IBM Expands Vision on Clustering Technology

With the advent of e-commerce, companies now have partners and customers in different time zones, even in different countries. Because of this, the ability to provide service around the clock is now more important than ever for those who want to survive in an e-commerce market that is expected to hit the $6.9 trillion mark by 2004, according to a report by Forrester Research.

In turn, the increased emphasis on continuous availability has spawned a growing need for cluster-enabled applications, a relatively new phenomenon in the midrange computer industry. Clustering is a high-availability architecture that allows applications to be shared across multiple servers.

Since its inception, the AS/400 ClusterProven program has grown to include 40 ISVs by helping developers create applications that meet the IBM-specified ClusterProven criteria in high availability, data and application resiliency, and server and client application state mirroring and restart.
When it began examining the market over a year ago, IBM discovered that ISVs did not have the architecture to develop cluster-enabled applications. In response, it launched a ClusterProven program across all of its platforms.

“Its really a new technology,” says Steve Finnis, program director for AS/400 technologies at IBM. “Prior to this focus, there wasn’t anything that brought data and applications together. The cluster acts as an entity that keeps the applications available.”

Since its inception a little over a year ago, the AS/400 ClusterProven program has grown to include 40 AS/400 ISVs, including well-known companies such as BMC and Candle Corp. The program assists solution developers in creating AS/400 ClusterProven applications or modifying existing applications to meet the IBM-specified ClusterProven criteria.

Information availability management solution provider Vision Solutions (Irvine, Calif.) recently became the latest AS/400 ISV to join the Cluster Club program. ClusterProven denotes AS/400 applications that meet specific requirements for cluster management, and applications and data resiliency.

According to Judi Uttal, Vision Solutions’ VP of marketing, there are two markets that Vision is targeting: ISVs and ASPs. “We see clustering as a strategic platform for the future and we’re providing the support they need to quickly make their applications cluster proven,” says Uttal. “At this point clustering is a differentiator, but over the long run it will become hygiene.”

Vision Solutions gives ISVs and ASPs the ability to cluster-enable their applications through an offering that includes access to Vision Suite high availability software, Vision’s cluster middleware toolkit, access to testing and certification facilities, consulting services, training courses, and ongoing support services. “We think ISVs will be the bigger market because they are a channel into hundreds of thousands of AS/400s,” says Uttal. “If you’re looking at an ASP model, there’s a tremendous need to keep the customer base happy and that means no downtime.”

To join the ClusterProven family, ISVs must be a member of IBM’s PartnerWorld program and must meet an acceptable standard in each of the five levels of clustering that IBM has mapped out. As for the AS/400 cluster program, those five levels are: high availability; data resiliency; application and data resiliency; server application state mirroring and restart; and client and server application state mirroring and restart. In order to reach the cluster proven category, an ISV or ASP much reach at least the fourth and fifth levels.

By meeting these standards, Vision is now able to help other application providers to cluster-enable their products. “We give them the products and they do the implementation,” says Uttal. “What we do is tell them how to architecturally implement it.”

According to Bill Cleary, IBM’s program director for cross-server marketing, IBM is actively pursuing applications providers to become a part of the program. “We’re targeting some key household names that we would like to be validated,” says Cleary. “We’re trying to make sure our AS/400 partners are aware of this.”

Because it is well known for its reliability and uptime, the AS/400 rarely experiences unplanned outages. However, with e-commerce forcing many AS/400 companies to be available 24 by 7, they no longer have the luxury of doing things such as maintenance and repairs after hours. Clustering gives them the ability to move applications from the AS/400 that needs service to another AS/400, all in real-time.

“The way the market is transforming itself into the e-commerce space is driving the demand for continuous availability,” says Finnis. “My prediction is that clustering capability will become a differentiator for application providers.”

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    Related Information:

  • IBM ClusterProven Page (new window)
  • Vision Solutions (new window)
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