Entry Power7+ Servers: Counting The Costs Of CPUs, IBM i, And SWMA
March 11, 2013 Timothy Prickett Morgan
In last week’s issue of The Four Hundred, I walked you through the pricing of configured systems in the new Power7+ entry models that were announced on February 5. There are some interesting and useful comments on the data I put together showing the cost and performance of configured Power 710+, 720+, 730+, and 740+ boxes, which you can read about here. I only looked at hardware pricing in last week’s issue, and this week I want to give you a sense of what the new machines cost when you load up IBM i and Software Maintenance tech support on them.
As we previously reported, IBM raised prices on Software Maintenance, or SWMA, for the IBM i operating system on February 5 as well. The price change, which ranges from a low of 23.1 percent to a high of 28.6 percent, takes effect on April 16. So you might want to prepay some of your maintenance now at the lower prices if you can scrape up the budget. The pricing that I use in the comparisons between the Power7 entry machines and the Power7+ entry machines includes all of these higher SWMA prices, not the current prevailing ones. Just so you don’t make some wrong assumptions.
In the monster Power7 and Power7+ entry system pricing table, I have priced up the processor card and core activation costs for every current entry Power7 or Power7+ system in the product line, including the PS7XX blade servers, which are still available with Power7 chips even if they are never going to be refreshed with Power7+ or any other processors. In each case, I activated all of the cores on the processor features and then loaded up IBM i 7.1 onto the processor cores shown. This is what real capacity on the box will cost you, and if you only fire up one core out of four, six, or eight, you can do the division yourself and estimate the per-core CPWs for the cores you fire up. This monster sheet was big enough as it is, I can’t do every possible permutation. I also put SWMA on each core activated so you can get sense of what it costs for a year of support on the process.
IBM i has user pricing in addition to per-core pricing on the entry-class Power7 and Power7+ machines bearing the 710 and 720 labels as well as the PS7XX blades, and my comparisons have 20 users allocated for each core activated on a processor card for the four-core machines; the heavier configurations have 30 users per core activated.
Generally speaking, the entry Power Systems chassis costs a few hundred bucks to $1,000, depending on the machine, and doesn’t affect the price all that much. I did not configure disks and main memory to the processors in this comparison. I wanted to simply isolate the costs inherent in the processing capacity of each entry machine as accessed by the IBM i operating system. As far as I know, the per-core pricing for IBM i 6.1.1 and i 7.1 are the same, as is SWMA for them. Just as a refresher, here is the table from the SWMA price change so you can see the pricing of these:
The Power 710+ machines inherent processing capacity, burdened with IBM i and SWMA, is a bit less expensive than that of the Power 720+, which has more disk and I/O expansion, as I discussed in last week’s issue (and as readers piped up on in the feedback running in this week’s issue). How much? Well, in that base configuration, the feature EPCK card for the Power 720+, which has the same 3.6 GHz, four-core Power7+ processor as the Power 710+ uses, costs 75 cents per CPW.
As you can see from the monster table and from the image below, the minute you go to six-core or eight-core processors in the Power 710+ or the Power 720+, the cost per CPW goes way up–kissing $2 per CPW for the Power 710+ processor cards and over $3 per CPW for the Power 720+ machine’s CPU brains. (Again, this is not the system cost, but rather the inherent processor cost, minus chassis, memory, and disk costs.)
As you can see, when you get into the Power 730+ machine, which is a 2U rack server that only has pairs of processor cards, the price of fully burdened processor capacity with IBM i and SWMA tied to it is closer to $6 per CPW and even comes close to $7 per CPW for the feature ECPH card. That is nearly an order of magnitude more expensive than for those four-core Power 710+ and Power 720+ systems. And as you can also see, pricing for a CPW of capacity with the software that allows you to access it and the support that allows you to maintain it on the Power 740+ is about the same as on the Power 730+ processor feature cards.
So where does all this money go? To IBM i licensing, of course. Take a gander at this chart:
The allocation of processor hardware, operating system, and support costs for the IBM i operating system vary by machine, but generally, as a rule of thumb on the Power 710+ and Power 720+, around 60 to 65 percent of the cost is the licenses for IBM i, somewhere around 25 to 30 percent goes for SWMA, and the piddling rest of it is for the processor hardware.
So let me give you another piece of advice here. Don’t worry about the hardware pricing and discounts that IBM and its resellers are giving for hardware. That is not where your budget is going. If you are going to be using IBM i, then you should be adding it to as many cores as you can on the front end with the deepest discount possible. If you can negotiate some kind of enterprise-wide license that lets the IBM i code and its price move from machine to machine, you should do that, too. Taking a big chunk out of that IBM i bill is key. And if you are not using database functions on all of those cores–if there is even a way to see how much of your CPW is dedicated to database work, I do not know–but if it were me, I would be loading up the trimmed down Application Server edition of IBM i on some engines and only the full version of DB2 on others. And yes, I know Big Blue only makes IBM Application Server available on big boxes. I don’t care. Act like you are using it on those cores that are not legitimately doing database work, and try to work a deal to get Application Server-like pricing. If you can’t get deep discounts on the core IBM i license, push for lower SWMA and per-user fees. And take a rebate if you can’t get a proper discount. (IBM will be keen on a rebate because it keeps the top line up even if it hits the bottom line just the same as a discount does.)
On the Power 730+ machines, you can hardly see the processor hardware costs when you stack them up against IBM i and SWMA costs for that processing capacity. See for yourself:
Hardware is a slightly greater piece of the cost for processing capacity on the Power 740+ processor features, as you can see. I have a hard time seeing why anyone would go with the Power 730+ once you see the software and maintenance costs, unless you planned to have only one or two engines in the machine running IBM i and the rest were running AIX and Linux. The Power 730+ iron is crazy less expensive in terms of raw processing capacity, but again, on processor cards fully loaded with IBM i and SWMA, this relatively small processing capacity cost is utterly overwhelmed. The Power 730+ requires you to buy two processor cards, but you can start out with one in the Power 740+, which comes in the physically larger 4U chassis that it shares with the Power 720+ machine.
The good news is that the Power7+ processor cards are offering better bang for the buck than their Power7 Gen 1 and Gen 2 predecessors, and this is important if you are sitting out there with Power 520 or Power 550 box using Power6 or Power6+ processors, or even the i5 515 and 520 or System i M15 and M25, the new machines will give better value than last year’s models.
The Power 710+ with four cores is, as I said above, 36.7 percent cheaper than a Power 710 Gen 1 or Gen 2 that it replaces in terms of cost per CPW for a processor card with IBM i and SWMA on all four cores. The six-core variant is 19 percent cheaper per CPW and the eight-core variant offers 25.5 percent better bang for the buck. The difference is lower processor card and significantly lower core activation costs between the Power7 and Power7+ generations, plus an increase in performance made possible through slightly higher clock speeds.
The story is much the same with the Power 720+ machine, which is about 15 percent less expensive per CPW than the Power 720 Gen 1 and Gen 2 in the four-core variants (again, that is just fully activated processor feature cards with OS and SWMA slapped on all cores) and around 13 percent for machines with six or eight cores. On the Power 730+ machines, like for like systems are between 15 and 25 percent less expensive per CPW, again through a combination of lower processor feature card pricing, CPU core activations, and a modest boost in performance. Comparisons are a bit tougher between the old and new Power 740-class machines, but it is on the order of 15 to 25 percent, depending on the feature cards you compare.
Next week, I will take a look at how IBM itself is thinking about comparisons between the old and new IBM i machines in the entry part of the market that is vital to the IBM i installed base. Then I will move on up to the Power 750+ and Power 760+ and see what they are all about and how they shake out. And then we will get down to seeing how IBM i-based Power7+ iron stacks up against the Unix, Linux, and Windows alternatives.