IBM Adds Smaller Power 720 i Solution Edition
November 15, 2010 Timothy Prickett Morgan
It looks like IBM i shops and the dozens of independent software vendors that are certified to sell their wares on Power i Solution Edition bundles are balking about the relatively high-priced configurations that IBM made available in August when the entry Power7-based Power Systems machines debuted. The reason I say that is because last week Big Blue announced a new baby i Solution Edition that is based on the smallest Power 720 the company sells.
As you know from reading the past several months of price/performance analysis on the Power7 server lineup, the entry Power 720 server with only four 3 GHz cores and its equivalent in the blade form factor, the PS700 blade server, offers competitive pricing to Windows, Unix, and Linux alternatives on the first core and does alright on the second core. But very soon the IBM i software fees on cores three and four make the comparisons somewhat tough, and by the time you move up to Power 720 machines using the six-core or eight-core Power7 chips, which are in a higher software tier, the comparisons to other platforms are odious. And when you move up to the Power 740 and Power 750 midrange machines, they are downright ugly.
So having a truly entry Power 720 i Solution edition with a competitive price is really important, and the wonder is why IBM didn’t do this back in August. I would guess that IBM thought that more customers would want the bigger boxes, perhaps to do server consolidation, moving Windows workloads running on external servers to Linux or AIX partitions. (Good luck with that one.)
Whatever the reason, the good news is that in announcement letter 110-240 IBM has announced the availability of a Power 720 i Solution Edition based on the entry four-core 3 GHz Power7 processor card. This Solution Edition, known as feature 4975, will be available on November 19. So if you are in the middle of a Power 720 deal and buying any of the possible eligible ISV packages for the IBM i platform, stop what you are doing and talk to IBM and/or your business partner.
The IBM announcement letter does not have much in the way of detail about the new Solution Edition, but IBM has updated the Solution Edition portion of its Web site and now shows lots of ISV solutions, not just the original software listed back in August. The original list included SAP Business All-in-One; Oracle JD Edwards; Infor LX, System 21, and XA; and Lawson M3 and S3 to be sold anywhere in the world running on the two new i Solution Edition setups. In North America, the original Power 720 and 740 Solution Edition boxes were certified to run applications from Healthcare Management Systems, International Business Systems, Jack Henry & Associates, SolarSoft, and VAI. As you can see, there are now 15 ISVs certified on the Solution Editions in the United States and Canada, 10 in Europe, and an amazing 28 certified in Italy all by itself on the Smart Cube appliance and now the Solution Edition.
The entry Power 720 i Solution Edition comes with four 3 GHz Power7 cores and IBM activates three of them for free. (The base Power 720 machine comes with one core activated.) The price does not include the initial IBM i license fee as a toss-in, so you have to add the $2,245 fee. However, IBM does reduce the per-user charge from the $250 it charges normally to $70. IBM is also tossing in an unlimited user license to the i Access external access over the Web to IBM i applications. Unlike the larger Power 720 i Solution Edition, the entry Power 720 version does not include any service vouchers. To qualify for the four-core Power 720 i Solution Edition, customers need to buy a new machine, not an upgrade to a Power 720. The combined value of the software, maintenance, and services that customers need to buy to get the entry Solution Edition box must be $6,500 or larger. IBM does not provide pricing for the Solution Edition, but the base Power 720 machine with four cores costs $6,835 with 8 GB of memory and two 73.6 GB disks. The IBM i license for the first core costs an additional $2,245, which includes five users, so presumably, based on the discounted per-user price of $70 per user instead of $250 that the Solution Edition machines have for IBM i, the initial software license costs $995 per core plus another $350 for five users, or $1,345. As you ramp up cores on the box, this is absolutely competitive pricing to Windows, Linux, and Unix systems with comparable performance with an operating system and database thrown on,
On the larger Solution Edition based on the six-core and eight-core Power 720s, the ISV spending has to be $25,000 or more, and on the Power 740 version you have to spend at least $60,000. The larger Power 720 i Solution Editions have the lower per-user fees on IBM i with five of the six or eight cores activated for free but no freebie IBM i licenses. On the Power 740, the i Solution Edition can be configured with anywhere from four to 16 cores running at a variety of speeds (four-core chips running at 3.3 GHz, four-core or six-core chips running at 3.7 GHz, or eight-core chips running at 3.55 GHz are all supported, and the box can have one or two processor feature cards). No matter which ones the ISV deploys for its i Solution Edition, IBM activates half the number of cores for free on the box and throws in two freebie IBM i licenses on the machine, which has a $88,000 value including a year of Software Maintenance.
As I have said before, I think anything that gives IBM i shops a break is to be encouraged. But the whole subtext of the Solution Edition since it was started six years ago is that new customers get a better deal than loyal customers who are already on the platform and perhaps using this software. This seemed backward to me in 2004, and it still does in 2010. IBM would do a lot better if it set aggressive prices across all Power Systems platforms with regard to IBM i, as it does on the entry Power 720s and PS700s. Customers might then want to grow their workloads onto larger machines instead of trying to minimize them as much as possible to save money.