A Shot Across The Bow For Power8 Upgrades
November 29, 2021 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Sales of new Power8-based Power Systems machines by Big Blue have not been possible for years, but customers with existing Power8 iron have been able to get what IBM calls miscellaneous equipment specification, or MES, upgrades of their existing systems to add processing capacity to those vintage machines.
The Power8 lineup, launched in April 2014, and the entry machines in the Power8 lineup were withdrawn at the end of February in 2019, an announcement that IBM made in October 2018 to give customers fair warning. In February 2019, IBM said that it was going to withdraw high-end Power8 machinery at the end of October in 2019, and then when that date came along, the company pushed the end of life for sales of big Power8 iron out to the end of December of 2019. And here we are, fully two years later, and MES upgrades to Power8 machines are still available, with Power9 machines in the field since early 2018, which is almost four years ago, and big Power10 iron shipping and entry and midrange Power10 iron expected in May or June 2022. That is a long time to keep Power8 upgrades available to the installed base of IBM i and AIX machinery.
But you don’t have much more time to get Power8 MES upgrades from IBM, which is the last thing to be withdrawn from the Power Systems catalog in any generation. In announcement letter 121-100 on November 16, IBM released this simple and terse statement: “IBM intends to announce the withdrawal from marketing of MES upgrades to IBM Power8 systems in January 2022. On or after the effective date of withdrawal, MES orders for additional features on Power8 systems will no longer be available.”
That means Power8 iron in some capacity or another will have been available to customers for just under eight years, which is something akin to eternity in the IT realm. It is a testament to IBM’s service to customers that Power8 systems were in the field for more than five years and that MES upgrades were available for even longer. I defy you to find a server maker who is more generous, and it is an indicator of how Power Systems machines are particularly mission critical compared to relatively generic X86 servers out there in the market at large.
In any event, with entry Power10 machines coming in the late spring or early summer and Power9 machines in plentiful supply for both new machines from IBM, certified pre-owned machines from IBM Global Asset Recovery Services, and to a certain extent from a large number of companies who peddle secondhand IBM Power Systems equipment, the removal of MES upgrades for Power8 machines in January 2022 is not the end of the road for these machines. They are well built and will be bought and sold for some time to come. But, the clock is ticking and there is no guarantee of supply going forward. If you need to be on Power8 machinery, perhaps to stay on an older IBM i release, you need to do some fast thinking as the new year begins so you can mitigate some risk. It would be better to do an upgrade and have a lot of Power8 capacity on hand then to find it unavailable in the market in 2022 or 2023 when you run out of capacity.