VAULT400 Now Available As IBM i Solution Edition
April 9, 2013 Alex Woodie
United Computer Group is hoping to give private IBM i clouds a run for their money with the IBM i Solution Edition for VAULT400, which was unveiled yesterday at the COMMON conference in Austin, Texas, and combines UCG’s data vaulting software with Power Systems servers. In the near future, UCG plans to unveil a menu of IT services that it says will give IBM i shops many of the advantages of moving to a private cloud, without giving up physical ownership of the box.
UCG’s new IBM i Solution Edition for VAULT400 provides a pre-loaded copy of UCG’s electronic data vaulting software, and is available for the IBM Power7+ 720 Express and IBM Power7+ 740 Express servers. Depending on the size of the machine and the number of active cores, customers buying the new VAULT400 bundle can expect to save anywhere from $6,000 to $60,000 off the cost of the cost of IBM i user licenses, and receive educational vouchers and other discounts.
Jim Kandrac, president of Cleveland, Ohio-based UCG, says the combination of the new Solution Edition and the upcoming launch of its IT as a service offering is geared at small and midsize organizations that like the idea of utilizing a private cloud, but have misgivings about giving up physical ownership of their servers.
For the SMB customer, moving production workloads to the cloud often doesn’t save money, Kandrac says. “At the end of the day, cost wise, it’s six of one and half dozen to the other for the client,” he says. “Most clients that have had success with [private clouds] didn’t outsource their iSeries to save money. They did it to get it off their plate, because they didn’t have the expertise.”
The growing IBM i skills gap is one of the reasons that the market for private, IBM i-based cloud services has been gaining steam for the last two years. IBM business partners have found a profitable business model in renting access to slices of a virtualized IBM i server, and then offering basic care and feeding of those IBM i environments. This new approach got a big boost last fall when IBM formally launched its managed service provider (MSP) program.
However, the cover charge for gaining entry into IBM’s MSP club made Kandrac think hard about whether the cloud was the best approach for UCG and its clients. “And I decided not to, because IBM wants a million dollar investment,” he tells IT Jungle. “They want a quarter-million down, and then you buy from there. There are people doing LPARs as down and dirty and dangerous as $500 a month, up to $2,000 or $3,000 per month. My opinion is, if you want the best, it’s Connectria. They’re very good at doing that.”
Instead of following his fellow IBM i server resellers down the cloud road, Kandrac opted to take another look at the IBM i Solution Edition program, which has become a road less traveled. The IBM i Solution Edition program, you will recall, had been stalled out before IBM resuscitated it in August 2010 and gave it new life with the popular Power 720. Then in 2011, the cloud became the next big thing, and interest again waned in the old “Bumblebee” approach of selling an IBM-blessed solution that combines hardware and software.
Kandrac sees the cloud hype, but wonders whether it’s really the best approach for SMB clients. “I’ve seen in the past two years everybody rushing to the cloud,” he says. “I’ll buy certain solutions in the cloud. I’ll buy SaaS. But I’m having a tough time with ERP in the cloud, and just walking away and saying, ‘Take my whole iSeries into the cloud for me.’ I don’t want to get into the commodity arena.”
“A lot of our SMB-midmarket clients–they kind of want control. They want the best value,” Kandrac continues. “These customers don’t have an IT manager. They love their applications, but they don’t know a darned thing about admin and ops and all this sort of stuff. What we’re saying is, we’ll provide you a system, we’ll take care of cloud backups and DR, as well as provide these IT as a service offerings for $15,000 or $20,000 a year. I really believe that there’s a strong market for that.”
Kandrac expects UCG to formally announce its remote IT services offering in about a month. The offering will include a menu of about 15 basic services, such as monitoring an IBM i environment, applying PTFs, managing backups, and analyzing server performance. Customers can pick and choose what services they want UCG to do for them, and if they want everything on the menu, it would cost a typical midmarket customer about $1,500 per month.