Volume 10, Number 25 -- August 25, 2010

Admin Alert: One Year Out--Preparing for Your Next Power IBM i Upgrade

Published: August 25, 2010

by Joe Hertvik

Recently I wrote several articles about some IBM i upgrades my shop performed this year. Such is the way of things in i shops that I'm already planning for another set of upgrades next year, in July 2011. If you're in the same situation where new Power i boxes are just over the horizon, here's some tips to help you plan your upgrade.

Your BP and You

Before you do anything else on your upgrade, first evaluate your business partner (BP). This is a moot point for many people but you should ask yourself if you're happy with your business partner's service. IBM generally considers a business partner to own all hardware upgrades, maintenance, service, etc., for its Power i machines for three years or the life of the machine's lease. This makes it difficult, but not impossible, to change business partners during that time. And if you're not happy with the service you've been getting from your business partner, the perfect time to evaluate their service and look for changes is now before you hand them a big check for another machine.

Evaluating your business partner is a fairly subjective issue, but here are some of things I've evaluated BPs on in the past.

  • How often does the BP call? Does the BP ask what projects are coming up that they can help you with? Or does she only seem interested when there's a sale on the line? I've had BPs who hardly ever contacted me until they knew I was ready to buy something. Conversely, I've had other BPs who made it a habit to check in and become a part of the team. Which you prefer is a matter of taste.
  • What kind of deals did they get you? Have you ever double-checked their prices to determine whether you're getting the best deals or not? Do you feel that they could have done better?
  • How well do they understand the Power i platform? Is the organization technically proficient in supporting the i or does their expertise lie more in Windows, networking, Unix, etc.
  • How creative are they in finding solutions? What has been your experience in dealing with this partner? Do they only offer standard solutions or do they dig deeper to understand your situation to provide enhanced capabilities and save you money. One of the problems with an IBM-sanctioned long-term business partner relationship is that sometimes the BP starts taking you for granted and doesn't feel they have to earn your business or work hard for a solution.
  • What does the rest of the organization think of your BP? Are her contributions known to other significant personnel at your organization such as your CIO, key users, or even the CEO? Do you need to worry about the BP's rep with your company? You may be happy with them, but that doesn't mean everyone is happy.
  • If leasing, what's their role in the financing process? In a recent article, I discussed the importance of separating your business partner from your leasing company. If the BP has their own preferred leasing company that will take care of you (or if the BP is part of a leasing company), that could lead to a conflict of interest situation where you could be charged more than if you bid out the equipment and the lease separately. My preference is for a separation of functions in purchasing these items, but it's something that you may want to consider for your situation.

Even if it's only a formality, take a few minutes to consider your situation and whether you would come out ahead by trying to change BPs for the next box. Many people stay with the same business partner year after year out of inertia. The perfect time to evaluate your BP is a year out, before you start looking at a new buy or lease situation that will lock the BP into servicing your company for another three years. For more information, see this article on selecting a business partner.

Don't Forget the Budget

For my 2010 installs, I budgeted for the equipment in June of 2009. For the July 2011 upgrades, the budget was due in August. Here are some of the items that you may have to budget for a year in advance.

  • Power i hardware--Be ready to provide capital numbers, even if you're just leasing the machines.
  • Tape or other media drives--What will your backup and restore solution cost? Is it disk-based or media-based? Will you need to replace your current backup media?
  • Hardware Management Console (HMC).
  • Hardware and software maintenance for the new machine.
  • Other hardware that may be needed, such as switches, routers, UPS power supplies, etc.
  • Services for installing new and upgraded equipment.
  • Services to decommission and remove your old iSeries or System i equipment from service.

Extended Maintenance

Many Power i customers generally buy hardware and software maintenance for three years, but what happens if your lease is for 42 months? That means that you'll have to purchase additional maintenance for another six months until the old equipment goes away.

The problem is that some maintenance companies (including IBM) will sell you a one-year service contract even if you only need six months worth of maintenance. If that's your situation, try to either buy a short-term contract or determine what your options are for canceling the maintenance if the covered machined is no longer in service. Some companies will let you cancel maintenance on a machine that has been sold or returned to the leasing company. However, there may not be an option for canceling maintenance if your machine has only been upgraded and that serial number is still in service. Talk with your maintenance provider to see what can be done if you elect to replace your old machine with brand new hardware, complete with its own serial number. You don't want your hardware maintenance situation to affect your upgrade options.

Third-Party Software Vendors

You will want to budget for how much you'll need to spend to transfer current third-party software licenses to a new machine. This is dependent on the contract you signed with each provider, but you may want to start pricing this out now. There are at least a few third-party vendors who will charge a hefty premium when you transfer their software to new more powerful hardware with more CPUs.

What Kind of Performance Will You Need In the Next Three Years?

As good i/OS administrators, we should have a good handle on how well our machine is performing with the current workload. However, what kind of increased traffic can we expect to handle in the next one to three years? Is the company growing at 10 to 20 percent a year, or is it shrinking by 40 percent in a bad economy? At T-minus one year, you may want to hire someone or ask your business partner to perform a workload analysis on your current machine and have them scale current performance to calculate how much capacity you will need in the next three to four years.

For some upgrades I've worked on, we tried to budget performance to handle 15 to 20 percent growth per year, but your numbers and situations may call for drastically more or drastically less power than that number. If your company is willing to share those numbers, you may want to retrieve any long-term sales forecasts that are available to create some performance metrics to scale with the new hardware and software.


Diary of a Production System Upgrade, Part 2

Diary of a Production System Upgrade, Part 1

Some Simple Ideas for Getting the Best System i Lease

A Skeleton Checklist for Performing Power i Upgrades

The Ins and Outs of Selecting an IBM Business Partner

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