IBM i on Google Cloud Appears To Be Stuck in Alpha
February 17, 2021 Alex Woodie
Companies that want to run IBM i workloads in Google Cloud will have to wait a bit longer, as the public cloud service is still in limited alpha, with no signs that it will become generally available any time soon.
It has been close to three years since we first broke the news about the partnership between IBM and Google Cloud. At the inaugural POWERUp conference in San Antonio, Texas, in May 2018, IBM i chief architect Steve Will publicly discussed plans the two companies had made to run IBM i and AIX instances on the Power Systems servers installed in Google Cloud data centers. Will said that Google Cloud was “on the doorstep” to providing IBM i and AIX runtimes in its public cloud offering.
The plans moved forward, and in April 2019, at the Google Next 2019 event, Google Cloud engineers shared details about its Power Systems environments, which included Linux as well as IBM i and AIX. During a session at the conference, which we covered in September 2019, the Googlers revealed that its “IBM Power Systems for Google Cloud” offering entailed running S922 servers in US-East 4, a Google Cloud data center in Northern Virginia. (You can still watch the recording of the session here.)
Customers could get access to Power Systems environments as small as half a Power9 core and 4GB of RAM, and grow it up to an environment with 192 cores and 64TB of RAM. IBM and Google shared responsibility for managing environment, with Google responsible for the hardware and IBM responsible for running the system software and firmware. The customer was responsible for maintaining everything from the operating system on up.
By October 2019, the AIX portion of the IBM Power Systems for Google Cloud offering was generally available (along with Linux on Power), but the IBM i component was not yet GA. When IT Jungle contacted Google Cloud in early 2020, representatives with Google Cloud said they expected the IBM i IaaS offering to be available in the first half of 2020.
However, the announcement of IBM i on Google Cloud has never come to pass, and IBM i is still not listed as a supported environment on the Google Cloud webpage. We decided to check in with Google Cloud to see what was preventing the offering form moving forward. A company official told us that the offering was still in “limited alpha” and that wider availability was up to IBM.
We asked IBM about its plans for the IBM i on Google Cloud offering. An IBM spokesman said this would be the only communication provided on the matter:
“IBM is deeply committed to the IBM i community and the modernization of our clients’ environments. For both direct clients and those served by our rich ecosystem of partners, IBM is focused on acceleration to the hybrid, multi-cloud model of their choice.”
Since IBM avoided answering the question about the state of IBM i on Google Cloud, it leaves one to speculate about what the future of the offering may be. It seems doubtful that, nearly three years after first starting to work with Google Cloud on the offering and after 18 months of a limited alpha test, that there would be any technical barriers to going forward with an open beta, if not a fully GA release.
That raises the likelihood that business considerations were a factor in IBM’s unwillingness to move forward with IBM i on Google Cloud. IBM Cloud, of course, is selling access to IBM i, AIX, and Linux environments in its IBM Power Systems Virtual Server cloud offering, which puts it in direct competition with Power Systems running in Google Cloud.
The Google-IBM deal for IBM i IaaS appears to be on life support, but IBM is still moving forward with Skytap, the Seattle, Washington company that acts as a go-between for customers and public cloud vendors.
In 2018, Skytap and Microsoft announced a deal to put in place an IBM i IaaS offering environment on the Azure cloud. Under the terms of that offering, Skytap manages the Power Systems infrastructure running in Azure data centers on behalf of clients, who are presented a console from Skytap to manage all of their Azure environments (Skytap also has some clever approaches to integrating complex enterprise computing environments and making them easier to manage as part of modernization initiatives, which was its specialty before getting into the cloud business). Skytap’s business with both IBM Cloud and Microsoft Azure are still ongoing and appear to be expanding, if last week’s news is any indication.
So the magic number for public cloud IBM i environments apparently will remain at two, at least for the time being — or until Amazon Web Services decides that it wants to get into the Power Systems game. Don’t hold your breath on that one.