Posts Tagged ‘MQ MFT’

Reaching for SANity with the IBM MQ Appliance

October 24, 2017

Appliance reaching

We all like to keep our word, and even though a Statement of Direction is not always a promise, at IBM we like to try and deliver what we set out, as long as the market and need hasn’t changed.

And for customers who have been following the MQ Appliance since the start, back in March 2015, you might recall that there was a Statement of Direction about adding support for the fibre channel cards that were part of the MQ Appliance hardware to allow connectivity to a SAN for customers who wanted that. And we are delighted that as part of the MQ V9.0.4 update on the MQ Appliance, that IBM is delivered on that Statement of Direction.

MQ V9.0.4 is a very significant update for MQ and most of the updates that are not specific to the MQ Appliance are described in my other blog entry here. However, in addition to those features there are specific MQ Appliance updates, and a dedicated announcement letter which I will try to explain in more detail here.

Firstly, the SAN support. One of the reasons the MQ Appliance has been so popular with customers is the built-in storage (2x 3.2TB SSDs in a RAID 1 configuration) and the simple HA configuration allowing a pair of MQ Appliances to replicate messages and log data between them on a QM by QM basis with just a couple of clicks on setup. And a lot of the updates to the MQ Appliance has been to support the wider use of this popular deployment use case.

Appliance SAN options

However, some customers have always wanted us to add support for SANs for some of their use cases. One use case was that 3.2TB of onboard storage might not be enough. If you consider when a consuming application might fail over a long weekend and the queue depths might get very high. One of our customers recently said, “an empty queue is a happy queue” and this is true, but in the case of a protracted failure you want to ensure your queues can hold all the messages. So, if you are concerned about this scenario, then you might want to have the Queues supporting that use case on external storage where there is no effective limit to queue depth.

The other use case, which tends to come up more commonly in customer discussions is around the thought of “consistency groups”. This is when you are trying to recover from a site failure at your disaster recovery location. This is typically a manual task, unlike the automated High Availability configuration. Part of this manual task will be to establish the last known transactions of not just MQ but other parts of the IT infrastructure such as applications and databases. This is likely to be easier if all the data points from all these ‘moving parts’ are stored on a common storage area, and this is replicated consistently between the SAN on one site and the SAN on the disaster recovery site. So this use case is now supported by the MQ Appliance with customer selected Queue Managers able to choose the SAN storage instead of the internal storage and have a MQ Appliance in the disaster recovery site read the replicated messages and data from the SAN there.

A second update to the MQ Appliance specific features is to provide customers with a quicker and simpler way to ensure that Queue Managers on the MQ Appliance have the best allocation of resources on the MQ Appliance. When Queue Managers are initially created the MQ Appliance determines how much space to allow to them. However if workload on a Queue Manager grows faster than other Queue Managers, it is likely that the allocated resources might need to grow to match the likely workload. However, it hasn’t been easy to do that. But with the MQ V9.0.4 update on the MQ Appliance IBM has added dynamic disk allocation, enabling resources for a Queue Manager to be increases even after it was initially created. This will make the ongoing operation and support of production workloads on the MQ Appliance quicker and simpler.

Appliance MFT

Finally, an update off the MQ Appliance will have a positive impact on potential use cases for the MQ Appliance. Virtually every customer still moves large amounts of data around their business as files and file contents. Much of this is unmanaged, insecure and unreliable, and for a number of years IBM has provided a solution: MQ Managed File Transfer. This enables file contents to move from point to point over the MQ network as MQ messages, taking advantage of MQ’s reliability, security and manageability. Part of the MQ Managed File Transfer functions was a logger to track which files were sent over MQ, and this, if used, always needed to run on the same machine as the Queue Manager. This prevented some MQ MFT use cases from being deployed in environments where the MQ Appliance was the only MQ Queue Manager. Now, with MQ V9.0.4 the file logger component of MQ MFT can be deployed remotely from the Queue Manager, meaning it can be used in locations by pointing to a remote MQ Appliance, without the need to install anything on the MQ Appliance, which has always been prohibited. It’s always good to allow customers more flexibility in deployment.

This combination of enhancements, along with the many non-Appliance specific MQ updates in the MQ V9.0.4 release means that there should be a lot of increased opportunities to consider the MQ Appliance as the right deployment option. After all many customers who review it with regards to overall costs find it has the lowest Total Cost of Ownership, as well as outstanding reliability.

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Two steps forward, no steps back with IBM MQ V9.0.4

October 24, 2017

hopscotch

Compromise is everywhere. We are told to take the rough with the smooth. The easy with the hard. The quick win and the hard slog. And with software we often have to accept compromises. Especially so these days with the drive for new function forcing some compromises with stable deployments.

Not so with the latest update to the MQ family of products. For the last 15 months IBM has been delivering updates to MQ using a Continuous Delivery stream. There have been many useful additions, but they have always required adoption of the latest version to take advantage of the new features. With the latest update moving to MQ V9.0.4, there are even more substantial updates of useful features for both base MQ and MQ Advanced. However in recognition of the need for customers to keep some systems back-level while also wanting to take advantage of new features, some of these updates are designed to allow existing deployed systems to take advantage of the new capabilities, both without being updated and without breaking the Continuous Delivery and Long Term Support principles.

In addition to this extremely useful update, which I will get to in a minute, which can be used across the entire MQ estate, there are some groundbreaking updates that will allow huge changes in the way MQ is used, deployed and managed in this update. It is more leaps forward rather than steps forward.

For MQ Advanced we have 3 key new capabilities:

  • A new ‘easy HA’ feature – Replicated Data Queue Managers
  • More flexible Managed File Transfer deployments
  • Availability of an enhanced Blockchain bridge

For MQ Base (which is part of MQ Advanced) there are a number of other enhancements

  • Additional commands supported as part of the REST API for admin
  • Availability of a ‘catch-all’ for MQSC commands as part of the REST API for admin
  • Ability to use a single MQ V9.0.4 Queue Manager as a single point gateway for REST API based admin of other MQ environments including older MQ versions such as MQ V9 LTS and MQ V8.
  • Ability to use MQ V9.0.4 as a proxy for IBM Cloud Product Insights reporting across older deployed versions of MQ
  • Availability of an enhanced MQ bridge for Salesforce
  • Initial availability of a new programmatic REST API for messaging applications

 

All of these features are called out in the new announcement letter for MQ V9.0.4 here. And there are further updates available for the MQ Appliance listed in the specific announcement letter for it here and in another blog entry here. There are also announcement letters for IBM MQ z/OS V9.0.4 and IBM MQ Advanced for z/OS VUE V9.0.4

However, let’s try and call out some details of the key points of the MQ V9.0.4 update below:

RDQM1

The new High Availability feature (officially described as Replicated Data Queue Managers or RDQM) provides a significant new way to configure High Availability. It is only available for MQ Advanced users on x86 Red Hat Linux. It is designed as a 3 node system which uses replication of messages and logs between the local disks available to each Queue Manager. This style of replication of local disks was previously only available with the MQ Appliance. As moving to this new style of HA will allow customers to stop using network storage for MQ, we anticipate it will be very popular. As well as the disk level replication, Floating IP will be used to help applications move seamlessly to a failover QM. And 3 nodes help to prevent ‘split-brain’ situations where 2 nodes are simultaneously active.

The licensing of the above deployment requires MQ Advanced as already stated. However as long as all Queue Managers on all 3 nodes are Replicated Data Queue Managers, and all 3 systems are the same capacity, then only one node needs to have a MQ Advanced license entitlement. The other 2 nodes can be licensed with MQ Advanced High Availability Replica parts (these parts used to be called Idle Standby parts).

RESTproxy

The changes to the REST API for admin are also significant. Over the last few releases more and more ‘verbs’ have been added to allow REST API calls to configure and manage MQ. This was designed to allow more modern tools to be built as an alternative to MQSC and PCF based tooling. The latest V9.0.4 release adds more verbs and also a way to call the remaining equivalent MQSC functions within a REST API structure. However what is perhaps more interesting is that a single V9.0.4 Queue Manager can now act as a ‘gateway’ Queue Manager to allow these new REST API driven tools to configure and manage Queue Managers that are older and don’t include this new Continuous Delivery function. This is hopefully a very good way of providing the best of both worlds. Allowing the older production Queue Managers to remain deployed but still take advantage of new features.

Similar to this ‘bridge’ feature is one for IBM Cloud Product Insights, where the ability to publish deployed Queue Manager data to Cloud Product Insights was limited to releases on the Continuous Delivery stream, but now a single V9.0.4 Queue Manager enables older installs to publish data to this useful dashboard tool.

The MQ bridge for Salesforce has been enhanced to allow MQ to publish data into Salesforce, instead of simply receiving push notifications from Salesforce.

Customers with MQ Advanced who want to explore the possibilities offered by Blockchains now can deploy a bridge which enables MQ applications to query the Blockchain, and also provide data input into it. An earlier version of this was available only to customers with MQ Advanced for z/OS VUE, but this version is available to customers using MQ Advanced on distributed platforms.

MQ Advanced customers also get more flexibility in how they can deploy the file logger in MQ Managed File Transfer scenarios, as this logger can now be deployed on a different machine to the MQ Queue Manager.

And finally, feedback from customers told us that developers were looking to make sure of MQ, but with fewer dependencies, to free them up from client and language bindings. As such we have also added the first layer of support for a new set of programmatic REST APIs for messaging applications. This will replace the previous HTTPBridge function which has already been deprecated. Over the next few releases it is hoped that more functions will be supported in this REST API for messaging to allow additional messaging calls to be supported.

Counting up the advances it does look like it is more than 2 steps forward, and certainly no steps back. And with the ability to use some of these features alongside your older MQ releases, what are you waiting for? Download it from here today. Or try it on Amazon AWS Quick Start.

Want to know more. Check out the webcast. Register or replay at this link.

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

Not too much of a good thing: MQ V9.0.3

June 6, 2017

After a gap of a few months I blogged earlier today about deploying MQ Queue Managers in a DMZ so it might seem a bit much to be blogging again so soon. However I will try to keep it short and snappy so you find these entries like a Japanese meal – small portions, but so many courses! And of course, delicious.

japanese meal

So it wasn’t long ago – just March – when I blogged about MQ V9.0.2 on MQ and MQ Advanced on distributed platforms and MQ V9.0.2 on the MQ Appliance. Remember that IBM is delivering MQ V9 as a continuous delivery release. This means that we deliver smallish amounts of hopefully easily consumable and usable function. And these functions, on the whole, will build incrementally to deliver eventually a substantial piece of new function.

 

One of these ongoing deliverables, that has been building over the last few releases is the growing REST API for administration of MQ. New capabilities in this release include read and update of the queue manager configuration, plus querying of the status.

 

Also, on top of the enhancements made to MQ Managed File Transfer, available with MQ Advanced or MQ Appliance, delivered in MQ V9.0.0, V9.0.1 and V9.0.2, there are even more usability enhancements in this release, focusing on problem determination when there may have been an issue in the completion of a file transfer. This is in addition to the license changes made recently that makes this far more attractive for deploying MQ MFT Agents widely through the business.

 

And for the MQ Appliance there was an update to allow an easier transition for some configurations to move to use the end to end encryption provided by MQ AMS when some MQ Clients may not support it, by doing the encryption on the MQ Appliance rather than the MQ Client side.

 

There are now announcement letters for MQ V9.0.3 and MQ Appliance V9.0.3 updates published but perhaps some of the most interesting updates of the MQ V9.0.3 releases was on the z/OS offering. There is already an announcement  letter about this – but this update specifically targeted the MQ Advanced for z/OS Value Unit Edition offering with a set of unique extensions for this delivered as a connector pack on top of the core MQ Advanced for z/OS VUE offering.

This connector pack included a Bridge to Blockchain, allowing MQ Advanced for z/OS VUE to query information on the Blockchain. Also there are changes to the licensing and deployment model of MQ Managed File Transfer components on z/OS. And support for MQ Advanced for z/OS VUE to publish information to the IBM Cloud Product Insights service.

 

There are some additional details on our development blog on MQ V9.0.3 here.

 

So that was a quick run through of the updates in IBM MQ V9.0.3. All you need now is some green tea to wash it down.

japan green tea

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.

Beginning the new, looking back to the old

January 17, 2017

janus2

The month of January is named after the God Janus – who both looked forward to the new year and back to the old one. So it is perhaps time to set ourselves up for what will be no doubt another very busy year for IBM MQ by a quick review of 2016 – looking at what you should have seen, and also finding time to tell you something new, which you are unlikely to be aware of.

So a quick recap first. In June we released a hardware refresh for the IBM MQ Appliance, adding large capacity SSDs and additional 10Gb network ports as described here. And IBM MQ brought out MQ V9.0 with a new option for end-to-end encryption with an order of magnitude performance boost, and CCDTs now accessed through a URI – and this was described here.

There were additional enhancements in November with IBM MQ moving to MQ V9.0.1 – the first Continuous Delivery release, with MFT enhancements and repackaged MFT Agents, availability of the new MQ Console, and the initial delivery of REST API verbs. These were all described here. And the IBM MQ Appliance also moved the MQ V9.0.1 and added additional features like Floating IP support, SNMP and LDAP authentication of admin accounts. This was written up here.

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So if we are all ok with that, I had better share the news that you missed at the end of last year. First a word or two about Processor Value Units. This is IBM’s typical capacity based pricing metric for software. Each machine type and processor type has a PVU rating per core. And software products like IBM MQ have a price per PVU. So as a customer you buy a number of PVU entitlements to meet your capacity need and then deploy IBM MQ on the hardware that matches the PVUs you have bought. However this means you need to always count and be sure that the capacity you have provided to IBM MQ is in line with the entitlement you have, and the physical machines you are running on. But more and more these days software is being deployed on environments that are more abstracted from the actual physical machines – and the capacity being allocated, either on premise or in a cloud, is assigned as virtual cores. But with IBM MQ (and other products) priced only by PVUs, there was some confusion in mapping PVUs to virtual cores.

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On December 6th 2016, IBM MQ addressed this by adding a Virtual Processor Core metric to its pricing. This is only available as a monthly pricing metric but provides a new simple, and possibly more appropriate way of buying capacity for IBM MQ deployed in these virtual environments either on premise or in clouds where IBM MQ is deployed with a number of virtual cores of capacity rather than into a fixed physical machine. This is an additional metric. The PVU metric with both perpetual and monthly pricing is still available, but customers now have an additional option of the Virtual Processor Core pricing. There is no announcement letter for this, but the pricing is already available for IBM MQ and for IBM MQ Advanced, so simply ask your IBM sales rep or business partner about this if you want to know more.

Certain customers who can find it difficult to count PVUs might find this very useful. These might include customers such as retailers or retail banks where IBM MQ can be installed in 1000+ different environments, and for customers like this there are other ways to price for this type of deployment so again ask your IBM rep.

That was the last news and updates from 2016, but there is plenty to come in 2017. And you don’t need to wait for long. Just one week to go and I expect to have something new to share here. Not long to wait.

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Power is nothing without control – IBM MQ V9.0.1

November 15, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 19, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

The Paradox of Choice – the best Managed File Transfer solution?

March 18, 2014

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We all know the feeling – you are shopping, maybe for some food. You have a vague idea of what you want until you are confronted by reality – dozens or even hundreds of different options. Which is better for you? Which will better meet your needs? It becomes harder to make a choice if there are too many choices. When I am out for dinner at a restaurant I suffer much the same dilemma. I love Cherry Pie for dessert, but what about the refreshing creaminess of Ice Cream? It might seem a simple choice but it would be easier to make a decision if the menu was more restricted.  

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This was explored in a very interesting book by Barry Schwartz called ‘The Paradox of Choice – why more is less’. I highly recommend a read of it.

This applies quite widely in other areas. Take for example how you want to deal with files in your business. Let’s face it; you have files, filled with business critical data, on every system in your enterprise. And you need to move the files, or at least the data inside them, across your enterprise to consume the data elsewhere. So you plan to move them, only this creates your first dilemma – should you use simple FTP even though you know it can be unreliable and insecure, and you never really know what happens to your files. Or should you use a managed file transfer solution?

Well hopefully, your business cares about the files and the data enough to look at a managed file transfer solution. After all you don’t want to create a management and security headache when trying to move the files, and you certainly don’t want to troubleshoot what has gone wrong every day, and maintain hundreds of FTP scripts.

So you want a managed file transfer solution – but which one? This opens up a whole different solution set. Do you want a bespoke solution, dedicated to file transfers, or one that is maybe multi-tasking – perhaps a function built out from another piece of infrastructure that might be more adaptable for some of your use cases, even though the dedicated solution looks good for other use cases?

Many customers today might look at their existing solution providers such as IBM who has been providing middleware for this type of solution for many years. And here there has been a choice to be made:

IBM Sterling Connect:Direct, a market leading managed file transfer solution with years of expertise as a dedicated offering in this space, with a secure protocol and purpose built tooling to provide all a business needs when moving files, extended with IBM Sterling Control Center for event based monitoring of file transfers. Looks good for a dedicated solution.

IBM MQ Managed File Transfer, an extension to the widely used IBM MQ messaging middleware offering. This also provides file transfer, moving the files as messages over MQ, but also allows not just file to file transfer but also file-to-message and message-to-file transfers which can help the business make faster use of the data being moved. A highly adaptable solution, but also supported by IBM Sterling Control Center as a management and monitoring dashboard.

So even from IBM you would need to make a choice, even though you could probably adapt both offerings to meet your needs. But it would be nice to not have to choose, but to use whichever offering was best for any particular use case.

On March 11th 2014, IBM announced that it was solving this dilemma of too much choice by combining the two offerings of IBM Sterling Connect:Direct and IBM MQ MFT, and also including IBM Sterling Control Center. Now there is just one solution to buy for Managed File Transfer. And when you buy it you don’t have to choose which to use, as you get entitlement to both offerings included, as well as Control Center. No more choosing between Cherry Pie or Ice Cream, as you can have both.

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A smaller number of choices in this case is definitely better. You can read more about this offering in the announcement letter here. Dig in.