Wednesday, March 04, 2015

UCG And Expedient Partner For Expanded IBM i Hosted Services

By Dan Burger, IT Jungle

United Computer Group built a trustworthy reputation alongside its growing IBM midrange customer base by offering online backup services. It also offered disaster recovery services to organizations that have figured out the limitations of their downtime survival endurance. UCG has made the investments in equipment and staff to deliver service that meets high expectations, and now it's taking the next step.

Expedient, a company with 11 data centers in seven markets from Chicago eastward, including the northeast regions of the United States, and UCG decided they could use one another's help, so they formed a partnership.

Expedient provides colocation services--rack, power, and pipe--along with utility processing, backup as a service (BaaS), and disaster recovery primarily for X86 servers. The company has some IBM i on Power in their data center, business that has come along with some X86 customers, but the IBM i servers remain managed by the customers. When more companies wanted the option of having their IBM i servers managed as a service, Expedient brought in UCG to handle that business.

"Expedient's foot-print in the Midwest and on the East Coast is 'significant,'" says Jim Kandrac, president of UCG. "We have worked on getting to know one another over the past several years and things just progressed naturally."

Kandrac explained that IBM i customers with servers in Expedient's data centers are doing tape backups, but UCG's BaaS will be a cost effective alternative that is expected to have a high adoption rate. Expedient expects to expand it backup and recovery business for X86 servers and that will bring some additional IBM i business with it. With UCG onboard, Expedient can provide service for both platforms when its customers are looking for an all-in-one service provider.

Kandrac points out that UCG also does backup and recovery for X86, but it doesn't seek that business. UCG does it for IBM i shops that want to bring X86 along with the i-centric services UCG provides. Colocation services has not been part of the UCG offerings, but now when IBM i shops mention it, UCG has an answer.

UCG has its operations in Cleveland in a data center owned by BlueBridge Networks, a company that, like Expedient, does most of its business in the X86 arena, according to Kandrac. UCG also makes use of a second data center in Marietta, Georgia.

Expedient also has data centers in Cleveland. UCG will have servers in data centers owned by both Expedient and BlueBridge.
The two data centers Expedient operates in Cleveland are connected to the other nine data centers the company owns. One of the Cleveland data centers will provide redundancy for the IBM i and storage area networks (SANs) UCG has at BlueBridge Networks.
UCG is also expanding its services beyond the backup and recovery expertise that has resulted in an IBM i customer base totaling 150 organizations. The new capabilities include services surrounding development, test, and production environments.

Kandrac says his company has slowly grown into hosting those environments. It has developed as the client-vendor relationship has developed dependability and trust. In the managed services business, it's nearly impossible to overestimate the value of trust.

"Customer demand is pushing this," Kandrac says. The journey began with BaaS. Then the DR element became important and the recovery time decreased to 24 hours and 12-hours and we also became a managed high availability service provider.

"Over the past three years, UCG has invested significantly in staffing and systems and we are poised to continue to have a 'controlled growth' of 25 percent to 35 percent per year in the managed services arena."
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