Many IBM i shops run high availability (HA) software on a backup IBM i system.
In an HA environment, IBM i work management, user profiles, devices, programs, and data are replicated to a backup machine on a minute-by-minute basis. This creates a “warm” replica of your processing environment that production can be quickly switched over to in a disaster, such as a fire, flood, machine failure, or other emergencies where your IBM i isn’t available.
The problem with HA systems is licensing
You need to license IBM i third-party software for use on both your production systems and your high availability systems. Duplicate licensing insures all your software works during role swap testing (where your backup server becomes your production server) or when a real emergency hits and you have to use the HA box as a production system.
The problem is that an HA system is really an insurance policy against disaster. Like life insurance, you need to have it, but you may never use it in a crisis. Most HA systems are only used once or twice a year and duplicate licensing only adds to the cost.
To make matters worse, different IBM i vendors offer different licensing schemes for lightly-used HA software, several of which create profit. As a software vendor, DRV Tech frequently looks at how IBM i third-party software vendors license their software for disaster recovery (DR) and high availability scenarios and advise our customers on this issue. Here are the common licensing schemes IBM i vendors provide for running their software on a backup HA system and some things to watch out for when using them.
DR/HA licensing scheme
How it works
|Situations the software is perfect for||
Things to watch out for
|Free licensing||The vendor doesn’t charge anything for running your software on a backup machine. You can either run it without a license key or you obtain a license key when you’re in a DR/HA situation||Any situation. The software is free.||Check with your vendor to see if you need a key or whether you can just load the software and run it on your HA platform. You may need to prove the software is only going to be used in HA situations.|
|Grace period licensing||The software automatically runs on any machine it’s loaded on for a specified grace period (which could be as low as 7 days or as high a month). When the grace period expires, the software stops working.
Many of IBM’s licensed programs for i use grace periods.
|Good for switching to your backup server for a short period of time that falls within the machine grace period. Grace period licensing is great for 1-3 day testing.||If you’re running several HA switches in a year, you could quickly exceed the grace period.
There is typically only one grace period, so you can only use this technique once.
If you’re switching over for a longer period of time (say a bank that performs a role swap for 30 days), the grace period may expire while you’re running on the backup box.
|Temporary licensing||You contact the vendor, who issues you a temporary activation code. Enter the code when you swap roles between the backup and production machine, and your backup machine can run your production software.||Once a year, short-term role swaps.||May be limited to one temporary key a year, which can cause problems if you’re performing multiple role swaps in a year.
Startup processing will be delayed while you retrieve the key. If your machine is swapped on the weekend in an emergency, you may not be able to get the key until Monday.
|Reduced permanent DR licensing for your HA backup machine||The vendor sells you a permanent DR license that’s cheaper than a production license. You install the permanent license on your machine and the software is ready to go when role swap occurs.||Great for software that you absolutely must run when you role swap. Software is always available.||DR licenses are usually sold for DR/HA situations only. If you buy a DR license for a job scheduling program (for example), you can only use that software when switched over. You usually can’t use it for day-to-day situations on your backup machine.|
|Full licensing||Buying a full license to use on your Power i HA system.||All situations. No restrictions on running the software. You could use it for daily processing on your HA system, as well as when you swap roles.||Expensive HA solution. May have no choice if the vendor doesn’t offer any of the other alternatives.|
The vendor survey and the decisions it makes
The trick with licensing IBM i software for running on an HA box is surveying your vendors and determining what software you need to buy or license to allow your HA system to work in a role swap.
For people implementing an HA solution, I recommend they do the following when determining what to do about IBM i licensing for their backup system. Even if you’re already running an HA solution, it’s a worthwhile exercise to find any new packages you’re not licensed for on your HA box.
- Make a master list of all third-party IBM i software you’re running on the partitions you’re going to replicate – This list is the universe of software packages you’ll need to manage during a role swap or emergency switch to your HA box.
- Contact all your vendors, see what DR/HA licensing schemes they offer, and get any costs the vendors are asking for running their software on the HA box – Most vendors will fall into one of the licensing categories listed above. Get quotes. This step will tell you what licensing you have and how much more you need to spend to get all your IBM i third-party software running on your HA partition.
- Decide on your action plan and budget for procuring HA licenses – Determine which products you can use on your HA box with free, grace period, temporary, or paid licensing. In some cases, you’ll want to buy a license. In others, you’ll want to use temp licenses or grace periods. You may also decide that in an emergency, you will only run your core products on the HA box. Put this in your budget and buy HA licensing appropriately.
- Include instructions for activating third-party software in your run book – The run book is the list of instructions you perform to switch production processing over to an HA environment. Multiple copies should be kept off-site. Include any instructions you’ll need for calling your vendors (including phone numbers and machine information), for getting temporary license keys, or for activating HA software.
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