Breathing New Life Into Your POWER7 And POWER7+ Systems
November 30, 2020 Timothy Prickett Morgan
(Sponsored Content) This is a hard lesson for people to learn, but savvy IT organizations certainly do learn it – some decades ago, some only now. And that lesson is that not every application slowdown and performance bottleneck in a system is directly related to the clock speed or throughput of the central processor. While the processors are indeed central, a system is comprised of main memory, storage, and network I/O, and tuning up a machine as many times as not means bolstering these other components to help the CPU better do the job that is latent in its particular feeds and speeds. If you do not tune up your system, it can negatively affect your Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) – from revenue loss, to loss of customers, to productivity cost.
And that is why customers always have to really think about how to best solve performance issues, and particularly on machines like IBM’s Power Systems running its POWER7 and POWER7+ processors. While these machines, launched in 2010 and 2012 respectively, have plenty of technical life in them, their economic life is essentially over. That is a very good thing for customers who are happy with their POWER7 and POWER7+ but who might be having some capacity and performance issues given how long these machines have been in the field. That is fortunate because components for these machines are extremely inexpensive compared to what they once cost when the machinery was new. Improving your system’s performance can improve your TCO.
For instance, Global Asset Recovery Services division of IBM, which resells certified pre-owned Power machinery on behalf of IBM, is having a Black Friday sale that ends today, November 30, with features for machines based on POWER7 and POWER7+ processors selling for 95 percent off of their original list price. That means they only cost 5 percent of original list price, which is very low indeed. While many of these features are not as capacious as their POWER8 or POWER 9 counterparts, at that ultra-low percent of list price they offer absolutely compelling bang for the buck in a general sense. They are, therefore, particularly compelling for customers using these POWER7 and POWER7+ processors who either cannot move off these platforms for software reasons or who have no desire to move even if they can. This is often a case of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But just because it ain’t broke doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t update it.
While Global Asset Recovery Services is focusing on POWER7 and POWER7+ features for its Black Friday sale, we would point out that the company has inventory for features for POWER5, POWER5+, POWER6, and POWER6+ systems as well. Visit the IBM Certified Pre-Owned Marketplace early and often to see what they have on sale. I understand that a year-end blow out sale is also being planned, so get the parts you need before the sales end and supplies last.
All of the economic arguments for keeping Power Systems machines running with good response time are the same. Slow performance can have a big impact on lost revenues. A recent Akamai study showed that more than 33 percent of online shopping cart abandonments were due to slow performance of the Web interface for the online applications. The rule of thumb is that it is 10X more costly to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one happy, so making sure customers don’t abandon their online shopping carts is critical to the long-term success of businesses. And this revenue loss doesn’t just affect retailers, but companies across the spectrum because we are all accustomed to fast response times and are therefore impatient with poorly performing systems. TRAC Research surveyed 300 companies and found that the average revenue loss due to an hour of performance slowdown (which was defined as response times exceeding 4.4 seconds) was $4,100. However, slowdowns occur often, costing companies $41,000 on average.
There are other economic factors that come into play when talking about the poor performance of an older system of any architecture, any make, or any model. There is employee productivity to consider as well. Consider a situation where the slow performance of a system makes employees 10 percent less efficient. For a company with a salary budget of $1 million, that would cost the company $100,000, and then there is the opportunity cost of not having those employees doing something useful for the 10 percent of the time they are sitting there waiting.
Figuring out what components are throttling performance and what to do about it is not necessarily an easy thing to do. There are some rules of thumb with midrange systems that have been around forever: Never let your CPU utilization rise above 80 percent and never let your disk arm utilization rise above 75 percent are the two we all learned decades ago. But with the complexity of workloads, the storage hierarchy being more complex, and other factors, it is perhaps best to use performance monitoring tools to try to figure out what you might need rather than just taking an educated guess at it.
For IBM i shops, the IBM Navigator for i Web console, which is part of the IBM i operating system, has a feature called Performance Data Investigator that can give some insight into what is going on inside the system, and for those who want deeper insight, IBM sells Performance Tools, which has features to watch actual jobs running and the performance bottlenecks they are encountering. IBM Lab Services also has a tool for sale called iDoctor, which has PEX Analyzer, Job Watcher, Collection Services Investigator, QMGTOOLS, Plan Cache Analyzer, and DiskWatcher features to drill down into IBM i performance when running applications. For AIX and Linux workloads, IBM has a freebie tool called NMON that sniffs around Power Systems machines and figures out the utilization of CPU, memory, disk and flash, network interfaces and other adapters, as well as operating system kernels, file systems, workload managers, and partitions.
For those unacquainted with these tools, the best approach to figure out what to do to improve performance on any vintage Power Systems machine is work with your existing business partner unless you know what to do already. And if you need help and don’t have an active business partner, contact IBM Global Asset Recovery Services and they will assist you in figuring out your bottlenecks and then put together a package of parts to help you attain your performance goals with your Power Systems machine. And if this is an emergency situation, Global Asset Recovery Services has a quick-ship option to ship it to you in 24 hours, and of course the company has features for sale at competitive prices with very attractive financing available, too. Check out the IBM Certified Pre-Owned Marketplace for the latest pricing.
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