Posts Tagged ‘MQ Appliance’

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?

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*

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

2016-road-ahead

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.

What can go wrong will go wrong! How the MQ Appliance helps save the day.

November 30, 2015

Dilbert-DR

Since IBM announced the MQ Appliance earlier in 2015, there has been a huge amount of interest in the solution from pretty much everyone. All the customers and business partners I have talked to (along with the many my IBM colleagues have also been talking to) have almost always seen a place for the MQ Appliance in their organizations.

As expected some of these use cases reflect one of our anticipated scenarios of using the MQ Appliance – deploying in a remote location away from the main data centre. Other use cases are based in the data centre with the MQ Appliance being used either to roll out new MQ capacity quickly and simply or to consolidate an existing MQ deployment that might be installed and running on multiple different machines which can make it complex and expensive to maintain, especially when deploying updates or making configuration changes.

MQAppliance

Other that the simple and quick deployment and the ease of maintenance that the MQ Appliance provides, probably the function which generates the most interest from customers and potential customers is the High Availability function. MQ is used pretty universally for work that is critical to the business. The messages being moved between applications and systems contain business critical data and it is crucial that these messages are delivered once and once only and in the case of failure at any point, the messages are recoverable and the business can continue. No one wants to lose the message with the new customer details or the big order.

 

So the High Availability (HA) in the MQ Appliance was seen as key – it was simple to set up – essentially just a single menu selection when defining a new Queue Manager and you would have another appliance ready to synchronously replicate the persistent messages and logs so that in the case of a failure in the production Queue Manager, a replacement queue manager is started on the second MQ Appliance with full access to the messages and logs already available on that appliance. This simple yet rapid and usable solution is compelling, and can also be used, with manual failover control, to enable seamless operation while applying fixpacks on the appliance.

 

However one of the key details to understand about the HA support was that this used synchronous replication of the data between the disks on each appliance, and as the original message can’t be counted as complete until the replication is also complete, the HA appliance needs to be close enough so that the latency of the replication doesn’t impact the application writing the message. The published recommendation is for latency of less than 10ms, but for best operations latency of 2ms or less is preferred.

 

Now, with the 8.0.0.4 fixpack available on the MQ Appliance from November 30 2015, we have added another key feature – which addresses the need for replication over longer distances where latency is always going to be too high for synchronous replication. The 8.0.0.4 fixpack adds asynchronous replication enabling offsite replication over far longer distances than supported for HA as there is no impact to each individual message completion – the replication takes place independently. This style of replication is typically used for requirements such as Disaster Recovery (DR), to enable business continuity out of region with the ability to continue work as close to the point of failure as possible.

 

Customers using this DR feature with the MQ Appliance will be able to configure individual Queue Managers in their appliance to replicate their persistent messages to another MQ Appliance that can be hundreds, or even thousands of kilometres away. And unlike the HA configuration where appliances need to be a defined and fixed pair, there are much more flexible options for this style of asynchronous replication.

 

As mentioned the DR configuration is done on a Queue Manager by Queue Manager basis – but different Queue Managers on the same production appliance can be replicated to different DR appliances. Also Queue Managers defined on different production appliances can all replicate to the same individual DR appliance.

 

As before with the HA appliance, there can be ongoing work and other active Queue Managers on the appliance being used as the DR appliance – there is no formal limitation for appliances to be DR or HA appliances – any appliance can be configured to offer this in conjunction with the other workload running on it.

 

With the addition of this asynchronous replication for Disaster Recovery, the MQ Appliance can be used for more deployment use cases as the ability to recover from failures to a running environment in another data centre is always going to be crucial, as so many businesses depend on MQ to keep them running.

<BLOG UPDATE> With this MQ Appliance fixpack delivering such an important update we also have blogs from our Appliance development lead Ant Beardsmore here, and from our Appliance HA and DR architect John Colgrave here going into more details on the enhancements and the technical details of how DR works.

With simple configuration for all these scenarios, rapid deployment and ‘push-button’ maintenance, it is no wonder so many businesses are looking at using the IBM MQ Appliance. Want to know more? Check out our main webpage. After all, if things can go wrong, they will go wrong. That’s why you use IBM MQ after all. It is better to be ready and to be able to cope with these disruptions. Your business needs to keep running. With the MQ Appliance you can do that with the minimum of effort.

ApplianceDR

Simpler and cheaper – MQ MFT changing for your benefit

June 2, 2015

Change is always with us. IT infrastructure needs are changed. Application needs change. Skills profiles change. Even workloads and expected response times change. These changes we see in the market drive how we view our products. We frequently update MQ products, perhaps too frequently for some of our customers. As well as adding to and updating the functions and capabilities of MQ, we also try to update or change the packaging and the pricing of our various MQ offerings. We do this to try to respond to the changing needs of the market and the feedback we get from our customers.

As a way of describing this process, we have been recently talking about the different deployment choices available for IBM MQ. Check out this recent webcast on this.

The fundamental thought here is that your business should be able to use the value that MQ provides; however you choose to deploy MQ and consume it. The presentation in the webcast highlights a number of different ways in which your business might want to deploy MQ. This could be maybe reviewing the new MQ Appliance as a deployment choice, deploying the complete MQ set of capabilities using MQ Advanced or seeing whether you want to deploy and use IBM MQ in the cloud – whether that is a public cloud like Microsoft Azure or IBM SoftLayer, or a private/hybrid cloud infrastructure running on your own hardware on-premise, using something such as IBM PureApplication.

Manwithfiles

Going back to MQ Advanced, IBM announced on May 26th 2015, slightly new packaging and pricing for MQ Advanced. Included in this announcement were also various MQ Managed File Transfer parts. These parts were updated to reflect the needs of our customers – given their growing use of using Managed File Transfer with MQ.

As Senior Product Manager for IBM Messaging I talk to many customers through the year, and one of the constant pieces of feedback I get is about the ever-present need for better handling of file transfers. This is an area where every business has a solution, or 2, or 3 today. No one is happy with their existing offering, and most, even if they are existing MQ customers, are unaware that MQ can help.

MQMFT image

MQ’s Managed File Transfer solution can read data from a file, and send it as a MQ message over the MQ network. Once received on the remote system, the MQ MFT solution can then recreate the original file, achieving the movement of the file with greater security and reliability thanks to IBM MQ. This can help to address many of the issues businesses have with moving files, while also simplifying their infrastructure and consolidating on MQ. After initially using MQ MFT to move files, many businesses then take the next step to make use of one of the unique points of MQ MFT which is ‘file to message’ movement. As the file contents are moved as MQ messages, this data can then be directly consumed as MQ messages – meaning that the file contents don’t need to be written back as a file, identified, and then read in again. Instead the data can be delivered directly to the application as a MQ message.

The May 26th announcement simplified the packaging and lowered the pricing for how customers could purchase the MQ MFT capability – either as an extension to existing MQ licenses or as part of the MQ Advanced bundle. The MQ Appliance can also be a part of a MQ Managed File Transfer solution – acting as the co-ordination Queue Manager to allow the MQ MFT Agents to send and receive the file data as MQ messages. With  more and more MQ customers choosing to use and deploy MQ MFT we are changing the packaging to ensure they can do this more cheaply by removing the Connect:Direct and Control Center products we had bundled in as they haven’t been used as widely as the MQ MFT capabilities.

ApplianceMFT

Don’t forget that if you buy the MQ Advanced offering you not only get the MQ MFT Service part but also the MQ AMS capability for end-to-end encryption. This has also been a hot topic of conversation with customers and if you want to know more you can read my previous blog about it here.

How is the new IBM MQ Appliance different from a BBQ?

February 17, 2015

MQ Appliance Image

When I am eating at home I really love to BBQ. However, living in the UK, we don’t always have the perfect weather to enjoy BBQs, especially when you have a charcoal BBQ. It mustn’t be windy, and you really don’t want it too cold, or rainy. So conditions have to be right, and then there is the issue of whether you have enough charcoal, can you start it ok, do you have the right food to cook on it? And if you are cooking on it will you have enough fuel on to cook everything you need, or will you have to add charcoal in the middle of cooking?

So although I would generally prefer to cook and eat on the BBQ, it is far simpler on the whole to cook in the ovens in the kitchen. They are there and ready, rain or shine, up to temperature in a few minutes, and able to cook pretty much any type of food quickly and simply. And you know what – once you get to understand your oven, you can get it to produce food pretty much as good as the BBQ. In most cases a lot more reliable and certainly a lot quicker and cleaner. I have a pair of ovens – so I can ‘hot-swap’ between them!

Cropped oven

If you need enterprise messaging, then maybe you are in the same dilemma? You know you need enterprise messaging – but the amount of effort you find it takes to install it and deploy it on a system if too high to think about using it everywhere. So you limit use to just your enterprise datacentre. But then there is the problem of keeping it up to date once you have it on multiple different machines, all of them running your business. What you need is a solution where you can just switch on – much like an oven.

IBM is really happy to announce today a new offering – the IBM MQ Appliance. With this you get all the enterprise messaging benefits of IBM MQ V8 – but in a state of the art physical appliance. No more having to configure and maintain a separate physical server and then install IBM MQ. The MQ Appliance is designed to be unboxed and up and running in less than 30 minutes, making it faster and simpler for new MQ messaging capacity to be available wherever you need it.

We anticipate the MQ Appliance will be welcomed in the enterprise datacentre where a highly capable appliance will be able to process high MQ messaging workloads in a single physical footprint, and with not just a simple deployment process but far easier maintenance, with fixes for both MQ and the firmware delivered together as a single firmware flash, allowing you to keep your appliance up to date quickly and simply, knowing the fixpack has been tested by IBM on exactly the same hardware.

Another anticipated use case will be outside the enterprise datacentre, such as in remote locations where there is a need for MQ Queue Managers but no local MQ skills on site to setup or maintain the MQ environment. This could be a factory, branch office, warehouse, or a business partner. Now, if a MQ Appliance is shipped out to the location, it can simply be unboxed, plugged in, and have any further administration done remotely.

Appliances can be deployed in a High Availability pair, with persistent messages mirrored from one appliance to the other, to ensure continuity of workload in the case of failure, without any complex setup or external storage dependencies. A pair of appliances work even more seamlessly than my pair of ovens pictured above – with queue managers starting up and processing work automatically, with no marooned messages.

The appliance is built using the experience of the IBM DataPower appliances to ensure that you can depend on it for your enterprise, but it focuses on delivering just an optimized MQ experience. No tuning is needed to get the best performance out of the MQ Appliance. And a new browser based tool, the MQ Console, provides a customized interface for monitoring and configuring MQ on the appliance.

The MQ Appliance will be available on March 13, 2015, and will be available as the M2000A, and the M2000B – 2 price points to meet different message throughput needs in the market. You can read the announcement letter here. Visit the webpage. And feel free to talk to your IBM rep or selected business partners about it today. Why not come and see us and the IBM MQ Appliance in person at IBM InterConnect 2015, in fabulous Las Vegas. We even have a video posted on YouTube of me talking briefly about the MQ Appliance. We don’t do that everyday!

I will admit, that as good as it is, the MQ Appliance isn’t a great way to cook ribs, burgers or steak. For that, I’ll pick my BBQ.

cropped bbq