IBM’s Power Systems Sales Plan and Various Gotchas
April 28, 2008 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Language is a funny thing. As part of the ongoing merger of System i and System p product lines and the obliteration of separate marketing and sales divisions for these products in lieu of the single Power Systems division, which creates Power-based servers, and the Business Systems and Enterprise Systems divisions, which sell all of IBM‘s products to SMB and enterprise data centers, respectively, Big Blue is trying to control the language that its sales reps and business partners use as they pitch the new Power Systems products, pricing, and approach to OS/400 and i5/OS shops.
Language, as it all turns out, is an important thing when it comes to creating perception, as IBM well knows. (And so do you.) So it is with some amusement that IBM has tried to correct me, saying that Power Systems represents a “unification” of the product lines, not a “convergence,” and in sales documents that IBM has prepared for resellers peddling the i Editions of the Power 520, 550, 570, and 595 rack servers and JS12 and JS22 blade servers, IBM is absolutely avoiding the term “legacy” in referring to OS/400 and i5/OS shops and is instead referring to companies as “System i Heritage Customers.” I find this somewhat amusing, and would remind everyone that the new Power System product line is not yet fully unified–there are separate i Editions and AIX and Linux Editions, and apparently the line will be fully converged at some point later this year.
The point is that when IBM launched these Power Systems machines in late January and then in April, it did not have its back-end systems in order to cope with System i shops. Only now are resellers starting to get some of the pricing and configuration information they need to start selling either what they have in inventory or what IBM will begin making available in May. (See System i Resellers Stalled by Power Systems Transition in this issue for more on that problem.) Whatever you want to call it, unification or convergence, this transition has been disruptive to revenue streams and to OS/400 and i5/OS shops. Given that Quick Pricers (which are used by resellers and IBMers to do manual pricing and configurations for deals) for the new i Edition gear are still not available a month after the product launch, I can’t help that but believe that this convergence was not slated until late in 2008 and IBM was forced by circumstances–a shift in politics in Armonk and Somers, customer expectations for new iron in early 2008 despite, I dunno–to move up the convergence to Power Systems. My best guess is that the September 9 availability date for i 6.1 on the high-end Power 595 machine is when IBM had originally planned for a converged Power Systems product, with no separate i Edition and AIX and Linux Edition.
But IBM is starting publish the documents that resellers and its own reps need so they can deal with the job of selling to OS/400 and i5/OS shops. First and foremost, the document points out what I told you about weeks ago: the i Editions of the Power 520 and 550 machines, which will be available on May 6 and May 23, respectively, max out at two or four Power6 cores, half the number supported on the AIX and Linux Edition of these machines. Moreover, the AIX and Linux Edition cannot support i5/OS V5R4M5 or i 6.1, and for no technical reason that I can think of. AIX and Linux can, however, be supported in partitions on the i Edition of the machines.
Perhaps most importantly, the pricing for hardware on the i Edition and AIX and Linux Edition machines are identical, and according to the IBM sales documents I have seen, the company says that “System i customers will see major price reductions in base hardware pricing, but in a fully configured system, the price will be similar to that of previous models.” That price will include the cost of the operating system, the integrated database, and other software necessary for the system. IBM is also telling resellers to look carefully at the different warranty options, since hardware features that used to be considered part of a base System i configuration are now priced separately–with their own maintenance fees. Because the i Edition and the AIX and Linux Edition machines have different features included in their base configurations, the Power Systems will have different prices sometimes. But the features making up the machines bear the same prices in the IBM catalog.
As we reported several weeks ago, July is the final day when IBM will be selling Power5+ based 520 and 570 machines bearing the System i label as well as upgrades from the Power5+ 570 to the older Power6-based 9406-MMA machine from last year (which has been replaced by a converged product). These withdrawals were done to “create a sense of urgency,” according to the IBM sales documents, and that will come as no surprise. But IBM also wants resellers to remember that the Power5+ user-priced System i 515 and 525 machines, many of which are still in the channel and had orders pending until the Power6 server launch in April, “are still viable.” These machines come with V5R4 and can support i 6.1 if customers want to do that, and importantly, the 515 and 525 machines support twinax terminals (important for shop floors) and internal quarter-inch cartridge tape drives, while the new Power 520 M15 machine that replaces the 515 does not support twinax tubes or internal QIC drives. IBM also wants iSeries 520 and System i 520 customers to consider an upgrade to a System i 525 machine, which will let them keep a lot of their peripherals; upgrading to a Power 520 M25 will require the replacement of memory, I/O, and disk enclosures as well as a lot more planning. IBM is advising that customers with iSeries or System i 550 machines move to the Power6-based Power 550s or, while the upgrade path is available for a limited time, into a new Power 570.
The convergence of the System i and System p product lines means hardware is priced the same and available in the same configurations, but some of the generous upgrade practices of the AS/400 family of machines has been sacrificed as part of the convergence. IBM not only offered processor upgrades within a product, but also between products with the AS/400, iSeries, and System i. But with Power Systems, upgrades are only available within a product, not across products. (The exceptions are the new Power 570, but that is just for during the product transition.) Basically, you have to do push-pull upgrades from here on out, so pick wisely unless you want to lose your serial number and have to depreciate your investment in one machine as you have to put another one on your books.
Here are some other gotchas that IBM is revealing to business partners and resellers: