IBM Clarifies Utility Pricing, Adds Solution Edition For New Entry Power Server
August 31, 2020 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Back in the middle of July, IBM announced new entry Power Systems servers – tweaks to the Power S914, Power S922, and Power S924 to be specific – that had expanded PCI-Express 4.0 I/O capability as well as a new utility pricing scheme on the Power S922 and Power S924 that helps to lower the capital outlay for buying servers and makes it a little bit more like the economic experience on the public clouds.
This utility pricing, known as the Power Systems Private Cloud Solution, has been available the Power E950 midrange and Power E980 high-end systems since it debuted back in May, and has been a boon for companies during the coronavirus pandemic who are understandably loathe to lock up capital in systems when they can rent capacity and shift it to an operational expense. The Power Systems Private Cloud Solution splits the difference between the public cloud, where everything – every CPU clock, every byte of memory or storage, and every bit shifted on the network – has a metered price, and private infrastructure, where you pay for everything upfront and own it, use it as you see fit, and depreciate it over the terms that accountants say you have to. You buy the base machine with a certain compute capability and then add capacity or subtract it as needed and only pay the additional metered cost of what you use.
This is a kind of reserved instance, if you want to think about it differently, but one that can scale up and down as opposed to one of a specific size that you have to quiesce and move to something bigger or smaller if you want to pay less. Why this is acceptable on the public cloud is beyond us, but that is how it works, and it works that way because it is hard to expanding a VM’s capacity up and down in real time and meter those changes. And it probably works that way for the oldest reason in the world: We have always done things that way.
But the utility style pricing available on the Power S922 and Power S924 that IBM announced back in July is not precisely the same as on the Power E950 and Power E980, and in announcement letter 120-065, Big Blue wanted to take a moment and clarify some distinctions as well as remind people of some things.
First, while there is elastic pricing within a Power S922 or Power S924 system, where you can dial the compute up all the way up to its full capacity and all the way down to the base compute bought with the box, IBM is not offering elastic capacity across a collection of Power S922 or Power S924 machines all owned by the same company. We don’t think this necessarily means IBM won’t do this in the future – the Enterprise Pools software does precisely this – and we think in the fullness of time all of IBM’s machines will have pooling built in for compute and memory – most likely with Power10. But the microcode for the entry machines and the Hardware Management Controller that administers Enterprise Pools is typically not used among entry Power Systems customers, and thus this elastic capability has not been built into the low-end machines. Moreover, elastic memory activation and metered pricing for memory is not enabled in the Power S922 or Power S924 – and indeed not even in the Power S914 that does not have any utility pricing – and thus customers buying Power S922 and Power S924 configurations with the utility pricing have to get 256 GB of memory as a minimum. Some customers thinking about base configurations might have picked 64 GB as a minimum and though they could scale it up, but they can’t. You have to buy what you think you will need with memory as you scale compute up and down across the cores. This is somewhat problematic, and again, we think with Power10, IBM will make metering of compute, memory, and networking metered across the entire Power Systems product line. And if Big Blue doesn’t do this, then it is silly. It is a good idea for big customers, and it is a good idea for little ones, too.
In the same announcement, IBM pointed out that a private cloud capacity assessment and implementation service is available from the IBM Systems Lab Services unit for those with Enterprise Pools so they can figure out how to add these machines to their pools or create new pools if they have not done it before. Enterprise Pools allow for CPU *core activations and operating system licenses to be shared across a linked network of machines, allowing for workloads to move around that network of systems and their software licenses and compute capacity to be fired up just under them and turned off just behind them as they flit around.
And finally, in announcement letter 120-057, IBM is letting everybody know that the IBM i Solution Edition stack, which was enhanced back in early June, is now available on the single-core implementation of the Power S922, which is known as machine 9009-22G in the IBM catalog. Expedited shipment of this machine was activated on August 25, the day it was announced, and the actual Solution Edition setup on the single-core Power S922 is available on September 4, which is this coming Friday. The only thing that you can’t get until September 18 is a 2.5 meter power cord linking the server into a power distribution unit for the Power S922 Solution Edition.