Seeing is believing with the latest updates to IBM Integration including Cloud Pak for Integration 2022.4.1 and MQ V9.3.1

November 23, 2022

Sometimes pictures on their own can be underwhelming. They might lack something. But then you put that picture in the right frame, and it suddenly seems to be transformed. It needs to be presented with a frame in order to really show off the best aspect of the picture.

The integration running in your business can be like a painting hanging in a gallery but it’s in a dark room, surrounded by other paintings and just pinned up on the wall. It’s there but anything in the picture is lost.

But take that picture and put it in the right frame and hang it in a well-lit room and suddenly you realise what the picture is, and it becomes the star of the gallery. Integration is key to your business moving and using the data behind every transaction, every query from customers and partners, every update to business records and a thousand other activities. But do you really know what’s happening with your integration products?   Are they running? What are they doing? Do you know what their key status indicators are showing?

Sure, you can dive into the tooling that comes with each product, but wouldn’t it be good if you could see it all on a single screen, and dive into any aspect easily? Would that not be showing you what’s happening in the best way and ensuring you see what you want to see? This is now what’s available with the latest release of Cloud Pak for Integration which was announced on November 22nd 2022. For customers buying new entitlements to Cloud Pak for Integration, there is 6 months of entitlement to Instana Observability (self-hosted). This comes with a specific set of Instana sensors to enable monitoring and tracing for the integration products and some additional components or functions. This will allow customers to get a clear understanding of what is happening with their integrations and in their business.

What else is new in latest release of Cloud Pak for Integration? It’s now easier and quicker to build, deploy and manage integrations. When defining integration capabilities as part of a solution, customers using the latest release can now deploy and manage these as a single unit. So, when building integrations that might comprise multiple separate MQ instances and Event Streams deployments, these can be handled as a single unit of integration.

Additionally, if you use Aspera to move data rapidly over long-distance or lossy networks, the new inclusion of the Aspera Proxy Gateway enables its use in a wider range of deployment configurations beyond the enterprise.

The IBM Integration portfolio includes so many capabilities – what else is new?

One of the core products – IBM App Connect is now available as a managed service: IBM App Connect Enterprise as a Service on AWS. This leading enterprise integration product is now available as an iPaaS. Whether looking to connect to cloud apps, or multiple enterprise applications and systems, IBM App Connect Enterprise offers a fast track to integrating your business needs. Pre-built templates of integrations, no-code integration design, and AI powered mapping and transformation assists accelerate your integration solution from none to done. As a fully managed integration offering on Amazon Web Services (AWS) IBM App Connect Enterprise SaaS is provisioned, patched and upgraded for you without service downtime. Find out if it meets your needs with a free trial.

In addition to these important new capabilities there are also enhancements for IBM MQ which has announced MQ V9.3.1. This is the newest Continuous Delivery release with enhancements to the MQ Web Console, and also improvements to allow message expiry to be set on a streaming queue which creates new ways to leverage this feature.

And customers using z/OS solutions benefit from enhancements to both IBM MQ on z/OS V9.3.1 and IBM Integration Bus for z/OS V10.1. For MQ customers there are SMF enhancements delivering improved queue analytics. Client channel buffers now use 64-bit storage increasing concurrent client numbers, and there is also streaming queues support for shared queues. Integration Bus customers get access to VSAM and QSAM datasets directly from integration flows. Additionally there are z/OS Explorer plugins providing access to z/OS assets from the Integration Bus Toolkit.

With so much new content delivered you have to see it to believe. And so it’s a good job Instana is there to help with Observability.

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The new Cloud Pak for Integration 2022.2.1 delivers years of support for your business

June 10, 2022

Everyone has their own tastes in music. It could be classical, or 80s power ballads, or some heavy rock, or maybe some indie music. (80s music is clearly the best). But picking a selection of music that works together can be tricky. You don’t want to just listen to the same song. But equally a totally random set of discordant music and tunes doesn’t work well. You might create different playlists to meet your moods. In the old days the album (LP) would have been designed for listening to as a complete item. Some of these will have greater staying power than others. You are unlikely to listen to Christmas music playlists in July, but you might have a ‘mixtape’ playlist that works for lots of different uses: working out, cooking, driving, chilling. And you can come back to that again and again as it always has the right mix of music.

That’s what IBM has just announced with Cloud Pak for Integration 2022.2.1. Normally I would blog about the announcement on the day the letter is published. This week also saw the Hursley Summit for European customers which was very well attended with no far off 100 customers and partners as well as numerous IBM experts together in Hursley House. It was just like past events and we even had some nice weather too.

This latest Cloud Pak for Integration release is a new Long Term Support Release (LTSR). Unlike application versions which can be more rapidly deployed and removed, the integration connecting core parts of the business infrastructure tends to be more long-lived and even if integration components have been containerized and are completely decoupled, there can be a preference to reduce the number of migrations to apply to the integration instances. Having the ability to deploy integration components and get support on them for up to 2 years helps address this. As part of this move, it will be possible to move between supported OpenShift EUS releases (even numbered OCP releases) to ensure that the complete stack is supported for 2 year period. And if you want to continue to deploy the integration products ‘standalone’ not as part of Cloud Pak for Integration on OpenShift you can continue to benefit from each product’s support lifecycle (including those with a 5+3 policy).

Aside from Cloud Pak for Integration being now available as a LTSR what else is part of the announcement? There are a number of additional enhancements and new features covering both Cloud Pak for Integration itself, the components within Cloud Pak for Integration and also the separate integration product offerings.

For Cloud Pak for Integration customers, they will find it easier to deploy as the requirement for the Platform Navigator to have access to RWX storage has been removed. This could be an issue in the past when deploying on public cloud, so by enabling deployment with RWO storage this restriction is removed. Also in the storage area there is a new offer for software-defined storage. There is now 12 months access to Spectrum Fusion (6TB primary storage including OpenShift Data Foundation essentials, 6 TB backup storage and 6TB metadata management). This doesn’t impact existing customers with access to the previous offer. This offer is only available for new customers of Cloud Pak for Integration for their initial purchase.

Also, for Cloud Pak for Integration customers there are enhancements that provide new value when deploying API Connect under the Cloud Pak for Integration entitlement. There is now the option to deploy the API Connect Portal and Manager on z IFLs running OpenShift. This allows customers who are providing API-led access to z assets and data to have the API access closer to the assets. Additionally, there are improvements to the co-authoring support, making it easier when creating new APIs and the associated access to data. And for API test generation there are new features extending the ‘auto test assist’ capability to make it possible to run more tests automatically with targeted data to provide more extensive test coverage without taking additional resources or skills. Deployments of API Connect can now take advantage of 2-site DR configurations.

Customers deploying App Connect under the Cloud Pak for Integration entitlement get additional Smart Connectors, including the ability to use Connectors with the Toolkit and not just Designer. And for some outstanding innovation we would encourage customers to look at ‘Goal Oriented Flow Assist (GOFA)’. Imagine your business needs a new integration flow created to meet a business need. Your business team knows what they want, but there are only a few integration specialists and getting time with them will delay progress. With GOFA the business team can simply write in English text what they want to do and the desired flow will be created as they type to match their description. This will help to accelerate progress, and the integration specialists will now have much less to do when they are available to work on this integration.

For Event-led integration there are updates to align with the latest levels of Open Source components. A later version of Kafka is now supported as well as newer versions of APICurio and Strimzi support is updated for use with OAuth for identity and authorization checks.

Aspera High Speed Transfer Server gets updated to V4.3 and also now leverages the Foundation Services Audit Logging which ensures that Aspera logs can be collected and reviewed alongside other logs.

As well as updates to Cloud Pak for Integration as described above there are additional new enhancements and updates to the integration components outside Cloud Pak for Integration. IBM MQ announced V9.3 which is also a new LTSR, making the many new features delivered in the 9.2.x CD stream available for the LTSR customers.

For API Connect customers they have a new LTSR release as well (10.0.5) and also API Connect will be available as a SaaS offering on AWS at the end of June.

DataPower have announced a new physical appliance – the X3.

App Connect for Manufacturing gets an update to support App Connect 12 and to offer new license terms and deployment options.

And finally, Aspera Enterprise on Demand gets an update to align better with other IBM subscriptions.

Going back to our music analogy, this is an incredible ‘full-stack’ playlist. Good for every occasion, every integration need and every season. With this you won’t be forced to listen to Christmas music in July. Or find your business trying to update resources using APIs, or deploying Java gateways in the DMZ.

Interested and want to know more?

Try Cloud Pak for yourself in a free 2 week hosted trial
Read more about automation and integration at this Integration content hub 

Think or Listen? It’s better to do both.

May 11, 2022
IBM Think 2022

It was good to see IBM get back to holding in-person conferences this week with ‘Think 2022’ taking place in Boston. Think is the current incarnation of a public conference covering all IBM technology and solutions that has been running for many years. This year the launch Think event will be following up with multiple ‘Think on Tour’ events, perhaps coming to a city near you. Check out the list of cities at the bottom of this blog.

In addition to Think there are other in-person events happening, like the Hursley summit I mentioned in my previous blog, and hopefully many more events as well, as we get back to seeing each other not just on our laptop screens.

I didn’t get to Think in Boston, but I am certainly hoping to get to a few different Think on Tour events. You might expect I would want to be there to present some of our latest integration solutions, but that’s not the highlight for me. Instead, it is those discussions you have before or after presenting that make it a successful event for me. It best when you are able to have a conversation in the corridor, or over a meal or a drink with a team from one of our IBM customers. Those times where I don’t have a presentation ready, but instead the customer will talk about their business, and what they are trying to do. And I am there to listen.

Only by listening to the customer can we really understand what they need and figure out what the best path forward for them might be. I have been lucky enough to be attending conferences and travelling around the world to visit customers for more than 2 decades. And while I might be invited to these locations to speak to customers, in truth I am going there to listen. By listening to what our customers have to say, we can both better understand the issues they are hitting now, as well as the future goals they want to achieve. And once we understand those, then we can have more meaningful discussions about how IBM can help them, both today and tomorrow.

Having listened I then share these experiences with my product management and engineering colleagues to help us better shape tomorrow’s products.

The last 2 years have been a big change in how we work, and while it has been good to be able to have some online calls with customers to present to them about Cloud Pak for Integration, and how they can transform their businesses with IBM Integration solutions and Red Hat OpenShift and the flexibility of DevOps and CI/CD, it has not been the same. I don’t want to present to a customer, but to talk with them, and to listen to them. Together we can then both benefit, and together we can both succeed.

This benefit of listening doesn’t only apply to me. I know that for many customers, the benefit of events is talking to their peers at other businesses who will be experiencing many of the same issues, but might be at a different stage of their journey or addressing slightly different concerns. Sharing knowledge and encouragement helps everyone, and provides valuable insight beyond even the best presentation session. I hope you make it to a Think event this year, or some other in-person event with IBM. But don’t just Think. Be sure to listen as well and have those conversations that matter the most. If you are reading this, maybe we will both be at an event together this year. Come and tell me what you are trying to do in your business. I promise to listen.

Integration is infrastructure. Does your infrastructure scale? Learn more about IBM Cloud Pak for Integration at the Hursley Summit (June 8th-9th 2022)

April 29, 2022

It’s often said that it can be hard to show the value of integration because the point of integration is for something to simply work. It typically is designed to ensure the flashier parts of the business (the applications) deliver value to the business, and it does this by ensuring that behind the scenes applications seamlessly connect and exchange data.

A common analogy for integration is the plumbing and electrics in the house, with the applications representing the appliances that might use the plumbing or electrics. You might change the appliances frequently, but you are unlikely to want to rewire or redo the plumbing in the house very often. It’s your infrastructure, not a temporary patched solution. It has to be ready and adjust to different needs.

A typical UK kettle

However, there can be challenges. In a house in the UK a kettle typically draws up to 3KW. But imagine having a need to power more and more kettles. You would soon face a problem supplying enough power through your existing electrical wiring. You are unlikely to need more than one kettle, so you might think the problem doesn’t arise, but there are new high devices that require high amounts of power: Electric Vehicle chargers and air-source heat pumps. Both can require high power rates, such that your home supply might need to be upgraded to cope. This can be disruptive and expensive, and not something you can do easily or quickly.

Electric Vehicle chargers

Now let’s consider the similarities with integration deployments. Imagine the following scenario: You have deployed a set of applications, and have used some integration products to tie them together, exchanging the data and ensuring each application is delivering value and meeting needs. Then as business needs change you replace one or more of the applications. Maybe to meet new business opportunities or to respond to changes in customer behaviour.

The new application has really met the market need and seems to be really popular. You are seeing increasing growth. More instances of it get spun up, and these are driving more connections and more data to the other applications and back-end systems. You start to see that those applications need to be scaled up as well. But with more and more data being requested, exchanged, transformed and updated, everything is slowing down as it moved through the integration components. You look at whether you can deploy more instances of the integration components, but the product has not been designed to scale efficiently and would consume more resources for little benefit in scale if deployments were increased.

You now are faced with the need to change integration products to better meet the growing needs of your applications, all initially sparked by growth in a single area of the business, but because everything is connected, the growth impacts all systems. And if you change the integrations which connect all parts of your business, you need to update every part of your business as part of the roll-out of a new integration layer. Even when there might be one component of the integration solution that can’t scale, all parts of the business can be affected by this issue.

This issue is why it is critical to choose an integration solution that meets needs of not just a single project but is designed for the longer term.  One that can scale, but can also solve different integration needs. Sometimes data needs to be simply and rapidly moved between systems. Other times it needs to be transformed between applications. Or maybe the data needs to update a system of record. And maybe it needs to be available for users anywhere in the world. Not just scaling to any volume or speed, but securely managing all connections and data movement. If your integration solution of choice fails in these areas, then just as you become successful is when you will find you will hit problems.

If this makes you think more closely about integration, then maybe you should take a closer look at IBM Cloud Pak for Integration. It’s a comprehensive integration solution, designed to scale, with security built-in, and with resiliency and high availability for deployment anywhere.

If you are based in Europe you might want to come and hear directly from the experts in IBM Hursley who have built and support much of Cloud Pak for Integration. We are delighted the Hursley Summit is back on June 8th-9th in 2022. These dates are for European customers, and the hope is to offer North American customers their own summit later in the year. Don’t forget we have an excellent customer briefing centre in Hursley and you can arrange to see our experts 1-1. If you are interested, the event page is here, with details of the agenda and how to register for the limited number of places. I hope we see you there.

Can automation really improve my integration deployments? Find out what Cloud Pak for Integration can do today.

April 7, 2022

It feels like we have been hearing about Automation for years. Whether various human like robots in science fiction to more everyday examples like the automated production lines you see in sophisticated factories, there is a fascination in seeing jobs that previously were complex, time consuming and needed human input being simplified, and automated, with associated benefits in time and expense.

Automation is now increasingly being applied to computing tasks throughout the infrastructure for multiple reasons:

  • Faster development/deployment cycles
  • Error reduction
  • Reducing skills requirements
  • Cost reductions
  • Repeatability/reusability

However, a crucial step in automation is not trying to address the problem as a whole but rather to break down the entire process to individual steps and to apply automation to each individual step. Much of the focus of IT automation over the years has been at the business process level, whereas the key to implementing achievable and sustainable automation is in applying automation to the multiple low-level steps essential to actually progressing a business process. These steps are the individual applications interactions and data movements that underpin business activity, and which typically are the focus of integration in IT infrastructure.

Integration has been seen as a burden for many years due to the high level of skilled resource needed to implement any new integration, or even to maintain existing deployments. And for businesses to take advantage of new opportunities by taking advantage of API-led integration, it is critical to ensure that the cost and time involved in building out and deploying these API integrations is kept as small as possible.

This is one of the reasons that IBM has been focused on optimizing, decomposing and automating integrations as part of Cloud Pak for Integration and one of the concrete ways in which this is demonstrated is through automation of API Test generation.

When a business is looking to expose data through an API they create the definition using an OpenAPI schema, allowing them to describe the data to be accessed, who can access it, and other mechanisms to provide and control that access. It’s important to keep this creation simple, but there is a key need to then ensure that the systems respond as expected, and this requires testing. Building out and running tests for any new integration is a substantial effort and APIs are no exception.

What IBM has done is to break down the need for testing into a number of different steps and to apply both automation and AI to those steps with a view to solving the problem as completely and comprehensively as possible. By training the Watson AI engine that comes with Cloud Pak for Integration, it can analyse the OpenAPI Schema and automatically create tests to provide coverage of the expected use of the API once it goes into production.

The next clever step is that once it is in production, the AI engine will continue to review the workload using the new API, comparing it to the schema and the tests already created and will add new tests to fill any gaps it sees, as well as helping to train the engine better for the next API. Not only are new tests created but usable data to run through the tests as well. Plus, there is setting and tearing down the testing environment as another automated step.

Now let’s consider what would have been the challenge of building a new API and moving it to production. A substantial part of the effort involved in that would have been in testing it effectively and thoroughly. IBM Cloud Pak for Integration can automate a large part of that for you. Think of a factory moving from assembling everything by hand and compare that to where you have automated manufacturing with an assembly line and machine tools performing most of the tasks. Finally your business can leverage that same advantage.

Check out this video to see a demo

Now try it for yourself with our free 2 week trial of Cloud Pak for Integration hosted on IBM Cloud. What are you waiting for?

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