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3 Companies Leading Innovation at COMMON POWERUp 2024

How Fortra, Profound Logic and CloudFirst are leading innovation on IBM i, from AI to cloud and beyond

This year’s POWERUp conference showcased the full potential of IBM i and the community behind it. Reliability, stability and security continue to be major reasons to use the i platform to support business, but innovation is just as important.

Today’s tech leaders are adopting advanced solutions like AI, application modernization and cloud computing. We see concrete use cases for smart companies that continue to invest in the future of their IBM i systems.

These are three companies that are leading innovation on IBM i. In total, 53 exhibitors set up shop in the expo hall, so there were many options to choose from. But, as someone who closely follows cutting-edge technology for Dynamic Tech Media, if I had to put my finger on who the top three leaders are, this is it

1. Fortra

Figure 1. L to R: Amy Williams, Brian Nordland, JJ Drew, Sandi Moore, and Tom Huntington at the Fortra booth at COMMON POWERUp 2024
Figure 1. L to R: Amy Williams, Brian Nordland, JJ Drew, Sandi Moore, and Tom Huntington at the Fortra booth at COMMON POWERUp 2024

Forta is the go-to name for IBM i cybersecurity for a reason. In today’s hostile environment, where ransomware and other threats are keeping IT admins up at night, Forta provides a peace-of-mind solution you can count on.

As reported by WIRED’s Andy Greenberg, ransomware payments hit an all-time high of $1.1 billion in 2023. Unfortunately, those attacks often target smaller IT departments that are already stretched thin.

“As a large enterprise cybersecurity firm, we can wrap multiple services together to protect small-to-medium-sized businesses,” says Tom Huntington, EVP of technical solutions at Fortra. “They may not have the staff to manage cybersecurity on their own, so we can come in and protect them and their data from bad actors.” Fortra’s services break down into four categories:

  1. Infrastructure protection and data security
  2. Managed security services
  3. Automation
  4. Threat research and protection

Putting these together, Forta offers a complete turnkey solution for IBM i cybersecurity. Its managed detection and response (MDR) and extended detection and response (XDR) services provide 24-7 oversight of clients’ digital and physical assets. This round-the-clock monitoring means Fortra can promptly respond to detected threats before they can inflict much damage.

Of course, a big part of the innovation is how the company’s engineers have integrated AI into their products. “Machine learning identifies abnormalities in the data,” explains Huntington. “There’s so much data in cybersecurity, and 99% of it is no big deal. AI gives us the ability to go through it and make sense of it in real time.”

The company is also well known for its State of IBM i Security Study, which enables Fortra to keep a finger on the pulse of the biggest challenges and opportunities that companies see on the horizon.

Whether an organization needs cybersecurity on-premises, in the cloud or in a hybrid cloud setup, Fortra helps companies protect their sensitive data while maintaining compliance to standards like ISO 27001 and HIPAA.

2. Profound Logic

Figure 2. L to R: Alex Roytman and Brian May at the Profound Logic booth at COMMON POWERUp 2024
Figure 2. L to R: Alex Roytman and Brian May at the Profound Logic booth at COMMON POWERUp 2024

Profound Logic specializes in application modernization, integration and API development for IBM i. Bringing in a partner like Profound Logic is a big gain for many businesses that want to update the software running on their IBM i, get it working seamlessly with the rest of their IT and add new functionality with AI assistants.

To put this into context, the US Government Accountability Office notes that the public sector spends over $100 billion on IT every year, and much of that includes operating, maintaining and upgrading legacy systems. This is also a big deal in the private sector. As Peter Karlson writes for Forbes, “a recent survey indicates that over two-thirds of businesses still use mainframe or legacy apps for core business operations, and more than 60% rely on them to power customer-facing applications.”

Profound Logic recently developed Profound AI for organizations that want to continue to use their trusted platforms while also gaining the benefits of next-gen tech. “The idea is to make a complex thing like integrating AI into business applications as easy as possible,” says Brian May, Profound Logic’s VP of product management.

In less than 45 minutes with Profound Logic’s low-code toolset, users can deploy AI to do all sorts of things, including pulling data from live databases, consuming external APIs, sending emails and calling RPG code. For instance, a user might prompt an AI model to get fast insights from a sales database. They may ask about top selling items, trends over time or sales by customer segment. This is a quick and easy way to get ideas for running promotions, developing marketing campaigns or cross-selling.

Here’s another example: “We have customers in the financial sector using it to help with regulatory compliance,” explains May. “Since they do business in multiple states, different regulations apply in different places. We can upload all of those into an AI agent to help employees navigate this complexity in an agile way.”

Profound Logic’s solution is model agnostic, meaning the end user can choose any public large language model, whether that be OpenAI’s GPT, Google’s Gemini or Anthropic’s Claude. Since these prompts are hitting public models that will then use prompt data for further training, it was important for the company to build in data safeguards that give admins complete control of what database tables and fields they can pull from.

The end result is an AI assistant companies can count on to provide unique insights through customization and integration.

3. CloudFirst

Figure 3. L to R: Alec Lewis, Hal Schwartz, POWERUp Attendee and Chuck Paolillo at the CloudFirst booth at COMMON POWERUp 2024
Figure 3. L to R: Alec Lewis, Hal Schwartz, POWERUp Attendee and Chuck Paolillo at the CloudFirst booth at COMMON POWERUp 2024

As more companies move their IBM i workloads to the cloud, comprehensive cloud hosting is becoming increasingly important. That’s why so many industry leaders are choosing CloudFirst.

CloudFirst’s IBM Power Systems cloud supports IBM i, AIX and Linux, and Direct Connect enables seamless integration with AWS, Azure and other cloud environments.

“Enterprises that are more intentional with hybrid cloud will accelerate impact,” explains Steve Sibley, VP of IBM Power product management, during the opening keynote at POWERUp 2024. He points to a study called the IBM Transformation Index: State of Cloud, which shows that “71% of execs think it’s difficult to realize the full potential of digital transformation without having a solid hybrid cloud strategy in place.”

The advantages provided by CloudFirst go well beyond simply integrating with AWS. Between automated backups, 100% uptime guarantees, and advanced cybersecurity—including partnerships with Fortra, Precisely, IBM and others—CloudFirst’s users gain the benefits of IBM i’s reliability and stability without having to maintain physical infrastructure or take on the costs associated with hiring, training and paying administrators.

Migrating to the cloud also unlocks modern technologies and future innovations. From application modernization to AI deployment, CloudFirst makes it easier than ever to level up your IT.

“We’ve got AI and automation tools within our cloud that users can take advantage of right now,” says Hal Schwartz, president at CloudFirst. “Whether you’re talking about automated patch management, automated security scans or managed SIEM with AI, all those tools can be deployed instantly.”

Plus, by forging strong partnerships with other industry leaders like Precisely and Eradani, CloudFirst offers an entire ecosystem of IBM i solutions that help businesses achieve their goals in one convenient location.

Another Great COMMON in the Books

As we reflect on our time spent together at COMMON POWERUp 2024, it’s clear that IBM i will continue to be the backbone of many IT departments, and this technology continues to evolve to meet modern demands.

Whether it’s AI, cybersecurity, cloud computing or any of the other innovations on display, there’s one thing we can say for certain: the IBM i community is fantastic at supporting its members, rising to meet new challenges and collaborating to deliver great results to enterprises.

I’ll look forward to once again discovering the latest and greatest at next year’s conference in Anaheim, California!