Checking For Cracks In The Technology Foundation
April 9, 2012 Dan Burger
Have you ever come face to face with the reality that you are not getting what you paid for? You make IT investments like a Power Systems server running IBM i, but don’t come close to taking full advantage of the platform. The sad truth is that your hardware and software are loaded with unused capabilities. You paid for them, but you get value out of only the features you use. It’s sort of like paying the cable TV company for 150 channels, but never watching more than 10.
This is not a recent phenomenon, but it does seem to be getting worse. If that wasn’t true, why is every company in the IT business putting a greater emphasis on services? Yes, there’s money in it. IBM realized this a long time ago. And it’s a bit surprising that a company so fond of making product name changes hasn’t rebranded International Business Machines as International Business Services.
But aside from the money, the reason IT services are popping up everywhere is because only the companies that build products know how to get the maximum value out of what they make. OK, that’s not 100 percent true. There are people outside the hardware and software fortresses who make a point of specializing in certain skills and operating specific tools. They stay right on top of all the enhancements. But most IT departments don’t have specialists, they have generalists. And they generally have their work-a-day plates filled to overflowing, which keeps them very busy in the present and with little time to consider the future. They realize the future–as envisioned by their boss–has much higher expectations for IT to contribute more toward business goals, but a chicken that lays one egg a day can’t be coaxed into laying seven. I mean, there’s only so much you can do, right?
Please make the jump with me now to Sirius Computer Solutions, one of the mega-resellers and integrators of the IT business. The services business is not new to Sirius, but the company does have a new service available within the Power Systems portion of the Sirius IT biz that you need to be aware of, and it is called the Power Architectural Review, or PAR.
These types of reviews are not new, but Stan Staszak, director of Power Systems solutions at Sirius, says the approach is slightly different than in the past when they were informally called optimization studies or server consolidation studies and each group within Sirius had its own way of doing the studies. The PAR program has unified and standardized the review process to provide a better overall view of the IT and business alignment potential, but typically what motivates a company to do a PAR is an interest in saving money and increasing efficiencies.
Often this becomes a server consolidation effort, which results in hardware and software savings related to initial costs as well as maintenance. Other benefits include reduced floor space footprint, reduction in power consumption, and in most cases the addition of a highly resilient system, which is a priority for many companies with the concerns about the business risk that downtime creates.
Although Staszak points out that each PAR is completely unique to the customer being reviewed, it’s often the case that a company can gain the needed resiliency and save money through server consolidation.
Nine out of ten reviews the shops are running AIX on Power rather than IBM i on Power. Several factors come into play here. Part of this has to do with logical partitioning (LPAR) being adopted years ago by the technologically savvy IBM i shops, while this technology has only recently become popular in Unix environments. About 70 to 80 percent of Sirius’ IBM i customers have virtualized their environments, Staszak estimates. This has led to IBM i server consolidation well ahead of the Unix user base, where server farms proliferated.
The competitive wins that IBM has achieved over its Unix rivals, Oracle and Hewlett-Packard, are also a factor. As those companies turn to IBM for advice, server consolidation and resilient systems are part of the discussion. The boost in processing power offered in Power7 servers has a tendency to make this conversation pick up speed.
Not that this excludes the IBM i customers. Staszak claimed that an IBM i account just recently completed a PAR with Sirius and the calculated savings exceeded $400,000 due to a reduction in total servers and a reduction in maintenance on the hardware and software sides, while a highly available system was put in place.
Although server consolidation plays a big role in these system reviews, it’s not the single point of focus. Having a system that can be managed more efficiently goes beyond blowing up server farms.
“Closing the gap between IT service capabilities and current business requirements that include recoverability and availability are important,” Staszak says, “but meeting emerging IT services–SLAs and SLOs–are also important. Increased reliability and quality of service, cost control, maintaining or decreasing operating costs while increasing functionality, and decreasing server sprawl are all factors.”
Does this mean there will be more consolidations of IBM i and AIX environments on shared servers? It seems likely, but only on rare occasions even though it makes a great amount of sense on paper.
“We are working with a large customer with both AIX and IBM i environments that is trying to determine the best plan for consolidating those environments,” Staszak was quick to point out. “Server consolidation is not always feasible. It depends on the network and bandwidth considerations. Having a separate workgroup server at a remote location has its advantages and security issues need to be taken into consideration. In some cases, the environment is already pretty well optimized.”
You might wonder if managed services (hosted services) would play a role in some of these PAR discussions, but Staszak says no. “I can’t think of an example where a PAR was completed with a recommendation for managed services,” he says. Sirius does provide managed services for hardware and software.
About a half a dozen Power Architectural Reviews are being done per quarter, and they are free.