Admin Alert: Strategically Using Power Systems’ Processor Trial Capacity On Demand
November 28, 2012 Joe Hertvik
IBM Power system customers usually buy more capacity than they need. A customer may buy an eight processor Power 720 machine but only activate five processors, leaving the additional processors for future growth. Because it’s expensive to activate Power system processors, IBM offers a program called Trial Capacity on Demand (TCoD) that allows you to test whether additional processors will alleviate system bottlenecks before you purchase.
What Is TCoD?
Trial Capacity on Demand (TCoD) is an IBM program that allows you to activate already existing system processors for 30 days at no charge. The intent is to allow users to test drive increased capacity before buying a processor activation. If you decide to continue using the additional CPU after 30 days, IBM will charge you a processor activation fee and you will also need to buy an additional operating system license to use it for IBM i processing. These two charges may cost you somewhere north of $40K, so it’s worth testing whether the additional capacity will make a difference before you buy.
IBM also offers TCoD for test driving memory (RAM) on a trial basis, but I’m going to focus on processor TCoD for this article.
There are some limits on TCoD. First, the additional processing power is only available for 30 days for free, as mentioned above. After that, you have to start paying. Second, you can only request an additional processor activation once during the useful life of your machine. You can’t activate and test extra processors for one month the first year you own the machine, another month the second year you own it, and so on. You only get one bite of the apple for free short-term processing power.
The Right Time For TCoD
While TCoD is useful for determining whether to add another processor or two to your system, I’ve found it has two other interesting uses in the right situations.
Standard and Exception TCoD Ordering Options
Trial Capacity on Demand can be ordered in two flavors: a standard request and an exception request.
The standard request allows you to test adding two to eight additional processor cores for workload evaluation. You are eligible for activating extra TCoD cores in two different situations:
The number of TCoD processors you can activate at one time depends on the machine and model that you are currently running. For POWER5 and POWER6 servers (except for the POWER6 595 server), you can activate up to two processors and up to 4 Gb of memory on each standard TCoD request. For the Power6 595 machines and all POWER7 machines, you can temporarily activate up to eight processor cores and up to 64 GB of memory for each standard request.
As opposed to the standard TCoD request, the exception request is an all or nothing proposition. With an exception request, you can temporarily activate ALL the unused processors and memory on your machine for 30 days. This gives you an opportunity to max out your machine to see if all available processing will meet your workload needs before buying the additional capacity. Besides activating ALL unused capacity on your machine, the other difference between a standard and an exception request is that an exception request can only be made once during the life of the machine, where a standard request is renewable with each additional purchase, as described above.
How To Order A Trial Activation
Temporary trial activations can be requested either through your business partner or through the IBM Power Systems Capacity on Demand Web site.
IBM will require you to retrieve some specific Power server information from the Hardware Management Console (HMC) in order to generate the temporary keys for processor activation. So you need HMC access to get temporary activations. Processor activation is enabled by entering software keys into the HMC. You don’t have to take down your system to add or remove processors.
Once you request the TCoD activation keys, IBM or your business partner will email them to you. As far as I can tell, the TCoD activation keys don’t expire. So you don’t have to apply the keys right away. You can order them in advance and then apply them when the time is right or your machine gets so busy that you need to increase capacity immediately. You can keep them in your pocket for a rainy day.
What IBM Gets Out Of This
Of course, IBM’s motivation in offering trial capacity is to help you increase capacity and to cash in on the additional unused processors and memory shipped with many Power i systems. And they’ve designed the TCoD program beautifully to help you determine whether a processor upgrade is in order. Strategically used, TCoD can tell you a lot about whether your system will benefit from a processor upgrade and in certain situations, allow you to increase processing power on a temporary basis at no cost. So it’s worth looking into as option when your machine is starved for CPU cycles.
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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.