Posts Tagged ‘WebSphere MQ Advanced’

Life’s too short to drink bad coffee?

February 4, 2014

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It has been a lot longer than I wanted since I last wrote an entry on this blog. I guess I have been searching for inspiration. The problem of course being that I work on a lot of things that I can’t talk about until they are ready to announce. So what can I say about what we already have in the market?

I was struck last week with some inspiration. I don’t recommend getting your inspiration the same way, as I was off sick for a couple of days with a temperature of 104F, but it did give me a couple of days thinking time, on a restricted diet. One of the things I was missing was my espresso and cappuccino. I have, for reasons that don’t matter here, two separate espresso machines. A manual La Pavoni and a Gaggia Classic. For either to make decent espresso you need freshly ground coffee, ideally from freshly roasted beans.

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I buy my beans from a small UK roaster called hasbean, and have been for a number of years. But here’s the thing. Until a few months ago, I had just bought the same ‘espresso blend’ of beans from them. I went to their website, clicked on their ‘blends’ page, selected the espresso blend I chose, and bought it. Again and again. I was perfectly happy with my choice. The beans were roasted that day and posted out. I would drink my coffee and be happy. Except (and you knew that was coming) I gradually thought there might be something more. Maybe my coffee could be better. I knew it was already way better than the coffee providers on the high street. In fact it was rare I would drink a coffee outside the house that I liked as much as mine. But my feeling persisted. And maybe what I might have done would have been to find another roaster. But all of a sudden, when I was on the hasbean website about to buy some more coffee, I looked a little closer at the website – and clicked on one of the tabs for a specific coffee region…in this case I clicked on America. And there a whole world opened up. Yes there was Brazil, which I knew provided many of the beans in my chosen blend. But there were options for Bolivia, Guatemala, Colombia, El Salvador. The list went on. And click a country, and there was even more choice. Individual producers. Detailed notes of the crop, the harvest conditions, the processing method, and tasting notes. A whole world of choice ready to be roasted and posted.

This was what I had been missing, and it was there for me all along, right in front of my face. Now I am selecting a range of individual beans, drinking different, better coffee, but from the same roaster, and mostly at the same price I was paying. There was even an option to pay a little more for some exceptional beans. Truly a win-win.

So is this relevant for WebSphere MQ users? Well I did visit a long standing customer last month who admitted that they didn’t use any publish-subscribe. Now IBM has been suggesting trying out publish-subscribe for years. It is there in the product. There is no additional cost to use it. And for many uses, you get far more flexible deployments.

Then there is security. Changes made in the V7.1 release back in 2011 gave the product far more usable security, but still customers continue to use exits which now ought to be redundant thanks to the same or better function in the product. Then there are transactional clients, improvements in clustering, API options, etc. etc. And that’s before I even start mentioning Telemetry support, Managed File Transfer and Advanced Message Security options.

Now I understand that WebSphere MQ isn’t a cup of coffee, even if an espresso machine can be complex to use well. Applications connected with WebSphere MQ are systems that run for years, or even decades. And it can take quite a bit of work to consider changing them. But with features like multi-version install, and even the new ability to download the entire WebSphere MQ Advanced stack at no cost for development use, we have been working to make it easier to try new ways of using WebSphere MQ. So at no additional cost, you could be making your applications more flexible, more robust or more secure. You could be simplifying your administration tasks, and reducing the overhead of recurring operational activities. And for a little more you could be encrypting messages end to end without changing your applications, or using your MQ network to move your file data, and to make better use of it. I am pretty sure that with MQTT you could even hook up your coffee machine to your smartphone. 

Now that I have been trying the new coffees I won’t be going back to less variety. Why shouldn’t you be trying some of the good stuff too? Tomorrow morning I’ll be drinking for the first time some Colombian El Meridiano Rioblanco Washed. What are you going to be trying tomorrow?

 

Did you remember to lock your car?

November 12, 2013

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We’ve all done it. You have driven your car to a car park, walked away, and then had a momentary pang of doubt about whether you locked your car. It has become second nature to lock your car. To keep it secure. The car even locks the doors itself when it is in motion. But when you park it and walk away, that’s when the uncertainty comes in, and also when your car is most vulnerable.

It is the same with your enterprise messaging. What happens when you use a product like WebSphere MQ to send a message across your enterprise? Well, of course, what is happening is the application takes some data and packages it in the contents section of a message structure, along with some header information to describe the message and the destination. The message is then dispatched. All in all that’s pretty similar to you getting in your car and driving to the shops to buy something like food for dinner, or presents for a birthday. There is a destination and something of value to be transferred. With a car, you have to park in a space in a car park. With messaging, instead of a car park you have a queue manager and queues.

Messages start in an application and a MQ Client packages the information to be moved into a message. This then is sent to a queue manager, to be written into a queue. According to the destination or other information, the message is then sent on to either another queue, another queue manager, or to the destination client application.

As far as securing the message goes, when the message is moving between the client application and the queue manager, then the MQ resources are secured by MQ built-in security definitions and the message and contents itself is secured while moving over the ‘wire’ by use of SSL. However while the message is encrypted by SSL as it moves, once it reaches the queue manager, and is written to the queue, it is unencrypted and thus sits on the queue without any encryption. Thus if the system with the queue manager is penetrated, the messages on the queues are available in the clear. This is the same as parking your car in a ‘secure car park’ but leaving the car unlocked as the car park is secure. Would you do that? I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t.

Now what would we like to happen? What would be smart would be a routine that ensured our car was locked, pretty much at all times unless people wanted to get in and out of it – subject to key rules – such as ensuring people could actually get out or in when they needed. For messages we would want to make sure the message contents were secure at all times, including when sitting in queues, but would continue to be available to the receiving applications, and of course would still expose the header information needed for routing etc.

What IBM offers for WebSphere MQ is WebSphere MQ Advanced Message Security, which is also available as part of the entitlement of WebSphere MQ Advanced. This is a policy-based encryption capability which allows message contents to be encrypted from sending application to receiving application. So the contents are encrypted while it flows over the network and while it sits in intermediary queues. The applications are unchanged, with just updated client libraries to be used. And the security is based on policies, so different rules might apply for different message contents, or different queue managers. After all there are some times when you have to leave your car unlocked. So I’m pretty sure you have rules for securing your car. Isn’t it about time you had rules for securing your messages?

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New updates for WebSphere MQ Managed File Transfer

July 16, 2013

One of the biggest ‘new’ use cases for MQ over the last few years has been for managed file transfer – that is making use of a MQ network to send files as messages, as well as the typical use of connecting applications. This is actually something that MQ has been used for over many years, but the release of WebSphere MQ File Transfer Edition, now called WebSphere MQ Managed File Transfer has helped bring that to the fore, and this capability is front and center in the benefits that WebSphere MQ Advanced brings to customers. 

We have had many successes with this offering – not least because so many businesses make use of files pretty much everywhere in their infrastructure and WebSphere MQ MFT not only moves the files, but as it moves them as messages, allowing the data in the file to be created or consumed seamlessly, without secondary processes and delays. 

Some of the businesses that have been fastest on the uptake of this have been retailers – which has historically been very file-centric. They have enthusiastically been using, or exploring how to use WMQ Managed File Transfer in both their head office and in each and every store. However some of these retailers use 4690 hardware in their stores – a dedicated retail platform – and they have been asking for us to supply WMQ Managed File Transfer Agents to run on the 4690 Store Controller, simplifying their store management and IT admin. 

 

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I am pleased to say that on July 9th we announced a new platform for our WMQ Managed File Transfer Agent – the 4690 Store Controller. This will be delivered as part of the second fixpack for WebSphere MQ V7.5 and should be available on July 26th. You can read the announcement here

I hope that many of our retail customers will be able to take advantage of this enhancement.

There has been even more good news for WebSphere MQ Managed File Transfer users – as in June we also had another announcement about improvements in monitoring WebSphere MQ Managed File Transfer. From the wider IBM portfolio, our colleagues have extended the IBM Sterling Control Center product to enable monitoring of WebSphere MQ File Transfer Edition and WebSphere MQ Managed File Transfer. This is a great benefit from those customers who might already use that with IBM Sterling Connect:Direct or who are simply using WebSphere MQ Managed File Transfer but wanted more powerful and configurable monitoring than that provided by the WebSphere MQ Explorer. You can again read the announcement here

Impact 2013 – a few notes

May 7, 2013

How to sum up an event like IBM’s annual Impact conference? Attended by thousands of IBM clients, Business partners, IBM execs and specialists, as well as analysts and press. There are obviously thousands of stories to tell. However as I am the product manager for the WebSphere MQ family I will try to cover my perspective of the week in Vegas – which is clearly going to present a messaging-centric view.

So to start with, this was a good conference for WebSphere MQ and messaging. One of the major announcements of the conference was the new IBM MessageSight appliance. Traffic in the solution center was constant with everyone wanting to talk about the new solution in the context of upcoming Mobile and M2M opportunities – and there was much discussion of how IBM MessageSight would provide a secure high performance gateway into the enterprise infrastructure.

For WebSphere MQ this was an important Impact, where IBM celebrated 20 years of WebSphere MQ (previously of course called MQSeries). On Wednesday I presented a talk looking back at the last 20 years of MQ, with a look at new opportunities and then there was a reception with food, drinks and cake to celebrate MQ. In telling the story of the 20 years of MQ it was a good chance to review how IT infrastructure has changed over the 2 decades. and I think a strong case can be made that MQ has been a key factor in the changes. Consider how 20 years ago connectivity between applications and systems was complex and haphazard – and that MQ was specifically designed to address this need, providing a simple, platform neutral API to provide reliable connectivity – and this actually led to a sea-change in the way systems were connected in virtually every business. Today all business IT infrastructure is connected together with common connectivity infrastructures, and although MQ is just one choice, alongside the continued use of FTP, home grown connectivity or HTTP, if any business was to actually draw out their ideal architecture for connecting their IT assets, having a connectivity bus would be the selection of the vast majority.

In discussions with partners, clients and IBM technical experts a number of themes did come up. One was the importance of monitoring what is happening – this is very much seen as a critical part of the solution – at least from the operation and management side. From the other side of the business, there was also a focus on developers. Clearly our recent announcement of WMQ Advanced for Developers was good for this – and there was also a lot of discussion about the needs of Mobile  and M2M developers driven by the IBM MessageSight announcement, and it was good to clarify that the MQTT clients connect to both WMQ and IBM MessageSight in the same way, letting developers run against WMQ to begin with, with it being then simple to deploy IBM MessageSight as soon as required, without any application changes.

A further good piece of news for developers was that we recently opened a new early access program called MQ for rapid application deployment – we think this will be extremely interesting for application developers – and you can ask your IBM rep to get access to this program – which should be of interest to solution providers and clients alike. More public news on this to come in the future, I’m sure.

And finally a To-Do for me. A number of discussions with clients were highly interesting as they were all running very impressive solutions that relied on MQ, but they were always keen to know how to improve them, and to look at best practices – both from a development perspective and an operational perspective. Although we have lots of good tools and utilities on our Supportpacs site, and some great documentation on best practices in our redbooks, there is always room for improvement. One avenue for this is our new Messaging Community which is a useful social resource where not only will IBM be providing content, but anyone else can also contribute and comment. Please continue to visit this, and other resources like our Facebook page, and as we produce more of these best practices and other assets, we will continue to make them available.

 

WebSphere MQ Advanced for Developers – another exciting step forward

March 19, 2013

Yes. It’s that time again. Another blog entry, so we must have something new to say about WebSphere MQ. And yes we do.

I’m very pleased that we have another announcement to make today. WebSphere MQ Advanced for Developers. You can read the announcement letter itself here. But in the meantime what are the key points you really ought to know?

1)     This is an exciting new development in that we have added a new way to buy licenses of WebSphere MQ, and indeed the entire WebSphere MQ Advanced stack, but priced for individual developer deployment and use. We continue to have both the separate WebSphere MQ licenses and WebSphere MQ Advanced licenses, which are both priced by PVU, and suitable for production and testing. But this new licensing option is priced per ‘Authorised User Single Install’ which effectively means a fixed price per developer that wants to use it for their development use. We believe that by making the WebSphere MQ portfolio more available for developers, giving them individual access we will increase their skills, improve their ability to use WebSphere MQ in innovative ways, and also speed the time to develop more productive applications. Read the announcement letter and get the new part from Friday 22nd March.

2)     As part of this announcement we are also taking advantage of the opportunity to bring everyone up to date on the enhancements we have been making to the support for connecting to M2M devices and mobiles. Over the last couple of months IBM has been publishing new Messaging Clients to support Android and iOS mobile devices. These have been published on our new Messaging Community on developerWorks. This announcement has been timed to coincide with the first fixpack for WebSphere MQ V7.5 which adds in additional function that also allows connectivity from MQTT clients over WebSockets. This creates new opportunities for building new types of applications that can connect to the enterprise over WebSockets, which we expect to be very popular, especially when combined with the new Javascript API which supports both this style of connection as well as supporting the clients on Android or iOS devices. These clients support our Worklight offering, and with IBM MobileFirst this is a very exciting time to be adding this type of support.

3)     Finally as part of this update IBM has also made some changes to the licensing to support High Availability with WebSphere MQ. In recent years WebSphere MQ added its own approach for High Availability – called Multi-Instance Queue Managers, which allowed WebSphere MQ to automatically watch itself and failover if required. An additional ‘Idle Standby’ license was required for the failover system, which was substantially cheaper than a full license. In this update we have extended these Idle Standby licenses to also apply to other configurations that provide automatic failover – such as PowerHA, or 3rd party configurations like Veritas. Now the failover systems in these environments can also be licensed with the Idle Standby parts.

Hopefully these look like a good set of updates – and they have kept us busy working towards them. Don’t forget you can download the free trial for WebSphere MQ here. And visit the Messaging Community to find more stuff, including the Messaging Clients for M2M and Mobile. And look for a webcast from me on the Global WebSphere Community on April 11th.

Bringing it all together – WebSphere MQ Advanced

October 9, 2012

The last 12 months have been very busy for WebSphere MQ. First, in November 2011 there was a great new functional release with WebSphere MQ V7.1, bringing improvements to performance, security, install and more on all platforms including z/OS. Then we brought out a major shift in how we packaged and delivered the whole WebSphere MQ family with WebSphere MQ V7.5 in June 2012. And now we follow up both of those with the announcement of WebSphere MQ Advanced V7.5 and WebSphere MQ Advanced for z/OS V7.1

So what are these new offerings, how do they build on the other recent releases, and why are they important and of benefit for our clients – they many thousands of MQ users?

First, a quick restatement of the reason for using WebSphere MQ – IT infrastructure becomes ever more complex as it is more inter-connected. More applications, more systems, more services. All looking to exchange information rapidly, simply, reliably, securely. And the truth is that no matter how robust you make your infrastructure, failures inevitably occur, which means your applications that move and exchange data need to cater for all types of potential failure. This introduces complexity, potential errors and vastly increases the time and cost to both implement and maintain each and every application. 

So WebSphere MQ exists on virtually every commercial IT platform to allow developers to focus their applications on the business logic, and to leave the handling of the data movement to WebSphere MQ, where failures can be managed and handled without logic in the applications. 

WebSphere MQ was able to be extended to add additional value, generally for fairly general use-cases, such as managed file transfer using MQ as a transport, and for end-to-end encryption, and also extending the MQ infrastructure to more lightweight, infrequently connected devices.

In WebSphere MQ V7.5 we changed how we made all this MQ content available, by shipping all of it within the core WebSphere MQ package. All content was separately installable and separately entitled, but it was all available to all WebSphere MQ users as a part of the package, and hence a core part of the whole MQ value proposition. This was how IBM would be delivering WMQ content from now on – as a whole package. And customers could easily trial any of the features in the offering to see if they were of interest to their business. 

But it was then clear that part of the value of the WebSphere MQ V7.5 package could be progressed further, by making it even simpler for customers to move up to use all of the WebSphere MQ capabilities, by enabling customers to buy and install all of the capabilities more easily. So we are today – October 9th 2012 – announcing WebSphere MQ Advanced V7.5, which will be available on October 12th 2012. This part provides entitlement to WebSphere MQ V7.5, and also WebSphere MQ Managed File Transfer Service, as well as WebSphere MQ Advanced Message Security. If you buy 1000PVUs of WebSphere MQ Advanced you get entitlement to 1000 PVUs of each of those 3 offerings. Customers who buy any entitlement to WebSphere MQ Advanced also get unlimited entitlement to deploy WebSphere MQ Telemetry, allowing the standard WMQ Telemetry clients to connect to any of their WMQ Servers. 

The addition of WebSphere MQ Advanced to the licensing options available to customers (none of the existing licenses are being removed) will make it easier for customers to buy and deploy all the WebSphere MQ capabilities they need, without worrying about whether they are actually entitled to deploy them.

Buying and deploying WebSphere MQ Advanced will also encourage more developers to take advantage of the use-cases around WebSphere MQ Managed File Transfer, WebSphere MQ Advanced Message Security and WebSphere MQ Telemetry, which will allow WebSphere MQ users to get more benefit from their existing WebSphere MQ investment and help that network drive those benefits more deeply into their business. 

An important aspect of this announcement is that we have not just announced WebSphere MQ Advanced V7.5 for distributed platforms but also WebSphere MQ Advanced for z/OS V7.1. When we announced WebSphere MQ V7.5, it was just for distributed platforms as it made substantial changes and fixes to the specific install procedures on the distributed platforms which weren’t an issue on the z/OS platform. However with WebSphere MQ Advanced we wanted to deliver on z/OS something as similar as possible to the plan for the distributed platforms. As on the distributed platforms the z/OS versions of WMQ Advanced Message Security and WMQ File Transfer Edition depend on WebSphere MQ being available. However unlike the distributed platforms where multiple WMQ servers may be deployed on multiple different physical machines, on z/OS you would tend to see WebSphere MQ deployed on a z/OS partition with numerous other applications. As such the best way to provide the aggregated and integrated value of the wider WebSphere MQ family on z/OS is to combine both WebSphere MQ Advanced Message Security and WebSphere MQ File Transfer Edition in a single package, where WebSphere MQ for z/OS is a pre-req, but otherwise customers buying this new offering will gain entitlement to both WebSphere MQ Advanced Message Security and WebSphere MQ File Transfer Edition. 

We believe both of these announcements will help our customers better understand the wide set of WebSphere MQ capabilities and find it easy to gain entitlement to all the functions they need. Customers can of course continue to buy and use the separate WebSphere MQ parts already available, and buy WebSphere MQ Advanced as they see the need.

One last item before I finish this blog update. There was a recent item on the MQDev Community Blog about how you can use the MQTT protocol in a Hybrid android mobile app developed using IBM Worklight Studio. This is a great example of the exciting ways in which both the MQTT protocol, and also WebSphere MQ Advanced can be used going forward. 

Now what shall we do next with WebSphere MQ? Watch this space!