Taking A New Look At Used IBM i Gear
April 17, 2017 Timothy Prickett Morgan
In some ways, we miss the days when OS/400 and IBM i gear was more expensive than it is today. Thanks to considerably larger customer and reseller bases and because hardware was so expensive and, costing something on the order of a few mansions per month to rent or lease or finance, there was a vibrant market in second-hand AS/400 and iSeries equipment.
But as the base got smaller and systems got cheaper thanks to Moore’s Law improvements on all hardware components except the tin wrapping around them, the market for used equipment became thinner and less orderly. And, perhaps more importantly, IBM’s pricing and practices for Software Maintenance, software licensing, and certification were such that it often didn’t make economic sense to get used gear rather than new. This was no accident, of course.
While there are still a number of companies that peddle used gear – particularly for machinery that IBM no longer sells itself, but which is usually supported for a very long time – IBM Global Financing is probably the biggest seller of second-hand Power Systems machines on the planet. When it sells new gear into customer accounts, or does a takeout as part of an upgrade, it has this old gear sitting around. And you think that IBM would just keep it sitting around because if that gear is not available, then customers would be inclined to buy new stuff. But, thankfully, IBM and others offer used systems and that can allow customers to buy machines that are two or three generations back and save a little cash outlay even if they do sacrifice performance per core and price/performance in the bargain.
We check from time to time to see what IBM i iron that Big Blue has in the barn, and we have discovered that Global Financing is showing off some Power7 and Power7+ machinery in stock that it is trying to get rid of. Take a look:
The Power 720 system above would seem to date from August 2010, when the entry machines in the Power Systems line were given the Power7 chip. But this particular model shown above has a single-socket Power7 chip with four cores running at 3.6 GHz, which makes it a Power7+ chip that dates from February 2013, and presumably all of the cores are activated on this machine, which is actually a Power 720+ regardless of what IBM calls it. The machine comes with 8 GB of DDR3 main memory, and it topped out at 64 GB of main memory when it was announced but with fatter memory cards, it can scale up to 256 GB; the six-core and eight-core Power7 processors available in this machine originally topped out at 128 GB, but that limit was raised to 512 GB. So, this is an interesting little box, this Power 720+ that is selling for only $5,068 with 8 GB of memory and 146 GB of disk capacity in a P05 software tier and with 28,400 CPWs of performance. Four years ago, this machine equipped with 64 GB and 3.42 TB of disk capacity cost $18,241. To get the memory and disk up to the same capacity might drive the price of a used system up to maybe $7,000 or perhaps $7,500, and that is somewhere around 40 percent of list price – and competitive with the bang for the buck for the Power S812 Mini that IBM announced in February of this year, which has one Power8 cores running at 3 GHz and delivering 9,880 CPWs. The Power 720+ system costs less than half as much and delivers more than twice the performance, but IBM will charge for four cores of IBM i to get that performance, and that will close the gap.
The Power 740+ machine shown in the chart above has a six-core Power7+ chip running at 4.2 GHz, which should deliver around 45,850 CPWs of performance for its $19,949. This is a reasonable price for the hardware shown, but the licensing of the IBM i operating system, which will be in the P20 software tier, is going to be pricey indeed. This machine doesn’t make much sense except for customers who are already in a P20 tier on a much older machine. And there are plenty of those shops out there in the world on Power5, Power5+, Power6, and Power6+ systems to consider this.