Power7 Planning Beyond the Bells and Whistles
September 13, 2010 Dan Burger
While IBM gets busy with its Fall 2010 Power of the i road show schedule (see the Redbooks, White Papers, and Other OS/400 Resources section of Four Hundred Monitor for dates and cities), business partners have their own plans for getting out and talking about Power7 and IBM i 7.1. Where Big Blue tends to make grandiose presentations that showcase all the bells and whistles, the business partners spend more time talking with individuals about the best fit for their purposes.
Recently I spoke with Jim Kandrac, president of United Computer Group (UCG), a business partner based in Cleveland, Ohio, about what midrange companies are planning and what concerns them as they ponder Power Systems and IBM i.
It’s very confusing for a lot of IBM i customers, Kandrac says. Information overload overwhelms them and their business needs get swamped in a flood of propaganda and details–much of which does not apply to their specific situations.
“There’s so much more to this than just a dog and pony show about how great Power7 is,” Kandrac says. “Customers go to presentations where they get firehosed with information and maybe only 10 percent of the content applies to them.”
At a Power7 presentation that UCG co-hosted with IBM master distributor Arrow Electronics a few weeks ago, the discussions began with what the customer has and what the customer needs in terms of CPW, memory, disk, and sockets. Power7 offers a ton of options and it leads to confusion. Kandrac says customers–particularly those in the midmarket where the best fit is with the new Power 720 and 740 machines that start shipping this week–are looking for trusted advice when it comes to items like software tiers, cores, and disk requirements.
Making bad decisions, like choosing the wrong box or even making no decision, Kandrac warns, can have “a domino effect that exceeds the cost of the hardware.” Companies need to know how to manipulate software tiers to their benefit and understand the disk limitations of certain models. For instance, the four-core 720 that’s limited to eight disk drives and in certain circumstances, a blade server might be the answer because it allows more external drives and a storage area network.
“If someone is going to buy a new 720 Express and is forced into a six core because a terabyte of disk is needed, that company could be going from a 520 or 525 machine with 2,400 CPW to something with nearly 10,000 CPW,” Kandrac points out. “So, they need to be looking at new apps that can take up the extra firepower.”
One option that Kandrac tells people to consider is adding Linux applications.
Kandrac illustrated the domino effect that ERP software has on Power7 buying decisions using a company running MAPICS that’s accessible to 150 users. The company would like to upgrade to the latest MAPICS, but MAPICS is moving to Java and that version will cost $200,000 to $250,000. According to Kandrac, the customer wonders how long Infor (the company that develops MAPICS) will support the version it currently runs. Eventually it will have to go to the new Java-based software and spend maybe up to a quarter million dollars on the software. But the company realizes it will also need to replace 150 PCs that will need more horsepower and it will likely require a year or two to implement the Java-based ERP.
This is how the dominos fall.
If organizations can’t find uses for the added performance that comes with Power7, they are inclined to stay with their existing box or boxes, Kandrac says, unless there are reasons related to hardware and software maintenance that makes it too expensive to stay on the older machines.
“Some companies are spending a boatload of money on an older machine and need to do something,” he says, “but the reality is that IT can’t go to the CFO and lay out the expense of making the move without understanding the options.”
A scenario that Kandrac uses to make his point about expenses involves a company considering the purchase of a 720 Express. They need a six-way with one or two active cores because they need the disk drives this set-up offers. As an option, the company also considers four Power7 Blades and going with a SAN and consolidating five or six Intel servers on it.
“All this won’t fly with the CFO right now,” Kandrac suggests, “but their lease is $3,500 per month. If you multiply that by 36 months, that’s $125,000. They can put in a new machine that is going to be four times more powerful for that kind of money.”
If you apply that example to the MAPICS scenario, the extra horsepower to run the Java-based ERP will be on hand when needed. Of course, they will still have to deal with the software upgrade costs, the PC upgrade costs, and the one- to two-year implementation time. However, the planning becomes incremental and the costs don’t come down like a ton of bricks.
IBM brought some relief to the software licensing domino when it announced its IBM i License By User plan last month when the Power 710, 720, 730, and 740 servers were introduced. The program allows IBM i user-based software licenses for entry machines to slide from old servers to the new servers at a 40 percent discounted price. IBM has a similar sliding deal for larger machines with processor-based software pricing on IBM i, as this newsletter already explained last month, which allows incremental IBM i licenses above and beyond the base licenses coming with a base hardware configuration to jump to a new machine for a nominal fee.
As Kandrac likes to spell out, customers need to understand what they have and what they need next. There are upgrade paths, product discounts, and strategies that will save money. But you have to know where to look.
“Companies need to know how to manipulate the playing field to their advantage,” he says.