Everything You Need to Know About IBM Cloud Paks

Finance and CIO  •   15 mins read

The IBM Cloud Pak is the latest addition to the technology world’s lexicon. Sticking true to the tools that came before it, it comes packaged with a cutting-edge name but little transparency on exactly what’s in it.

If you’re an IBM customer with legacy IBM products, there’s a good chance you’ve seen the phrase pop up more and more. However, before you trade in your stable IBM software for the newest model, you’ll want to make sure that moving to Cloud Paks makes sense for your unique business needs.

Moving to IBM Cloud Paks can be a smart move if it aligns to your IT roadmap, but it can also put your company in a tough position if you’re only focused on the immediate cost savings. The terms and conditions of Cloud Paks differ greatly from legacy IBM software – and even the savings are less attractive than you might think, especially over time.

Origina’s licensing and product experts have pulled together everything you need to know about IBM Cloud Paks. This includes:

  • What is a Cloud Pak?
  • What are the Different Types of Cloud Paks?
  • How Do Cloud Paks Work?
  • Why Use IBM Cloud Paks?
  • What to Watch Out for When Considering IBM Cloud Paks
  • Four Recommendations for Switching to IBM Cloud Paks

Have a question you can’t find an answer to in this blog? Contact our experts for a free Cloud Pak consultation here.

What is a Cloud Pak?

IBM Cloud Paks are containerized solutions which enable companies to quickly deploy and seamlessly maintain IBM software on-premise, in the cloud, or in a hybrid environment. Their plug-and-play functionality is fueled by Red Hat’s OpenShift container platform and is managed through the Kubernetes open-source orchestration management tool.

Cloud Paks offer, for all intents and purposes, a simplified, production-ready IBM technology stack in a software image. The container technology that serves as its foundation allows IBM to incorporate a variety of tools which would otherwise need to be manually integrated with legacy IBM software. These tools offer:

  • Monitoring and logging
  • Version upgrades and rollbacks
  • Identity management
  • Security and vulnerability scanning

As of 2021, there are six different IBM Cloud Paks and each one is purpose-built to help companies tackle the unique challenges they face with digital transformation:

  • IBM® Cloud Pak for Data
  • IBM® Cloud Pak for Security
  • IBM® Cloud Pak for Integration
  • IBM® Cloud Pak for Multi-Cloud Management
  • IBM® Cloud Pak for Automation
  • IBM® Cloud Pak for Applications

The individual Cloud Paks carry an array of well-known IBM software products like IBM® WebSphere, IBM® MQ and IBM® Db2. The containers also provide access to newer technologies like IBM® Watson at a less resource-intensive cost.

Because of the ease with which Cloud Paks are deployed, companies which are looking to migrate to the cloud in the near future see them as a steppingstone to get there. At a surface level, the move makes sense: trade in the entitlements to your Db2 and Cognos and get a container that includes the two products plus Watson artificial intelligence.

As we all know though, the devil is in the details. Regardless, Cloud Paks offer a consolidated approach to life-cycle management of enterprise IBM software. Applications run within them are poised to be more agile than their on-premise counterparts, and the container enables businesses to modernize their technology stacks at a speed that might not have previously been attainable.

What are the Different Types of Cloud Paks?

Each IBM Cloud Pak offers its own unique advantages based on what companies are looking to achieve. All six combine to cover a wide array of needs and opportunities.

IBM® Cloud Pak for Data

The IBM® Cloud Pak for Data is a containerized solution of software products to help companies collect, store, analyze and interrogate their data.

The container aims to provide a ‘drag-and-drop’ information architecture to help businesses overcome the roadblock of integrating artificial intelligence with their data-based activities. It serves as a vehicle for IBM’s AI Ladder methodology, which essentially boils down to incorporating artificial intelligence within the products to speed up the transition to using it.

Products available in the IBM® Cloud Pak for Data include, but are not limited to:

  • IBM® Watson Openscale, Machine Learning, and Studio
  • IBM® Db2 Warehouse, and Event Store
  • IBM® Streams
  • IBM® Cognos Dashboards
  • IBM® Performance Server
  • IBM® Knowledge Catalog

IBM® Cloud Pak for Security

The IBM® Cloud Pak for Security is a plug-and-play security solution enabling businesses to monitor, identify and respond to security threats from data sources across their digital environment.

With the cloud introducing new potential security risks for businesses, IBM’s Cloud Pak offers a containerized approach to defending against known and emerging threats. The tools within it allow security teams to quickly triage and automate their responses.

Products available in the IBM® Cloud Pak for Security include, but are not limited to:

  • IBM® Resilient
  • Data Explorer

IBM® Cloud Pak for Integration

The IBM® Cloud Pak for Integration helps companies foster digital transformation through agile integration by enabling acceleration, resilience and security at scale.

The container provides an assortment of middleware and similar software products to speed up integrations and make them easier to manage within larger businesses.

Products available in the IBM® Cloud Pak for Integration include, but are not limited to:

  • IBM® App Connect Enterprise
  • IBM® API Connect
  • IBM® MQ Advanced
  • IBM® Data Power Virtual, and Advanced
  • IBM® Aspera
  • IBM® Event Streams
  • IBM® Integration Navigator

IBM® Cloud Pak for Multi-Cloud Management

The IBM® Cloud Pak for Multi-Cloud Management consolidates monitoring and maintenance of cloud-based applications by providing greater visibility and governance through automation.

Sprawling applications hosted across different environments can create gaps in IT teams’ coverage. This Cloud Pak allows companies to manage products at an individual level without the resources normally required to do so.

Products available in the IBM® Cloud Pak for Multi-Cloud Management include, but are not limited to:

  • IBM® Cloud App Management
  • IBM® Cloud Automation Manager
  • IBM® Cloud Event Manager
  • IBM® Multi-Cloud Manager
  • IBM® Smart Cloud Monitoring
  • IBM® App Performance Monitoring
  • IBM® Tivoli Monitoring
  • Red Hat Cloud Forms
  • Red Hat Ansible

IBM® Cloud Pak for Automation

The IBM® Cloud Pak for Automation is a containerized solution geared toward providing speed and scalability for business’ internal and external-facing products and applications.

True to its name, the Cloud Pak leverages the power of automation to give companies greater control over the pace with which they can respond to urgent demands. The solutions also help organizations manage the surging adoption of remote work, and boost productivity.

Products available in the IBM® Cloud Pak for Automation include, but are not limited to:

  • IBM® Automation Content Analyzer
  • IBM® FileNet Content Manager
  • IBM® Business Automation Insights, and Navigator
  • IBM® Operations Decision Manager

IBM® Cloud Pak for Applications

The IBM® Cloud Pak for Applications enables companies to transition to the cloud more quickly and accelerates the creation of cloud-based applications.

The container gives IT teams access to a portfolio of solutions that support the migration away from on-premise technology.

Products available in the IBM® Cloud Pak for Applications include, but are not limited to:

  • IBM® WebSphere Application Server, and Network Deployment
  • IBM® WebSphere Liberty Core
  • IBM® Cloud Private
  • IBM® Mobile Foundation
  • Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform
  • Red Hat Runtimes
  • IBM Modernization and Developer Tools

How Do Cloud Paks Work?

IBM Cloud Paks are pre-configured software packages designed to be ready for an enterprise workload from the moment they are launched. IBM stores the assortment of technologies within a Red Hat OpenShift container, which is a vehicle that gives IT teams greater control over how they deploy and use these solutions.

Containers differ slightly from virtual machines, which are commonly used to run multiple IBM software products on one server. In virtual machines, the applications each run on their own guest operating systems. The virtualization technique allows technology teams to take greater advantage of the resources available by running them on top of one host operating system and using a hypervisor to manage them individually.

The software products found in IBM Cloud Paks all run on the container’s engine, which shares the same operating system as the hardware kernel. Because the solutions are not running independent of one another – and because of a few other technological advancements – containers are able to start much faster than virtual machines. They can be more resource efficient too.

Kubernetes and IBM Cloud Paks

Although IBM Cloud Paks are built on Red Hat OpenShift containers, they are managed through the Kubernetes open-source orchestration platform.

Kubernetes provides the administrative capabilities that IT teams need to successfully work with containers. Without it, they’d face challenges in maintaining the integrity of data or engaging with different projects.

True to its name, Kubernetes enables businesses to orchestrate at scale exactly how they want to use the containers. It provides the flexibility necessary to manage an IT infrastructure, and the resilience that otherwise wouldn’t be available.

Kubernetes is effectively the container’s version of a virtual machine’s hypervisor. IT teams can manage a variety of resources, such as adjusting storage volume, separating sensitive data and managing components of individual workloads to maximize resources. Kubernetes also provides access to Helm and Operators, which make Cloud Paks easy to deploy and use.

Helms and Operators

The Helm project aims to make it as easy as possible to package up the resources Kubernetes offers and deploy the container exactly how an IT team wants. Helm charts simplify management by providing a YAML template to customize the configuration of the container before it’s deployed, and also consistently adjust it with ease.

Managing each container and the IBM software products within it manually would be a time-intensive responsibility. Helm charts streamlines projects that normally take a lot of resources, like version upgrades or managing the workload in real-time relative to the specifications of the environment it’s running in.

Similar to Helm charts, Operators are another deployment and management tool that IT teams gain access to with Kubernetes. Operators give companies greater control over how they automate the deployment of containers so that they consistently adhere to best practices.

When it comes to IBM Cloud Paks, Operators ensure that containers are production-ready on launch by providing a ‘blueprint’ of how it should work. Given the high level of customization available to each Cloud Pak, Operators make it easy to manage those specific deployment settings and guarantee it is rolled out according to pre-determined specifications.

Put simply: Helm charts simplify the management of IBM Cloud Paks, where Operators aid the deployment of the containers by enabling IT teams to adjust their configurations.

Why Use IBM Cloud Paks?

The allure of IBM Cloud Paks is easy to understand. Larger businesses which have built their entire IT infrastructure with on-premise IBM software now face monumental challenges in navigating digital transformation to get to the cloud.

These companies are impatiently trying to move away from their legacy software for three main reasons, among others:

  • High annual software support costs
  • Resource-intensive workloads
  • Shortage of quality expertise

Now, there are certainly ways to get around those costs while keeping your legacy software. Analysts at Gartner and Forrester consistently recommend third-party software support providers like Origina as an IBM alternative to reduce fixed annual costs by 50 percent while gaining access to IBM product experts.

However, Cloud Paks also tick off some of the above. They appear to have lower initial costs (even though as it’s explained later on, these don’t stick around), they maximize the resources available to the team and they’re easier for IT teams to use.

Swapping your legacy software for an IBM Cloud Pak that your IT team can easily configure, deploy and manage is enticing. Cloud Paks can be deployed on-premise or in the cloud, giving companies a great amount of control over how their infrastructure of the future will look and function.

Another advantage of IBM Cloud Paks is that they’re vendor-agnostic when it comes to the cloud. Because the container is built on Red Hat OpenShift, and its management runs through the Kubernetes open-source platform, businesses aren’t bound to their first option. They can start with IBM’s private cloud and move on to AWS or Azure if they find better price points, and without risking the disruption to system uptime.

Of course, things are never always as they seem. While IBM Cloud Paks are portrayed as a cloud migration at the click of the button, there are aspects of Cloud Paks that can create more risk for businesses than they solve.

What to Watch Out for When Considering IBM Cloud Paks

Customers are often drawn to the lower price points and seamless transition to the cloud. When they start the journey, everything looks according to plan – until everything goes live.

IBM Cloud Paks contain a few landmines that companies need to be aware of before they sign over their stable legacy IBM software. These considerations can be broken down into two categories:

  1. Licensing
  2. Architecture

Licensing Risks Involved with IBM Cloud Paks

Some Cloud Paks use a different licensing system than legacy IBM software does. There are Cloud Paks which use term licenses, while current on-premise IBM software products likely have perpetual licenses.

Term licenses only allow a company to use the IBM Cloud Pak – and the IBM products contained within it – as long as your subscription remains active. This means that once your fixed-term subscription ends, the software must be removed from your environment. Perpetual licenses allow businesses to use the software long after they end IBM® Subscription & Support (S&S) or switch to a third-party support provider.

IBM Cloud Pak license volume calculation doesn’t carry a one-to-one conversion rate from your on-premise software to the products that are in the container. Most perpetually licensed software uses Processor Value Units (PVUs) to establish license usage.

IBM Cloud Paks on the other hand use Virtual Processor Cores (VPCs) for licenses (although, some may use Managed Virtual Server as the metric). Despite the IBM Cloud Pak containing an assortment of products, each software application within the container requires a different amount of VPCs per license.

How do you convert PVUs to VPCs? Depending on the product, you will need either 70 or 100 PVUs to a VPC. If you currently use an uneven number of PVUs, you will need to buy more VPCs than necessary to ensure your environment isn’t undersized.

Some of the products within IBM Cloud Paks require different amounts of VPCs, like 1/2 or 1/8 of the VPC per license. It’s imperative before moving to IBM Cloud Paks to ensure you have enough VPCs to cover the amount of PVUs you held for your legacy software. If you don’t, your new architecture could be vastly undersized and your company will have to pay much more than it was originally quoted.

(Want to learn more about VPCs and PVUs? To speak with an Origina specialist, contact us here.)

Architectural Risks Involved with IBM Cloud Paks

The architectural risks with IBM Cloud Paks stem from the issues brought about by Cloud Pak licensing. The way that software is deployed and what the business is entitled to differs greatly from on-premise software to IBM Cloud Paks with term licensing.

First and foremost, companies need to ensure that the environment is sized correctly. Unlike on-premise licensing, both high-availability and disaster recovery environments are likely to require one-to-one license counts – in line with your production environment. This may substantially increase the number of licenses your company will need when it trades up to a Cloud Pak.

While we’ve already mentioned a lack of VPCs could lead to an undersized environment, Cloud Pak proposals typically don’t include cartridges or premium extensions. These are required for some products and they’ll be an additional charge that you’ll want to ask your account manager about before proceeding with the deal. Lastly, be sure to account for any customizations you have done to your legacy IBM deployments when building the Cloud Pak configuration. To ensure those customizations will work with the new technology, you may want to request a proof of technology from IBM.

Four Recommendations When Considering Cloud Paks

Trying to decide whether IBM Cloud Paks are the right move for your business? Before signing on the dotted line, we have a few recommendations we’d suggest you take into consideration:

  1. Request competing quotes for both perpetually licensed software and term-licensed software: IBM Cloud Pak proposals often show the first year with stripped down VPC counts and a lack of additional line items to create the sense of savings. In actuality, the cost upfront could be far more expensive than on-premise software – and the escalating costs over a three-year time span could increase that price even more.
  2. Gain clarity on entitlements: Before you make the switch, you’ll want to get in writing exactly which perpetual entitlements you’ll be giving up in the move. Furthermore, ask them upfront what the costs and challenges would be to re-instate perpetual licensing. It’s better to know that going in than having to figure it out once you’ve made the switch.
  3. Ask for a commitment to pricing: IBM Cloud Pak contracts have a tendency to have low cost in the first year, with prices growing exponentially in the following years. If you traded up for term licenses then your perpetual licenses will be gone and you’ll have a difficult time negotiating those price increases. Make sure your written contract provides for ‘not-to-exceed pricing’ for additional new VPCs and annual renewal price increases.
  4. Get a formal sizing document: Don’t let an undersized Cloud Pak environment throw your migration into a tailspin. Ask for a formal sizing document that will include how additional VPCs will be priced should your business require them.

The Good, The Bad, and Everything You Need to Know About IBM Cloud Paks

IBM Cloud Paks are a unique technology that – like all technologies – has its benefits. However, you’ll be hard-pressed to hear about the downsides of them from IBM.

As you can hear in one of the Two Irish Guys Discussing Software podcasts, IBM Cloud Paks are a whole lot of hype for something that doesn’t really change a business’ situation all that much.

Especially in cases where perpetual licenses are lost and long-term costs are difficult to correctly ascertain, customers should be wary of moving to a subscription-based pricing model for their IBM software. In many cases, companies can attain their goals and retain financial and technological flexibility by moving to a third-party software support provider.

Here at Origina, we have years of experience in helping customers maintain their legacy IBM software while they prepare to move to the cloud. Our licensing and technical experts can assist customers in understanding the risks involved with IBM Cloud Paks, as well as whether Cloud Paks are suited for their unique business needs.

Contact us today to get free advice on IBM Cloud Paks before you make the big decision to switch.