The IBM Power Trap: Three Mistakes That Leave You Stuck
January 30, 2023 Jason Hardy
IBM Power has long been known as a stable, reliable hardware platform and as a result companies have leveraged it to run their most critical business applications. For many, it has become so ingrained in their business that they would never choose to migrate away from it.
But for some, IBM Power has become a trap from which they can’t escape. This is not a malicious trap that suddenly jumps up and grabs you but rather a trap that is triggered by a series of decisions made over time with each compounded by the previous. So, what are these decisions that create the trap? At Racksquared Data Centers, we have classified them into three categories, application neglect, operating system ambivalence, and hardware apathy. Let’s look at each of these.
The first category of the trap really doesn’t have anything to do with IBM Power but bear with me as it is the first step that leads down a slippery slope. It hasn’t been that long ago that many companies designed and built custom applications to support their business. For some this was done out of necessity, off-the-shelf packages didn’t exist, while for others there was a belief that their business needs were so unique that an off-the-shelf package simply wouldn’t work. This creative and innovative approach to sourcing applications delivered an application that would perfectly meet the company’s business needs.
Over time, problems were uncovered with this approach. For starters, as the operating system was modernized, companies found it was too expensive to do a complete rewrite of these, so they stopped making updates and the programs stagnated. The second major issue companies ran into was that as their programmers evolved with new programming languages there were fewer and fewer people available to maintain the home-grown application. With these custom applications, some companies were so invested that their only option was to continue to run these outdated applications on older operating systems and forego future upgrades.
For those companies that opted for off the shelf applications, there are a different set of issues that help set the trap. These companies often performed extensive customization of the application to meet their business needs and when it came time to upgrade to the latest release of the application, they were unable to do so without breaking the old version and their customizations. The cost of updates to make things work is often high so the decision is made to stay on the current version. Sooner or later that old version is unsupported by the vendor, and you are stuck.
In addition to the issues created by customization there are also issues related to licensing and support. When using an off the shelf application, the company purchases a license to allow for the use of the application which ties into the IBM Power server through a serial number. The drawback here is once there is a serial number attached to that server, it cannot be changed or modified without involvement by the vendor. If you have allowed maintenance and support to lapse or worse, the vendor is no longer in business transferring that license can be expensive or even impossible.
I may have taken the long way around to get here but bottom line is if you don’t keep your applications up to date, it can get your started down the path to the trap.
Operating System Ambivalence
Application neglect is typically a conscious decision that can result in an inability to upgrade the operating system but operating system ambivalence is something more. I don’t talk to anyone that looks forward to performing PTF installs or OS upgrades on their servers. Sure, you may appreciate the security patches or like the idea of new features and functions in the OS but testing for backwards compatibility can be overwhelming and seemingly outweigh those eventual benefits.
I talk to a lot of companies, and well over half of the people I talk to are not current on PTFs and are running an older version of the OS. The most common reason for PTFs being behind is simply a lack of time and resources, however there is more to the story when it comes to OS upgrades.
Most companies that have IBM Power on-premises have a single machine and the resources on that machine have been deployed to support production LPARs and maybe a little bit for a test or dev LPAR. This means that when it comes time to test a new OS, they simply don’t have hardware resources available for testing unless they want to deploy it into their production environment and hope that it works. Rather than risk their production environment, companies opt to continue to run their OS until it becomes outdated and unsupported. This decision further prepares the trap.
Hardware Upgrade Apathy
The final trigger for the IBM Power trap is linked to hardware apathy. As mentioned before, the IBM Power platform has been very reliable over the years and with the cost of replacement being high, companies simply choose not to upgrade. They take the approach: “If it isn’t broke, you don’t fix it.” For others, it is a financial decision. IT would like to upgrade the hardware, but the upgrade is “just not in the budget this year”. When this situation persists, companies find themselves in a Catch-22. The hardware is too old for the new OS and they can’t migrate to new hardware because it doesn’t support the old OS. The company is trapped!
The IBM Power trap may seem a bit far-fetched but as a service provider of IBM Power in the cloud, I talk to many companies each year that are desperately searching for a way out.
Consider IBM Power In The Cloud And Avoid The Power Trap
With Racksquared’s IBM Power in the cloud we work with you to make sure PTFs are installed, OS upgrades are completed, and provide you with a hardware migration path that doesn’t require capital investment. In addition, we handle backups and can even design a disaster recovery solution to meet your business needs. With infrastructure management off your plate, you can focus on your application and delivering differentiated products, services, and overall value to your customers.
Jason Hardy is director and general manager of Racksquared.
This content was sponsored by Racksquared.