Power Systems Maintenance Prices Hike In Canada. . . Vaulting Service Replaces Mirroring For IBM i Shop. . . Power Systems Academic Initiative Tops 300 Schools
February 23, 2015 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Power Systems Maintenance Prices Hike In Canada
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
Maintenance and support is an important part of any IT vendor’s revenue and profit streams and these services are also what make IT shops more or less comfortable with using a piece of hardware or software for mission-critical work. And generally speaking, maintenance prices tend to rise over time because the cost of people tends to go up, too.
In IBM’s fourth quarter, maintenance services represented about 12 percent of the $13.5 billion in Global Services revenues, or about $1.6 billion, taking a 9 percent hit as IBM divested its business process outsourcing software and System x server hardware units. Ignoring the effects of those divestitures, IBM said that its overall maintenance revenues were up 1 percent. In general, over the quarters, the maintenance stream has been relatively flat for Big Blue, and it is reasonable to expect for a price increase, particularly in areas outside of the United States with the dollar strengthening against other currencies. So there will be a temptation to raise maintenance prices–and hardware prices as IBM did with its storage product line in Europe recently–to make up for the change in currency exchange rates between the markets where IBM sells products and its home market in the United States where it does its final books each quarter.
It has been a couple of years since we have seen a big maintenance increase on vintage Power Systems machines, and I have said that it is probably around the time that Big Blue will raise maintenance charges on older equipment as a means to try to convince customers to upgrade to newer equipment. That might not be the motivation for a maintenance increase that IBM Canada will soon institute, but the effect might be just the same in the end.
IBM gives customers plenty of notice about an impending price change for maintenance, and historically it has been about three months. In announcement letter 314-127, IBM Canada gave notice that it would be raising both monthly and annual maintenance charges on a wide range of gear. The notice was snuck out on December 23 (who was looking then?) and takes effect on April 1 (it is no joke, though). In general, the price hikes work out to around 5 percent across a wide range of vintage Power Systems machinery, dating back to the PowerPC Northstar era of the late 1990s. Various features of these machines, such as peripheral cards, expansion enclosures, and so forth, that carry maintenance fees also had a 5 percent uplift in price. A slew of storage products also had their maintenance charges increased by roughly 5 percent.
You should comb through the announcement and compare the features in your box to the ones on the list to see what increase is coming your way. And for those of you in Europe and Asia, it stands to reason to expect a price hike on vintage Power Systems gear soon, too, and possibly for customers in the United States as well. IBM wants to make the Power Systems business profitable, and maintenance is a big piece of the revenue stream for Power, and probably a bigger part of the profits.
Incidentally, IBM Canada did a similar 5 percent price hike in December 2013 that went into effect in April 2014, and as far as I can tell, no other IBM geographies followed. I am only as good as the search engine for IBM’s announcement letters in declaring that, of course. So maybe only Canadian Power shops will get hit with this price increase, too.
Vaulting Service Replaces Mirroring For IBM i Shop
by Dan Burger
Backup and disaster recovery services are giving IBM midrange shops capabilities to break away from inefficient, labor-intensive, manual tape backup procedures. However, there are more reasons than that to consider online backup and recovery services, which you may recognize by the term vaulting.
TAB Products, a global management provider of physical and digital records, recently turned to the VAULT400 backup as a service (BaaS) from United Computer Group to replace a mirroring system that replicated production data from its data center 60 miles northwest of Milwaukee to a second facility in Toronto, Canada.
On first glance, replacing a mirrored system with a vaulting system seems like a bad idea, but you need to hear the rest of the story.
The decision to begin vaulting was “pure economics” according to Terry Vilter, IT manager at TAB Products. “We prefer real-time replication, but it became no longer cost effective for our needs,” he tells IT Jungle.
When TAB began replicating data with a mirrored system, it purchased a used AS/400 box with very little investment. (IBM policies have since changed, making that small hardware investment a thing of the past.) The used AS/400 was a good backup machine because the production box was an AS/400 Model 810. That box is still performing for TAB today, albeit at the top of its capacity.
There is a pending retirement of the AS/400 Model 810 later this year with a Power8 box to take its place. Because that upgrade would also necessitate an upgrade of the secondary box to keep the mirroring in place, that adds a big chunk of money to keeping the mirroring system in place.
So comparing the cost of two Power8 machines plus the mirroring software upgrade costs with the price of the vaulting option resulted in a win for vaulting.
A couple of other factors that were taken into account. Although the recovery time for the mirrored system was almost instantaneous, that was determined to be unnecessary as the TAB product line no longer has the same requirements it did a few years ago when being down more than a few hours meant excessive financial losses.
The vaulting service offered greater security to TAB data because its data center has mirroring to two other locations. That level of redundancy was unavailable to TAB in its mirrored system and to gain that kind of resilience would have been prohibitively expensive.
Vilter was also concerned about the TAB database going from behind its locked doors in its data center to “someplace out there.” But with the encryption and security safeguards that UCG put in place, Vilter was convinced “there is little chance of someone disrupting our data once it is off site.”
The seeding of the vault took place two weeks ago.
“The initial backup sets are intense,” Vilter says. “We have capacity on demand on our pipeline and we cranked it up to the max for this. We had a couple of issues involving dedicated locks on some of our objects and we had old files in our EDI software that left objects in the library that related to data that had been purged from the system years ago. Those objects clogged the replication process unnecessarily. It put a real strain on the 810, which already had most of its resources taken up with weekend processing workloads.
The process, minus the EDI library clog, took about 14 hours. Daily backups to the vault take about three hours.
“I need to get that down,” Vilter says. “I’d like to get everything to complete in an hour, but that’s unrealistic with the 810. The Power8 will make it realistic.”
Power Systems Academic Initiative Tops 300 Schools
by Dan Burger
The latest tally from the Power Systems Academic Initiative indicates the program now has enrolled more than 300 colleges and universities worldwide. Much of the success is attributed to efforts pertaining to new workloads on Power Systems iron due to to big data, cloud, mobile, and social media workloads, according to a statement from IBM.
Between now and 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a faster-than-average increase in employment opportunities for computer and information research scientists. The implications of this, from the IBM perspective, are “employers will be seeking job candidates with the skills to use the hardware that can uncover insights from data to solve problems, act on findings, enter new markets, and gain a competitive advantage.”
“Linux and other open innovation platforms have become a primary source of development in todayâ€™s technology marketplace, and companies are looking to colleges and universities to produce a workforce equipped with the skills required to innovate in these environments,” says Terri Virnig, vice president of Power Systems ecosystem and strategy. “IBM is committed to partnering with colleges and universities around the world to provide students hands-on experience with the technology that will make an impact in today’s data-driven marketplace.”
Re-launched in October 2012 with only 135 schools on the roster, IBMâ€™s Power Systems Academic Initiative has grown 152 percent over the past two years and continues to expand.
Schools make the list in several ways. They can be doing research on Power; using the IBM cloud for projects; downloading IBM courses; developing a course or program; or actually teaching IBM Power content in a classroom or online.
Peter Glass, program manager for the Power Systems Academic Initiative, provided IT Jungle with additional details, including a closer examination of how the initiative is benefiting the IBM i community.
“For professors teaching computer science, information technology, business, or marketing courses, IBM offers a wide range of products and solutions that can help enhance curriculum and enable students to develop competitive skills on the latest industry-standard software, systems, and tools,” Glass says.
Academic Initiative member schools are eligible to receive courseware, related software, access to technical libraries and subject matter experts, and remote virtual access for themselves and their students to a Power Systems environment at no charge.
For a complete list of the schools participating in the Power Systems Academic Initiative, visit: www.ibm.com/university/power.