The gift of choice with Cloud Pak for Integration 2021.4.1

December 7, 2021

Whatever you celebrate at the end of the year, you will want to choose what you do, and where you do it. The freedom to choose puts you in control. And that freedom to choose is at the heart of the latest release of Cloud Pak for Integration 2021.4.1. Read the announcement here.

The last 12 months have seen tremendous innovation delivered in Cloud Pak for Integration, with new features, and existing features getting enhanced and improved in each release. But if I had to give a single theme to this release it would be the increase of customer choice.

Choice can of course be a bad thing if it is overwhelming, but in considering this enterprise deployment of integrations, this is more about ensuring that a considered choice can be made between specific set of alternatives, with likely clear preferences. Let’s look at the features and see why.

The first new capability to call out is the Event Endpoint Management feature that was first delivered in the initial Cloud Pak for Integration release in 1Q 2021 and has been enhanced in each release since then. Kafka is being widely adopted to ensure information about events can be rapidly moved across the business, allowing this information to be used in multiple different back-end applications. At the same time many businesses are focusing programming skills on APi-driven access to data. Event Endpoint Management combines these different technologies in providing API-led access to Kafka data.  

Options for chargeable entitlement

Customers wanting to use Event Endpoint Management to expose their Kafka stream histories through API Calls using the AsyncAPI protocol could use Cloud Pak for Integration VPCs through the ratio table to deploy and use this feature. However, this would provide them with deployment costs aligned to the number of cores the function was deployed into, rather than aligned with the usage of this feature, as judged by the number of API calls made to retrieve Kafka events. In this release customers can instead use this increasingly important feature by using the Cloud Pak for Integration API Calls add-on. This allows the customer to buy a specified number of API Calls per month, for which they are charged relative to that number of calls. This can better align with the value of using this feature, independent of how many processors cores are needed for deployment. The API Calls add-on can be used for both regular API Calls using the API Connect component of Cloud Pak for Integration as well as the Event Endpoint Management component which provides the AsyncAPI calls. The choice of how to pay for using AsyncAPIs is now up to the customer.

Next up is choice of a different sort. This time it is the freedom to choose suggestions enhanced by AI. Once again this is an additional enhancement to the AI powered API Test Generation feature introduced earlier in the year. As businesses develop more and more APIs, there is a growing effort required to ensure these APIs are thoroughly tested. This growing testing requirement places an increasing burden on the business. AI-driven API Test generation is designed to automate the process of generating these API test cases by using AI to intelligently create the best test cases and build test coverage based on the APIs being created.

There have been further enhancements to the test generation which makes it easier to stand-up and tear down tests, but key in this latest release is the use of deeper AI. The AI generates test insights through analysing production OpenTracing data. This helps to determine distinct behaviours in an API implementation, and these are then reviewed against the existing test coverage. These Watson insights suggest what tests to create from the templates it offers to give the best coverage. The top 3 suggestions are offered to the customer. This choice can make it much faster and easier to provide effective test coverage of APIs without wasted effort.

Each business is different in terms of what assets it has, where it runs certain workloads and how it balances the different business needs against those assets. In order to support those customers running workloads on IBM Z Servers with IFL (Integrated Facility for Linux) the previous release of Cloud Pak for Integration delivered many components of the Cloud Pak for Integration 2021.3.1 release to be deployed on OpenShift on IBM z IFLs. This helps customers make their own business decisions of where to run their workloads in support of their business needs.

Cloud Pak for Integration further extends this choice by delivering additional components for deployment on OpenShift on IBM Z IFLs. This release includes App Connect Designer and the Automation Assets component. App Connect Designer makes it simple and quick to build and deploy integrations without coding to rapidly address business integration needs. Almost anyone can create integrations, with the tooling designed to help pull in templates, and to provide assistance using AI suggestions for mapping and transformation. Something else to help with building integrations more quickly is the Automation Assets component (previously called Asset Repository). This enables integrations to be stored and reused, ensuring that new integrations don’t need to start from scratch, and that an integration requirement can be solved by pulling a pre-built integration from the repository if it has already been built.

As with increasing customer choice by enabling deployment of Cloud Pak for Integration on IBM Z IFLs, there is another extension of customer choice with Cloud Pak for Integration 2021.4.1. In this release there is now, for the first time, the ability to deploy some components of the Cloud Pak on IBM Power Systems hardware running OpenShift on Power.  In this release the components available include Platform Navigator, App Connect (runtime, Designer and Dashboard), Event Streams and MQ. It should be noted that while the rest of these components can be deployed with IBM built container images using included Kubernetes operators, MQ and MQ Advanced must be deployed using a customer-built container image.

Finally, in terms of new features available in the Cloud Pak for Integration 2021.4.1 release, there is a new feature to add choice and additional capabilities around License Use Management. IBM software is deployed using agreements between the customer and IBM and is subject to the customer using agreed software to report on deployment. This includes the IBM License Service for container deployed software and IBM License Management Tool for non-container deployed software. While these tools report on deployment for audit as required, the information isn’t typically easy to access for any of the users of the software. This can lead both to lack of visibility when customer deployments reach entitlement limits, and also lack of ready access to the information can hamper the ability to implement departmental cross-charging, or even understanding different workload deployment patterns. With the latest release, customers now have the option for both the License Service and IBM License Management Tool to publish this contractual usage data to their own page on IBM Software Central. By aggregating this install and deployment data in a single location, customers will benefit from increased transparency of usage and be able to respond faster to changes in usage patterns and align deployment to entitlement. To ensure that customer needs are met, the uploading of this information is optional, and entirely for the customer to decide.

Whatever you celebrate this holiday season, there is plenty to enjoy in Cloud Pak for Integration 2021.4.1, with the question being which gift will you unwrap first? Why not give yourself a gift of a trial use of Cloud Pak for Integration. Explore the hosted trial environment here.

A time for gift giving. Why using Cloud Pak for Integration can be rewarding.

November 29, 2021

We are told that feedback is a gift. What’s also a gift is a gift card. IBM is giving you the chance to both give and receive. You give IBM feedback about your use of Cloud Pak for Integration. IBM then rewards that feedback with a $25 Visa gift card.

IBM Cloud Pak for Integration is a cloud-native integration platform designed to deploy in any environment simply and repeatably by taking advantage of Red Hat OpenShift, and to enable any integration to be developed and deployed quickly and without specialist skills needed across the integration lifecycle. Integration is essential to move your critical business data from where it is created to where it needs to be consumed. With your business depending on it, you need the secure, reliable, robust and scalable Cloud Pak for Integration connecting your infrastructure.

To provide feedback, you need to follow the link below to Gartner Peer Insights. There, once you sign up with your business email, you can simply leave a review with feedback about Cloud Pak for Integration. And your reward for this would be a $25 Visa gift card. It is the gift giving season after all.

Here’s the link to review CP4I on the Gartner Peer Insight page – then click the sign up for free button on the page to quickly create a Gartner Profile. You can then complete the survey. Remember to use your corporate email, and verify this. Then write a unique review of your own, using complete sentences. And check your review status here .

If that weren’t enough, maybe you are a customer who uses IBM App Connect or IBM API Connect and haven’t yet made the leap to Cloud Pak for Integration? We also have links for you here:

IBM App Connect Reviews

IBM API Connect Reviews

IBM wants your feedback, so remember to use these links and provide your honest comments, and the gifts should then follow.

’tis the season after all.

Cloud Pak for Integration 2021.3.1 – Falling back into place

September 21, 2021

The autumn, or fall equinox is September 22nd this year for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. This is great timing for the announcement of IBM Cloud Pak for Integration version 2021.3.1 software on September 21st, and the release on September 24th.

The new release features the return or refresh of two key aspects of Cloud Pak for Integration software.  

One of these includes welcoming back the IBM Event Streams platform. This is IBM’s implementation of the Apache Kafka platform. While it never officially went away, there was a deprecation announcement for the Event Streams platform in March 2021. It continued to be available and supported but this announcement meant that at the time there were no plans to update this component further. However, it is clear how important it is for our customers to have a Kafka platform implementation as a core component of the Cloud Pak for Integration platform so this decision has been reversed. IBM will continue to enhance and update the Event Streams platform, starting with the 2021.3.1 release. Customers can use their Cloud Pak for Integration entitlements to deploy Event Streams software on OpenShift in the same way they choose to deploy other components of the Cloud Pak for Integration platform. IBM also continues to offer the Confluent Platform for IBM Cloud Pak for Integration as an option for customers who choose that Kafka implementation.

The second key feature falling back into place is an updated and refreshed release of Cloud Pak for Integration on the IBM Integrated Facility for Linux on System Z engines, sometimes described as zLinux. There had been previous releases of Cloud Pak for Integration on this platform, but not updated since the 2020.4.1 release. This prior release was still supported, which was based on the Red Hat OpenShift 4.6 EUS release, but customers could not take advantage of the updates to the components delivered since then. In the Cloud Pak for Integration 2021.3.1 release, this is now fixed and updates are available with refreshes for IBM MQ and IBM MQ Advanced, IBM App Connect, IBM Aspera High Speed Transfer Server and IBM Event Streams software. This provides additional deployment choice and enables customers to deploy their integration on a wider set of platforms, reinforcing the value of a hybrid cloud infrastructure based on Red Hat OpenShift.

Additional updates in this release include further enhancement for the Event Endpoint Management feature. This was first available in the 2021.1.1 release and allows users to exploit Kafka stream histories by using APIs with the AsyncAPI standard. There are two enhancements being delivered in this release. One is to allow the Event Endpoint Management feature to be launched directly rather than as a feature of the API Connect component. This helps when customers are looking specifically to use that feature. Another benefit is to separate the deployment of the event gateway service from the Portal and API Manager. This helps the customer deploy the gateway service closer to the Kafka broker cluster, which will not only reduce traffic, but also help put in place better security layers.

Another feature introduced in earlier versions of Cloud Pak for Integration but being further enhanced in this release is API testing. There have been several new features added to help in this area, including generating tests based on the OpenAPI definitions of the API calls. In this release of Cloud Pak for Integration, the OpenAPI schemas are used to generate test data, thereby helping to simplify automated test coverage for additional APIs being deployed. Now, APIs can be developed and deployed with increased test coverage but with lower overheads in terms of building out and running these tests.

In the 2021.1.1 release of Cloud Pak for Integration a new high availability feature of MQ software was introduced as a preview. In the 2021.3.1 release, this is now fully available for production use. This container-native approach for MQ software high availability is designed to be simple to configure and use, with no external dependencies. Three queue managers within the MQ software are deployed, with one active and two as standby. MQ software is used to replicate messages and log data between the systems, which can make use of local node storage rather than more complex and expensive network storage for persistent data. Using Cloud Pak for Integration licensing, the active queue manager component within the MQ software is entitled using the MQ Advanced ratio, and the two standby queue managers don’t require Cloud Pak for Integration entitlements.

Another new MQ software feature available in the Cloud Pak for Integration 2021.3.1 release is streaming queues. This is designed to simplify MQ software message sharing for additional use and customer value without disrupting the message during application sending. Many MQ software applications are designed for point-to-point communication between applications. If customers want to use the same message data to send to another application, such as an analytics engine or a Kafka network, previous options included rewriting both applications to use publish-subscribe, or having either application send another copy of the message; however, this would be different regarding Message-ID or Correl-ID. The new streaming queues feature delivered in MQ software copies the message as it flows through MQ software, preserving the metadata and leaving the message and the original applications unchanged. This frees up the message data to be reused to add new value and generate new business opportunities.

Finally, Cloud Pak for Integration version 2021.3.1 also features additional updates in the App Connect software component. As with each Cloud Pak for Integration release, there are additional new or enhanced Smart Connectors available.

This release includes the following connectors:

– IBM Sterling Order Management System

– Salesforce Marketing Cloud

– IBM Engineering Workflow Management

– Oracle E-Business Suite

– Enhancements to the MQ software connector

Further, the newest version contains the Business Transaction Monitoring feature. This was previously available in IBM Integration Bus software and is now being added into App Connect software. Some of the benefits include tracking the status of App Connect integration flows, discovering whether transactions have completed and viewing events and event data that form business transactions. This powerful feature will allow businesses to view and understand more of the critical workload flowing through their integration infrastructure, thus helping increase business effectiveness and address any issues much earlier. If this update has made you more interested in what Cloud Pak for Integration can do for your business, try it for yourself. We have a Cloud Pak for Integration trial ready and waiting for you, hosted on the IBM Cloud. Click here to find out more and get started today.

Say what you want and get it with Cloud Pak for Integration 2021.2.1

June 22, 2021

As the saying goes, “If you don’t ask, then you don’t get.” It’s generally true, but when it comes to your business integration needs, just asking has never been enough. You need a rich set of skills and an understanding of how to use them to create the right integration for the job. That is, until now.

Introducing Flow Creation with Natural Language Processing

With the latest release of IBM Cloud Pak for Integration, you can simply ask for what you want. Describe the integration you are looking for, by typing in ‘natural language’ and the Designer tool will offer you the integration flow you are most likely to need.

How is this new innovation provided? Cloud Pak for Integration comes with a set of pre-built templates for integration flows. These can be further extended with customer-built workflow templates. Now, when you use natural language to describe what you want to do, the product will match the request with a set of templates and suggest the most likely workflow option. There’s even an autosuggest function that will provide options as you type! This will not only help to accelerate flow creation but also make it possible for users with no integration experience to build integrations flows. Imagine the possibilities that open up with true citizen integrators.

Mapping Assist Enhancements

Additional new features that help accelerate the building of integration flows include enhancements to the mapping assist feature that helps suggest transformations. The transformation generator is a new capability to intelligently build the mapping expression suggestions based on sample data. And the previous integration flow mappings for each user now provide closed loop operational feedback to help improve new mapping suggestions.

Event Endpoint Management

Another new feature is an extension of an innovation first introduced in the previous release of Cloud Pak for Integration – Event Endpoint Management. This capability allows use of AsyncAPI as a method to make application programming interface (API) calls against Apache Kafka topic history, making it easier to get value from your Kafka event streams.

In this new release, you can now select this capability and deploy it as a distinct feature rather than selecting API Connect as the deployment component. Self-discovery is also now possible, making it easier for developers to use the portal to discover the right Kafka data and generate their own credentials to get started faster.

Additional new enhancements

In addition to these innovations, there are multiple enhancements and improvements delivered in this release of Cloud Pak for Integration. An enhancement to the API Test Generation feature helps simplify and automate analyses for new API tests based on API calls and their ongoing use.

Another improvement is when customers are utilizing multiple integration capabilities for a single integration use case. These can now be pulled together for deployment as a single instance without the need to create a custom image of the deployable integration solution. This makes building these solutions much simpler and helps you to deploy them faster.  

New and enhanced Smart Connectors

Each new release of Cloud Pak for Integration has included new or enhanced smart connectors, allowing for contextual connectivity into applications or technical services to exchange data more simply. This release is no exception.

The newest Cloud Pak for Integration release includes the following list of new connectors:

  • flexEngage
  • Azure Blob storage
  • Salesforce Commerce Cloud
  • MQ
  • OpenAPI 3
  • Gmail
  • Box
  • Trello

These connectors help users extract key business data more quickly from these endpoints and be put to quick use. It should also be noted that some of the additional new features available in this release are described in this blog.

IBM App Connect V12

Also available as part of this Cloud Pak for Integration release is IBM App Connect V12 software, which adds multiple new features.

These features include:

  • Restyled and updated integration tooling
  • No-code RESTful integration services
  • A new simplified API authoring tool
  • Flexible integration patterns
  • Broad deployment options.

These new integration capabilities, together with the new features of Cloud Pak for Integration, facilitate the ability for users to obtain these products for faster and simpler integrations than previously available anywhere.

Now why wouldn’t you ask for that?

You can also read another version of this blog here.

Something to think about during Think. An upcoming release of Cloud Pak for Integration.

May 11, 2021

This week is the week of IBM Think 2021. Unlike in past years this isn’t being held in Las Vegas or San Francisco, but is, as it was in 2020, a virtual event. This time it is condensed to be just 5 hours long, being held on May 11th for the Americas, and May 12th for AP and EMEA. As Think is a chance to share both current and future plans about our products with our customers, we took the chance to do an early announcement letter for our 2Q release of Cloud Pak for Integration (2021.2.1).

This early announcement letter ensures that as we have announced there will be a 2Q release, that we can talk about it more freely, given we try to only talk about products and capabilities that will be definitely delivered. And this announcement ensures we can talk about a known deliverable. Given we are still early in our quarterly delivery cycle, there isn’t much included in the announcement letter at this time, so expect another letter later in June and closer to our actual availability date. This future letter will confirm some of the content we weren’t able to include in this letter.

What specific new features and capabilities were announced on May 4th when we released the announcement letter? At this point there were 3 new features or enhancements called out, and one of them has already been delivered.

The feature already available can be described as Integrated API Authoring. Let’s consider a requirement to build a new API to expose access to a business application or data. You need to define and build the API, but it needs access to the application and data it is designed to provide access to. And then in order to publish the API for use, you would need to apply security policies to it. In late April the App Connect Designer component of Cloud Pak for Integration was updated with a new Operator. This brought together the ability to perform all these steps in a simple and linked approach meaning you not only can do all these steps quickly and simply, but you can actually be done and ready in literally minutes, all from within the same tool. We can even show this working if you watch the webinar found at this link.

What else was in the letter? We also stated there are updates in the Automated generation of API Tests. The previous release (CP4I 2021.1.1) included new features to automatically generate tests to run against the APIs being built based on analysis of the OpenAPI calls. This automatic generation of test coverage speeds up deployment and can improve quality of deployed APIs. There will be further enhancement in this area to boost the generation and relevance of the tests for APIs.

And finally in this letter we talked about Storage. An important enhancement in the CP4I 2020.4.1 release was the inclusion of a limited entitlement to IBM Storage Suite for Cloud Paks. This provided an amount of Software defined storage for customers with entitlements to Cloud Pak for Integration. This type of storage can be helpful for customers who are deploying in Kubernetes environments to help ensure that their storage is able to provide the right quality of service when used in support of containerised deployments. The entitlement provided access to 12TB of OpenShift Container Storage, as well as a total of 12TB of storage provided by Spectrum Scale, Spectrum Discover or Spectrum Virtualise. Which storage environment is best suited to which component can be found in the CP4I documentation. In Cloud Pak for Integration 2021.2.1, this offer is being enhanced with the addition of 4TB of IBM Spectrum Protect Plus. As data is increasingly seen as critical, it becomes important to ensure that data is not only secure and available, but can be protected and resilient in case of disaster recovery, cyber security issues, and also meets data retention and compliance regulation needs. Spectrum Protect Plus is designed to protect your data in hybrid cloud environments, where you might need it most.

As mentioned, we can expect a further announcement letter later in June with more content to be announced as being delivered in Cloud Pak for Integration 2021.2.1. For now, I recommend you catch some of the sessions at IBM Think 2021. Maybe check out a couple of other webinars here (Smart Mapping) and here (new MQ innovations). Maybe even try out Cloud Pak for Integration today.

Then you can explore other interesting aspects of IBM Think, like IBM Quantum

Change to do business better with IBM Cloud Pak for Integration

April 29, 2021

For more than a year now businesses round the world have had to adapt and change faster and more extensively than many would have believed possible. Some businesses were impacted hard even if they were able to change their IT processes and services to meet the new reality. Other businesses were able, through extensive changes, to find new ways to engage with customers, to deliver and provide goods and services and to make the most of the opportunities.

Now we are starting to see the world slowly looking to move to a new future, with the worst of the pandemic hopefully behind us in some geographies, and those areas where there are still terrible impacts, there is the promise of a better time ahead. But how to seize the opportunities provided by this ebbing away of the pandemic? Maybe by striving to effect change to exploit the new environment with as much focus as some businesses did to ensure they could respond to the challenges of the pandemic?

Historically, integration, while essential has been seen as an obstacle to success. The traditional, systematic and manual approach was blamed for slowing down new deployments. Even though the integration in place might deliver high quality outcomes, the integration department lacked the pace and innovation of other business teams. Recent innovations in IBM Cloud Pak for Integration have been changing that experience for businesses which have already seen success in deployment.

Every business is different and so sometimes reading about another company’s success isn’t helpful. Maybe your challenges are different? Maybe your industry faces different pressures? My experience is that no matter the industry, or the specifics of a business, there are many similarities of experience that mean most customers are more alike than they would expect.

The recurring needs in terms of integration can be broken down into 3 broad categories:

  1. Rapidly enabling the creation and deployment of new engaging applications in support of new opportunities and changes in business behaviour
    1. API driven integrations presenting timely and updated data to customers through seamless interactions with back-end applications and data sources
  2. Enhancing integration outcomes by reducing time to build, deploy and update integrations, and lowering costs by removing and reducing the barriers of skills and resources needed to create and manage integrations
    1. Tooling built for low-code or no-code integrations, with smart connectors to back-end applications, repositories for asset reuse and AI powered smart mapping
  3. Ensuring that integrations are secure, reliable, scalable and available
    1. End-to-end secure gateways and messaging to protect your data and business, with cloud native scaling and high availability to keep your data and transactions moving and completing.  

If these are common themes that seem familiar to you then you should see benefits from Cloud Pak for Integration. What benefits might you expect?

Maybe like Helsinki Regional Transport Authority you want to transition from traditional VM deployments to microservices architecture to provide scalability, disaster recovery, faster production deployment and faster testing?

Maybe like Sura Peru you are hoping for Application deployment up to 90% faster and 5x faster response times?

Perhaps like Tabadul you would like the time taken to develop new features reduced by 2/3?

The many capabilities of Cloud Pak for Integration can help address every aspect of integration and drive your business forward. With automation, and even AI helping to improve each step of the integration lifecycle, from design and deployment, to operation and updates, your business is primed for improvements as described in the case studies above. Maybe your experience will be the next to be written up?

If you want your business to make changes, and to move forward successfully as the world opens again; If you want to stop doing ‘business as usual’ and to start doing ‘business better’ then talk to your IBM rep or business partner today about Cloud Pak for Integration. Listen to one of our many webinars. It’s time to change your integration for the better.

Automatic for the People: Announcing Cloud Pak for Integration 2021.1.1

March 23, 2021

One of the best selling albums of 1992 was “Automatic for the People” by R.E.M. The title came from the motto of a local soul food restaurant Weaver D’s meaning it was “ready, quick and efficient”. Announcing on March 23 and available on March 26 2021, the latest release of Cloud Pak for Integration delivers not only new and enhance capabilities but builds on IBM’s Automation Foundation to offer new ways to solve business problems to achieve faster and better outcomes. In many ways the same sentiment as Weaver D’s but with fewer pieces of fried chicken.

Integration is critical in addressing every aspect of IT business infrastructure. Creating a solution to address a new business opportunity? You need integration to ensure it works with the other parts of the business. Looking to connect different parts of the business together to add new value? You need integration. Looking to improve your existing business functions to be faster, and more efficient? You need integration. The list continues.

What also continues are the improvements being made in each new release of IBM Cloud Pak for Integration. In the 2021.1.1 release, thanks to the Automation Foundation businesses can now choose to take advantage of Robotic Process Automation, allowing them to integrate with applications in new ways that would have been complex, expensive and time-consuming to do previously.

Also part of the Automation Foundation, Process Mining can be used to review how existing integrations are performing and suggest improvements to the flow and design of integrations.

There are also capabilities enhanced in this release that deliver exciting additional benefits to customers. One of these allows businesses to exploit the growing amount of valuable data that might be distributed by Kafka brokers. Many organizations see the benefit of using Kafka to distributed data reflecting business events and other data updates. This data is held in stream histories. In this new release of Cloud Pak for Integration, a new multi-form API management feature allows these Kafka data stores to be accessed through a new Asynchronous API. This extension to the API Management capability in Cloud Pak for Integration will allow businesses to make far more use of data moved using Kafka by making it much faster and easier to access it for valuable business needs.

The API management capabilities are also further enhanced through additional automated API test generation, based on analysis of OpenAPI usage. The creation of these additional test cases will enable better test coverage and help businesses make more productive use of new APIs.

For businesses that use MQ and are planning to deploy in containers on OpenShift there is the initial availability to try out a new approach for High Availability designed for container deployments of MQ. This new MQ Native HA feature, available at this time only for evaluation purposes and unsupported at this time, enables MQ to replicate persistent messages and log data to other passive MQ Queue Manager instances running in other containers using only MQ, and not relying on external storage replication or network storage locking.

There are further enhancements also that enable Cloud Pak for Integration to be deployed isolated in a separate Kubernetes namespace. Additional storage options, available in the included Storage Suite for Cloud Paks are now included in the list of supported options in the Knowledge Center. And even more Smart Connectors are now included for additional connectivity to 3rd party and IBM systems and applications.

Finally, there are new additions to the set of add-ons available to Cloud Pak for Integration. This list previously already included Cloud Pak for Integration Operation Dashboard add-on and the Confluent Platform add-on for Cloud Pak for Integration. In this release there is the option to purchase IBM Aspera Enterprise add-on delivering the High Speed Transfer Service running at 10Gbps, but also other tools and capabilities enhancing the Aspera function. And there is a new Cloud Pak for Integration API Calls add-on, which allows businesses to deploy out API Management capabilities but purchased based on the number of API Calls rather than the number of processor cores used in the deployment. This can provide an option for more cost-effective deployment.

While it might be a while before I can visit Weaver Ds in Athens Georgia to try some soul food, you can try Cloud Pak for Integration today. Visit either Red Hat Marketplace or get trial entitlement here.

There are regular IBM integration webinars here and you can read a slightly different version of this blog here.

Applying Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle to understand the need for Cloud Pak for Integration

March 5, 2021

Sometimes is only takes a small step to change the world. But that small step is likely the outcome of a longer journey. The Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle states (roughly) you can either know where something is, but not where it’s going. While it is designed to apply to wave equations, you can try to apply it to other aspects of life.

Let’s start with the car market. Today all around the world there is a change going on. Reading the statistics, the European market today shows Petrol/Gas cars with 52%, Diesel with 30%, Hybrid at 10% and Electric at 6%. We therefore know where something is from these numbers, but not where it is going. Indeed, you might say this is good news for the Petrol and Diesel car market.

However, if you look at a different set of statistics, you see a different story. You see where the market is going. New car sales were 80% electric cars. We are seeing a huge shift. Taking a snapshot from one set of information isn’t enough. Bear in mind the car market can’t completely change overnight. People might run their cars for 5-10 years between new updates.

Now let’s consider the market for IT infrastructure and specifically integration. What are customers using today? The vast majority of businesses today run most of their infrastructure in their own data center. They run on bare-metal, or VMs. And their applications are probably complex, tightly coupled with where and how they are installed and deployed. Many applications and integrations would be around 5-10 years old, and if the business was advanced enough at the time, the integration architecture would be built to use SOA principles and connect together using an ESB.

If we looked at the integration market today, we would certainly see this as an endorsement of SOA and ESBs as the dominant way to connect applications. But let’s switch views now. Let’s consider what happens when you want to make a change, just like when you make a change of car, you are thinking about what’s right for now, and for the future. What would you consider? You want to think about using this as an opportunity to take advantage of the latest in new technologies. For integration that is exploiting the capabilities of Kubernetes and the power of DevOps to make your business more agile than ever.

For applications using integration, by being forward looking in your choices you can exploit APIs to engage with customers while still seamlessly connecting with back-end systems and data. And you can update your systems of record securely and at scale, while ensuring that updates trigger new information flows rapidly throughout your business.

Just as today’s electric cars don’t make you learn new skills in driving, Cloud Pak for Integration from IBM builds on your existing integration and application skills. It can exploit what you have previously learned from SOA principles and deploying ESBs, but it represents a change to a completely modern integration creation, deployment, operation and maintenance approach.

If you are a business user of integration reading this, I don’t know exactly where you are today, but I have a good idea of where you are going. Because the best choice for integration is IBM’s Cloud Pak for Integration. Exploit the power of Red Hat OpenShift, along with multi-style integration enhanced by automation and smart connectors.

You might look at your old car and think it’s time to upgrade. You need to look at your integration deployment today and think if it might be time for Cloud Pak for Integration. Check out the demos today 

Applying Moneyball to Integration. Time your IT played to win with IBM Cloud Pak for Integration.

January 28, 2021

“Are you going to sell sugar water all your life, or come with me and change the world?” This was how Steve Jobs was supposed to have persuaded John Sculley to leave Pepsi and come and help Jobs run Apple. It’s quite the compelling pitch. Change the world. And the world was certainly changed by the technical advances that Apple took advantage of.

Are you going to sell sugar water all your life or come with me and change the world?

So, what if you were given a similar offer today? Change the world? Ignore the wisdom and practice of the last 20+ years and look to take advantage from doing things differently. Let’s look another example – Moneyball.

Since I first watched Moneyball on a plane, I have re-watched it a number of times, and each time I am inspired. Is it a story of baseball, or is it a story about statistical analysis? It is not about either of those things. It is about changing the way you do things. The movie tells the story of a team that couldn’t compete with the bigger richer teams but chose to find a different way to match them. It did this by figuring out a new way to identify value in baseball players in order to win games. They did this so well they not only competed more effectively than before (the Streak), but ultimately changed the game of baseball forever. There are dozens of clips from the film – and this is one of the ones that helps to explain it, showing the resistance of the player scouts

What does all this have to do with integration or the wider aspects of IT infrastructure? One of the most consistent issues I have encountered in my decades of working with clients is the inability to make rapid changes in deployed integration solutions. It doesn’t matter if I have been at a client with swanky city offices and huge teams supporting each product, or a somewhat shabby building on the outskirts of a small town with a couple of hard-working IT specialists running a highly effective and efficient integration deployment. No matter what the approach, the deployed integration solution is always so complex and interdependent that a request from Line of Business to make changes is a major task. As is the recurring need to migrate to new versions, because one change anywhere impacts every connected system. This leads to businesses looking at 18-24 month upgrade cycles. And making an integration change to respond to a Line of Business request would be 3 months, at least.

You would think throwing money or resources at the problem might help, but no matter the size of the team, the system complexity would always defeat the effort. This is similar to the Moneyball story. A small team couldn’t compete with the bigger spending teams in terms of trying to buy players, so they figured out a cheaper way to win games without depending on expensive players. Instead, in Moneyball they depended on a team of cheaper players who would be good at a key area, that could help get more wins.

 Cloud Pak for Integration enables your business to change your entire approach to creating, deploying and updating the critical integrations that enable every aspect of your business and IT infrastructure. Instead of requiring your business to throw increasing amounts of resources at teams with specialist skills in different technologies that deploy in unique environments and create interdependencies, you can change the game, and change your experience of how integration delivers value for your business.

By taking the leading integration offerings available, and enabling them to be configured, deployed, managed and updated through Kubernetes OpenShift Operators, a simple, repeatable deployment pipeline can be put in place. Your business could deploy new integrations in minutes. You could move to new versions of the integration offerings in days, and all with potentially zero downtime. Wouldn’t it be good to knock it out of the park sometimes?

Did the Oakland A’s win the World Series with the Moneyball approach? No. But they were able to compete better. And the Boston Red Sox used this approach to win the World Series 2 years later. With Cloud Pak for Integration, you don’t just get a cloud-native designed integration platform. It is also critical that the integration capabilities included in the Cloud Pak are excellent, and better head-to-head against other integration offerings. As such choosing Cloud Pak for Integration isn’t like choosing to be the scrappy underdog. You get to be the team winning the World Series.

So, are you still trying to buy players, or are you trying to buy wins? Isn’t it time your business realized that change is coming? Your integration deployment needs to be more responsive so your business can be more responsive. Is your existing planning and strategy focused on the wrong thing?

Every business today has a lot invested in their existing infrastructure. It is likely that there are many people in your organization with a lot of time and effort in the current approach. There may even be a plan to move to a container-based infrastructure, but it is possible the business doesn’t understand why, or truly consider the benefits they will get if they do this move in the right way with the right tools. If your business doesn’t adopt Cloud Pak for Integration and gain the agility and responsiveness possible, your competitors will be happy to take advantage.

What’s a good first step? There is a great redbook on Agile Integration here

Your IBM rep, or accredited business partner will be happy to discuss the potential of what Cloud Pak for Integration can do for your business with you including reviewing a possible ROI. We even have skilled Garage Services teams who can help you get your first Cloud Pak for Integration MVP up and running on Red Hat OpenShift.

You can access a trial of Cloud Pak for Integration here on Red Hat Marketplace, or here on IBM Cloud and there are some great demos here. Don’t get left behind.

“Are you going to deploy and manage complex integration infrastructures all your life, or come with me and change the world?”

To update or not to update? That is the question. A discussion on Extended Update Support for Cloud Pak for Integration 2020.4.1

December 21, 2020

Sometimes it is easier to see the tipping point when you are not at the tipping point. When you are some distance past the tipping point it might become obvious as progress tends to accelerate from there. But as you just go past the tipping point, it might not be obvious.

What tipping point might I be talking about? The expectation of installing a system in production and, other than installing fixes, leaving that version installed without changes for months, or more commonly, for years. That has been the natural way of things in enterprise computing for decades. Certainly, it has been for integration solutions. They were treated as critical business infrastructure which it was too risky to update without years of planning.

However, at the same time as treating integration as critical infrastructure, it was also would build ever more complex integration instances. Each instance would be highly specialized and unique, tailored for a specific application configuration. It would be these overloaded implementation and deployment details that would create a massive problem for maintenance. Years of experience would be spent to create, deploy and update these instances and the critical skills needed to do so would then be a bottleneck in trying to move faster to respond to new opportunities.  

Some businesses proliferated this approach by going around the integration teams who were seen to be the cause of this problem and by implementing their own different integration solutions, but these rapidly would fall prey to the same issues of production code becoming legacy as soon as it is deployed.

The growing move to container deployment in Kubernetes environments, leveraging a DevOps CI/CD pipeline offers the promise of change. When customers build their applications, and their integrations to be cloud-native, designed for container deployment, this cycle of slow updates and integration team bottlenecks could finally be broken. By redesigning integrations to be more generic, then updating a single instance can then be pushed through a pipeline to update every instance. And if the applications have been designed to not expected tailored and custom integrations but rather a common, standardized integration instance, it is much simpler to test any update and to be sure it will work for all.

We are still in the early stages of this journey, even though Cloud Pak for Integration has been available for nearly 2 years now. Although some customers have adopted and adapted to this new way of working and are able to keep updating along with the quarterly availability cycle of new releases, most other customers want the assurance of deploying a release and staying on that for longer than a couple of months.

That is why the Cloud Pak for Integration 2020.4.1 release was built around the OpenShift 4.6 Extended Update Support release, which enabled IBM to offer support and updates to that 2020.4.1 release until March 2022. This allows customers who are not yet ready to move to a rapid CI/CD pipeline model to deploy with the assurance of a longer support lifecycle.

We can be certain we are not yet at the tipping point in terms of customers ready to update their deployments on a quarter-by-quarter basis. And that’s why this Extended Update Support release is so important. By installing Cloud Pak for Integration 2020.4.1 into Red Hat OpenShift 4.6 EUS, and not changing the versions of the integration capabilities or OpenShift, except for applying fixes, then support will continue to be available, and fixes available until end of March 2022. This provides a critical window of opportunity for customers to get used to running in production on containers in OpenShift without the pressure of updating the system while they are still gaining early experience.

Who knows, by the time of the next Extended Update Support release, we might be much closer to a tipping point of customers who don’t expect to stay on the EUS release for the longer time and will instead be ready to move forward when the next release ships. But for now, this is the release to deploy and gain experience with to get the most out of Kubernetes and OpenShift, as well as Cloud Pak for Integration.

An alternative version of this blog can be found on the IBM Community Middleware site