Entry Servers: IBM i Versus Windows Server, Redux
April 10, 2023 Timothy Prickett Morgan
No comparison between similar but different things is ever perfect. It is the nature of language, constructed of similes and metaphors, as well as science, which speaks in generalities but craves ever-finer precision. It is no different when trying to compare different system platforms, which we do quite often around here at The Four Hundred and have for three and a half decades.
The comparison between the Power S1022s running IBM i and a Dell PowerEdge R7515 running Windows Server and SQL Server, which we did last week, needed some refinement, I learned from an intrepid reader who reminded me of a fact I didn’t know. It also needed some expansion, including a smaller Power S1014 machine that is more like what a lot of IBM i customers buy – even a four-core machine is a bit much for many IBM i shops. The trouble is, it is hard to create a truly enterprise-class X86 machine that compares well to even an entry Power Systems machine.
This week, we are fixing an error in the way Microsoft Client Access Licenses, or CALs, are allocated for the SQL Server 2022 relational database as well as adding a refinement that provides for remote access to applications on the platforms above and beyond the basic print and file services that come through user or device CALs on either Microsoft Windows Server or IBM i. (IBM doesn’t call them CALs, just “user entitlements,” and it is important to remember that a CAL is not the same thing as Client Access, which is now known as Access Client Services, or ACS.)
What I did not know with the Windows Server platform, and with SQL Server in particular, is that Microsoft is no longer charging a base license plus a CAL for SQL Server 2022 Enterprise and is rather just charging for it in two core blocks with the user entitlements bundled in for free. And even with SQL Server Standard, which is trimmed down in some ways, there is a per-core license. Microsoft is still charging a CAL for Windows Server 2022 itself, however.
After having a think about it, and remembering that so many people make use of applications remotely, both on Windows Server and on IBM i platforms, it was probably a good idea to turn on Remote Data Services on Windows Server 20XX releases, which costs $220 per user, and to similarly install Access Enablement support, which costs $2,750 for an unlimited number of users to allow Access Client Services into IBM i 7.X releases. So the new comparison between the Dell PowerEdge R7515 and the IBM Power S1022s in the P10 software tier includes these changes. And when they do, a remarkable thing happens:
The IBM i system is less expensive.
By the way, the IBM hardware prices increased by $1,300 compared to last week because the configuration from last week did not include the cost of the pair of 1,600 watt power supplies. And as before, the IBM Power Systems hardware is a bit more expensive, which is to be expected, for roughly the same online transaction processing performance (in the neighborhood of 100,000 CPWs for both machines).
On the software, PowerVM is considerably less expensive than VMware vSphere 8 Enterprise Plus for server virtualization, but the per-core licenses for Windows Server 2022 Datacenter Edition are a lot lower. But the operating system CAL and RDS CAL charges, at $49 per user and $220 per user respectively, sure do mount up. SQL Server 2022 Enterprise costs $7,562 per core, with CALs included. On the IBM i side, a user entitlement for IBM i includes print, file, and database services, and you pay $2,750 for Access Entitlement Services (5770-XW1), and after that, ACS is free to users to remotely access applications on the IBM i platform. At 250 users, the software licensing costs for operating system, virtualization, and database plus all of the access licenses outlined above are 12.6 percent lower on the IBM i stack than on the Windows Server stack.
Yeah, I checked it a few times myself to be sure. At 50 users, the software costs for IBM i are 10.3 percent lower. At 100 users, the IBM i software is 7.4 percent less expensive. And at 500 users, it is 40.5 percent less expensive because the IBM i license fees cap with unlimited users beyond 200, but the Windows Server and RDS users just keep growing with the user base. (We have checked with business partners to make sure we understand how IBM ACS pricing works because we did not believe it, either.)
We added the support costs we could identify to the hardware and/or software where we could find it. We are missing the hardware support to add to the Software Maintenance software support to arrive at the full Expert Care support cost on the IBM i side of this system, and we cannot believe there are not supplemental software support costs in the Microsoft stack but we cannot find them if they exist. If there are no additional Software Assurance or other fees for this stack that compare to Expert Care, I would be surprised. And it would be nice if IBM published full list prices for both hardware and software maintenance so we could make a full comparison. We gave you the data we could find.
Just for fun, I decided to try to scale down from a P10 class machine to a P05 class system, and had to work pretty hard to find a Dell PowerEdge server that was small enough to compare (X86 machines have tons of cores these days) to the Power S1014. Here is what I came up with for machines in the roughly 50,000 CPW performance class:
The hardware price of the configured Power S1014 and Power S1022s machines are nearly identical, but the software and support prices are a lot lower. And so we scaled back to Windows Server 2022 Standard and SQL Server 2022 Standard, both of which are cheaper than the Windows Server 2022 Datacenter and SQL Server 2022 Enterprise editions we configured in the first comparison.
The Power S1014 server hardware is considerably more expensive, but the IBM i software stack is considerably less expensive than the Windows Server stack for equivalent function, and on the hardware and systems software licensing costs the IBM i stack is actually 4.5 percent less expensive for 75 users. Crazy, right? As the user counts grow, the gap between the Windows Server stack and the IBM i stack grows larger and larger – in favor of the IBM i platform.
If I can create a Linux equivalent – getting pricing on a MySQL or PostgreSQL database is challenging – I will do so on these X86 servers to see how they stack up to IBM i on the Power S1022s and Power S1014.
Stacking Up IBM i On Entry Power10 Iron Against Windows Servers
The IBM i Power10 Upgrade Cycle Forecast Looks Favorable
Power Systems Did Indeed Grow Revenues Last Year
Without Further Ado: Power10 Entry Server Pricing
The Scoop On The Full Subscription Power S1014 With IBM i
IBM’s Competitive Analysis For The Power10 Midrange Machine
IBM’s Competitive Analysis For Power10 Entry Machines
Power10 Midrange Machine: The Power E1050
Power10 Entry Machines: The Power S1024 And Power L1024
Power10 Entry Machines: The Power S1022 And Power L1022
Power10 Entry Machines: The Power S1022s
Power10 Entry Machines: The Power S1014
IBM i Licensing, Part 3: Can The Hardware Bundle Be Cheaper Than A Smartphone?
IBM i Licensing, Part 2: Subscriptions Change Everything
IBM i Licensing, Part 1: Operating System Subscriptions
Simplified IBM i Stack Bundling Ahead Of Subscription Pricing
Subscription Pricing Coming To IBM i And Power Systems
The Power10 Machines That Will Take IBM i To 2025
We Still Want IBM i On The Impending Power E1050
Looks Like July 12 For Power10 Announcements, Maybe July 27 for Shipments
Entry And Midrange Power10 Machines Coming In July
The Power Systems And System z Mainframe Cycles Start Anew
The Low-Down On IBM’s Power Systems Sales
IBM Says Nothing About Power Systems In Q4
The Pivotal Year Ahead For Big Blue And IBM i Shops
A Proper Accounting Of The Power Business
The Big Iron Customers That The Power E1080 Is Aimed At