What is most valuable?
One of the most valuable features in IBM Sterling B2B Integrator would be the ease of self-service. We previously had a competitor for our file transfer and IBM Sterling B2B Integrator is what we have migrated to. It makes transparency into the transactions a lot better than our old legacy product. There are a lot more self-service options, especially with File Gateway. It has a lot more capabilities in terms of scalability and adaptability, so that we can use IBM Sterling B2B Integrator to scale to our growth, whereas the old platform we could not.
What needs improvement?
The breadth of APIs is something that I would like to see improved. At a recent IBM conference, I was going to a hands-on lab about the APIs and the Sterling solution, and I would love to see them expand upon that. We use IBM Control Center and they have a lot of work to do with their APIs. You can't make a single call to get all the information you want on a file status, on a transfer status. I would love to see them improve both in their IBM Sterling B2B Integrator, File Gateway, and control center, the use of APIs and I guess the options that you can have with them.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
Out of 10, I would give stability a seven, only because I think in IBM Sterling B2B Integrator, there are still some bugs. We have a secure proxy, perimeter servers, IBM Sterling B2B Integrator and the File Gateway. When you do full restarts for refreshes or maintenance, when you bring them back up, you can't do an SI restart cleanly without also doing the proxy. You have to do everything as kind of a package restart. Otherwise, you'll get some crazy things happening with the adapters. Now, that is on a 5.2.5 version. We're going to go to 5.2.6 in a couple months here. We’re hoping they eliminate that and we have our IBM lab advocate that works closely with us to address our concerns.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
Scalability is great. We future planned when we implemented the Sterling solution so that we could match 10-year growth and right now, we're underutilizing the environment. We've done 1x, 2x, 3x, even 5x testing on it. It still holds up to a 5x test, whereas our legacy platform couldn't even match the 1x that we currently are running.
How are customer service and technical support?
We use technical support all the time. I'd probably rate them probably another seven out of 10. They always help us with our solutions in a quick manner. However, probably more than half the time, it's “Just wait for the next fix pack to have your thing resolved.” We open up PMRs with IBM all the time. I'd say we have several hundred by now.
The back and forth with, “Can you send me this log?”, “Now, can you send me that log?”, and “Can you send me this log?”; it would be helpful if, when you open up a PMR based upon certain applications, they tell you which kind of logs that they look for. That way, when you open up your PMR, you can attach those logs based on that product, like IBM Sterling B2B Integrator. And that way, you're not doing this back and forth for a week straight of, “OK, now I need this log and that log, and this log and that log.”
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
We knew we needed to invest in this solution because our previous legacy platform was fully customized. We were out of date on the server, on the version of the product, and roughly 80% was custom scripted with Perl scripts that we had to support in-house. We needed a solution that we actually could go to support for, if there were any issues, and not rely on a couple of people who wrote a bunch of Perl scripts.
How was the initial setup?
I was not involved in the initial setup. However, I have been involved in all the server refreshes, so I've had to actually set up the environment from scratch on new servers. I find it to be pretty straightforward for 5.2.5.
For 5.2.6, we've done some test runs and it's a little bit harder with installation manager now. I never had to do installation manager of 5.2.5 but I think once you get that down, it's not too bad. And once you get installation manager installed, it appears that upgrading after that is a lot easier than before.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
Before choosing this product, I think my company evaluated a total of five vendors. Out of the five, IBM beat out the other four. Since I wasn't there for the initial setup, I'm not sure of the other vendors.
For our company, the biggest thing when we’re selecting a vendor would be partnership in the service level contracts. If there is a previous relationship, that's even better. We're very closely integrated with IBM, so there is a lot of partnership and service level credits and contracts already in place. That was probably one of the biggest drivers of why we went with an IBM solution.
What other advice do I have?
We actually have several meetings with other colleagues at other companies who want to implement this solution and we tell them some of our pain points, some of our success stories and overall that it's the right move if the company can afford it, because I know that IBM is not always the cheapest. But it is worth the investment to have a product that is the best in the market, and overall more stable and more scalable.
My rating reflects that there's a lot more work to do. Still, compared to other products, our legacy platform, it still outperforms them.