Posts Tagged ‘MFT Agent’

Buried Treasure – embedding IBM MQ clients and MFT Agents into applications

June 13, 2017

treasure

I haven’t been doing this blog so long that I am going to repeat myself. Or at least not yet. But last year I did a blog on why you would use MQ – and that is broadly the topic of this entry as well but it comes from a specific use-case perspective. Plus – warning – it is longer than usual – sorry. Why do businesses, in their thousands, use IBM MQ – and its many different yet critical functions? Sadly, and I say this as the Offering/Product Manager for MQ, no one wakes up in the morning and decides they want to buy more IBM MQ – but they do so because of the benefit using MQ provides for the applications that run their business.

 

IBM MQ enables the exchange of data between applications, systems, services and files with reliability and security. It does this with scalability and simplicity. It has proved itself in doing this over the last 20+ years that much of the modern online business world takes IBM MQ, and its capabilities for granted.

 

The IT infrastructure is evolving rapidly – as it always is. As such there is both growth in new applications and existing applications are being updated and enhanced. Today’s applications typically have to be more resilient than ever, but also more portable – to be deployed pretty much anywhere. In most businesses applications will be extended out to business partners as the wider ecosystem is more tightly integrated than ever before.

 

These changes drive a greater need for seamless connectivity throughout the infrastructure and it makes it more important that all business data can be simply and quickly moved inside and outside the business. So how has IBM been working on IBM MQ to enable this? And will IBM MQ be able to help all customers – whether they are trying to connect and exchange data between applications, systems, services and files – not just the latest and greatest APIs?

 

IBM MQ allows for connectivity and exchange of data through MQ Clients and MQ MFT Agents and to make it easier for these to be used in many different use cases, IBM has been making changes to the packaging and licensing of these.

MFT Agents

One of the key changes was at the end of 2015, there was an update to the license documentation to allow for the redistribution of MQ Clients. IBM makes the MQ client libraries available for free download. These are then built into the MQ enabled applications to allow these applications to send and receive MQ messages. There is no cost for the MQ Clients – as they require a licensed MQ Queue Managers in order to function. However, until late 2015, the license prevent redistribution of these MQ Client files. This meant that if a business built the MQ Clients into an application, it wasn’t permitted to then distribute this application outside the business – i.e. it couldn’t share it with a business partner to allow that partner to work closely as an integrated partner. To allow this under the terms, the partner would need to either install the MQ Client library themselves or agree licensing terms to redistribute the MQ Client with IBM. This restriction was not helpful to these businesses or to the IBM MQ business and therefore it was changed to allow redistribution.

 

Now let’s look at a scenario – Company A uses MQ to exchange information throughout its business. It has suppliers (Company B and Company C) and it wants to streamline the manufacturing processes to enable them to get production statistics and thus help to plan for more efficient resupplies to their factories and warehouses. To do this it wants to provide them with a copy of their own in-house written application that uses MQ. Now that IBM allows for redistribution of the MQ Clients, Company A can simply provide their application to the partner companies to enable them to communicate seamlessly with no need to even be aware of the MQ Client embedded within the application. MQ messages can flow securely between the companies – and as only Company A has a MQ Queue Manager, they are the only ones licensed for MQ – and there is no additional MQ cost for this configuration. Note that companies exchanging MQ messages like this might want to make use of the MQ Internet Pass-thru feature to simplify passing messaging through their firewalls.

 

Now let’s imagine Company D. They are also part of the supply chain ecosystem for company A, and also many other businesses. But the stock control and distribution management systems are built mainly on files and file data. They keep these files updated with stock quantities and prices, but they find it simpler to keep using this method rather than online application updates and exchanges. They are used to sending these files to their customers using FTP but they always have a number of issues around FTP failures, reliability issues, and having to spend time diagnosing the problems inherent in these transfers.

 

Company A have a solution – the Managed File Transfer capability that is a part of IBM MQ Advanced. In place of regular FTP, the data inside the files can be sent as MQ messages from Company D to Company A, taking advantage of MQ’s reliability, security and management of data. And best of all Company D don’t need to change the way they handle data as they can still focus on keeping the file contents updated, but Company A can provide a program that can also embed the MQ MFT Agent which can run and extract the contents of the file and send it as MQ Messages to Company A. Just as with the MQ Client, the MQ MFT Agent is designed for easy embedding in an application, and benefits from also being redistributable under the license. The key difference is that MQ MFT Agents are free but only when they connect to MQ Queue Managers that benefit from the MQ Advanced license entitlement or are in the MQ Appliance. In providing this application making use of the MFT Agent to Company D, Company A is taking advantage of the recent change to make the Agent license redistributable, as well as the fact there is now no cost to embed MFT Agents and distribute them anywhere, as long as they connect to their MQ Advanced Queue Managers. Also, the packaging changed to ensure the MFT Agent was available as a standalone zip file for easier embedding.

 

As a business, your buried treasure may be hidden in your data. You owe it to yourself to ensure it is used as widely as possible and as timely as possible. But to do this you need buried treasure in your applications as well – and this time the buried treasure is the MQ Clients and MQ MFT Agents you can now embed in those applications. Hidden in your code, but providing value every day – maybe not buried treasure, but the goose that lays golden eggs?

Goose Golden Egg

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Building higher – IBM MQ V9.0.2

March 16, 2017

When a building is being constructed, it can be hard, from moment to moment to see progress. Yes – you see lots of activity. Lots of people are busy doing all sorts of important jobs, but it can be hard to see what they are all doing. You need to find a way to keep track of how they are doing. What progress are they making, and what milestones are they hitting.

building construction

In delivering updates to IBM MQ, now that we are on a ‘Continuous Delivery’ schedule, we set these milestones of deliveries around 3 times a year. We don’t plan to do IBM announcement letters with every update, but will do blogs here and elsewhere for some of the updates, with official announcements for others. For IBM MQ V9.0.1, there was an announcement letter, and I blogged about it here, but with IBM MQ V9.0.2 there are only blogs – both this one and our development blog from Ian Harwood you can find on developerWorks here. Also there is a YouTube video talking about the new update.

So, what has the development team has been working on in MQ V9.0.2? As with the 9.0.1 update there are several areas of enhancement and new function including:

  • Additional REST API coverage
  • Further updates to the MQ Console
  • Improvements in MQ MFT specifically in MFT Agent status reporting
  • Simplification in managed MQ logging on distributed platforms
  • MQ Appliance support for HA key renewal and 9.0.2 REST API verbs
  • Support for IBM Cloud Product Insights for registration and usage
  • Integration with Salesforce messaging events
  • Native Debian installer support for Ubuntu
  • Availability of MQ Advanced for Developers in the IBM Bluemix Container Service

 

Perhaps as with our description about building construction above, the delivery of any of these features might not be significant, although I think that the logging improvements will make a substantial difference to the many aspects of the use of MQ in the thousands of customers using it today.

 

What hopefully does become apparent is our ongoing support for the continuous delivery process. While some of these updates are brand new and have taken a lot of work, others are continuing to build on the work done in the MQ V9 and MQ V9.0.1 deliveries. These incremental deliveries of REST API support, and now the new Cloud Product Insight support will continue in future Continuous Delivery releases, making these features and the product more useful.

 

Let’s look at a handful of these new features starting with the logging support. Logging is very much the heart of IBM MQ and it is these recovery logs which allow MQ to recover from a failure, therefore providing the reliable and robust nature of IBM MQ. While circular logs are easier to manage, many customer use linear logs but these come with a lot of administrative overhead. The new feature allows for automatic management, recording and reuse of logs, lowering both the administrative overheads and improving the overall throughput in the system

 

IBM Cloud Product Insights is a new cloud hosted offering that many different IBM products will be able to work with. Additional features will be added to work with this over time, but initially there is support for registration and usage. You will be able to register your instances of IBM MQ and track them on the Product Insights dashboard. At this time you will be able to see what level of IBM MQ is install, where, and when it was last running. You will also see some usage information such as the number of persistent and non-persistent messages put, and the total size of data being moved through MQ. There is also a beta of log management, where MQ error logs will be shared with the Product Insights dashboard.

MQSalesforce

You may have seen the recent announcement of IBM and Salesforce working together more closely. We are very pleased that one of the ways this relationship is being demonstrated is through a bridge between Salesforce and MQ. When an event happens in Salesforce such as a change to data or a new application being run (Salesforce Platform Events or PushTopics), there is now the ability to trigger a MQ message to provide information about that event without the MQ application needing to be directly connected to Salesforce, simplifying your environment but making your systems more connected.

 

And finally, we now have a version of MQ Advanced for Developers available in the Bluemix Container Service. This means that the fastest way to create a development environment for IBM MQ might be with a couple of clicks to provision MQ Advanced for Developers. With pre-configured defaults to simplify administration, there has never been an easier way to get started with IBM MQ. What are you waiting for?

Simple can be better – the new MQ and MQ Advanced licensing

January 24, 2017

simplicity

Last year my son did a school project on flight – and his project focused on Leonardo da Vinci, and it was fascinating for us all to learn more about Leonardo’s genius. Not just an artist, his incredible imagination seemed to create and explore new worlds, never dreamed of before. And yet for all his visionary ideas, his quote above also stands out: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”.

The same idea can be seen in Blaise Pascal (and Mark Twain) saying “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead”. Sadly this applies to this blog entry as well so in the interests of brevity, a quick summary of what’s described in more detail below:
IBM is simplifying the MQ licensing for new purchases:
• Parts now as follows: MQ, MQ Advanced, MQ Idle Standby, MQ Advanced Idle Standby, MQ Advanced for Developers
• MFT Agents are no longer separately and individually licensed but are free to deploy and use when connected to MQ Advanced entitled Queue Managers – essentially providing a free to use MQ MFT network when you use MQ Advanced
• The parts being withdrawn are only those for new entitlements to the separate MQ MFT, MQ AMS and MQ Telemetry parts but not the Subscription and Support renewal parts – you can continue with your existing entitlement as before.
• If you have MQ Advanced today this change applies to all your existing MQ Advanced entitlement – not just to the latest MQ V9.0.1 release.

Today, our world is moving faster and faster. Businesses need to be more agile. Do more with less. Get more for their money. Keeping things simple makes sense today. Even more so as business environments are highly dynamic, and need to balance between unique requirements and common deployments for ease of development, deployment, operations and maintenance.

When it comes to critical offerings like IBM MQ – providing reliable, secure, scalable and robust enterprise messaging, why should we make it more complex than it needs to be? From January 24th 2017, IBM is simplifying the IBM MQ licensing structure to make it simple to describe, simple to purchase, simple to understand and simple to deploy and use.

What are we talking about? Well, for nearly 25 years IBM has been selling IBM MQ – and we still are. But for almost 15 years IBM has been selling extensions to IBM MQ as separate offerings: MQ Managed File Transfer, MQ Advanced Message Security and MQ Telemetry. These all built on and extended the value offered by IBM MQ – and in 2012, as part of MQ V7.5 we brought all the separate components together into a single package, and also created a single offering called MQ Advanced to provide entitlement to the MQ Server along with all of the MQ Server extensions.

Since then, MQ Advanced has been the most popular way to extend MQ, over buying the individual product parts. However, there was always a complexity about the MQ Advanced license for customers using it for Managed File Transfer. This was because MQ’s Managed File Transfer was available as both the MFT Service component that came with MQ Advanced, but also was licensed as MQ MFT Agents on a per Install basis. Even though you might have bought lots of MQ Advanced licenses, you would still need to buy MQ MFT Agents for those systems where you wanted to deploy MQ managed file transfer capabilities, but where you didn’t have MQ Advanced installed. This would be even more noticeable since MQ V9.0.1 shipped which allowed the MQ MFT Agents to be redistributable and made them available in a zip format, suitable for embedding in other solutions. Having per install licensing for MFT Agents would restrict the potential for use of this style of deployment.

MQMFT image

As part of this license change, the MQ MFT Agents are no longer chargeable, or licensed per Install. Instead they are free to deploy and use – in any quantity, as long as the appropriate MQ Servers are licensed with MQ Advanced entitlements. The Agent QM, and the co-ordination QM, and the Logging QM for the MFT Agents must all have MQ Advanced entitlement. These can be all the same Queue Manager, or they can be separated – but all must have MQ Advanced entitlement – but then all MQ MFT Agents using these QMs can be deployed and used at no cost, whether 1 Agent, 100 Agents or more.

mq-new-licenses

The licensing for MQ and MQ Advanced going forward is now very simple. You select IBM MQ if you just want MQ, or IBM MQ Advanced if you want MQ and any other capability. Both are licensed by PVU (perpetual or monthly license) – so by the capacity of the machine where you install the MQ server or by the Virtual Processor Core as described here. Along with IBM MQ and IBM MQ Advanced, there are Idle Standby parts for both, and also IBM MQ Advanced for Developers. Just a handful of parts giving you so much potential for your business.

The additional features in MQ Advanced include MQ Managed File Transfer (as mentioned above) which allows the contents of files to be sent reliably and securely over the MQ network as MQ messages. Differentiating factor with this solution is that the file contents can be directly consumed as messages, moving file transfer into virtually real time data usage. Now available to be deployed anywhere at no additional cost when connected to MQ Advanced Queue Managers. Then there is Advanced Message Security, which provides end to end message content encryption. Since MQ V9 this has a new option allowing for encryption at virtually no impact to performance or throughput, helping you protect your business and customer data from exposure in the case of a breach. And MQ Telemetry which enables your MQ applications to connect directly using the MQTT protocol to mobile phones and the Internet of Things.

It’s all so much simpler now to explain, to buy and to use. But what if you have previously bought some of the separate parts. We have made sure to keep the existing renewal parts available so you can continue to use them and stay current with support on them. So nothing needs to change – you can continue exactly as before. But you might want to consider moving to MQ Advanced entitlement as only this will provide the ability to connect MQ MFT Agents at no cost, and there is no entitlement to buy or deploy new MQ MFT Agents without MQ Advanced entitlement in the future. Existing purchased MQ MFT Agent entitlements remain valid and can continue to be deployed and used.

Feel free to reach out to your IBM rep, your IBM business partner or even me to discuss this, and what it might mean to you. We have tried to do this very carefully so that there is no negative impact on anyone today, and that going forward there are lots of benefits – such as the ability to deploy a much larger MQ managed file transfer network at no additional cost with MQ Advanced entitlement. And as an added change, we have ensure that the MQ Appliance license also allows for connection of MQ MFT Agents at no cost – so that provides an additional deployment and connectivity option for MQ MFT solutions.

Manwithfiles

I will try to write another blog shortly about our MQ Managed File Transfer solution soon – but this one needs to end so you can get back to work.

Think what you can do with this now. It’s going to be a busy year. Let’s start now.