently, with more data exchanges faster using an offering like IBM Aspera.

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Hence the attraction of IBM Cloud Pak for Integration. Different integration needs call for different approaches. Of course, you can hammer in a screw with a hammer. But it is better to use a screwdriver. So why limit your choice of integration by listening to that vendor who will tell you their single approach is all you need? You always want the right tool.

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The right tool for integration gives you everything. Except a potato. You will need to provide that yourself. In the meantime, check out Cloud Pak for Integration. Here is a previous blog about the most recent release.

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Power to the Pak. Understanding the flexible license of IBM Cloud Pak for Integration

July 14, 2020

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I like to think everyone has a supply of batteries somewhere in their home. They are essential items yet taken for granted. TV remotes, torches, clocks. All items we need to use daily without thinking of them. We just expect them to work. And when we buy a new item, we tend not to think too much about it. “Oh, it needs batteries” we think. And we grab some from the drawer (called the man-drawer in our kitchen as it is a mess of junk). We keep a supply of batteries as we never know when a new item might need batteries, or when an existing item needs more power.

A similar scenario exists with integration common in every business. Integration itself is one of those daily essential items in the IT environment. You need it, and just expect it to work. And when you want to add more of the same integration, or even add another item of integration, wouldn’t it be great if this was available in the same way, and with the same ease as pulling some spare batteries out of the drawer?

This benefit is available to those businesses who choose the Cloud Pak for Integration. With this Cloud Pak, you are not only getting an integrated platform, built to be cloud-native and deployable through Kubernetes Operators from the OpenShift Container Platform catalog, but you get access to the leading integration tools within the common, flexible licensing model. But what does this mean?

When using batteries in devices, the devices themselves were different, but the power packs they used were the same. You could use both devices separately as they both are designed to do different things. But also, you could use one device more than usual because you could use additional batteries. The power delivered is the same, and the way in which the power is made available is the same. The same can even be true of cordless garden tools.

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With Cloud Pak for Integration, all the components and functions are accessible from the Platform Navigator, and deployable using Operators from the OpenShift catalog. But all provide different capabilities and meet different use cases. With Cloud Pak for Integration entitlement, you get access to all the components. And using any of them, at any time requires license entitlement. But like the battery packs in a huge range of devices, the license entitlement is completely interchangeable.

License entitlement in Cloud Pak for Integration applies to the components using ratios. This would be like the number of batteries needed for a device. A small torch might need 2 AAA batteries. A more powerful torch might be 4 AAA batteries, or even 3 AA batteries. The Cloud Pak for Integration ratios different for each component, and also are different depending on whether the deployment is for production or non-production use. Whichever the component, and whether for production or non-production, all the license entitlement needed is the right number of VPCs of Cloud Pak for Integration. In the same way, whether you are going to use the torch for 10 minutes or the game controller for 25 minutes, the battery is the same. You just need to plug it in.

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Supposing you had entitlement to 30 VPCs of Cloud Pak for Integration. You were looking to deploy some API Connect, both production and non-production, to create and manage some APIs. The minimum size deployment for API Connect in Cloud Pak for Integration is 12 cores, and the ratio is 1:1 for production, and 2:1 for non-production. This means 12 cores of API Connect in production is 12 VPCs of Cloud Pak for Integration, and for non-production you would need 6 VPC of Cloud Pak for Integration. You still have 12 VPCs of CP4I, which allows you to deploy 4 cores of App Connect to allow you to connect and integrate diverse systems together, as this needs a 1:3 ratio, so 4 cores of App Connect need 12 VPCs of CP4I.

Now imagine it is a busy time for your infrastructure and you need to push more workload through your App Connect instances. You can remove the deployment of the non-production API Connect deployment (6 VPCs of CP4I) which would allow you to deploy 2 more cores of App Connect. Just in the same way that if I am looking for the cat in the garden at night, and I need extra light, I take the batteries from the TV remote, put them into another torch, and we have more light. Obviously you can’t then use the TV remote without the batteries, but it is easy to put them back when your additional use is finished.

It is important to note that the flexible licensing doesn’t magic something out of nothing. You have the same maximum deployed capacity based on the number of your CP4I VPCs. Just as with the devices, where I can’t use the same batteries in the game controller if I am also using it in a torch, you can’t use CP4I VPCs for more than one component at a time. Hence why it can be important to have spare batteries in a drawer, or to have extra CP4I entitlements to provide more flexible deployments to meet your business need.  You can read the IBM Cloud Pak for Integration Knowledge Center about licensing here.

What flexible licensing does allow you to do is to try out new components without risk. Because in Cloud Pak for Integration there are multiple different integration components all accessible under the same entitlement, it gives you more choice. In the same way that you rely on your home devices using a predictable set of batteries. You know you will easily be able to plug in and go. That’s power to the Pak.

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Icing on the cake – making Cloud Pak for Integration 2020.2.1 even better

June 26, 2020

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In the UK version of ‘Who wants to be a millionaire?’ there was a section where the host offered the contestant a cheque for the prize money they had won so far, and then pulled it away saying “We don’t want to give you that” to encourage the customer to play on for more prizes. This week we are doing the same with Cloud Pak for Integration 2020.2.1, which is the latest release with a GA date of June 26th 2020 by doing an additional announcement to highlight additional features made available in this release.

We have already seen a blog about Cloud Pak for Integration 2020.2.1. This was announced back in April, but with a GA date that was a couple of months away at the time.

Modern software offerings are often tremendously powerful. They typically have many features that never get used, not because the features aren’t useful, but because it would take too long to understand the feature, and users don’t have the time to spend to learn how to use them, when the improvements might be minimal or not directly needed to get value from the offering.

The challenge with an offering like Cloud Pak for Integration is therefore not to add new features, but to add smarter, better features. To focus on features that deliver something not just essential but offering such an improvement that it becomes a core part of using the product, with the benefits flowing clearly and easily.

A reminder that in this release, we see the availability of Kubernetes Operators which are designed to help provide cloud-native style of operation, and by taking advantage of these, customers can start to exploit the power of Kubernetes for automated deployment and operation activities to enable customers to make their CI/CD pipeline goals a reality. IBM Event Streams was able to take advantage of the Strimzi operator from the Cloud Native Computing Foundation.

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In addition to the Operators the new announcement, available to read here,  calls out some additional features now available in the 2020.2.1 release that will provide real benefits. An innovative new feature is the introduction of ‘Mapping Assist’ for App Connect Designer. App Connect is our leading integration tool to enable different applications, systems and data to connect and exchange value. However, to do this, the data must be mapped between the source and targets. This can be not just time consuming, but also complex.

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Years of experience and sample data have allowed IBM to add AI assistance to this task and can provide suggested mappings. This rapidly accelerates this complex task, helping achieve value both faster and with potentially better outcomes.

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Additionally, Cloud Pak for Integration can now take advantage of IBM Transformation Advisor which was previously only part of Cloud Pak for Applications. Many customers today may be getting entitlement to the Cloud Pak for Integration, but their applications are not designed for container deployment.

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Transformation Advisor can help provide an assessment of the level of complexity of migrating these applications and also some guidance for how to modernize these applications.

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By adding these new features and capabilities into the Cloud Pak for Integration, there is increased value and it will be easier to get value from not just buying Cloud Pak for Integration but in deploying and using it as well. Not just the icing on the cake, but the fruit on the icing well.

Note a version of this blog also appears on the IBM Community site here.

Time to Think about using Cloud Pak for Integration V2020.2.1?

May 5, 2020

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Just prior to big IBM conferences like IBM Think there are usually a number of new product announcements. These are scheduled to allow the conference attendees to get not just the great access to leadership keynotes, but the latest updates covering technical content that has only just been announced.

 

This is why, just a few weeks after the previous announcement of Cloud Pak for Integration 2020.1.1, IBM announced on April 28th 2020, another new release Cloud Pak for Integration 2020.2.1. It is important to note this was only the announcement, and not the GA. If you read the announcement letter you will see that the GA date is June 26th 2020. Normally we would look to announce closer to the availability date, but the timing for IBM Think 2020 led us to bring forward the announcement.

 

As you might know for this year, for obvious reasons, IBM Think is now a virtual only event, with far fewer sessions, which are mostly keynotes, and supplemented by online demos. But imagine the event had taken place with all the sessions, and you were in San Francisco at the Moscone Center, what would the Cloud Pak for Integration “What’s new” session covered?

 

Well the big news in this release is the move to support Operators. And if that’s the case, we had better explain what these are, and why they are important.

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From reading previous blogs of mine, you might have seen I am a fan of analogies. Our lead architect for the Cloud Pak described Operators like this: Imagine you are hungry. You can assemble all the ingredients you want, prepare them by hand, and then cook everything. It’s a lot of work, and you might mess up. That’s like using Kubernetes and doing everything yourself. Another option might be ordering takeout food to be delivered. You decide what you want, and you request it, and it is delivered to you. That’s like using Kubernetes with Operators. You need to decide what you want, but then you get it, and it should be much less effort than doing everything yourself. Now, as a keen cook myself, I might always personally prefer to cook for myself, but I can certainly appreciate the benefits of the analogy, if we were to stretch it out to cover how much homecooking you would need to do to cater for an entire business…

Operators ease the operational complexity of running software in Kubernetes. This is critical because Kubernetes provides tremendous capabilities, but as this is new to many customers it can take time to harness the power. Operators work across multiple steps in the software lifecycle, through installation, operation and maintenance.

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They provide ways to exploit the power that Kubernetes offers, such as repeatability of installation and upgrades of software offerings and helps to ensure that the software is deployed consistently. And once the Operator is defined, then Kubernetes is able to follow the Operator to deliver the outcome specified, again and again.

 

Many of the discussions about the benefits of container deployments might reference the goal for a Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) pipeline. Having operators in place to help can assist businesses in unlocking these benefits. Whereas Helm Charts were generally associated with focusing on ‘Day 1’ operations, Operators are more focused on ‘Day 2’ ongoing operations.

 

Cloud Pak for Integration makes use of the Red Hat Operator Lifecycle Manager to help users install, update and manage the lifecycle of all of their Operators as well as providing a consistent method for deployment. This should provide a much better experience in deploying only selected features and components of the Cloud Pak for Integration.

 

IBM will also be designing the Operators to fit our suggested best practices. In this way, businesses should be able to move forward much faster and more effectively as they begin to transform their infrastructure as part of their overall shift to digital transformation and becoming more cloud native.

 

As part of this release IBM Event Streams, which is part of the IBM Cloud Pak for Integration takes advantage of the open source Strimzi Operator that is published by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation.

 

What IBM is seeing in many customers exploring this shift to containers and Kubernetes style deployments is a desire to interact more engagingly with customers. This would be seen through an increase is responsiveness, and also being able to ensure that responses are based on customer and event specific data to allow for higher quality interactions. This would be the case not just for customers, but for internal users and partners across the business ecosystem.

I did an official IBM version of this blog on the IBM Communities site here.

Also you might want to read about the recent IBM MQ V9.1.5 announcement letter here, which includes the long awaited update to RDQM supporting HA and DR deployments.

Also there have been recent updates for IBM API Connect V10 and IBM DataPower V10, announced here.

Something to Think about as you read the announcement letter and sign up to listen to the keynotes at IBM Think 2020.

Stability in times of change – IBM Cloud Pak for Integration

March 31, 2020

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There are times where it seems that all we experience is stormy weather. This might be in our lives, or in business, or even the world around us. And at times like these it is useful to have something to anchor onto. Something to depend upon.

Maybe your business is experiencing unprecedented change at the moment? Are you looking at hunkering down to keep going? Then you need something to depend on?

Or maybe you see the best strategy of trying to make new connections, and to leverage your business strengths by connecting to and working with other businesses to leverage their strengths too. In which case you certainly want to be sure to make use of something that will adapt to new circumstances but also will do the job you need it to do.

What you need is IBM Cloud Pak for Integration.

Cloud Pak for Integration is rapidly becoming the choice of many enterprises across the globe as the ideal way to combine seamless access to leading integration tools and middleware with an agile and modern approach to application connectivity, integration, deployment and maintenance.

Taking advantage of new ways to create, build and deploy applications and integrate them across the business, Cloud Pak for Integration offers a powerful, yet simple interface to provide access to a comprehensive and complete set of integration features and capabilities, easily configured and deployed through a single, tailored user interface.

IBM Cloud Pak for Integration is built to provide a modern container-based integration platform including IBM’s leading integration offerings and capabilities which can be used either as an integrated part of this container deployment environment or deployed standalone as they are today. This is supported through a flexible licensing approach. Existing integration clients can bring their current investments in IBM’s integration offerings into this licensing model, and all clients can buy new licensing entitlements offering complete flexibility, not just in how you choose to deploy integration features, but with the power to change these integration choices as frequently as you want.

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The Cloud Pak for Integration includes these market-leading integration offerings:

IBM App Connect

IBM API Connect

IBM Aspera High Speed Transfer Server

IBM DataPower Gateway Virtual Edition

IBM Event Streams

IBM MQ

The Cloud Pak for Integration is further enhanced with additional features such as an Asset Repository and an Operations Dashboard.

The Cloud Pak for Integration is typically updated and enhanced every quarter and I am pleased to announce the latest release of IBM Cloud Pak for Integration. This release, IBM Cloud Pak for Integration 2020.1.1 became generally available on March 31st 2020. In this latest update there are a number of key new features.

  • The addition of App Connect Designer tooling. This tooling, now available for use as an on-premises tool (previously only available as a cloud-based service) enables customers to achieve faster time to market and improve their developer efficiency by creating APIs in minutes, without having to code.
  • Support for Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform 4.3
  • Improved integration between App Connect and the Cloud Pak for Integration Asset Repository. This will help to encourage reuse across the organization as developers can now share assets from App Connect across the wider Cloud Pak for Integration platform and access those assets directly within the user interface.

 

Clients acquiring Cloud Pak for Integration entitlements can buy licenses in a number of ways. The offering is sold by VPC, and is available as perpetual VPC entitlement, by monthly VPC or through a Committed Term License VPC agreement.

A version of this blog post is also available on the IBM Middleware Community site here

Don’t be sheepish. IBM Cloud Pak for Integration can be your secret to wealth and power

January 23, 2020

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My route to IBM Hursley takes me through the Hampshire countryside. And today for some reason I noticed many of the fields along the A32 and the Meon Valley were full of sheep. “So what?” you might say. But sheep were actually the route to wealth and power for the UK. So much so that the Lord Chancellor sat on a Woolsack in the House of Lords to symbolize the importance of the wool trade in the Middle Ages.

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Many of the key land-owners in the UK would have huge estates, with walls around them and large numbers of sheep would graze across the land quite freely. But there would be formal gardens close to the house which they would want to keep protected from the sheep. How could you protect the gardens, without building fences or walls that would spoil the view? The answer was a “Ha-Ha”. A hidden feature which would connect the formal gardens to the grazing land, but without being visible. Much like successful integration in your infrastructure.

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Think about the concept of the Ha-Ha. You want both your grazing land and your formal gardens to ‘work together’. But you don’t want to impact either of them. Now think about your IT assets. You have your applications. Some new, some existing. All adding value to your business. You want to get the most out of your new applications and the value they bring, without disrupting your existing business.

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If only there was a way to seamlessly connect applications together. To move or exchange data from anywhere to everywhere. To call APIs or to provide a secure gateway. Integration is not a single thing. You don’t just flip a switch and it is done. The same way you don’t just have a single tool in your toolbox. You need a hammer to knock in a nail. And a screwdriver to drive in a screw. And the way to integrate different parts of your IT infrastructure is to have a rich set of integration capabilities.

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Imagine instead of engaging ‘Capability’ Brown, the renowned landscape designer to solve the issue of sheep coming into the formal gardens, our country estate owner got in their local builder or craftsman. The know how to build a wall or erect a fence. So that’s what they would do. It would do the job. But it could be done so much better.

 

It is the same with any business today. IT assets can be complex, and new applications to respond to today’s opportunities are being developed faster than ever. What you need is an integration solution that does more than a simple solution. Something with breadth and depth. That can connect and secure at scale. Something simple, yet powerful. Reliable and highly available. Something that can feed mobile transactions to your backend invoice applications, but stream data from your new marketing apps to your AI engine. What you need is IBM’s Cloud Pak for Integration.

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A powerful blend of leading offerings such as MQ Advanced, DataPower, Aspera, App Connect Enterprise, API Connect and Event Streams. It provides the tooling flexibility your business needs to integrate across the enterprise. And it combines this broad range of capabilities with a single transferable license entitlement, allowing you to pay just for what you need, and to move and change as your business needs change.

 

The IT world moves a lot faster than landscape gardening, and a lot faster than a flock of sheep, even when they are being chased by a big bad wolf. Your business faces many threats, but your applications, your data and your other IT assets are the path to success if you can integrate them and use them together effectively. The Ha-ha is a great example that shows us different things can work together beautifully. And a Ha-ha, built well, would still be there doing its job today. Why do a quick and dirty job and throw up a fence? Is that really what you want? And the best use of your time and money? Doing something right means you are ready for anything.

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You might have MQ today, or DataPower, or Aspera. Or you may be looking at Event Streams to deploy some Kafka messaging. Don’t be sheepish about discovering how they are all a part of IBM Cloud Pak for Integration. They can be used by themselves, or together as part of a container-based solution. But either way, they can be as valuable today to your business as flocks of sheep were hundreds of years ago. And your business might grow to an impressive size.

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Containers and modernization. Not a one-horse town for businesses using IBM MQ.

January 12, 2020

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This blog was going to be on IBM Cloud Pak for Integration, following one I did last year. But I realized I needed to focus first more on modernization. This aligns with much of what I was going to talk about in my Cloud Pak blog, which I will revisit in another entry. For now, it is probably best to look at modernization specifically for MQ customers.

Modernization is not simply about moving to containers. A couple of years ago we would have had to caution that modernization wasn’t about moving to cloud. Stop jumping on the latest technology and seeing it as a solution to business problems. The solution to business problems is not simply changing our technology for today’s buzzword. That’s not to say containers can’t be part of a good solution, but simply touting containers as a solution rather than a technology that can be used when appropriate is not optimal.

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Let’s review Messaging Modernization, and how it applies to MQ users today – of which there are many thousands. Some of these will have used it as a critical part of their infrastructure for more than 2 decades. It would be amazing if across all these infrastructures there weren’t improvements that could be made to these MQ deployments without throwing away the baby with the bath water.

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Some of the issue is that even though customers might be using a recent release of MQ, they are still using MQ in exactly the same way that they were many years ago. It’s like moving from house to house over the years, starting small and nasty, and moving through nicer and nicer homes but still with the same furniture. You end up in a beautiful and spacious house, but still with the same tatty armchair, single bed, and peeling bookcase. Using MQ for many years without modernizing your deployment is similar to that scenario of moving from house to house but still using the same furniture and décor from the initial flat share.

 

MQ’s flexibility means it can be deployed in many ways. MQ has been deployed alongside each application instance, which is great for resilience and reliability but can lead to overhead both in costs, and in deployment times when scaling.

Another deployment approach is to have single MQ instances manage workload from multiple different applications. Then yet another style of deployment is having multiple instances of the same application using a single MQ instance. There are of course more combinations but those are certainly prevalent.

 

There is not necessarily anything wrong with those deployment styles, on whatever platform they are deployed on, but many customers don’t see them as being as responsive or as efficient as they would like for today’s infrastructure.

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Modernization of MQ is likely to review the way in which you deploy MQ in support of the applications that use it. In many cases, recommended practice would be to define and deploy more, smaller instances of MQ with each instance or Queue Manager supporting an individual application instance. With virtualization and container technology, it is no longer the case that you can have a single instance of MQ on a server, but you can have multiple instances, each maybe only using fractions of a processor core. This provides decoupled deployment, but with the ability to scale on a more granular level, and to spread the workload both horizontally and vertically.

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You can have a combination of this modern, agile deployment style. This can be coupled with greater insight into what is happening in the MQ system through streaming of system events and logs to a choice of external tools. Then modern REST API based tooling to control and manage the environment completely transforms MQ for today’s critical business problems.

 

Your business problems might seem to be different, but the challenge of moving data once and once only, with security and reliability remains a constant. There are some things you can rely on even when everything else is changing. IBM MQ remains the messaging solution you can rely on. Even when you have modernized your deployment. Both inside and outside containers.

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