Back in September 2010, we wrote about our "i In the Sky"--that is, our use of the iDevCloud for our own business. We mentioned another offering, RZKH from Germany (don't ask us what it stands for!). Since it has been over a year since that post, we thought we'd revisit the concept of using IBM i as a cloud server.
IBM i seems a natural choice for cloud computing, with the advanced virtualization capabilities, powerful security and simplicity of administration. We're obviously not the only IBM i users to have noted that. We even found a piece, which would seem to have been written by someone who isn't an IBM i user, on the value of IBM i as a cloud server. In "Five Characteristics of IBM iSeries: What Makes IBM iSeries Stand Out of the Crowd," you can see what we mean. What makes us say the author isn't an IBM i user? Well, the only use of "iSeries" is in the title. The rest of the article uses the term "IBM i series," an interesting mangling of current and old names for our beloved platform. Perhaps the author originally wrote it as "iSeries" and some editor ran into Trevor Perry who insisted a global change to "IBM i" resulting in yet another name for the platform (like we needed another one!).
We recently heard from Aaron Bartell about another IBM i cloud service that also sounds interesting. Since the iDevCloud service has a prohibition on commercial workloads, it's certainly not a solution for everyone. Aaron found Symmetry Corp's offerings. The company calls its solution "i in the Sky" (hmmm, where have we heard that name before?). According to Jon it is the title of an Alan Parson's Project song on the album of the same name, but we digress. In contrast to the comment above where we doubted if the author was a seasoned IBM i person, there's no doubt whatsoever about the heritage of this offering. Despite using "i" in the name, the url to the product concludes with "/as400" and we couldn't find a single reference to IBM i (or Power Systems) anywhere except in the name. And even there, the full name seems to be "i In the Sky AS/400 cloud solutions." In the details, "iSeries" and "AS/400" were used everywhere (what, no i5/OS?). Yes, certainly a seasoned IBM i person - and apparently like most of us, never quite sure what to call the platform in order to attract the faithful (sorry, Trev).
But naming inconsistencies aside, the Symmetry offerings seem to be quite interesting for enterprise cloud computing. The company seems to be oriented to SAP on i, which in its own right is a good thing. But don't let it scare you away if you want to distance yourself from anything SAP-ish. There are offerings here for completely "generic" use of IBM i (or as it is stated "iSeries" or "AS/400") in the cloud. We haven't seen pricing, but Aaron tells us that it is competitive even when compared with comparable Windows servers.
We can attest that our own use of an IBM i cloud server for development and education has worked out very well. Apparently we aren't the only ones who have found iDevCloud to be useful. We heard recently that they are nearing capacity on the original servers and are working on getting more capacity to meet the growing demands that IBM i developers have placed on them. Great news--not only for our friends who run iDevCloud--but even more so for IBM i fans everywhere--so many IBM i developers taking advantage of a way to build applications and play with the latest technology!
We're sure many more IBM i cloud solutions are available--not only for developers like ourselves, but for production and commercial use as well. We heard runners last week of yet another cloud service, we'll report back when we get some confirmation. In the meantime, please help us identify others by posting in the Comments section.