IBM Offers Incentives on i5 iSCSI Links to BladeCenter Blade Boxes
Published: September 18, 2006
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
Back in May, IBM launched the native iSCSI hardware and software support in the System i5 line, which is being touted primarily as a means of creating hybrid server and application setups that match i5/OS applications running on the i5 servers to Windows applications running on System x servers. The idea behind IBM's iSCSI support on the i5 is a sound one, technically, but apparently there are some economic and marketing issues.
To sweeten the iSCSI offering a little, IBM has announced a rebate program that gives i5 shops some money back if they invest in some disk drives, iSCSI adapters for the i5, BladeCenter blade servers, and iSCSI adapters for the blade servers. The rebate is for $2,900, which may seem like a lot of dough, but it really isn't all that much when you consider the cost of all the other iron you have to buy to take part in the deal. Having said that, a rebate is always better than a kick in the teeth.
To take part in the rebate offering, which was announced on September 5, you have to buy a bunch of things. First, of course, you have to buy a System i5 server. You can buy any model--a 520, 550, 570, or 595--to take part in the deal. While the rebate offering specifically says you need to acquire a new i5, I think that if you have recently acquired an i5--say sometime in 2006--than I think your IBM sales rep or business partner reseller should give you the same deal, even if you are not buying a new machine. This seems reasonable. And, if you have a Power5-based machine, even if it is two years old, you should press for the rebate if you plan to buy BladeCenter machines and use iSCSI links to attach the blade servers to the i5.
Next, of course, you have to buy iSCSI adapters for the i5 server, and in this case you can't just buy one--which is all you need to make a link. You have to buy two adapters. You can buy either feature 5783, which is a PCI-X iSCSI host bus adapter with copper wire links, which costs $999, or feature 5784, which is an iSCSI HBA that has fiber optic links and which costs $1,590.
Then, even if you have enough disk capacity in your i5 box to put Windows-based files on the machine, IBM still wants you to buy four 70.6 GB feature 4327 disk drives for your i5 to get the $2,900 rebate. These disk units, which spin at 15K RPM, cost a stunning $1,999. So IBM is asking you to spend $7,996 on 282 GB of extra disk space that you may not need. And, just for the record, I think that is a criminal price to charge for a disk drive. A 70.6 GB disk is not worth more than about $500 as far as the open market is concerned. So for IBM to require customers to buy extra capacity they may not need on their i5 to get this $2,900 rebate is doubly insulting. If I were investing in the BladeCenter blades with iSCSI attachments, I would explain this to my rep and say that the prices on those disks have to come way down, or I have to be allowed to use my existing disk capacity to get the rebate.
The next thing IBM wants you to do is buy a whole new BladeCenter or BladeCenter H chassis. The latter is the slightly larger blade server chassis that IBM announced this year, which nonetheless supports the same blade server form factors that the earlier BladeCenter chassis supported. The H chassis has a faster backplane, which speeds up blade management tools, and allows more room for air flow. The original chassis had two fans and redundant power supplies that delivered 2,000 watts to 14 blades; it comes in a 7U form factor. The BladeCenter H chassis has four 2,900 watt power supplies and redundant fans. it takes up 9U of rack space. You have to buy at least one new chassis as part of this i5 rebate deal. The original BladeCenter chassis costs $2,789, while the newer chassis costs $3,849. It makes little sense to buy the old chassis, to be perfectly honest. The extra power in the BladeCenter H box will come in handy, and won't overheat as easily as the old one, either. That 2U of extra space makes a big difference to thermals.
Finally, you have to buy two BladeCenter blade servers and two iSCSI adapters for them. Under this deal, you can buy the two-socket HS20 Xeon DP blade, the two-socket HS21 blade (which uses the new "Woodcrest" Core Xeon 5100 processor), the two-socket LS20 Opteron blade (using Rev E Opterons), the two-socket-LS21 blade (using the new Rev F Opterons), or the four-socket LS41 blade (using Rev F Opterons). The HS21, LS21, and LS41 are the only blades that forward-looking customers will invest in, since these blades have processors that have either VT or AMD-V hardware-assisted virtualization technologies built in. It is interesting to note that IBM did not offer the rebate to customers who want to buy its own JS21 PowerPC 970MP blades, which do not support Windows but which do support AIX and Linux. What this means is that IBM wants i5 shops to run Linux or AIX on a logical partition--in essence, a virtual blade inside the box rather than a real blade outside the box. The QLogic iSCSI expansion cards for the BladeCenter are designated by feature code 32R1923, and they cost $699 each.
So, how generous is this rebate deal? Let's do the math. Let's assume that you have an i5 already and can wrangle out the rebate, or that you were going to buy an i5 anyway, so the rebate did not affect that buying decision. Let's also assume that the copper-based iSCSI adapters are fine, since they are a lot less expensive--although they are a little more expensive than the adapters on the BladeCenter. (Grrrrrrrrr…..) Let's also assume you want the cheapest blade server IBM sells among the modern ones--meaning, not the LS20 or the HS20--which is the HS21 blade with a single 1.6 GHz dual-core Woodcrest processor with 1 GB of main memory. The HS21 costs $2,029. So, when you add it all up, the iron you have to buy--four i5 disks, four iSCSI adapters, two blade servers, and a chassis--comes to $19,299. So the rebate amounts to a 15 percent discount.
Incidentally, even without a rebate, I think IBM would have negotiated down to that point without much effort.
Now, if you can get away without having to buy those new i5 disks, then you are only talking about shelling out $11,303 for the new hardware, and that makes the rebate worth a 26 percent discount. This is a much more attractive deal.
So, negotiate hard. It's your money until you let go of it.
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