Effective and dependable planning processes are essential in managing today’s integrated business operations. These processes must not only support reliable sharing of information across planning stakeholders, but they must also be timely and dependable.
Within an environment where many businesses are seeing a continued increase in competition and shorter cycles times caused by some level of disruption, solution providers must focus on new ways to support these business leaders. The market is looking towards modernizing their systems to realize the benefit from the evolving technical landscape, which includes ensuring their planning solutions have the built-in resilience, support for more use-cases, and additional data to survive and thrive. The continuous nature of planning cycles, involving more participants, amplifies the need for availability of the system, and scaling to more data and users.
IBM Planning Analytics with Watson sees this daily across its many clients that use the offerings in mission-critical scenarios across their businesses where resilience is not simply aspirational, it is required. Many of our clients use Planning Analytics with Watson beyond the office of finance. This approach of integrated planning typically has more users and a dramatic increase in the amount of data driving planning and analysis. Some clients update production, headcount, and marketing plans, which all feed into the financial plans. Many of these users, outside of finance, are unaware of the planning cycles that finance operates within. They just expect the system to be available.
An important path in the IBM Planning Analytics with Watson modernization agenda is the role that containerization plays in helping increase solution resilience and supporting additional data sources for our clients and prospects.
Containerization and the Cloud
Ongoing technological advances that deliver value to the business is the nature of the software industry. In today’s solution landscape, containerization in cloud computing is part of most solution modernization strategies. Businesses have experienced the days of moving from ‘big iron’ mainframes to mini-computers, then to client-server, and then to service-oriented architecture web applications. The containerization of planning solutions is understood as a natural next evolution.
Containerization of applications provides many benefits including portability of solutions, resource efficiency, agility in enhancements, and supporting the faster time-to application.* A container-based approach also helps businesses improve solution life-cycle management including continuous delivery.
Of the benefits containers provide, resilience is top of mind for business management. Part of IBM Planning Analytics with Watson direction is a deployment change to the next generation TM1 Server to a containerized solution. IBM’s introduction of a container approach to the offering provides clients with the redundancy of the server, using a replica approach.
The simplified way to think of this is: Within a Planning Analytics Data server, let's call it 24 Retail, all the model, data, calculations, and other items live. If some event occurs (e.g., a hardware fault), 24 Retail would cease to function. In a traditional deployment, IT would begin the process of troubleshooting, finding the problem, correcting it, then restart 24 Retail. This would typically prevent access to the system, processes, and data until the issue was resolved. In the containerized server, the crash would still occur, but due to the resilient approach using a replica, the ‘replica 24 Retail’ would take 24 Retail’s place. End-users may notice a brief slowdown but can continue to use Planning Analytics with Watson. The container approach to Planning Analytics with Watson provides organizations with a modernization path that supported their improved resilience objectives.
As our clients are modernizing, we are on a path to help them in that direction, while continuing to provide our market-leading solutions, like Planning Analytics with Watson.
As the IBM Planning Analytics with Watson portfolio moves forward, the offering will be composed of: Planning Analytics for Excel, Planning Analytics Workspace, Planning Analytics Spreadsheet Services, and TM1 Server. As with all evolving offerings, containerizing the TM1 server brings a few other changes. To note, Planning Analytics containers use a communication protocol of ODATA via the REST API, which will impact a few of our older legacy client tools (e.g.TM1 Perspectives, TM1 Architect, TM1 Applications) which will not operate in this context.
The modernization agenda will continue to pressure organizations across industries. It is also understood that modernization roadmap timelines will vary across organizations, driven by the context in which they operate. The IBM Planning Analytics with Watson portfolio and investment in modernization is aimed at supporting organizations along their journey. Part of each journey should include trusted industry advisors working with their Planning Analytics with Watson clients in assessing the best path and timing in their modernization strategy, and the role that containerized offerings play.