Integrated Does Not Have To Mean Included And Invoiced
October 10, 2022 Timothy Prickett Morgan
In this era of “pay for what you eat” cloud computing – maybe they should have called it “buffet computing” after all because there sure as hell is nothing cloudy about the bill when it comes – it seems odd that customers can’t pick a la carte the things they want and they don’t want in a system that nonetheless has all of its myriad components and services integrated.
Let’s start by saying we love that the IBM i system is integrated, with one throat to choke (for the most part) when things go wrong. We are strong believers in building platforms and using platforms for this very reason, and know that it is exceedingly difficult to build and maintain and evolving platform over decades. So consider this constructive criticism, IBM. Nothing more.
Here’s what got us started on this rant, which is not a new one but it is a persistent one. An IBM i customer we know down in South Carolina is pricing up a six-core Power10 machine to run the business. Kudos to you for staying on the front end of technology and also kudos to Tech Data Synnex for helping out. All good. But the customer is annoyed that with Power9 and Power10 machines, the PowerVM server virtualization hypervisor is integrated and has no change, but it does have Software Maintenance and they aren’t using it and they still have to pay for that maintenance. They don’t want to pay it. Moreover, they are constantly annoyed by notices saying that PowerVM has to be updated on the existing Power9 machine when they don’t think they are using it at all.
A couple of things here. First, as far as we know, there is no such thing as a “bare metal” install of OS/400 or IBM i on a Power Systems server and has not been for years. Even with a single partition, PowerVM is lurking there in the background. So whether or not you want to use it, or experience the overhead of using virtualization, PowerVM is there. At that point, then, it seems logical to us that PowerVM should have always been covered under plain vanilla hardware maintenance, and for that matter, so should BIOS and other firmware updates if that is not already the case. So this customer is right.
This customer is also annoyed that they have to upgrade to IBM’s Expert Care maintenance services and can’t get the old fashioned break-fix hardware maintenance. We see the point, but we doubt very much IBM will back off on this one.
While we are thinking about this, there are other examples of where integrated means software licensing and support creep. The one that always bugged us is that on IBM i platforms, every core on every partition is paying for the integrated relational Db2 for i database, whether or not those cores are actually doing database functions. Way back with OS/400 V5R4 (also known as i5/OS 5.4 sometimes), IBM created this thing called OS/400 Application Server, which was a variant of OS/400 that did not charge for the database. The idea was that IBM knew that some machines were just doing application serving as they hung off of a separate OS/400 database engine, and Big Blue wanted to encourage customers to stay on OS/400 rather than move to Unix or Linux or Windows Server for application serving. This is the right idea, and it translates well into logical partitions and collapsing distinct physical machines down to multiple virtual machines on a single physical machines as a lot of customers do these days.
The Application Server license for OS/400, which came out in April 2007 when Amazon Web Services was just an object storage with a tiny bit of X86 compute for nerds, was the right idea. Just because something is integrated – meaning works well together – does not mean that they are always used together, or used at all. How many more Power cores would IBM have sold as Application Servers if it had maintained this distinction? How many Windows Servers for JD Edwards applications, just to pick an example, were caused by the licensing of IBM i since the 6.1 release, when the Application Server license was quietly shelved?
Just because a software stack is integrated does not mean all of its components have to be included by default and therefore invoiced by default. There needs to be ways to turn things on, and also to keep them off until customers actually want them.