Let your troubles float away with the IBM MQ Appliance

November 15, 2016

balloons

Sometimes you instinctively know when something is right. It just seems to fit. To all fall into place. When you solve a mathematical equation. When you put on a jacket. When you pick up a hammer. You just know it is feels right.

Since IBM released the IBM MQ Appliance in 2015, we have had a lot of customers look at it, and for many of them it has seemed to be something just right for them – just what they were looking for, as it simplified their infrastructure and reduced the tasks of configuring, operating and maintaining their MQ installs.

However, there is plenty of opportunity for improvement, both in adding new features and in improving those already there. And some of the early customer feedback about the MQ Appliance has been critical in some of the enhancements that have already been delivered and also feedback has been critical to some of the features just delivered in the latest update to the IBM MQ Appliance M2001, providing MQ V9.0.1 on the MQ Appliance. Note that this latest software update is also available for customers still running the MQ Appliance M2000.

floating

One of the key new features is the provision of Floating IP support to aid in the High Availability failover configurations. The MQ Appliance provides High Availability by connecting appliances as a pair, and individual Queue Managers can failover from one appliance to another quickly and seamlessly, with the persistent messages and logs already replicated synchronously. However, in order to support this, the MQ client used by the application needed to be configured with not just the IP address of the primary appliance but of the second appliance in the pair as well. This wasn’t always convenient for customers to require all the MQ clients and applications to have a string of IP addresses to prepare for failover.

To address this, and make the experience of using the MQ Appliance even better for our customers, in the latest V9.0.1 level of code, High Availability configurations now allow for Floating IP – which means that as the first MQ Appliance fails over, the second appliance not only starts up a Queue Manager, but it starts up the IP address from the primary, enabling the MQ applications to connect to the second appliance even if they only have a single IP address configured. This should make using the MQ Appliance an even better experience for a much wider set of deployments, without requiring too much of a change to the applications.

As already mentioned above, the MQ Appliance now ships with the MQ 9.0.1 continuous delivery release. This means that the MQ Appliance now benefits from the MQ V9 functions such as the new MQ AMS confidentiality option. This also means that all the new and upcoming features in the MQ continuous delivery stream will be available to the MQ Appliance as those releases come out, with more access to the new REST API for admin and configuration as well as a refreshed MQ Console.

 

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Also, as well as some usability improvement for management of the appliance and the MQ operational aspects, this update includes s number of key features exposed from some of the underlying firmware. Key among these are support for SNMP and enhanced security, such as role based authorization, and LDAP authentication for appliance admin accounts. These, again, should make the MQ Appliance fit even better into an organization and be applicable to more use cases.

With further updates to come as part of the Continuous Delivery stream for MQ and the MQ Appliance, there will be more improvements to come to continue to make the experience feel even better. So get ready to float away from your troubles with the latest update to the MQ Appliance.

UPDATE: An excellent blog on MQDev developerWorks site by Ian Harwood. Another blog specifically on the MQ Appliance update by Ant Beardsmore.

Power is nothing without control – IBM MQ V9.0.1

November 15, 2016

power-control-image

As mentioned on this blog before, much of the modern world runs on, and depends on IBM MQ. Whether sending credit card details from a retail store, tracking a shipping delivery, coordinating stock levels at a factory or processing an insurance claim, IBM MQ is at the heart of thousands of leading businesses, keeping their business running, always available and secure.

So, IBM MQ runs at the heart of your business, helping to keep your applications simple, yet connecting them with reliability and security, highly scalable and highly available, whether processing 1 transaction per day, or 10 billion messages per day. But however it runs in your businesses, it doesn’t run itself. Half of the value of IBM MQ is not just the assured once and once only delivery but that your business has the visibility that the message was delivery successfully or not. And to help your business understand that, IBM MQ can provide lots of information about MQ itself and its activity.

For years IBM MQ has offered a number of different ways in which to configure, manage and control itself. There has been MQ Explorer, MQSC, PCF.

With the release of MQ V9.0.1 – which is the first ‘Continuous Delivery’ release to build on top of MQ V9, IBM has brought new ways for the customer to control and manage their IBM MQ infrastructure.

The first new tool is the MQ Console – this is a browser based tool to configure and manage your MQ infrastructure. You may be aware we have had the MQ Console available on the MQ Appliance since its release in 2015, but this is the first time you can use the MQ Console with MQ software installs as well.

mqconsole1

The MQ Console adds some key benefits for customers. One is that you can use a browser and so you don’t need to install anything – unlike the MQ Explorer. Another is that you can customize the MQ Console to show you just what you are interested in – with widgets to show you activity on a queue, or what queues are defined. IBM will continue to update it, but it shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for the existing tools such as MQ Explorer, but rather an additional option.

The MQ Console is built on top of a REST API – and another feature in MQ V9.0.1 is to begin to expose an external REST API. While initially in this release there are only a couple of verbs published, the goal is to continue to add to these in future releases such as 9.0.2, 9.0.3 etc. Many customers will be looking to take the REST API and build new custom tooling to meet their specific needs. It is possible that various 3rd parties such as the numerous skilled IBM MQ business partners may use this new API to build their own offerings, or even custom offerings for individual customers.

Additionally, there have been some updates to the IBM MQ Managed File Transfer function, available in IBM MQ Advanced. As well as limiting the number of retries when there are failures in using the FTP Protocol Bridge, there is a packaging and install change for the MQ MFT Agent. Previously this was only available as a part of the overall IBM MQ install package – and it required a full install procedure. In the IBM MQ V9.0.1 release, the MQ MFT Agent is now available separately as a zip file. This means that it is now much easier to embed this capability as part of a customer created solution which can then be distributed without the need for the full MQ package or a dedicated install just for the MQ MFT Agent component.

As you can see all of these new features, in the first of these Continuous Delivery releases for IBM MQ V9 provide new value that is specifically aimed at making it easier to take advantage of the IBM MQ capabilities – and take back control of your systems.

Don’t forget you can get a free 90 trial of MQ and see for yourself. And you should also be able to download the MQ Advanced for Developers offering for free development and test.

UPDATE: An excellent blog on the MQDev developerWorks expanding on this topic

Maybe you can now see why it reminded me of the famous series of adverts from Pirelli from maybe a decade ago – Power is nothing without control. IBM MQ gives your business the power of reliable and secure movement of data. Now we are making it easier for you to take control.

mqconsole2

[Having used Ed Moses in a previous blog, it is nice to continue the theme of great athletes with Carl Lewis in this one]

Keep climbing up – WebSphere MQ V7.5 End of Support date announced

September 13, 2016

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When you have been fundamental to thousands of businesses, and helping to create the modern world for 23+ years, it can seem like you are on a never-ending journey. And certainly the need for simple, reliable, secure and rapid enterprise messaging never goes away, so IBM MQ is needed now more than ever.

But sometimes we need to bring one chapter to an end, but there are plenty more chapters to get to. You may have seen that we have been rather busy with announcements this year, with new announcements for an updated MQ Appliance, and the brand new IBM MQ V9 release. But we also announced back in April the End of Support date for MQ V7.1. On distributed platforms this was set at April 30 2017.

And today we have just announced the End of Support date for MQ V7.5 – we are giving a little bit more notice on this one – with an End of Support date set for April 30 2018.

WebSphere MQ V7.5 was the last MQ release with the WebSphere branding, and it was the first release where we had brought together all the MQ components, which allowed us to then offer MQ Advanced with MQ, MQ MFT, MQ AMS and MQ Telemetry.

So what to do if you are on MQ V7.5 today? Or perhaps you are just about to move to it? Well it will be in regular support until April 2018. Following that, if you want, you can have extended support for another 3 years. But you might want to think about moving forward to take advantage of all the latest features.

The good news is that migrating should be easier than you might be used to. And with the new MQ V9 option of Continuous Delivery or Long Term Support, you can got as fast as you like. And many of our customers are looking at the MQ Appliance when they are planning an update, to take advantage of the simple and rapid deployment, the fantastic performance without complexity, and the operational and maintenance simplicity.

So the choice is up to you. IBM has sections on migration in the Knowledge Center, and we have services offerings to provide Version to Version migration planning, and implementation.

Feel free to talk to your local IBM representative or partner. Leave me a message here, or ping me on Twitter. Don’t get stuck. Onwards and upwards. Just keep moving.

just-keep-swimming

No waiting in these queues. IBM MQ V9 and the MQ Appliance M2001 delivers fast, reliable and secure message queuing

June 29, 2016

wile_e_coyote

Recent weeks have been pretty busy on this blog, reflecting just how busy the MQ development team has been in bringing out new and updated offerings in MQ V9 and the MQ Appliance M2001 here and here. And of course in our cloud messaging options.

As both of these have been fairly full of new content I thought I would do just a short update to focus on a couple of key benefits which are specifically measurable in these 2 refreshed offerings. After all, a lot of the new and improved features can sometimes be hard to quantify in terms of the benefits they provide, but in each offering this time there are some easy to define benefits.

As you may have seen in my most recent update, the MQ Appliance M2001 added large capacity SSD storage which enables much faster throughput for persistent messages. These are the messages that get written to storage to ensure they are still available in the case of failure before the message has been successfully deliver to all consumers. At high rates of message throughput, there can be a lot of contention for access to storage with traditional hard drives. With the new MQ Appliance M2001, this potential bottleneck has been removed. You can now read the latest MQ Appliance M2001 performance report here which shows that the performance in those scenarios which saw large volumes of persistent messages sees improvement of up to 3.5 times the previous message rate.

Clearly this represents a significant improvement and given that persistent messages are used in those business critical situations where IBM MQ delivers so much value, it is a hugely important benefit.

 

In MQ V9 there were a number of enhancements but the one I specifically want to call out is, as part of the MQ Advanced package, the enhancement to MQ Advanced Message Security (MQ AMS). The change here was to add a new mode of operation – Confidentiality. This new mode changed the way in which the encryption operations are performed on the message contents (MQ AMS offers policy based encrypted message contents which ensures data at rest is protected in case of a security breach). The goal of this change was to continue to offer a strong level of security for the message contents without too big of an impact on the performance and throughput from the effects of the encryption used.

Now instead of new asymmetric keys being generated for every exchange, the feature can be configured to allow for reusable symmetric keys to be used after the initial generation of an asymmetric key. This still provides a very high level of security, but depending on the reuse count before a new asymmetric key is generated, can drastically cut the performance overhead. The benefits can see more than an order of magnitude increase in throughput. You can see a quick snap shot of some of the early results in Jon Rumsey’s blog here – which includes a small table showing performance improvements exceeding 10x gains. With everyone concerned about security these days, the ability to better protect your information and customer data with little performance impact has to be a good thing.

 

So what are you waiting for? With secure, reliable enterprise messaging for on-premise deployments, cloud deployments or physical appliances, there is no waiting with IBM MQ V9 or IBM MQ Appliance M2001.

no-waiting

[An interesting history of Wile E. Coyote here]

Flash aaaahh – saviour of the universe: IBM MQ Appliance M2001

June 10, 2016

flash_gordon_facebook_cover_by_audrey41lorgeoux-d538dgo

Anyone who is a fan of cheesy sci-fi movies, or soundtracks by Queen will have the words “Flash, Flash I love you but we only have 14 hours to save the earth” running through their head, along with the line in the song that goes “Flash aaaaah, saviour of the universe”. And of course he did save the universe from Ming the Merciless.

But what if I told you Flash could also save your business? Not Flash Gordon of course, but flash storage, in the form of the SSDs that are now a part of the IBM MQ Appliance M2001 which is now generally available (June 10th 2016). We did cover this in an earlier blogpost, but I thought I would take advantage of our initial shipment date to cover just how critical the IBM MQ Appliance, backed by state of the art 3.2TB SSDs can be to your business.

MQ Appliance M2001

Each MQ Appliance M2001 model has 2 of the 3.2TB SSDs in a RAID 1 configuration. This means that every persistent message and all log data is written not just once to the SSD storage, but twice giving you complete redundancy of data. And a key part of the MQ Appliance functionality is the High Availability configuration – essentially nothing more than a simple menu option when creating a queue manager – allowing you to have the MQ queue manager on one MQ Appliance synchronously replicated to another MQ Appliance. This means that any message written to the SSDs on one MQ Appliance is not just copied to the second pair of SSDs but is written under the same unit of work that writes the messages on the first MQ Appliance. This therefore means you have 4 copies of the message stored for both reliability and availability.

Another part of the MQ Appliance update was the ability to do not just synchronous replication for High Availability but also asynchronous replication for Disaster Recovery to another MQ Appliance. Therefore you can point the MQ queue manager at another, typically off-site MQ Appliance and the same message will replicate there, ensuring there are another 2 copies of the message, and providing your business with a highly resilient messaging system designed to ensure optimum reliability and availability of messages.

After all, think about how important your messages are to your business. In effect, they are your business. Your messages are your business transactions, your new orders, your customer address details, your stock levels and distribution information. Lose your messages and you lose everything.

With the latest SSD technology inside the MQ Appliance you are calling on Flash to save your business – and with the MQ Appliance M2001, Flash saves the day again.

 

[Flash Gordon image title image above is from  http://orig07.deviantart.net/fc1d/f/2012/163/5/d/flash_gordon_facebook_cover_by_audrey41lorgeoux-d538dgo.jpg]

MQ in the Cloud – Your messaging ‘silver lining’

May 16, 2016

MQ clouds puttenham

As the senior product manager for a product like IBM MQ, I don’t just spend my day writing blogs – but frequently get questions from both colleagues and our many customers. And recently, one of the most common questions I get is whether MQ runs in the cloud.

The answer is “Yes” – that was easy wasn’t it.

However maybe there is some more information to share, to help describe the journey to cloud and to exploit the benefits provided by IBM MQ at every step, whether you are looking for enterprise grade business critical messaging in your private cloud infrastructure, in a public cloud (hosted or not) or a hybrid cloud spanning the combination of these.

 

Mostly the cloud environment that IBM customers I have been talking to are thinking about is best described as “Hybrid”. Almost all of our customers are starting to explore some aspects of the benefits of cloud – and what it means to them. But deployment, especially of business critical applications, is likely to happen in stages. Today many customers run virtually all application workload on-premise, but typically this will be in virtual machine environments. There is a shift to deploy selected workload in the cloud. Perhaps this might start with engagement or marketing applications, but these applications and the associated workload doesn’t run in isolation on the cloud but in conjunction with the rest of the enterprise running on-premise, or connecting to partners in the wider business ecosystem. Then as businesses shift some of their critical back office applications to cloud deployment options, the hybrid nature of infrastructure will increase.

Fundamental to the success of this change is the availability of reliable and secure connectivity to allow the safe and scalable exchange of information between applications independent of whether they are running together in the cloud, on-premise or any other combination.

How does IBM MQ work in this type of deployment? Well, as has been proven for more than 20 years, IBM MQ provides a way to exchange data in the form of messages between applications, systems and services and to do so reliably, securely, rapidly and simply. Messages are moved through MQ Queue Managers that can be deployed locally to the application – wherever that application may be, or remote from the application but accessed by MQ Clients bound to the application.

In pretty much any type of hybrid environment, MQ continues to be a critically useful middleware tool. Either the application running in the cloud environment can make use of the MQ Client to connect to a MQ Queue Manager running elsewhere (such as on-premise) or the MQ Queue Manager can itself be deployed in the cloud environment along with the application. And you might use your own tools to deploy MQ, or you could use tools such as Chef to deploy MQ. Other options for deployment include a MQ plug-in for IBM UrbanCode Deploy.

MQ offers support for running on IBM SoftLayer, Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, and OpenStack cloud. It leverages a Bring Your Own Software License to make it simple for customers to choose where to deploy the IBM MQ license entitlements they may already have. For deployments of IBM MQ on SoftLayer you might choose to use the MQ Advanced pattern designed for IBM PureSystems which can run on the SoftLayer environment.

In addition to this deployment style, IBM recently confirmed MQ is supported to run in Docker environments which further extends where MQ might be deployed to meet customer needs, such as hosted PaaS environments like IBM Bluemix.

Docker_(container_engine)_logo

So basically for every cloud environment, or virtualised environment, or container, your business can continue to take advantage of the benefits of IBM MQ – whether by running MQ Queue Managers in the cloud environment, or continuing to run them on-premise (perhaps as the physical MQ Appliance), or in any hybrid combination.

So what are you waiting for? For MQ on cloud – the answer is yes.

*UPDATED to add link to the AWS example – see above*

IBM MQ V9 – A fast, secure, reliable and more agile MQ

April 19, 2016

edwin-moses-getty_2129850b

Some of you reading this blog may recall the great athlete Ed Moses – who had a record 122 race winning streak in just about the hardest event – the 400M Hurdles. You need to be strong, fast, and agile just to compete, and to keep winning you need to be reliable. Well, this is how we view IBM MQ, especially with the latest release – IBM MQ V9. You may have seen a recent blogpost on here that had a Statement of Direction talking about a new way of delivering IBM MQ – one that provided a Long Term Support release, and a Continuous Delivery release. The aim of this model is to give customers more choice to select either highly stable releases with just fixes, or releases that benefitted from additional function in the fixpacks.

TRY IT: Click here to get a free trial of MQ

UPDATE: There is a FAQ on the new support model. Read it here.

On April 19th, IBM announced MQ V9 which is the first release that moves to this new more agile delivery model. As such at the initial release it delivers a small set of additional capabilities that will be available to all customers. Then subsequent mod-level updates will deliver even more updates to customers choosing the continuous delivery stream, but all customers moving to V9 will get the benefit of the new capabilities being delivered in this release.

As with previous releases of IBM MQ, customers have a lot of choice in where and how they may want to deploy this version. IBM supports deployment of MQ – and MQ Advanced pretty much on every commercial IT environment where business critical applications may be exchanging data reliably, securely, and at scale. This could be on-premise, deployed in cloud environments like IBM Softlayer, Microsoft Azure or Amazon AWS. IBM also supports virtualization with many customers deploying in VM images, and also in Docker containers, which can be deployed anywhere, including in IBM’s Bluemix platform. This flexibility enables customers to make use of enterprise messaging to support deployments on-premise, on cloud or in hybrid environments.

So what are the key new features of MQ V9 being delivered in this release? Well there are a number of them that are called out in the announcement letters – so you can read the MQ V9 distributed announcement letter here. And the MQ V9 z/OS MLC announcement letter here. And you can read the MQ V9 One Time Charge announcement letter here. But below I will call out a few of the features that I think will be most important to customers.

One of the features likely to be most interesting is a change to the MQ Client Channel Definition Table (CCDT), which is needed by the MQ Client application to provide the channel definitions needed to connect to the MQ Queue Manager. This file is created automatically and prior to MQ V9 needed to be distributed to the client application prior to use. The big change from this new release is that the CCDT can be a web addressable file instead of needing to be distributed out to every client, and to then need to do that with every change. By having a web addressable CCDT accessed by URI, then there are much lower administration needs, and also the MQ infrastructure can be much more dynamic as changes can be made centrally and take effect quickly and without application disruption.

 

The second big change to the new release of MQ is in MQ Advanced Message Security (MQ AMS). This feature, which is a priced extension to MQ (available either separately or as a part of MQ Advanced) provides policy based encryption at rest of the MQ message contents. By using this capability, businesses can be assured that their message contents can only be unencrypted and read by the targeted application destination, and there is no risk of exposure should any security breach take place which provides access to the system or storage where the MQ Queue Manager holds its queues. This privacy and integrity has been assured by the generation of asymmetric keys for every exchange between client and queue manager, which provides an extremely high level of security, but can introduce a high overhead in terms of the processor cost of the asymmetric key generation.

MQ AMS performance

With MQ V9, a new mode of operation is added to MQ AMS, called ‘Confidentiality’. In this mode there is an initial asymmetric key exchange then subsequent exchanges can reuse (to an extent that can be configured) a symmetric key. This still provides a high level of security and protection for the message content, but with a dramatically lower level of overhead in terms of encryption workload cost. IBM expects that due to the increasing importance of security and protecting systems and data from breaches, that this new feature of MQ AMS will help more customers protect their message contents and therefore their business and customer data. IBM expects to produce performance data for the new AMS configuration around the time that MQ V9 is generally available. But the early testing shows considerable improvement.

 

A further change for MQ AMS is the support of non-IBM JREs for use with MQ AMS. Previously applications written in Java that relied on a non-IBM JRE wouldn’t work with MQ AMS. In MQ V9 this has now changed so that suitable non-IBM JREs can be used, as well as IBM JREs, extending the ability of more customers to use MQ AMS.

 

There are a number of other new functions and capabilities available in MQ V9, such as updates to MQ Managed File Transfer capabilities – which are described in the announcement letter, and with the movement to a Continuous Delivery model customers should expect to see more capabilities being delivered in mod levels on top of MQ V9 in the future.

 

With the recent announcement of the End of Support for MQ V7.1 – announced here – along with the related end of support of the older separate versions of MQ FTE and MQ AMS, this latest release of MQ V9, along with the recent announcement of the update to the MQ Appliance provides customers with a strong set of choices of how to take advantage of the latest new releases as they plan to move off the older releases of MQ they may be using, keeping their deployment of MQ up to date and supported.

When you are taking advantage of the benefits of IBM MQ, you may not need to have to work as hard as Ed Moses did to be #1.

UPDATE: Mark Taylor has provided one of his highly useful videos detailing more of the new function in MQ V9. Watch it here.

 

Going faster by not moving – IBM Appliance M2001

April 19, 2016

totoise-rocket-patch

Go faster. Faster. Move it! Or actually don’t move it. There are times when to go faster you need to stop moving. We are all familiar with the parable of the tortoise and the hare – where slow and steady wins the race. But what about not moving at all? Sometimes that makes you go much faster. And in the case of the latest update to the IBM MQ Appliance that is exactly what we are doing. Hopefully you already know about the MQ Appliance, which IBM releases early in 2015, and have continued to enhance since its release. You can read my original entry here, and the update at the end of last year here.

 

But today, April 19th, IBM is announcing another update to the MQ Appliance which not only provides additional functional enhancement, by allowing queue managers to both synchronously replicate for HA and also asynchronously replicate for DR, and adds support for the AMQP based MQ Light API, but also sees a small but important hardware update, making this a slightly refreshed model – the MQ Appliance M2001.

HA+DR

There are 2 key hardware changes in this model update. To help support the simultaneous HA and DR function, which would use both existing 10Gb network cards, the existing 2 port connection is being replaced with a 4 port connection, providing 4 of these 10GB network ports, enabling 2 to be used for HA and DR and ensuring 2 can be used by applications connecting to the appliance, as well as the existing 1Gb ports.

M2001

The second hardware change is the replacement of the existing pair of 1.2TB hard disk drives (HDD) with a pair of 3.2TB solid state drives (SSD). As well as the benefit of the greatly increased storage capacity, the major benefit of using SSDs is the increase in performance for persistent message throughput. The MQ Appliance is a highly capable system which can process a lot of MQ messages. However, when using persistent messaging, which needs to be written to disk, it is critical that the storage can keep pace with the high rate of workload being handled by the system and at times with heavy workloads the spinning disk simply couldn’t move fast enough. IBM has selected the latest generation of SSDs to provide large capacity, high performance for both reading and writing data at high rates, and also this latest generation of SSDs, even if the MQ Appliance is used heavily all day, every day, should last for the 5 year supported lifespan of the MQ Appliance. Therefore, this provides the payoff from our ‘tortoise and hare’ parable – with no moving parts in the SSDs, they can be a lot faster than spinning disks. Expect to see updated performance figures for the new MQ Appliance M2001 around the time of its availability (June 10th 2016), but early figures suggest for some workloads performance improvements of up to 3 times have been seen.

 

There continue to be 2 editions of the MQ Appliance – the M2001A, providing full access to all the processor cores, and the M2001B, which provides access only to a subset of the cores – with an upgrade available from the B to the A system if needed. For customers who may have already purchased the MQ Appliance M2000, please talk to your IBM sales rep to see whether your appliance can take advantage of an upgrade of the HDDs and network card if available.

 

With the improved HA and DR functions, the increased storage capacity and the greatly increased performance, IBM believes this enhanced MQ Appliance makes even more sense to be used as the heart of your IBM MQ deployment, or as a highly available pair of appliances that can be deployed anywhere you need MQ capability. And for customers who may be running older versions of MQ which were recently subject to an announcement of End of Support – as can be seen here – then the latest version of the IBM MQ Appliance can represent a very good deployment option which is then far simpler to deploy as well as to maintain.

 

By moving from spinning disks, to SSDs with no moving parts, you really can go faster by standing still.

 

 

Setting out markers for MQ’s road ahead

February 16, 2016

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Working as the Offering Manager for IBM MQ and the IBM Messaging Portfolio, there are lots of parts of my day-to-day work that I can’t share on here until we announce it. However there are times when we can provide a small look ahead at what’s coming. This is called in IBM a “Statement of Direction”. And today IBM MQ has released a Statement of Direction for both IBM MQ and for the IBM MQ Appliance.

You can read the Statement of Direction here.
As you will see in reading it we are talking about a couple of important points. I will deal with the MQ Appliance statement first. As covered elsewhere in this blog, there has been a lot of interest in the MQ Appliance since we announced it at IBM InterConnect 2015 – just about 1 year ago. One of its key features has been about the High Availability function – the simple way to connect up two appliances and to allow for seamless failover between them benefitting from synchronous replication.
At the end of 2015, as detailed here IBM extended this High Availability option with asynchronous replication to other MQ Appliances, which could be deployed further away, offering Disaster Recovery. However, deployments needed to choose either one style of replication or another, on a Queue Manager by Queue Manager basis. So a Queue Manager on a MQ Appliance could be defined for High Availability, or for Disaster Recovery, but not both.
This created an obvious question when we discussed this with customers, who in some cases would want to have local MQ Appliances offering High Availability, but in the case of a whole site failure, wanted to then offer Disaster Recovery off-site. As giving forward looking statements can be an issue without legal clearance, we have ensured that with this Statement of Direction we can clearly state and assure customers that IBM indeed does intend to support the ability of Queue Managers to be configured for both High Availability and Disaster Recovery in a future update.

DR-phase2

For MQ itself the Statement of Direction covers less function, and more the delivery and support approach used for MQ itself. For many years IBM has released updates to IBM MQ every 2-3 years as major new versions, and sometimes with additional interim updates as incremental releases. But over the last few years IBM has been adding function into the regular fixpack deliverables where we also include maintenance updates alongside the new function.
While this approach allows IBM to add useful new functions between releases, and thus getting it to customers earlier, it can lead some customers to choose to keep their MQ implementations on older releases until IBM stops adding new function to that particular release. The concern is that adding new function in a release that will be used in production can create the need to have a major new testing cycle, even if IBM has designed that the new function is off by default.
As IBM thinks customers would benefit from being at the latest level of code, and certainly IBM wants to encourage customers to stay up to date with the latest fixpacks, IBM has decided to offer two separate code delivery and support options.

One option will be the Long Term Support Stream. A new version of MQ will be released, and from that point on, there will be no new function shipped on that code-stream. The fixpacks that IBM will continue to ship on a regular basis will only contain fixes to existing functions and no new functions will be added. As such it should be simpler and safer for customers to move more rapidly to this level of code and to then stay on it as fixes are rolled out, improving stability and performance.
The second option will be the Continuous Delivery option. Based off the same original code drop as the Long Term Support option, subsequent updates will be delivered containing not just fixes but also incremental new function. Each mod-level update will be designed to continue to add new function. And, important to understand, customers who choose to deploy the Continuous Delivery stream will have to keep taking the additional functional increments and fixes if they want to stay on that stream by moving to the most recent mod-level. If they decide they want to be on the Long Term Support stream then will need to change the MQ installed which will likely cause a degree of disruption as they will effectively be moving to a different release. While this continuous delivery of function will ensure that customers of MQ will have new functions that enhance MQ and the operation of their environment, those customers will need to be able to continue to update their environment with each update as it is delivered. For many customers this might be appropriate as they have a need for the new function or they may want to apply it only to a particular environment and set of applications.

LTS

After a number of functional updates to the Continuous Delivery Stream of IBM MQ, over probably a period of 2 years or so, it is expected that the incremental set of new functions delivered in the Continuous Delivery Stream will be released as the new starting point for the next version of the Long Term Support stream, and will reset the version for the Continuous Delivery Stream as well. The cycle them will repeat again, with fixes applied to the Long Term Support Stream and new mod-level updates with new function (as well as fixes) delivered to the Continuous Delivery Stream.

This new approach for delivering MQ may be significantly important for some customers as they make future plans, and IBM therefore thought it was important to set this out in a Statement of Direction prior to a future announcement of a new release of IBM MQ supporting this model.

As for when any new releases to backup these Statements of Direction are coming out? Well, keep watching this space.

A message awakens: What is IBM MQ and why do you need it?

January 5, 2016

Stormtroopers

Why are we here? Not in the existential way. The answer to that is not in this blog. That would probably require more than the page of general MQ related discourse that I generally include. No, this is more why are you reading about IBM MQ? And maybe more pertinently why am I writing about it.

Do you ever read the book of the film? The novelisation. It’s what happens when instead of a book being turned into a film, generally with about 2/3 of the detail and exposition cut out, you have an original film, and then it is made into a book. Generally these tend to be less satisfying than an original novel.

Earlier in 2015, in an effort to try and communicate more with the tens of thousands of people who use IBM integration products, the team in IBM Hursley have been doing live Google Hangouts on multiple subjects – and these are then saved as YouTube videos. With my colleague John McNamara I have done a number of these and 3 of them have been titled “What is messaging” to try to cover why you might find messaging valuable and useful as opposed to some of the other choices around for communicating and exchanging data.

You can see the 3 videos here: Part 1  and Part 2 and also Part 3 

John and Leif

In those videos we tried, as best we could, to be product agnostic – to focus instead on messaging as an approach rather than a specific implementation such as IBM MQ. However the question naturally arises why should you specifically use IBM MQ?

Now in the years I have been writing this blog I have written a few posts that talk to the usefulness of IBM MQ – see here, here and here. However why is it that IBM MQ is still the selection of so many businesses today?

Again, as with the ‘why are we here’ question above, this isn’t something that can be quickly and easily summed up in an easy to read blog entry. So what I will do is try and call out some of the major reasons in simple terms, and then hopefully, as time permits through the year, I will try to add more detail.

Why use IBM MQ then?

  • It works – it does what you need it to do
    • There are many thousands of the world’s leading businesses using IBM MQ, and not just using it – but they are depending on it. They trust it to work, and do what it is asked to do, connecting their business simply, securely, rapidly and reliably.
  • Businesses depend on it – as above – for critical parts of their business – at its heart IBM MQ is built around transactions
    • The business world, and IBM MQ, is largely based on the notion of ‘once and once only’ transactions. While there are other approaches, so much of the critical aspects of business depend on this style of transactionality.
    • It is not easy to offer reliable, persistent messaging that provides once and once only delivery. That’s why many other messaging providers can’t offer this, and why many businesses select IBM MQ
  • IBM MQ scales to meet your business need
    • Developing a small scale application that needs messaging is great and it can be simple to use one of many different messaging tools
    • Ensuring this messaging tool works as the application usage scales is another matter. IBM MQ scales horizontally and vertically, running highly efficiently on single machines or spanning multiple machines in large clusters.
    • Whether sending a few messages per day or scaling to a billion messages per day, it is likely you want good performance. As well as being efficient in scaling, IBM MQ also offers high performance to move messages rapidly between application endpoints.
  • Your business is at risk – how secure is your messaging software?
    • You can’t afford to take risks with your business data, or the information your customers entrust with you. IBM MQ has multiple layers of security on the system itself and the data being moved and supports the latest encryption standards. Can you afford not to protect your messaging layer?
  • Highly available – it’s what you need and your customers expect
    • You can’t afford to go offline – you need to run all day, everyday. IBM MQ can be right there with you, with built-in support for High Availability as well as being able to use multiple different approaches such as vendor-based clustering, or virtualization.
  • Everything you need, functions and tooling
    • While the problems solved by messaging are well understood – and there is a great benefit from simplifying applications, some of that is lost when the need for additional functions require multiple different messaging offerings. With richness of function and a complete span of capabilities IBM MQ offers a single solution
    • Deploying a messaging solution is only part of using the solution. There is a need for management and tooling to provide insight in what is happening to all the messages, and to identify exceptions etc. With support from multiple different tooling vendors, and dozens of additional free tools and add-ons, as well as the ability to create your own utilities, IBM MQ can be tailored to meet the needs of your business solution.
  • Help when you need it, where you need it
    • With more than 20 years of leadership, and substantial market presence, there are thousands of skilled professionals able to provide guidance in how and why to use IBM MQ, how to configure it, how to program with it, and how to deploy and maintain it. And all that supported by IBM’s global 24×7 support organization to help when needed.

So that’s a few of the high points about IBM MQ. I will look to write more in detail about some of these through the year ahead – although I am also pretty sure I will be adding some new entries about product announcements and enhancements as well. Watch this space.

Appliance close up