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Top IT Concerns

The top challenges for IBM Power Systems clients are security, high availability and modernization. Here, we delve deeper into these hot topics.

System with a protective shield.

We’ve heard it at trade shows and read about it in surveys: The top challenges for IBM Power Systems* clients are security, high availability and modernization. It’s no surprise because every CIO needs to keep their data safe and available in order to stay competitive—all while keeping the company’s name out of headlines covering the latest security breach.

Here, we delve deeper into these hot topics and offer some resources to help IT teams tackle them.

Security

With business data breaches, ransomware attacks and evolving regulations, securing IBM Power Systems servers is top of mind for many. These three forces are driving a top-down approach to security with CIOs—and even CEOs—asking tough questions of their staff and demanding proof their servers are safe.

HelpSystems’ annual State of IBM i Security Study (bit.ly/2sPSGNN) revealed the No. 1 security issue on Power Systems: configuration. IBM i and AIX* servers are highly securable, but years of reliably flying under the radar at many organizations have resulted in poorly configured security settings that leave these servers vulnerable to data breaches -and cyberattacks.

IBM i and AIX are not impenetrable—depending on the security configuration, the so-called WannaCry Ransomware and other viruses can impact Power Systems servers. There have been no reports of WannaCry compromising IBM i and AIX servers as of this writing, but administrators should be on notice because viruses and ransomware have impacted both platforms in the past.

Compliance challenges loom as well: Starting in February 2018, the PCI DSS will require the use of multifactor authentication technology (bit.ly/2rNzHiC). The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which marks a major shift in data privacy laws and carries heavy fines for noncompliant organizations, will take effect in May 2018 (bit.ly/2sIlEP9). With origins in the European Union (EU), GDPR impacts any organization that stores the personal data of EU citizens. Encrypting data stored in Db2*) and securing managed file transfers (MFT) will become increasingly important, so it’s best to start early.

High Availability

There’s also a compliance argument for IBM i high availability (HA) when an organization requires high uptime in order to reduce risks to an acceptable level as part of their disaster recovery (DR) plan. Today’s regulations require banks to have redundant and highly available data, and it’s just a matter of time before other industries require this, too. Executives expect their data to be secure and available. Unfortunately, many assume this is already the case in their organizations, but they need to ask and listen to their staff to understand what they really have.

According to a 2016 Information Technology Intelligence Consulting (ITIC) survey on server hardware and OS reliability (ibm.co/2sIm4oR), 72 percent of respondents consider 99.99 percent to be the minimum acceptable level of reliability for their main line of business servers, up from 49 percent in 2014. Yet, half of all IBM i shops have yet to implement an HA solution, but not for lack of trying. Some organizations wish to attempt HA, but they lack the knowledge and the budget needed to implement a secondary system.

This has given rise to subscription-based software offerings, cloud-hosted HA, and DR as a Service (DRaaS), which help organizations reduce the expense of HA and start replicating sooner. With DRaaS, organizations can rent a partition from a managed service provider (MSP) based on terabytes and processor consumption. The organization can then replicate to the partition and the MSP helps with setup, monitoring, backups, role swap testing and more, making HA much more manageable.

Small- to medium-sized organizations should take another look at HA to explore the flexible and affordable options that exist today. Barriers such as time, skill and expense have been broken down, so there’s no excuse not to.

Modernization

Modernization may seem like a fairly straightforward case of developing a new interface for end users, but it’s much bigger than that. In order to properly secure servers and make data highly available, IT modernization initiatives should include infrastructure considerations and process automation.

No data center can be called truly modern if they still waste time and resources on manual operations. Nearly 66 percent of the IBM i shops polled in the HelpSystems survey said they run their IBM i servers fully unattended. This style of lights-out management in the data center enables robotic process automation in cases where IT processes trigger business processes, essentially automating anything a human would do manually from end to end.

The important challenge in this area is that most business processes span IBM i, Linux*, Windows* and UNIX*. The modern infrastructure manager needs central dashboards and management consoles that make this effort easy. Organizations see the most benefit when they automate event-driven processing. It collapses run times and improves reporting, which in turn, helps IT teams pass audits.

Irreplaceable business data has the best chance of being secure and available when it’s housed on modern hardware, with correctly-configured security settings, and replicated in real time to a safe backup site. The tools and talent to help IT teams tackle these tasks are out there. Hopefully these resources set you on the right path toward reaching your goals.

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