Whatever you celebrate at the end of the year, you will want to choose what you do, and where you do it. The freedom to choose puts you in control. And that freedom to choose is at the heart of the latest release of Cloud Pak for Integration 2021.4.1. Read the announcement here.
The last 12 months have seen tremendous innovation delivered in Cloud Pak for Integration, with new features, and existing features getting enhanced and improved in each release. But if I had to give a single theme to this release it would be the increase of customer choice.
Choice can of course be a bad thing if it is overwhelming, but in considering this enterprise deployment of integrations, this is more about ensuring that a considered choice can be made between specific set of alternatives, with likely clear preferences. Let’s look at the features and see why.
The first new capability to call out is the Event Endpoint Management feature that was first delivered in the initial Cloud Pak for Integration release in 1Q 2021 and has been enhanced in each release since then. Kafka is being widely adopted to ensure information about events can be rapidly moved across the business, allowing this information to be used in multiple different back-end applications. At the same time many businesses are focusing programming skills on APi-driven access to data. Event Endpoint Management combines these different technologies in providing API-led access to Kafka data.
Customers wanting to use Event Endpoint Management to expose their Kafka stream histories through API Calls using the AsyncAPI protocol could use Cloud Pak for Integration VPCs through the ratio table to deploy and use this feature. However, this would provide them with deployment costs aligned to the number of cores the function was deployed into, rather than aligned with the usage of this feature, as judged by the number of API calls made to retrieve Kafka events. In this release customers can instead use this increasingly important feature by using the Cloud Pak for Integration API Calls add-on. This allows the customer to buy a specified number of API Calls per month, for which they are charged relative to that number of calls. This can better align with the value of using this feature, independent of how many processors cores are needed for deployment. The API Calls add-on can be used for both regular API Calls using the API Connect component of Cloud Pak for Integration as well as the Event Endpoint Management component which provides the AsyncAPI calls. The choice of how to pay for using AsyncAPIs is now up to the customer.
Next up is choice of a different sort. This time it is the freedom to choose suggestions enhanced by AI. Once again this is an additional enhancement to the AI powered API Test Generation feature introduced earlier in the year. As businesses develop more and more APIs, there is a growing effort required to ensure these APIs are thoroughly tested. This growing testing requirement places an increasing burden on the business. AI-driven API Test generation is designed to automate the process of generating these API test cases by using AI to intelligently create the best test cases and build test coverage based on the APIs being created.
There have been further enhancements to the test generation which makes it easier to stand-up and tear down tests, but key in this latest release is the use of deeper AI. Watson Insights for suggested tests are generated through analysing production OpenTracing data. This helps to determine distinct behaviours in an API implementation, and these are then reviewed against the existing test coverage. The AI then suggests what tests to create from the templates it offers to give the best coverage. The top 3 suggestions are offered to the customer. This choice can make it much faster and easier to provide effective test coverage of APIs without wasted effort.
Each business is different in terms of what assets it has, where it runs certain workloads and how it balances the different business needs against those assets. In order to support those customers running workloads on IBM Z Servers with IFL (Integrated Facility for Linux) the previous release of Cloud Pak for Integration delivered many components of the Cloud Pak for Integration 2021.3.1 release to be deployed on OpenShift on IBM z IFLs. This helps customers make their own business decisions of where to run their workloads in support of their business needs.
Cloud Pak for Integration further extends this choice by delivering additional components for deployment on OpenShift on IBM Z IFLs. This release includes App Connect Designer and the Automation Assets component. App Connect Designer makes it simple and quick to build and deploy integrations without coding to rapidly address business integration needs. Almost anyone can create integrations, with the tooling designed to help pull in templates, and to provide assistance using AI suggestions for mapping and transformation. Something else to help with building integrations more quickly is the Automation Assets component (previously called Asset Repository). This enables integrations to be stored and reused, ensuring that new integrations don’t need to start from scratch, and that an integration requirement can be solved by pulling a pre-built integration from the repository if it has already been built.
As with increasing customer choice by enabling deployment of Cloud Pak for Integration on IBM Z IFLs, there is another extension of customer choice with Cloud Pak for Integration 2021.4.1. In this release there is now, for the first time, the ability to deploy some components of the Cloud Pak on IBM Power Systems hardware running OpenShift on Power. In this release the components available include Platform Navigator, App Connect (runtime, Designer and Dashboard), Event Streams and MQ. It should be noted that while the rest of these components can be deployed with IBM built container images using included Kubernetes operators, MQ and MQ Advanced must be deployed using a customer-built container image.
Finally, in terms of new features available in the Cloud Pak for Integration 2021.4.1 release, there is a new feature to add choice and additional capabilities around License Use Management. IBM software is deployed using agreements between the customer and IBM and is subject to the customer using agreed software to report on deployment. This includes the IBM License Service for container deployed software and IBM License Management Tool for non-container deployed software. While these tools report on deployment for audit as required, the information isn’t typically easy to access for any of the users of the software. This can lead both to lack of visibility when customer deployments reach entitlement limits, and also lack of ready access to the information can hamper the ability to implement departmental cross-charging, or even understanding different workload deployment patterns. With the latest release, customers now have the option for both the License Service and IBM License Management Tool to publish this contractual usage data to their own page on IBM Software Central. By aggregating this install and deployment data in a single location, customers will benefit from increased transparency of usage and be able to respond faster to changes in usage patterns and align deployment to entitlement. To ensure that customer needs are met, the uploading of this information is optional, and entirely for the customer to decide.
Whatever you celebrate this holiday season, there is plenty to enjoy in Cloud Pak for Integration 2021.4.1, with the question being which gift will you unwrap first? Why not give yourself a gift of a trial use of Cloud Pak for Integration. Explore the hosted trial environment here