Admin Alert: Major And Minor IBM i Power System Upgrades
July 10, 2013 Joe Hertvik
When upgrading your current IBM i hardware, you may have more choices than you think. With the incredible capacity built into late model System i and Power systems, you may be able to perform a minor upgrade on existing hardware, rather than moving to the latest Power 7+ machines. Here are some tips on how you might be able to stretch your existing hardware rather than buying a new machine.
What Can You Do?
If you sized your current machine correctly, you may have more than enough excess capacity to stay with the existing hardware for a few more years. I have one client who bought an eight-core Power 7 720 machine in 2011 and only purchased five IBM i operating system licenses. They have three leftover cores that aren’t being used for production processing. Their lease runs out in 2014, but they may easily find that they don’t need to upgrade to a Power 7+ machine. In 2014, they can purchase one to three additional IBM i operating system licenses for their unused cores, which would significantly increase their CPW, possibly eliminating the need for a Power 7+ upgrade.
This option could also be available for you.
With the tremendous CPW included in IBM‘s Power hardware, you may be able to break the upgrade cycle by activating the unused capabilities on your existing machines. You may find that performing a minor upgrade on an existing machine is cheaper than upgrading your entire system or replacing your box with a forklift upgrade (box swap).
What’s Involved In A Minor Upgrade?
If you want to perform a minor upgrade by adding IBM i operating system licenses to unused cores instead of upgrading to new hardware, here are some items you need to think about.
• Do you have unused processors that you can purchase IBM i operating system licenses for? This option is only available if you have unused processor capacity on your system.
• How much will adding an IBM i operating system license cost? It’s cheaper to add operating system licenses to low-end machines such as P-10 Power 720 boxes, than it is to add OS licenses to high-end machines such as P-30 Power 770 boxes. For P-10 boxes, you can probably get an IBM i license for less than $20K with one year of maintenance. For P-30 boxes, that same IBM i license can cost you somewhere above $50K with one year of maintenance. Your hardware configuration matters.
• Will you need to pay a processor activation fee in addition to the operating system license? On some of the mid-market machines such as the Power 7+ 720, all the processors are activated when the machine is shipped (although you have to buy operating system licenses to use them for IBM i processing). On the higher end machines, such as the Power 7+ 770s, all the processors may not be activated when they are shipped, and you may have to pay a fee to activate a processor before you can attach an IBM i operating system license to that processor. Again, size matters in how much you’ll pay.
• How much additional disk space will you need? Depending on your disk usage, you may need to add more disk capacity if you’re planning on keeping the machine for a longer period of time.
• Will you need more memory? You’ll want to run some performance analysis on your box to determine if you need to add more memory with your processor. That could be a sticking point for a minor upgrade, if your machine is already maxed out on memory and you need more. Also be aware that there may be pricing considerations in adding memory to larger Power systems such as the 770, than there are for smaller systems. Talk to your business partner to see the actual cost of adding memory.
• How much will hardware and software maintenance cost you? This is the biggest sticking point for performing a minor upgrade for increasing machine longevity. Depending on how old your machine is and what P-group it belongs to, it could be fairly expensive to purchase additional hardware and software maintenance for your box. If you need additional maintenance, the key is to pay your maintenance on a quarterly basis so you don’t have to put out a lot of money up front for one to two years of maintenance and you can easily cancel your maintenance without having to ask for a refund. Check out this article for additional tips on contracting with IBM for getting extended maintenance on your Power i machine.
• How much processing growth will occur over your expected life cycle? If you upgrade your existing machine, will it be enough to handle targeted growth for the next few years? If possible, get business growth projections to make sure you’ll have enough capacity when expected business spikes occur.
Given these considerations, here’s how I’d approach deciding between replacing/upgrading your existing hardware to the latest Power systems and performing a minor upgrade on your existing machine.
1. Determine your needs in terms of additional processing power (CPW), disk, memory, additional hardware features, and all the same items you would normally evaluate for any upgrade. This will be your target capacity. Use the list presented above as a guide, and add to the list, as needed.
2. As best you can, determine the life cycle you want to operate your upgraded machine over. The life cycle is often limited by your expected lease term, which is usually less than 45 months. Once you get to the end of the lease, you have to make a decision on what to do with the machine (an artificially bounded life cycle). If you’re paying cash for your machine, you’ll be able to keep the machine for as long as it’s running and it can satisfy your processing needs (an unbounded life cycle). Also make sure to work with management to get realistic business growth assumptions over the target life cycle.
3. Get a quote from your business partner on what it would take to upgrade your existing machine to the latest Power system hardware or to perform a box swap to migrate to new hardware. Size the new machine so that it will satisfy your processing needs over your anticipated life cycle.
Be aware that with the increased capabilities of the new Power systems, you may even be able to downgrade your Power system from its current P-group (P10, P20, P30) to a lower P-group machine that provides the same amount of CPW as your existing box. This is especially true when you’re upgrading from a Power 6 or Power 6+ machine to a Power 7+ machine. You may find, for example, that a Power 7+ 720 machine with three processors offers more CPW than your current Power 6+ 550 machine with four processors. Your business partner may try to sell you on staying on the same machine level with the same number of processors, but don’t be afraid to think smaller. You may be able to get more CPW for less, and save money in the process.
4. Get a second quote from your business partner on what it would take to add your target capacity to your existing Power system hardware. Determine what it will cost in terms of processor activations (if necessary), OS licenses, additional disk, additional memory, extended maintenance, etc. This may or may not be a feasible option, depending on your processing and life cycle needs and the age of your existing hardware. The key is to generate a second option that may be able to save you money. Even if you don’t perform a minor upgrade on your existing hardware, it’s valuable to understand why you need to move to the newest Power system machines.
5. Analyze the two quotes and determine which one best meets your needs over your anticipated life cycle. Make your best decision based on business needs.
What’s Your Technique?
These are just a few ideas for how you can reduce your acquisition costs when upgrading your existing Power hardware. There are several other techniques that can also be explored. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any other ideas you may have for lowering your upgrade costs. I’m passionately interested in the IBM i and Power systems upgrade process and would love to compare notes.
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Check out my blog at joehertvik.com, where I focus on computer administration and news (especially IBM i); vendor, marketing, and tech writing news and materials; and whatever else I come across.
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.