Admin Alert: One Year Out–Preparing For Your Next IBM i Upgrade, Part 2
October 17, 2012 Joe Hertvik
Two years ago, I wrote an article on how to start planning for an IBM Power i upgrade a year in advance. In that piece, I covered business partner evaluation, extended maintenance, third-party software, and budgeting for performance. Today I’m revisiting the topic and adding other hardware upgrade issues that require longer term planning and may need almost a year to complete.
A Lot Of Ground To Cover
In no particular order, here are the Power i hardware upgrade items that you can start planning for a year in advance of a hardware upgrade.
I covered the first five points in my earlier article. This week, let’s look at points six through 10 and see how they may affect your Power i hardware upgrade plans.
Step #6: Operating system upgrades.
The question here is: Will you need to upgrade your operating system to run on a Power 7 or Power 7+ machine? You’ll definitely need to upgrade if you’re running i5/OS V5R4Mx. But what if you’re running IBM i 6.1 and you’re upgrading to a Power 7+ machine? Some hardware items are only compatible with the newer hardware. So it’s worth talking to your business partner and IBM rep to see whether you need to perform an operating system upgrade to move to the newer hardware platform. And if you have to perform an OS upgrade, it’s better to know that a year in advance, as an OS upgrade can be a multi-month project.
Step #7: Do you need to upgrade at all?
This item comes into play for leased Power 6 and Power 7 machines that are hitting end of lease. If you leased a System i Power 6 550 machine with six processors for example, and you’re only using four processors, you may be able to get by with your existing machines for the next few years. For Power 6, 6+ and Power 7 machines, IBM shipped processor cards with all the processors active even if you didn’t buy operating system licenses for each processor. So if you’re using our example Power 6 550 machine with four active processors with four i operating system licenses and two processors on reserve, you might be able to get by for the next few years by buying one to two additional operating system licenses for the unused processors. This would allow you to increase your processing capacity by up to 50 percent over your current four processor environment.
Of course, there’s a cost involved when activating additional processors on IBM i. Each IBM i operating system license that you buy for an unused processor can cost $40K to $50K. And having unused processors may not necessarily mean you have enough disk drives or memory on your system for the next few years. So if you have additional processor capacity, you may still have to buy additional hardware to use it; it just may not be quite as much hardware as you would need to buy if you were leasing a new Power 7+ machine.
The final cost that comes into play when you leave your existing system in place or perform a minor hardware upgrade is maintenance. Many IBM i software packages are processor-based, meaning that you have to pay for additional licensing and increased maintenance costs each time you activate another processor. So adding processors can automatically increase third-party software costs.
The other maintenance piece is IBM hardware maintenance. If you elect to stay on your existing machine, IBM hardware maintenance costs will definitely go up versus maintenance for a new Power 7+ machine. And you’ll have to pay these increased hardware maintenance costs whether you add extra hardware or not.
Step #8: Business plans that can affect your upgrade plans.
What are your organization’s business plans and is it planning on keeping its financial and ERP systems on IBM i? It’s a sad fact that some organizations are ditching their Power i equipment and moving to other software on Unix, Linux, or Intel hardware. If your organization is thinking of changing platforms or is in the midst of a platform change, your upgrade plan may only involve keeping your current hardware available and running while you migrate off the platform.
Step #9: Hard dates that will affect your upgrade schedule.
Critical calendar dates will affect your hardware upgrade plans in a very large way, and it’s best to know all your relevant dates for planning purposes. In particular, find these dates to determine when you may need to install new hardware or order additional maintenance on the hardware you already have.
Regarding maintenance extensions, it’s important to know that you can sometimes play off the fact that maintenance companies (including IBM) will give price breaks for longer maintenance contracts. This means that you will generally pay more for a month-to-month maintenance contract than you will for a three-year maintenance contract. The trick is that some companies give you the ability to cancel a maintenance contract if you take the machine out of productive service. To reduce short-term maintenance costs and ensure a machine for a few months before an upgrade, some IBM i shops will take out a three-year maintenance contract on a machine and then break the contract by notifying the maintenance company that it intends to take the machine out of productive service by a certain date. The trick is to know when the machine will be decommissioned and tell your maintenance provider in advance when the machine will leave productive service. Do this correctly and you may be able to reduce your temporary maintenance costs on end of life machinery.
Step #10: Understanding your options.
For leased equipment nearing end of life, it’s important to understand your options and what you can and cannot do with a leased machine. IMHO, here are the options you have for dealing with Power i equipment that is near its lease end of life.
The options are simpler for machines that were purchased outright without a lease. For purchased machines, you can decommission, upgrade in place, or perform a forklift upgrade. But the process is somewhat simpler because you won’t be dealing with a lease.
Upgrading an existing Power i machine can be a long process with many different steps. However, if you start planning far enough in advance, you can more easily map out your upgrade path and set up a timetable for implementation.
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Joe Hertvik is the owner of Hertvik Business Services, a service company that provides written marketing content and presentation services for the computer industry, including white papers, case studies, and other marketing material. Email Joe for a free quote for any upcoming projects. He also runs a data center for two companies outside Chicago. Joe is a contributing editor for IT Jungle and has written the Admin Alert column since 2002.