IBM Does a Try-and-Buy for the Power 520
July 12, 2010 Timothy Prickett Morgan
The idea helped Sun Microsystems have something for its top brass to talk about aside from its flagging sales for several years before it was sucked into the gaping maw (surely I meant to say loving embrace?) of Oracle, and maybe it will work better for Big Blue.
Am I talking about an open source version of OS/400? Perhaps porting the platform to X64 iron? Maybe Sam Palmisano growing a ponytail and speaking like a calm guru of IT wisdom? No. I am talking about a try-and-buy program for the Power Systems line. For the Power6-based Power 520, to be precise.
I have no idea when IBM started this try-and-buy thing for the Power 520, but I stumbled across it poking around the company’s IBM Web site last week. Under the deal, which was not part of a normal announcement letter as far as I can tell, IBM is willing to give qualified prospective customers 60 days to tool around with a Power 520 equipped with the i, AIX, or Linux operating systems–for free.
“Maybe you’ve wondered about IBM Power models, but didn’t want to stretch your budget to try them first hand,” says the promotion literature, which you can see right here. “Maybe you’ve been burned by other brands who changed their roadmaps . . . or perhaps migration and server consolidation challenges are making you eager to explore new technology.”
To participate, you fill out an online application, get qualified by IBM or one of its Power Systems resellers, and within a week if you are approved, they ship you a box to play with. One with a little black computer inside, I mean. IBM business partners and IBM employees are not eligible for the try-and-buy Power 520 program, but companies, governments, software developers, and individuals are all eligible. Companies can get a maximum of five boxes, software development partners can get as many as 10, and individuals can get one. IBM does not say what will qualify anyone to get a try-and-buy machine, and intentionally so. I guess IBM will know the right answer when it sees it.
Sun ran its try-and-buy program for its workstations and Sparc T midrange servers for years, and probably had something on the order of 15,000 to 20,000 tire kickers (it had 8,500 up through early 2008) for its hardware, and some resellers claimed a 90 percent conversion rate to a sale once they got a customer to try it. Others said that partners abused the program, which was costly to maintain for Sun. You can’t afford to build machines that people aren’t paying for when you are losing hundreds of millions of dollars a quarter, as Sun was in 2009. Which is why the try-and-buy deal was killed off in December 2009, just ahead of the Oracle acquisition.