HA Vendors Line up Behind V4R4 Clustering

IBM has lined up support from DataMirror Corp. (Markham, Ontario), Lakeview Technology (Oak Brook, Ill.) and Vision Solutions (Irvine, Calif.). for the planned clustering capabilities in May's OS/400 V4R4 release.

V4R4 of OS/400 will feature a cluster configuration manager, heartbeat monitoring, IP address takeover and switchover administration, among its continuous availability offerings.

All HA vendors will develop to the same clustering APIs provided by IBM, so all will be employing basically the same technology, with differences left up to execution. DataMirror and Vision have both announced plans to make their clustering support available concurrent with the May 21 release of V4R4. Lakeview plans to have its clustering support available by the third or fourth quarter of this year.

“Clustering gives businesses the technology to scale to another level,” says Nigel Stokes, CEO of DataMirror. “They can cluster servers together and share resources as a single unit.

“For a high-growth business, like a food distribution business for example, you can outgrow your scalability requirements fast. Clustering gives those companies a continuous path for further scalability. And in case one machine fails, you have resiliency built-in, because you can just move to another machine in the cluster.”

DataMirror's High Availability Suite, with its integrated Cluster Resources Services APIs, will expand the current high services level of the AS/400 into continuous availability. It will also allow customers to manage all systems in the cluster and monitor all critical data and applications from a single workstation. Customers will use HA Suite to define nodes in a cluster and determine what data is replicated to specific nodes within the cluster.

“The cluster management in HA Suite allows customers to do recovery and backup and build resiliency in the event of failures,” says Stokes.

In the age of e-business, such resiliency is more important than ever, he continues. “Business is changing. When a Web site goes down, you have to have resiliency to stay up [on another server]. Because if you’re down, your competition’s only a mouse click away from your customers. This has proven to be a very valuable and useful technology on other platforms and I expect it will be very valuable and useful here.

“The AS/400 is a great technology to apply clustering to. It has a high level of availability already built into it. With clustering, 100 percent availability is guaranteed.”

"DataMirror High Availability Suite together with IBM and cluster proven software solutions will create a comprehensive high availability clustering solution," says Debra Thompson, VP, enterprise servers, at IBM's AS/400 Division. "This all adds up to higher performance in the areas of planned and unplanned outage as well as cost of ownership. We anticipate that with this new capability, a far wider share of commercial users will adopt continuous availability strategies."

Vision Solutions will integrate IBM clustering capabilities into their Vision Suite high availability offering, providing cluster management, mirroring of objects and data between AS/400s in the cluster, and the intelligence to detect and manage the rapid transfer of applications from one AS/400 to another.

Vision Suite will also feature a new graphical user interface to simplify the installation, configuration and management of AS/400 clusters and will work with other application providers to offer near seamless switchover between AS/400s within a cluster.

Maynard “Butch” Maxwell, director of business development at Vision Solutions, says large and small customers should be able to take advantage of the new clustering technologies in V4R4.

“Certainly, the larger customers will see benefits from the 128 nodes and single management interface,” he says. “But with aggressively-priced servers like the Model 170 available and prices coming down across the AS/400 product line, combined with this IBM clustering support, clustering will become attractive to a broader set of customers than before.”

Maxwell says customers will see a number of benefits from taking advantage of the V4R4 clustering technologies.

“Number one, IBM, by placing an interface into the operating system that was done individually by business partners before; a number of customers will see that as a benefit. IBM’s not providing the [replication] support, but they are providing a standard interface.

“Number two, there’s never been cluster management from a single point before, which there will be now. That’s an advantage particularly for the larger shops. And third, application partners and HA partners are providing advanced solutions for the customer, that truly give the AS/400 a significant advantage in the marketplace. It’s easier to manage, it’s a more complete solution and there are more functions enabled.”

"These solutions will mean improved availability, manageability and simplified planning and installment capability," says IBM’s Thompson.

Lakeview's Mimix Availability Management software solutions will also support V4R4's clustering capabilities by providing real-time data and object replication between AS/400 clustered systems. The new OS/400 clustering technology will leverage Mimix to assure a viable system is continuously available to end-users when planned maintenance operations or unplanned disasters bring down a system in a clustered environment. Mimix will monitor all systems within a cluster for availability.

Glenn Van Benschoten, director of product marketing at Lakeview, says there are three “fundamental components” of the clustering initiative – IBM’s OS/400 enablers due in May’s V4R4 release, replication capabilities between systems, which will be provided by HA vendors, and implementation of AS/400 clustering APIs by application vendors like J.D. Edwards or SAP.

Key to the V4R4 clustering improvements made by IBM is the “heartbeat monitor,” which alerts system managers when the system goes down, Van Benschoten says. “You have that built into the operating system and have the systems communicate with each other. It’s a better heartbeat monitor than any HA vendors could have ever built.”

Van Benschoten cautions that clustering is complicated and initially will be for only large customers who have greater IT skills resources. Until the technology matures and improves, smaller AS/400 shops will not be ready for it

“What’s in it for the customers? Better fail-over support. But it isn’t necessarily easier,” he says. “This is difficult, complicated stuff. It’s good that [IBM] built this into the system, but so much more needs to be done to fulfill the vision of seamless application switchover. There’s still a long way to go.

Vision’s Maxwell agrees with Van Benschoten that the clustering technology available in May will be young, but he says it will still be an advanced technology in the market.

“The AS/400’s implementation [of clustering] will be one of the most advanced available on the market. There are even more capabilities yet to be taken advantage of like the ability to do workload balancing and fail-over. Over time, they’ll move forward. It’s not an immature technology, but it’s still youthful and there are opportunities for additional capabilities beyond this release.”