ITG Report: Resiliency Floats The IBM i Boat
January 7, 2013 Dan Burger
Building an IT strategy takes well-thought planning and a rock solid foundation. Yet decisions are being made every day that are counter intuitive to that basic tenet and it is costing companies millions of dollars. Often this occurs because a lack of evidence skews the decision making. You better believe this is happening in IBM i shops where the encroachment of other platforms brings IT professionals face-to-face with an unfamiliar–and often less reliable–hardware, operating systems, and databases.
Ignoring the threat that is gathering against the unfamiliar and often misunderstood IBM i platform, which is mistakenly imagined as never having progressed past its original AS/400 incarnation, is a grave mistake. And if you consider yourself an IBM i advocate, you need evidence and some skills in the art of persuasion to make strong points in the platform’s favor. Don’t wait until the danger is at the doorstep.
This brings me to the report by the International Technology Group, entitled Qualifying the Value of Resilience. It makes cost comparisons while examining the IBM i platform with some HA accoutrements, Microsoft‘s Windows Server Failover Cluster for X86 servers, and Oracle‘s Exadata parallel database systems. ITG sorts this out by studying financial and operational data supplied by 60 companies employing IBM i, WSFC, or Oracle Exadata to run core enterprise systems.
Based on this input, six composite company profiles were created. These companies operate supply chains (an auto parts manufacturer, a retail chain, and an industrial distributor) as well as financial services companies (a diversified retail bank, a property and casualty insurer, and a services company).
The average costs of downtime per hour were first calculated for these companies, and then multiplied by numbers of hours of downtime for each of the three platform options. The focus was placed on underlying hardware and software platform outages, rather than application-level downtime.
The focus of this report can be distilled into business costs due to system downtime and the business risks associated with this. According to ITG, business costs due to outages were on average 90 percent less on the IBM i platform compared to the Windows server clusters and 71 percent less compared to Oracle Exadata systems. The calculation was based on planned and unplanned outages of less than three hours.
The lower incidence of IBM i system downtime led to a three-year savings of between $2.8 million and $35.3 million compared to using clustered Windows servers, and between $700,000 and $8.6 million compared to using Oracle Exadata.
The risk exposure–a quantified potential for loss that includes such things as liability issues, property loss or damage, and product demand shifts–of unplanned outages of six to 24 hours added confirmation of the value of the IBM i system.
Supply chain companies’ three-year costs of downtime by platform. (Illustration reprinted from ITG report. Click graphic to enlarge.)
According to the ITG calculations, the risks of business damage are reduced 93 percent when using IBM i compared to clustered Windows servers and are 73 percent lower compared to Oracle Exadata machinery. These variances translated into $257,000 to $7.43 million in higher risk exposure for the use of clustered Windows servers and $56,000 to $1.69 million for the use of Oracle Exadata clusters.
The costs of downtime, ITG asserts, are known to have a ripple effect, which carries over into areas such as lost sales, increases in operational costs, late deliveries, and schedule disruptions in supply chain companies. It affects financial services companies such things as lost or delayed transaction fees, lost interest income, lost productivity, and incalculable loss of customer confidence. Thus, we have some big numbers to ponder.
In detailing the nightmare of unplanned downtime and the increased business risk it brings, the ITG report emphasizes the worry of security and malware threats and attacks. The added cost of internal monitoring of systems is one aspect. The cost of a data breach is what puts companies at risk.
Customer data breaches may trigger fines and other regulatory penalties. There are also the costs of remedial actions such as notifications, monitoring for identity theft, query handling, and investigation and resolution of security flaws that are taken into account. Publicized breaches often result in customer losses and reputational damage can be substantial. Beyond customer data, other sensitive information may be compromised, and damage to systems and software may occur.
Financial services companies’ three-year costs of downtime by platform. (Illustration reprinted from ITG report. Click graphic to enlarge.)
The report makes the judgment that lower costs of downtime and risk exposure for users of the IBM i are due to fundamental differences in architecture and technology.
Here’s how the architecture and technology was described in the ITG report. The Power Systems were running IBM i 7.1 with IBM PowerHA SystemMirror for i high availability clusters. One of the comparison setups was a Windows Server 2008 R2, SQL Server 2008 R2 and WSFC on Intel Xeon E5 and Xeon E7 platforms. The other included Oracle Exadata models (which also use Intel Xeon processors) with Oracle 11g Database including Real Application Clusters (RAC) for linking the database nodes.
Arguments can be made about the equality/inequality of these systems in terms of price and performance for the point of this comparison, but it is what it is. ITG directs the focus to three-year savings rather than up-front costs and specific debates concerning architecture and technology. However, because this report was commissioned by IBM, it does include some glowing words describing the IBM advances–in areas such as availability, security and malware protection, disaster recovery, scalability, and performance–with no specific mention of the competition’s strengths or weaknesses. By the way, those who present evidence in favor of other platforms have their own embedded biases.
For the sake of those who would use this report to make a case for the IBM i to upper-level management, or anyone else who is misinformed or inexperienced about the platform, the ITG report includes references to the system’s modern features such as the SQL-compliant DB2 relational database; Internet standards and interfaces to tablets and smartphones; support for a range of development languages, including C/C++, COBOL, RPG, Java, PHP, XML and others; modern development tools; public and private cloud capabilities; and the capacity to co-existence with X86 and Unix servers.
In a conversation I had with Ian Jarman about a month ago on the topic of the ITG report on IBM i in the SMB market, he let me know the ITG reports that compare IBM i with the competition are requested by user groups like COMMON and the IBM i Large User Group (LUG). Members of those groups use the reports to make a business case for new projects or upgrades.
The entire ITG report can be accessed as a PDF at this link.