Admin Alert: Must Your Rack Be IBM Black?
April 6, 2011 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Nothing is more ubiquitous in Power i shops than IBM 7014 black racks and Power Distribution Units (PDUs) that house and power most i/OS systems. Starting around $4,000 list for a base rack, most IBM shops routinely buy IBM racks and PDUs because they are standard for a Power i system. But do you realize there’s another option for racking your Power i system that could save you money?
How Much Does That Black Rack Really Cost?
IBM 7014 racks and Power Distribution Units (PDUs) are so common in iSeries, System i, and Power i shops that no one thinks about what they cost when buying a new system. Worse, some business partners don’t break down system cost by individual components when quoting hardware, so a customer may not even know what they are paying for their racks, PDU, or any other components.
For Power i customers, racks and PDUs are one place where you may be able to reduce acquisition costs by using non-IBM hardware. And if you can buy standard components that do the same job at a lower cost, shouldn’t you investigate your options before purchasing?
Taking a cue from the IBM Power Systems Group Rack Model T42 Web site, here’s what it might cost just to buy a rack and PDUs for a new Power i system.
If you want acoustic front and rear doors, IBM lists those for an additional $2,700. It costs $180 for a Rack Security Kit (7024-T42-6580) to prevent people from accessing your system in an unsecured environment. Add on $250 for a Suite Attach Kit (7014-T42-6086) if you want to bolt your Power i racks together. All total, you could be looking at anywhere between $6,450 and $9,580 list just to house and power your system.
That’s a lot of bananas for IBM branded equipment. These are list prices which may be discounted but as I noted above, but you may not even know the discounted price if the vendor provides lump sum pricing for the entire system.
So the first step in determining whether you want to use IBM racks and PDUs is to ask your business partner to break down your new Power i quote by component, including the rack and PDUs. If the numbers seem high, you might want to consider alternative rack and PDU offerings.
What Do You Get for the Money?
Let’s face it. A rack is just a rack. It’s a place to hang components and assemble your machine. Likewise, one quality PDU is similar to another in that they run your Power i components, kind of like a big old plug strip.
The mounting structure on a 7014-T42 rack is pretty much the same as it is for many other vendor racks, with standard mounting posts. Cabinet height is 79.3 inches tall and you get 42 usable EIA units. A 7014-T42 is 24.5 inches wide. Cabinet depth is 41 inches, which provides for housing most Power i equipment.
IBM 7014-T42-7188 PDUs generally provide 12 outlets. Each 7188 has 12 IEC 320-C13 outlets.
So how does this match up with other rack and PDU solutions? Let’s look at two examples of how you could use non-IBM racks and PDUs.
Non-Black Racks and PDUs
For a CBU installation in 2010, we skipped installing IBM 7188 PDUs, opting to go with APC Metered Rack PDUs. We did this because the IBM PDUs only accommodate 12 plugs and we had more than 12 plugs for our intended system. Rather than buy two sets of PDUs for redundant power (four IBM PDUs at a price up to $4,000), we decided to buy two PDUs from another vendor. After working with our business partner, an electrician, and our network services group, we found a PDU that supplied the correct amperage, voltage, and had the proper number of C13 and C19 outlets for our new equipment.
We purchased two APC 7841 Metered Rack PDUs, which have since been replaced by the AP8841 Metered Rack PDU. The APCs have power meters on them for viewing power consumption for each PDU. We installed the right half of our Power i component redundant power cords on one PDU and the left half of the redundant power cords to the other PDU for redundant power during a PDU or circuit failure. We installed the APCs inside a 7014-T42 rack and they were secured in the rack with Velcro ties. The total cost for two APC PDUs was about the cost of one IBM 7188 PDU. Both PDUs have been running without issue for the last 15 months, providing the same capability (two PDUs instead of four) at a better cost.
The key to replacing the PDUs was to work with our business partner and a good electrician to determine the appropriate replacement PDUs. But the lesson is that you can use a non-IBM PDU when installing a new Power i machine, when appropriate.
For an upcoming Power i purchase, we are buying an APC NetShelter SX 42U AR3140 rack. It has all the features of an IBM 7014-T42 plus many of the accessories that you pay extra for with the IBM rack, like locking doors and side panels. It’s wider than the IBM rack at 29.53 inches, and it’s also slightly deeper at 42.13 inches. But its mounting posts and brackets are based on the same U42 standard as a 7014. For cost reduction, we are buying this rack at about 33 to 40 percent cheaper than the 7014-T42, including the locking mechanisms.
Must Your Rack Be IBM Black?
This article isn’t meant to trumpet APC racks and PDUs or to run down IBM equipment. Other vendors make solid reliable replacements and IBM racks and PDUs are good quality products. The point is that if you want to go with alternative racking and power distribution units to cut Power i acquisition costs, you can. The keys to doing this are the following: