IBM Wheels And Deals With Solution Edition Booster Pack
June 8, 2020 Timothy Prickett Morgan
A few weeks ago, we told you about the double memory and double I/O request for price quote (RPQ) special deals that IBM quietly rolled out in April without putting out any announcement letters and that are still in effect until June 30. So consider this a reminder that these deals are still out there and now is a good time to invest in new Power9 iron if you want to pay less for it than you otherwise might.
But that is not all you can get. As it turns out, Big Blue is revamping its IBM i Solution Edition deal packages on the Power S914 entry server, which is a single socket Power9 box that has either four or six cores. Starting on June 9, IBM is doing a bunch of things to sweeten the Solution Edition bundles, and Alison Butterill, IBM i offering manager at the company, gave us a call on Friday to give us the lowdown on the even lower prices. (For which we are grateful on your behalf.)
Solution Edition bundles have been around so long that we cannot honestly remember when IBM started doing them. (I think they were called something else back in the early days of the AS/400, but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was. It was something clever, I remember that much.) With the Solution Editions, IBM packages up a system that is more or less ready to go, including hardware and systems software, and in recent years vouchers for Lab Services support services, which they can get if they spend a certain amount of money on money from independent software vendors (ISVs) who participate in the Solution Edition program. The idea is that companies that are modernizing their systems and their applications – or updating homegrown applications using third party tools – get a better deal by further committing to the platform. At the moment, according to Butterill, there are more than 150 ISVs who are registered for the Solution Edition program, and you can see the full list of registered companies and their software at this link. Not all ISVs are registered in all geographies where IBM does business with the IBM i platform.
As you well know, the vast majority of the IBM i customer base has only a few cores activated in a single processor to do their workloads. By modern standards, this is not a lot of cores, but a Power7, Power8, or Power9 core is a pretty powerful one and the IBM i operating system and its integrated Db2 for i relational database is streamlined doesn’t take much to do the online transaction processing and batch workloads that are mission critical for customers. There’s no shame in this, but rather honor and a reflection of the engineering that Big Blue has brought to bear over the decades since the System/38 and AS/400 were launched in 1978 and 1988, respectively. In any event, this is what the Solution Edition on the Power S914 server is so important.
As we previously reported, the double up RPQ deals give customers of scale-out Power9 machinery (meaning machines with one or two sockets) twice the memory or twice the NVM-Express flash cards for the same money if they buy before June 30. The exception is that the NVM-Express double deal is not – we repeat, is not – available on the Power S914, whether or not it is included in a Solution Edition bundle.
To help us understand how the RPQs for double the memory and the shift from SAS storage to NVM-Express flash cards, even after IBM cut storage prices earlier in February of this year, can substantially reduce the cost of the overall system, Butterill did a comparison showing a Power S914 system with SAS flash SSDs against a Power S914 with NVM-Express cards. Take a look:
This four-core Power S914 has a processor with a base 2.3 GHz speed and a turbo core speed of 3.8 GHz, plus 16 GB of memory. For the SAS configuration, it has eight 387 GB SAS flash SSDs for a total capacity of just over 3 TB and a total list price of $15,592, which requires the expanded function storage backplane, which costs another $4,099. Add it all up, and this SAS flash SSD Power S914 costs $28,035 at list price. By moving to a pair of 1.6 TB NVM-Express flash cards, for a total of 3.2 TB of capacity, the storage now only costs $5,198 and does not require the expanded function storage backplane. This drops the system price down to $13,542, or a reduction of 51.7 percent. One aside: The extra storage backplane requires incremental IBM hardware maintenance, although I am not sure how much.
That’s the hardware side of the Solution Edition as it changes from SAS flash drives to NVM-Express flash cards. Now, let’s look at the software side of the Solution Edition bundle:
With the Solution Edition bundle on the P05 machine, you have to pay the same for the per-core IBM i software license, the same Rational Developer for i license, and the same Software Maintenance, as you can see from the table above. But IBM i user entitlements are cut from $250 each to $70 each, a cut of 75 percent. The IBM i Access Family license is free with the Solution Edition bundle, and Application Development ToolSet – which includes Programming Development Manager (PDM), Screen Design Aid (SDA), and Source Entry Utility (SEU) – is but by 68.6 percent. The Heritage Compilers – RPG II, RPG III, RPG IV, and COBOL locked at the OS/400 V5R4 level – has its price chopped by 57.5 percent, and the new ILE Compilers – RPG, COBOL, and C++ – are cut by 49.9 percent. Add it all up, the base software stack normally costs $12,470, and with the Solution Edition bundle, the overall price is cut by 46.8 percent to $6,635.
But wait, that’s not all you get. Normally, the four-core Power S914 has a half day of Lab Services for free, which can be used to do installation, performance tuning, or other consulting engagements with IBM, and the six-core Power S914 has a full day of Lab Services. The price for these services ranges from $2,000 to $3,000 per day, and under the Solution Edition Booster Pack deal that runs from June 9 through September 30, these are doubled to one full day for the four-core server and two full days for the six-core server. Call it a $2,500 and a $5,000 value, respectively, for the purposes of comparisons.
So, add it all up, and a four-core Power S914 without the Solution Edition bundle and using SAS flash SSDs and paying for the software and the Lab Services at full price would cost $43,005. With the boosted Solution Edition and a switch to NVM-Express flash cards, the hardware, software, and services would cost $20,177, a reduction of 53.1 percent. There is probably some room to discount above and beyond that, but probably not too much. The resellers, who get hurt when IBM cuts hardware and software prices, will have to make it up in volume unless IBM adds extra margin in there. As far as we know, IBM has not done that, but perhaps that is a good idea. Meet the resellers half way at least so the resellers are not taking the full burden on their books for the price cuts embodied in this Solution Edition Booster Pack.
One last thing: As part of the Solution Edition Booster Pack, IBM is allowing any ISC registered with its PartnerWorld organization to participate. They do not have to be registered with the Solution Edition program, which increases the reach of this deal by an order of magnitude. Customers have to spend $6,000 with the ISV on the four-core systems and $25,000 with the ISV on the six-core system. That can be for any mix of software licensing, tech support, or services that the ISV provides.
Once again, I will remind you: the double up memory and core deal for the Power8-based Power S814 entry server, which was announced in November 2016 – yes, three and a half years ago – is still on the books as far as I know. This was an RPQ deal, too, and if a Power S914, Power S922, and Power S924 is overkill for you, this is another way you can get even more bang for your buck. And don’t forget to insist on memory price breaks on the Power8 iron that the Power9 iron got in February. IBM should not hold the fact that there is no very small Power S914 machine against customers. And there is no reason IBM should not make an updated Solution Edition Booster Pack based on the Power S814 – or even the Power S812 – if that makes better sense for customers.
The goal is to get customers to spend money into the downturn and to get modern while bringing revenues to both IBM and its resellers. Everybody has to give here, and then everybody can benefit.