How Skytap, templates, and cloning can jump-start your enterprise’s AI journey

There are two broad classifications of AI regarding who consumes it. Consumer AI and Enterprise AI. Consumer AI aids individuals. Everyone has heard about ChatGPT. Enterprise AI serves organizations by automating business processes and analyzing large, complex data sets, requiring a scalable architecture and seamless integration with existing systems. For this article, let’s focus on Enterprise AI.

The journey to AI for the enterprise will travel through three stages:

Even though AI success stories are abundant, many organizations are just starting their AI journey. Let’s focus on just one idea in the Experimental stage for those organizations starting their path to AI. Specifically, let’s define a common situation that an organization running IBM i may be in:

  1. Your production system is currently running either on-prem or in the cloud.
  2. Your production system is stable and has been running for a long time.
  3. There is a desire to extract more value from the data hosted on IBM i.
  4. You can’t risk the stability of your production operations.

Number 4 is particularly important. Even though there is a desire to leverage the data held within IBM i, that must be balanced against the absolute requirement of maintaining a stable production environment. 

How does that apply to AI? Leveraging AI is all about being able to supply your AI strategy with data. Often, the data must be put through some form of ETL process to be AI-ready. The question then becomes this:

Can you add processing or tooling to your production IBM i environment to facilitate AI?

In many cases, the answer will be no from an operational perspective, available capacity, or a need to change a system that has been working reliably for years.

So, what is your path to AI for IBM i when you have your rock-solid, reliable system? Let’s separate IBM i running on-prem from IBM i running in the cloud.

If you are running IBM i in the cloud with Skytap, the solution to the problem can be simply facilitated with Skytap’s built-in “cloning” feature called an environment template. With a template, you can take a snapshot of an entire working environment or just parts of it. The template can also be taken while a system is up and running. It is best to take a template while the environment is quiet or quiesced, but the important point is that a template can be taken without downtime. The template process is completed in seconds or minutes, even for multi-terabyte environments. This is possible due to the storage technology within the Skytap cloud environment.

With the template, you have an exact duplicate of the original system. All of the LPARs, installed software, storage, networking, everything. It is an exact replica of the original system, but it is now running in a private sandbox that does not interfere with the original system. The IP addresses and hostname are the same, but can be set up so the duplicate environment does not collide with the original over the network.

What does that mean? It means you have your “AI environment” created in a few clicks and minutes.

Install your ETL tooling, local AI tooling, etc., all on the clone. The original production environment isn’t touched in any way. Here is a high-level diagram that describes the process:

What if you are running IBM i on-prem and not in the cloud?

If that is the case, the path to AI for IBM i will start by establishing a cloud-based DR version of your production system. Then, that DR system is your “AI clone.” If you already have DR for IBM i that is not based in the cloud, then it is possible to create the cloud DR system as a secondary DR in addition to your primary DR.

Don’t let a “locked down” production system stall your efforts to apply AI techniques to your existing data. Skytap features like the templates are among the many ways the cloud offers added functionality to support innovation. With the cloud, you can do complex things that might not be possible on-prem. Creating a Skytap template is easy and fast. If you have IBM i production running in Skytap, creating an “AI clone” of the entire production system is a one-day operation.

Ready to discuss your IBM i cloud journey and how it can support the early stages of your AI efforts? Reach out to Skytap today.

Meet the author:
Tony Perez – Cloud Solutions Architect at Skytap

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