IBM Pulls The Plug On First Pass Power9 Entry Machines
November 2, 2020 Timothy Prickett Morgan
This is probably not a big deal to a lot of IBM i shops, but it might matter to service providers or enterprises with multiple machines that have been qualified by testing people, and to software vendors that need to certify their software on specific hardware platforms. And so we bring it up.
The it we are talking about is in announcement letter 920-152, and it is the withdrawal of the original entry Power9 systems lineup, which IBM often calls the “scale out” machines because they are intended to be used for distributed computing clusters. But one company’s node in a cluster is another company’s mission-critical platform. Why was wrong with calling them entry, midrange, and high-end platforms? Anyway, those original machines, which used a mix of PCI-Express 3.0 and PCI-Express 4.0 peripheral slots and which were often referred to as the “A” machines, the “H” machines, or the “L” machines because of their model designations, were replaced in the middle of July with the “G” machines, of the same make and model and sporting enhanced PCI-Express peripherals to make better use of the full bandwidth of the Power9 processor.
To be precise, the following machines are being taken out of the IBM catalog starting on January 29, 2021:
- Power S924, model 9009-42A
- Power S914, model 9009-41A
- Power S922, model 9009-22A
- Power L922, model 9008-22L
- Power H922 for SAP HANA, model 9223-22H
- Power H924 for SAP HANA, model 9223-42H
This withdrawal from marketing has some exceptions. IBM says that the Power S922 A model is not withdrawn in South Korea and in The People’s Republic of China and that the original Power S924, Power S914, Power L922, Power H922, and Power H924 systems are not being withdrawn in South Korea. We are not sure why, but we expect that it has to do with the amount of inventory IBM has in the barn of these older systems and expected needs in China and South Korea based on rollouts – our guess is for clustered systems or edge uses like in retailers or distributors – that it knows are coming down. (Yeah, the AS/400 was edge computing way before edge was cool. Remember all those machines at Allstate? 33-freaking-000 of them, all at one company.)
If you are looking to buy an entry Power9 machine, here is how to use this announcement and that of the G machines in July to your advantage. If you don’t care about PCI-Express 3.0 I/O, don’t let anyone know that, and act like you are willing to accept a lower speed – but at a somewhat lower price. In fact, by their very nature, these A, L, and H machines are worth less money, even if new, than the G machines, no matter what the IBM price book says. It is hard to quantify it, but call it somewhere between $1,000 and $3,000, depending on the workload. If you are trying to do a lot of I/O, the value of having more PCI-Express 4.0 lanes and therefore more NVM-Express storage running at higher effective I/O operations per second could be important. But as I say, make sure you don’t get an A, L, or H machine and pay the G machine price. If you don’t care, your chief financial officer does. At the very least, make IBM or the reseller toss in a li’l sumthin’ extra in the deal to compensate.
One last thing. If you have one of these first generation Power9 entry machines, when IBM withdraws them from marketing, all of the features that go into these machines are also withdrawn from marketing. So in this case, processor cards, memory cards, disk drives, flash drives, network interfaces, and other kinds of peripherals that are specifically tied to these machines are also withdrawn. That doesn’t mean IBM won’t have them in the future if you need them in a pinch, but it does mean you will be subject to availability at IBM and among its resellers, who often have their own stock (but these days, you have to figure, they don’t want to lock up cash in inventory). In other words, if you want to add something to these systems, now is probably a good time to do it since you only have a few months before they are not going to be available as a matter of course.