The Power8 Era Is Drawing To A Close
October 15, 2018 Timothy Prickett Morgan
They have had a good, long run, perhaps longer than anyone would have thought except that with Moore’s Law losing steam, the gap between processor generations is stretching out further and further. The entry Power8-based Power Systems machines – the ones that are most commonly used by IBM i shops – made their debut in April 2014. And now they are getting reading to make their exit.
Big Blue likes to give customers a warning when things are ripped out of the product catalog, to its great credit, giving its channel partners and end users a chance to adjust – and also to nudge those customers who might be sitting on the fence waiting to do a deal. So in announcement letter 918-162 last week, IBM let the word out of the impending withdrawal of the entry Power8 machines that have been the workhorses of the line for nearly five years now.
Here’s the deal. On February 28, 2019, the Power Systems S822, S822L, S824, and S824L two-socket machines will be withdrawn from marketing. On May 31, 2019, the Power Systems S812, S812L, and S814 single-socket machines will join them in the choir eternal. At the end of May, the RISC-to-RISC data migration feature, which allows companies to easily move data from their existing machines to these Power8 systems, will also be discontinued, and so will the IBM i Express Edition bundles for these machines for systems with 1, 4, or 6 cores activated. The Express Edition bundles give a modest discount off the system price and toss in a few extra goodies to sweeten the deal.
IBM is obviously going to try to encourage customers to move to Power9 equivalents, but is giving those customers who, perhaps on older operating system releases that cannot easily move to Power9 with IBM i 7.2 or 7.3, a chance to get the older iron before it is no longer available directly from Big Blue. The Power8 machines will, of course, be available through the reseller channel, provided dealers decide to keep any inventory, and will also be available in the second-hand market (such as it is) as Power9 migrations let Power8 iron out into the wild. But it is definitely a sign that Power8 is winding down, and for good, and customers should think long and hard about where they want to be in the next couple of years – particularly those with Power5, Power5+, Power6, Power6+, and Power7 iron that is getting very long in the tooth indeed. The people we talk to say there isn’t a lot of Power6 and Power6+ machinery out there, at least not compared to Power5 and Power7 gear, and that the Power5+ and Power7+ machinery was also not as popular.
If IBM wants to really move customers ahead, it would use some carrots as well as this stick. With so much old equipment out there, a sweet hardware deal with partners that can do lots of migrations might be in order to jump start the Power Systems business. IBM focuses too much on trying to build its HPC and AI cred with Power Systems and sometimes forgets that maybe two-thirds of the 120,000-strong IBM i base could be convinced to move ahead if the move was not so expensive and difficult. It is ten times easier to keep a customer than it is to get a new one. We are not saying IBM should not chase the HPC and AI business with Power9 and Power10 iron, but rather it needs to remember it has other ways to get Power Systems sales. Keeping IBM i and AIX customers happy and getting them current, we think, should be a top priority.