Pricing Revealed For IBM i Slices On IBM Cloud
June 17, 2019 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Today is the day. You can finally go out onto the IBM i Cloud and buy on-demand slices of Power-based systems from Big Blue itself and load up the IBM i operating system and integrated database and do actual work on it. And, if it floats your boat, you can run AIX partitions on the IBM Cloud, too, on the same Power S922 and Power E880 iron that IBM is making available and carving up with its homegrown PowerVM server virtualization hypervisor.
IBM revealed its plans for IBM i and AIX on its own public cloud, called the Power Systems Virtual Server on IBM Cloud, back in February at its annual Think conference. Although the IBM Cloud won’t say this, both the Power S922 and Power E880 are using the 10-core variants of their respective Power9 and Power8 processors; Power E980 machines will be added to the IBM Cloud at some later date and will no doubt also use the 10-core variants. That’s because, as Steve Sibley, vice president and offering manager for the Cognitive Systems division at IBM, explained a few months ago the 10-core chips hit the sweet spot balancing performance, chip yield, and cost in the Power Systems line.
To be precise, the Power S922 has a 2.9 GHz Power9 chip that can turbo up to 3.8 GHz and that offers four threads per core (what IBM calls SMT4); the system has two sockets for a total of 20 cores, and each core is rated at around 6,000 CPWs. The way this machine runs IBM i – whether it is on the IBM Cloud or in your datacenter – all I/O must be virtualized by the Virtual I/O Server (VIOS) and the maximum size of any virtual machine is across four cores. The system is configured with 32 GB DDR4 memory sticks – again, the sweet spot in capacity versus cost – and if you want to use more than 64 GB of memory per virtual machine, IBM is charging a premium for the higher capacity memory. The Power E880 has 16 sockets, and each socket is configured with a ten-core Power8 processor that has eight threads per core (SMT8) and has the cores running at 4.19 GHz. Each core in the Power E880 is delivering around 10,700 CPWs. With the overhead of PowerVM and VIOS running on this Power E880, there are only 143 cores out of those 160 cores available for processing, according to Sibley; that is about 10.6 percent overhead for the virtualization stack. On the Power S922, a maximum of 15 out of the 20 cores is available for processing, which means the PowerVM plus VIOS overhead is more like 25 percent. (The processors are slower and the memory bandwidth is lower.) The largest partition is capped at 15 cores for AIX on the Power S922 and at four cores for IBM i on the Power S922, and at 50 cores for either AIX or IBM i on the Power E880.
Out there on the major public clouds, vendors usually have on-demand, reserved, and spot pricing for compute capacity, but IBM is only starting out with on-demand capacity. Eventually, as the pool of Power iron grows and the customer base does, too, Big Blue will probably add reserved instances (you buy for an extended period of time and get a discount) and spot instances (you buy open capacity that can be turned off by the cloud provider as needed at an even deeper discount). IBM has two flavors of on-demand capacity for IBM i and AIX instances: shared and dedicated. As the names suggest, the shared instances are for customers who need only parts of a core (think in terms of threads as virtual cores, and you can add and subtract threads as needed. Public clouds started out billing hourly and have moved on to billing minutely in some cases, assembling a bill for each month. IBM is just starting out with a monthly rental fee and will very likely move back to a finer granularity of hourly and possibly minutely (particularly for development partitions). This is a good start, and none of us will be complaining I think.
The dedicated capacity is only available at the core granularity and is explicitly done to guarantee that systems and application software stays locked down on those cores and cannot be extended beyond that while it is running. This is done for third party software licensing that is done on a per-core basis, where cloud providers and customers have to demonstrate that customers can’t run software across more cores on a whim than they have paid for and then scale it back when the software company comes around to do a licensing audit. (Oracle is very big on requiring such a lock-down, and it generally does not allow software licenses to be scaled back. Oracle software only gets more expensive, and never less so.)
Given the isolation that the dedicated cores provide and the fact that it makes IBM less able to bin pack customers on a machine, the company is charging a premium for dedicated cores over shared cores, as you can see in the table below:
It costs 4X as much for the dedicated cores per month as it does for the shared cores, to be precise, whether it is on the Power S922 or the Power E880.
The Power S922 is in the P10 software tier for IBM i, and there is currently not an entry P05 tier. (IBM could change that once it gets more infrastructure installed.) The Power E880 is in the P30 tier. IBM i 7.2 and IBM i 7.3 are supported right now, with IBM i 7.4, which starts shipping to customers on June 21, coming shortly after it becomes generally available. AIX 7.1 and AIX 7.2 are also supported atop a PowerVM virtual machine. You can build your own images of these operating systems, but you cannot bring your own licenses. The exact method for doing this is not clear. The P10 instance of IBM i costs $1,000 per core per month, and the P30 instance costs $2,200 per core per month. AIX, as you see in the pricing chart above, is considerably less expensive because it does not have a database or the development environment that IBM i has bundled in by default. A base operating system is not worth much these days, and that is the truth.
The Power S922 and Power E880 systems are configured with external Storwize V7000 storage arrays with a mix of flash and disk drives. Disk and flash are sold in 100 GB increments, with disk costing $0.10 per GB per month and flash costing $0.20 per GB per month.
The very good and commendable thing about how the Power-based infrastructure is being implemented on the IBM Cloud is that there is both independent and dynamic scaling of cores, memory, flash, and disk capacity. Other clouds create static instance types and you have to do capacity planning and make your best guess on what you need. IBM lets you dial up and down all of these four elements of the system as you desire. All capacity is billed monthly.
So there you have it. Next up, we will play around with different scenarios and see what it costs to build cloudy IBM i systems and how this cost compares to actually buying an on-premises Power8 or Power9 box. And further down the road we will compare this pricing methodology – as best we can – to buying X86 servers for on premises or X86 compute on the Amazon Web Services cloud. Stay tuned. Lots more to come.
You can sign up here, and by the way, I have the most recent prices, which have not yet trickled into the online system. There was some last minute tweaking that has not yet been passed through the live system on IBM Cloud.