Put Your Data Center Feeds Into The Flex System TCO Tool
September 24, 2012 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Trying to figure out the pros and cons of moving to a new server, on both the technical and economic fronts, is difficult enough. Trying to assess the cost and benefits of moving to a new system architecture is even more complex. But that is what IBM wants customers to do in making the leap from Power Systems and System x boxes to “Project Troy” Pure Systems modular machines.
That’s why IBM has gone back to partner Alinean to gin up a return-on-investment and first-pass capacity planning tool to help you figure out how to convert your Power and X86 boxes to Flex System machines and to help you reckon what operational costs you might be able to cut by doing so.
The tool, which you can see here, was developed by Alinean and is hosted in its own systems, and it focuses on the value proposition IBM has for the Pure Systems machines and their underlying Flex System iron, which is to consolidate workloads, optimize them, add new applications quicker, and virtualize and automate their management.
Just for fun, I cranked a fake company into the tool, just to see what it would do, imaging my own company was a $25 million company with 250 employees in the media racket with 5 percent revenue growth per year. I picked the deploy current and new apps as the scenario. I said we had two System i 550 Enterprise Edition machines, which are a pair of boxes for running subscription systems (hey, we have actual magazines that compete with Wired in this idealized universe, but it is tough going since Conde Nast bought them for us) and back office work. We also have a group of 35 Hewlett-Packard ProLiant DL380 G5 two-socket boxes. These machines are looking a little long in the tooth, but still work. (Sound familiar?) We use the i5/OS V5R4 stack on the back end System i550 Enterprise Edition machines, including WebSphere and DB2 for i running atop PowerVM, and Windows on the ProLiant machines without server virtualization sporting the Standard Editions of Oracle‘s database and WebLogic app server. There’s 20TB of disk on the pair of Power machines and 20TB of disk spread across the ProLaint machines. We have one Power admin and four Windows admins.
So I click next, and here is what the tool says I need. Start with a PureFlex Standard Edition rack, which runs $145,310. On the IBM i side, I need a single Flex System p260 node, which is a two-socket Power7 machine and I fire up all 16 cores. Now, the tool does something stupid and if you tell it you are using DB2 as the database on IBM OS/400/i, then it adds a separate license for DB2 on top of the one already embedded into IBM i 7.1. Those extra DB2 (presumably for AIX) licenses are $262,710, so I backed out and told it I didn’t have a database on the System i550 machines even though I do. (It’s embedded in the operating system, Alinean.) With WebSphere, PowerVM, and IBM i configured, you’re talking $234,880 for single p260 node. But, as I said, I had separate nodes for high availability, and the tool just ignored that. So I am adding another $23,259 for another p260 node and spreading those sixteen IBM i licenses over half the cores in each server node, which brings it up to $258,139.
On the Winders side of the house, IBM/Alinean recommends consolidating those 35 Windows boxes down to three Flex System x240 nodes running Microsoft‘s Hyper-V hypervisor and Windows plus 25 images of Oracle SE and 49 images of WebLogic SE. (I have no idea where those counts came from. We had 35 physical servers.) We already own these licenses according to the ROI tool, so there is no charge, they just move over. (Forget for a minute they don’t all add up.) The three Flex Systems x240 nodes cost $23,190, and the ROI tool assumes I can move over Windows licenses as well.
Add it all up, the Alinean tool says we need $524,752 to move to modern, flexy iron, but I know it is more like $550,000 because we need that second p260 node.
Here’s where it gets fun. Comparing the current (and aged) environment I have at my hypothetically larger Guild Companies to the one I would have if I upgraded, the new one costs $1.43 million in hardware over five years compared to $1.82 million with the aged System i-ProLiant environment. (I assume there are upgrades in that number.) On the operating expenses side, it costs $7.7 million to run the facilities over five years with the iron, compared to $3.15 million on the Pure Systems side. So we’re going to break even in year one on this deal, according to the charts.
In fact, and the ROI tool has no way of knowing this, the IT budget at Guild Companies Hypothetical is $1.2 million per year, or just shy of 5 percent of revenues, which is a little high for the market overall but about right for IT-heavy media companies. And what the IBM/Alinean tool says, perhaps somewhat preposterously, that I am already spending $9.5 million over five years, including the initial hardware expenditures for that old iron and their software licenses. Basically, I am already out of business at those numbers.
I have no doubt that the operating expenses can be lower on the new Pure System machines, but I seriously doubt, as this tool suggests, that the payback is a mere nine months. The costs on the existing iron seem seriously inflated to me.
That said, the tool is fascinating and if you play around you might learn something about Flex System pricing for gear that is relevant to your shop. Just be careful with the math it is doing.