Technology Update 2021 Recap

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The Evolving Solutions team recently wrapped up our annual Technology Update event. Traditionally, this event has been held near our Minneapolis headquarters, and included a day of presentations, golf, networking, and fun.

In 2020, we shifted the event to a fully virtual format, and spread the presentations out over a four-week time span. As we looked at 2021, we again took the opportunity to evaluate the structure, and I am proud of our team’s efforts to execute this year’s hybrid event.

During the morning, we held a series of virtual presentations with a group of amazing speakers from Evolving Solutions, IBM, and NetApp. This year’s focus on hybrid cloud and the ever-changing technology landscape is relevant to organizations of all sizes and across all industries.

You can view a replay of the morning sessions here or below. 

In the afternoon, clients, partners, and employees gathered for golf in five cities across the United States. By going virtual, it allowed us to engage with our clients and partners in other markets across the country. We received outstanding feedback from participants, whether they were on a golf course or attended a Top Golf site.

To checkout a recap of the afternoon, view the video here or below. 

On behalf of the entire Evolving Solutions team, I would like to thank our clients and partners for spending the day with us. I hope the content was relevant, the golf was fun, and the networking was just what you needed as we embark upon the “new normal.” I look forward to seeing you again next year!

Evolving Solutions Author: Bo Gebbie

Paving the Way: Partners and Power Systems Servers Ease the SAP S/4HANA Migration Process

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Harrison McCoy references colleague Jim Pinto’s analogy likening a move to SAP HANA as a heart transplant, while moving to SAP S/4HANA as a brain transplant. In his work as a sales leader within IBM Cognitive Systems, McCoy sees firsthand how the transition to the SAP S/4HANA enterprise resource planning system is a much more complicated operation (pun intended) than a straight SAP HANA in-memory database migration.

“The SAP S/4HANA migration involves looking at business processes, changing workflow and modifying objectives. In addition to technical expertise, partners help clients set gates and goals for the business process changes, then ensure that they stay on track for making this shift,” he says.

Before the SAP S/4HANA Migration

Moving to an in-memory database in a data-intense environment requires many decisions throughout the process and migrating to SAP HANA is a prerequisite to beginning the SAP S/4HANA migration process. By focusing on the planning phase, organizations can speed the migration and reduce business disruption. Here are four key considerations:

1. Understand the business goal. SAP S/4HANA affects all business processes and applications. Even more, it drives digital transformation throughout the organization. By starting with your business goal, both for transformation and migration, you make more effective and quicker decisions throughout the project.

2. Decide on the greenfield or brownfield approach. In a greenfield approach, organizations implement a new system and then move core data from the existing system, which means managing a completely new environment. Organizations using a brownfield approach migrate their data while adopting the business processes available in SAP S/4HANA. While a greenfield is easier to get up and running, Alfred Freudenberger, SAP HANA infrastructure and hybrid cloud consultant at ASI Consulting, says this approach requires more customization compared to a brownfield, which brings data that was not managed as well in past systems. The brownfield approach may seem easier, but it can also be more challenging to convert moving forward.

3. Create a staged approach plan. Because of the business disruption involved in a migration, many organizations want to convert the entire environment at the same time. However, Freudenberger recommends companies determine the areas with the largest benefit from the migration, and then use a stairstep approach to do so—such as converting parts of the organization to SAP S/4HANA while some portions continue to use SAP ERP Central Component (ECC) in the short term. This approach allows organizations to flexibly add more functions over time while getting the maximum business benefit with the least amount of disruption.

4. Set up baseline monitoring. Before migrating, organizations should also begin baseline monitoring to learn which systems are used consistently. “You may have 20 systems, but monitoring may show you that only 18 are actively used, which means you can have cost savings during the migration,” says Nate Austin, practice director, Enterprise Monitoring & Analytics at Evolving Solutions. “Companies may also learn that they need more systems in certain areas because they are close to reaching peak capacity. Monitoring shines a flashlight on dark spots so organizations can make informed decisions about their migrations.”


Easing SAP S/4HANA Migration Challenges with a Partner

Partners help clients through migration by creating a plan for a gradual and holistic approach that helps mitigate issues. They also consider how to position infrastructure changes to align acquisitions with existing systems. Partners provide consulting with ERP migration efforts, business processes and systems throughout the process, according to McCoy. Additionally, partners bring strong connections and a deep knowledge base that clients can leverage.

“Our partners are some of the smartest people I’ve ever worked with. Many partners have been helping our mutual clients for more than a decade, which has built up an immense amount of trust. Partners are very knowledgeable about our product offerings, such as IBM Power Systems servers, IBM Storage and IBM software,” McCoy says. “Clients find that having a champion to navigate an SAP HANA migration is invaluable.”

Paul Manuel, solutions architect at Evolving Solutions, recommends clients look for partners that start the process by listening to their client’s pain points. Partners should also have specific experience in SAP S/4HANA migration, especially in the client’s industry. Manuel says companies should ask potential partners about resources to augment their staff as well as access to experts with a history of success. Additionally, he recommends looking for partners that not only ask what’s new, but also what’s next—both in terms of technology and the migration.

Using IBM Power Systems Infrastructure for SAP S/4HANA

Clients are increasingly turning to IBM Power Systems servers to provide the highest level of flexibility and performance without increasing risk. Power Systems clients also see a much faster time to market.

Existing clients running SAP on an IBM Power Systems server can use a testing environment, which does not affect their production environment. The Power Systems platform allows these clients to place the copy of their existing environment and the target of the new SAP S/4HANA environment on the same server, and then disconnect it from the rest of the organization.

By leveraging the platform’s capabilities, clients can quickly perform trial migrations, which allows changing the size of both the source and destination. Otherwise, organizations are simultaneously using their existing systems for both business activity and migration until they go live, which can negatively impact business outcomes. Additionally, this approach requires coordination with other teams for change management. Using Power Systems servers to put both the source and destination on the same physical system can eliminate these potential issues.

McCoy says that many benefits clients see from Power Systems are now at the forefront of needs during the COVID-19 pandemic—speed of delivery, TCO, risk mitigation and faster insights. Clients also see a lot more features with a much smaller footprint.

“When clients look at the TCO and risk mitigation, most organizations we work with make the decision to move to Power Systems,” McCoy concludes.

Register for Discovery Workshop

Secure Open-Source Workloads With Enterprise Support

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Not that long ago, many tech observers wondered whether open-source solutions had a place in the enterprise. Now open-source software is in use practically everywhere. It’s not just in DevOps, either. Open-source solutions are used for production workloads, monitoring systems and applications, powering analytics and machine learning, allowing you to make sense of your data.

In a 2019 survey of IT leaders commissioned by Red Hat, 69% of the 950 respondents viewed enterprise open source as “very important” or “extremely important,” while just 1% considered it “not at all important.” According to the same survey, 68% of respondents reported that their use of open source had increased over the prior 12 months, while 59% said they anticipated making greater use of open source over the coming 12 months.

The idea of open source is that it’s a community of contributors, programmers who are willing to share their ingenuity with the world. “What makes open source so cool is it’s completely nimble,” says Laura Morrison, business development executive at Tech Data. “For many products, subscriptions aren’t required, so people are unfettered by those financial reins. They can download the code and build their solutions.” The downside, however, comes when an enterprise must rely on that same unstructured community to provide a patch for a mission-critical application, for instance.

Open-Source Software Support Makes Business Sense

So, while open source is cool, you have a business to run―and your IT staff is already swamped, managing and maintaining your servers and networks. Meanwhile, your executives must be assured that your critical business systems and data are secure.

That’s where open-source software support comes into play. It may seem contrary to the open-source “model,” but acquiring technical support for the open-source solutions that are so critical to your enterprise makes sound business sense. And Evolving Solutions, a Premier IBM Business Partner, can provide comprehensive and affordable support packages to suit your specific needs.


open source support

Open-Source Software Support FAQs

Still have questions about open-source software support? Check out this list of frequently asked questions (FAQs).

Q: What’s the logic of paying for open source software if I can download the code without a subscription?

A: Those who develop open-source software are, by and large, talented and experienced coders. But bugs happen, particularly when a piece of software is frequently updated. And care must be taken when introducing any new package into a production environment. Production systems deserve enterprise caliber support.

“I believe the primary challenge is and always will be security,” says IBM’s Hector Luna, open-source/multi-vendor software services (MVS) sales

executive, North America. “Large enterprises typically do not track their open source, which causes their patching to not be up-to-date and allows for vulnerabilities. And while the developers of the software know best, hunting online for information from the open-source community can also be very time-consuming.”

Q: What are some other benefits of open source support?

A: Even in large IT shops, open-source expertise may be lacking. Morrison has seen it many times.

“I’ve been on client calls with literally hundreds of open-source users, and I’ve found that many companies have a handful or sometimes even just one key expert on open source—a wunderkind who can fix anything,” Morrison says. “But you know what? What if this person takes a vacation? What if they find a better job? Suddenly this enterprise is going to find itself without reliable staffing.”

On the flip side, do you want your experienced—and likely, already very busy—system programmers and application developers browsing forums or searching for bugs? With technical support, you have access to experts who can do the digging and provide the quick answers you need.

Q: What are the benefits of Evolving Solutions working with IBM to provide enterprise-wide open-source support?

A: IBM is renowned for its breadth of technical support services, and the company has been in this business for decades. By working through Evolving Solutions, a company that’s been implementing technology solutions for more than 20 years, clients are connected directly to skilled software engineers to answer questions or resolve technical issues.

“Only IBM has this kind of enterprise-caliber support with options for 9-5 or 24-7 support on community open-source packages,” Morrison says.

Training and consulting services are also available through IBM. These customizable offerings could take the form of a scheduled consultation, a virtual workshop or formal onsite training that’s devoted to specific open-source packages.

Q: What are the pricing guidelines?

A: Of course, it varies based on the services being sought, but support packages are volume-based and very competitive. Note the emphasis on physical hardware: A single server running hundreds of virtual instances is considered one server. With cloud environments, the billable units are determined by the number of instances regardless of the number of virtual

CPUs. In large environments of 100 or more servers, for example, volume discounts would reduce those per server prices by roughly half.

Of course, it varies based on the services being sought, but support packages are volume-based, with the annual price generally in three or four figures. For instance, in an environment with 1-5 physical servers, the annual contract price is $1,000 for 9 to 5 service and $1,400 for 24-7 service. Note the emphasis on physical hardware: a single server running hundreds of virtual instances is considered one server. With cloud environments, the billable units are determined by the number of instances regardless of the number of virtual CPUs. In large environments of, say, 100 or more servers, volume discounts would reduce those per server prices by roughly half.

“The pricing matrix for this is very friendly,” says Morrison.

Q: What specific open-source solutions are IBM-supported?

A: No one computing platform can serve the needs of the entire business world, and IBM understands this. With this is mind, a good place to start is with Linux distributor SUSE. You likely know that IBM recently acquired Red Hat, but rest assured, if your enterprise is running SUSE Linux, IBM’s world-class support is available to you. IBM support also covers the common open-source code—including R, Perl, PHP and Python—as well as middleware, operating systems like CentOS and Debian, databases like PostGreSQL. Finally, there’s an array of open-source packages, a list too lengthy to recount here.

“We manage more than 160 open-source software projects and a handful of the largest software distributors like Red Hat, SUSE, Canonical, EDB, Datafax and now Confluence,” says Luna. “We manage L1 through L3 remote support calls for our customers—one throat to choke, one hand to shake, as I like to say—and one contract with a range of service levels our clients can choose from. I’ve looked at alternate companies for open-source support and we can’t see anyone within that realm who can provide an end-to-end support structure like IBM can provide.”

How a Multi-Vendor IT Support Strategy Helps You Save

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Data center managers and technicians have a lot on their plates. Computing and storage systems, network devices and various other equipment must be installed, managed, monitored and maintained. Ensuring smooth operations requires regular troubleshooting and constant vigilance.

But what about that failed hard drive? Is the warranty still active on that server? Or what about that old storage system you took offline last month? Are you still paying support on it? Have you ever considered the need for battery support for the UPS devices that power your data center?

IT professionals who are consumed with day-to-day matters don’t always have time to plan and organize. That’s why it’s good to have another set of experts available who can tend to the small details that make up the big picture.

Simplifying Complex IT Architecture

There’s a reason that multi-vendor solutions dominate data centers. While a “one-stop shop” model may seem more efficient, the reality is that many organizations require power and functionality that no one vendor can provide. And over time, when their needs inevitably change, they find it practical to acquire the most promising new technologies, regardless of their origin.

“Most of our customers have at least six different manufacturers in their data center,” says Marilyn Sanford, maintenance contracts manager, Evolving Solutions. “The single shop is going away for a lot of reasons. Between storage, computing and migration,many different players in the market offer a variety of solutions, and customers appreciate having these choices. They don’t want to be stuck with one manufacturer anymore.”

Challenges of Multi-Vendor Environments

Nevertheless, multi-vendor computing environments present many challenges. Again, your data center employees manage your servers, install software, monitor performance, etc. Day to day, they keep everything running. But in the meantime, other routine considerations may go overlooked. Little things fall through the cracks. Do you know how many physical servers are running in your data center? Not everyone does. Not everyone has time to figure it out.

“We have customers that give us a list and say, ‘We have these assets,’ ” Sanford says. “So we work with them to pull inventory reports or at times even do a physical inventory. We’ve told customers, ‘You gave us a list of 10 but here are these other five.’ And the response is always, ‘Oh. I didn’t know that.’ ”

While alarming, this situation is also understandable. Machines constantly come and go. Contracts are being signed, agreements are expiring. But with a multi-vendor support contract, you don’t have to worry about those details. A support contract through IBM Multi-Vendor Support can streamline support for multi-vendor IT environments. As a premier partner with IBM, which has been providing multi-vendor support for more than 30 years, Evolving Solutions can help.

Simplify Your IT Inventory 

In addition, managing inventory is a unique service. The Customer Asset Management Portal (CAMP) houses accurate, regularly updated inventory information. Say you’re experiencing an outage and you need to know serial numbers as well the status of your relevant contracts and support and warranty information. Just pull up the portal, 24-7, and all your inventory and contact information there. In a manner of moments, you’ll be placing that call.

Evolving Solutions strives to help you keep IT costs in check. As your IT equipment comes up for renewal, advisors conduct cost assessments to help you decide if renewing a contract or purchasing new equipment is a more prudent course of action. Advisors also work with you to consolidate support contracts and ensure you have appropriate levels of support. Over time, as support agreements accumulate, holes or redundancies in your coverage can crop up. For instance:

  • Is 24-7 coverage needed for servers running in your test environment?
  • Are you paying support on hardware you no longer even have?

These lapses can and do regularly occur in busy data centers.

“We work with the customer to make sure we have the right coverage, and then we work to co-term and consolidate,” Sanford says. “Rather than have 10 maintenance contracts, let’s get these down to two or three so you’re not paying throughout the year.”

“Our mission is to simplify these things for our customers,” she adds. “We’ve invested heavily in these tools to track our customers’ assets and contract information, and we’ve found oftentimes that it’s more accurate than the manufacturer’s data. We understand our customers’ needs and goals, and we work to be their trusted advisor.”

Evolving Solutions, the Minneapolis-St. Paul area-based provider of IT technical and support services, can help you manage your multi-vendor computing environment. Our experienced advisors can simplify the complex and time-consuming processes of inventory tracking and life cycle management. And through its partnership with IBM, Evolving can make sure you’re getting the best possible value for the support services you need.



IBM DataCenter Modernization Meetup

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Join IBM and Brocade SME speakers Thursday August 15th to learn about the exciting trends in Virtual Tape, Enterprise data Extension and why Flash and NVMe are driving the need for DataCenter Modernization.

Date: Thursday August 15th
Time: 1:00 to 4:30 Followed by Happy Hour
Location: Brookview Golf Club Event Center
316 Brookview Parkway S
Golden Valley, MN 55426

What’s new in IBM TS7700 Virtual Tape: Toy Phouybanhdyt – IBM
Cover features and the functions of TS7700 R4.1.2 and TS7700 R2 that will help reduce the TS7700 storage capacity utilization as well as reducing the network bandwidth without spending much effort, and to utilize the cloud as an extension of the TS7700 grid to store long term retention and cold data.

Brocade SAN Extension & Network Mgmt.: Tim Jeka – Broadcom
IBM/Brocade Extension platforms can support all long distance data replication. Today’s platforms provide the stability and performance needed for storage over distance solutions. Learn how today’s platforms support both FCIP and IPEX (IP Extension), transports for Block/File/Object storage solutions.

IBM Flash, Data Modernization & Cloud strategies: Matt Key – IBM
See how IBM Flash enables data modernization, hybrid cloud, and some other unique strategies across customer bases. “Using Flash to lower costs, lower risks, and increase corporate value.”

Brocade FC and NVMe enhances Data Modernization: Tim Jeka – Broadcom
With today’s data growth and the advent of NVMe arrays, the storage network is critical to ensure optimum performance from storage, otherwise, bottlenecks move into the network. IBM/Brocade Gen 6 SANs are the proven modern infrastructure ready for NVMe storage today and as it evolves. Prepare your datacenter and take advantage of new technology strategies