i Shops Get Some Power Rewards Action, Finally
February 23, 2009 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Here’s a special deal for Power Systems i shops that you can only know about if you are talking to high-level IBMers from time to time, as I get to do in the course of my job. I haven’t seen an announcement letter on any of this out of IBM, but the deal I am about to tell you about went into effect on February 10 in conjunction with the Dynamic Infrastructure extravaganza that I told you about last week.
As I explained last April in the wake of the Power Systems launch and the convergence of the System i and System p product lines, IBM launched a special trade-in deal for customers getting rid of various Alpha, PA-RISC, Sparc, Itanium, and MIPS Unix and proprietary platforms and buying Power Systems. Under the deal, called Power Rewards, IBM gives customers a certain amount of points for each processor core on their displaced machines, and the number of points varies depending on the type of processor and, as it turns out, over time.
Last April, IBM was targeting PA-RISC machines made by Hewlett-Packard and gave 4,000 points per core, while IBM only gave 1,000 points per core for Sparc, Itanium, Alpha, and MIPS machines. In November last year, IBM jacked up the Power Rewards points to 4,000 for Sparc iron, since Sun Microsystems delayed the launch of its “Rock” UltraSparc-RK processors and their “Supernova” servers by a year until the second half of 2009. The delay presents IBM with an opportunity to make a stronger Power Systems sales pitch, and the wonder is why IBM did not do this immediately in early 2008, and why the company is not using Intel’s delay of its “Tukwila” quad-core Itaniums, also due last year but now not coming until mid-2009 or later, to scare up a little business in the server racket.
Having decided to get rid of those non-IBM servers, customers participating in the Power Rewards program have to buy a Power 520, Power 550, Power 570, and Power 595 server; last year, IBM also allowed them to buy System p5 590 and 595 servers running AIX and Linux as well as the System i 595, all of which were based on Power5 and Power5+ processors. Given that there are very few Unix shops that would move from Unix to i 6.1, this was not really much of a deal for the i platform. But anyway, you build up these points, and then you can spend them, as if they were dollars, on 35 different services or software programs, which are outlined on this link.
The services aim to cushion the economic blow of doing a migration to a Power Systems box, and as you can see from the services, predominantly running AIX. They also have the effect of allowing the Power Systems division to keep its revenue stream at the top line, even if Power Systems has to reconcile for the services and software that is being tossed in from Global Services and Software Group to grease the deal. One last bit: The total value of points that customers rack up as they trade in HP, Sun, Silicon Graphics, and Fujitsu iron is capped at a value that is equal to half the amount of dough they shell out for the new Power Systems iron. So, if you do a deal to buy a $250,000 Power Systems box and you turn in a 64-core PA-RISC HP 9000 server, which would yield 256,000 points, you can only claim 125,000 points.
Enough history to set the background for the deal, which you should care about after I tell you this. According to Scott Handy, vice president of marketing and strategy for the Power Systems division, IBM is now allowing customers who want to consolidate x86 and x64 server workloads onto Power Systems iron to get 500 points per core that they decommission as they move work to the Power boxes. The basic assumption is that x86 and x64 servers, which tend to run infrastructure workloads and are popular for Web, print, mail, and file serving at midrange shops, are run in an inherently inefficient fashion and are therefore not worth as many Power Rewards points. Moreover, the iron is a lot cheaper (and one might say because of the terribly inefficient way they tend to be used) and so the effective trade-in value has to be lower.
Big deal, you say? You are perfectly happy to move your OS/400 and i5/OS workloads to i 6.1 on a Power6 box and get some points, but there is no way you are going to decommission your Windows workloads–which often include application servers that front-end RPG and COBOL applications, but also include Domino or Exchange servers, perhaps a data mart, and other middleware environments–and try to find replacements for these programs that run on AIX, Linux, or i partitions.
Well, there is this interesting caveat in the X86 and X64 extensions to the updated Power Rewards program, according to Handy. IBM is now allowing customers who consolidate iSeries and x64 workloads onto the BladeCenter S small business blade server chassis to use Power Rewards even if they buy LS22 or LS42 Opteron blades or HS12 or HS21Xeon blades to run what are probably Windows applications. So, you don’t have to port your Windows apps to AIX or Linux and run them on a Power box. But you do have to move your i workloads to dual-core JS12 or quad-core JS22 blade servers running i 6.1, and you are going to have to wrestle with setting up the Virtual I/O Server to use those blades in conjunction with the i 6.1 operating system.
Hopefully, IBM will get this all in writing out on the Power Rewards area on its site, which is here, as well as in a formal announcement letter. It would be nice if IBM would rejigger its service offerings to give customers assessment and porting help if they want to do such an i-Windows consolidation from tower boxes they have scattered around their offices to a BladeCenter S setup. This is the kind of handholding that AS/400 shops have always expected, and if IBM wants customers to move in this economic environment, it is going to have to help. Let Global Services pick up the tab for once.