Power10 Upgrade Considerations You Need to be Aware Of
October 4, 2023 Steve Pitcher
It has been over a year since Power10 servers have been available from IBM. After many conversations, configurations, proposals, installations, and project debriefs, I wanted to use this article as a point of reflection on some of the nuances around Power10 and the End of Service dates for IBM i 7.3 and Power8 hardware.
Let’s just jump right into it because we are all busy.
First: A hardware change is most often used to facilitate the upgrade path to a newer version of the IBM i operating system.
The Power8 servers top out at supporting IBM i 7.4. They’re simply not going any higher than that. Older iron like Power7 and Power7+ machines won’t support anything past IBM i 7.3, which went End of Service on September 30, 2023. I would argue that many of the upgrades to Power10 in the last year or so have been facilitating moves directly from old and unsupported Power7 iron.
Customers simply wanted to beat the End of Service operating system date rather than having to pay for a Service Extension for IBM i 7.3. The plan would be to get to IBM i 7.3 on the Power10, then they have a free and clear upgrade path to IBM i 7.4 or IBM i 7.5 and almost certainly IBM i Next.
Second: What does an IBM i 7.3 Service Extension look like?
- Year 1 of Service Extension is 1.5 times the cost of base Software Maintenance (SWMA). For example: if the base SWMA is $1,000 per core per year, then the total cost would be $1,000 for base SWMA plus $1,500 for Service Extension, which equals $2,500 per core per year.
- Year 2 of Service Extension is 2 times the cost of base SWMA.
- Year 3 of Service Extension is 2.5 times the cost of base SWMA.
Time to put that into real-world numbers. Let’s assume a customer has a Power8-based Power S814 server on a P10 software tier running IBM i 7.3 with two active processor cores. Regular SWMA is roughly $7,500 per year per core, so that’s $15,000 for two cores since IBM i is licensed by the core. The Software Maintenance costs with Service Extension (SE) will be:
- Year 1: $15,000 base SWMA plus $22,500 SE (1.5X SWMA) = $37,500 total.
- Year 2: $15,000 base SWMA plus $30,000 SE (2X SWMA) = $45,000 total.
- Year 3: $15,000 base SWMA plus $37,500 SE (2.5X SWMA) = $52,500 total.
Over three years that customer is paying $135,000 just for Software Maintenance. Without the Service Extension and assuming no price increases, you’re only talking $45,000 for regular SWMA if the OS was supported. So that customer will most certainly be paying for the privilege of running an unsupported operating system.
It’s much easier to justify an IBM i upgrade and a Power10 hardware purchase based on the Service Extension cost alone.
Third: Without a Service Extension for 7.3, that customer’s options will be limited.
- Can they call IBM for support on 7.3? No.
- What about calling for support on upgrading to 7.4 or 7.5? No.
- Can they report a software defect? No.
- Can they request a PTF on a known defect? No.
Fourth: What other options are there?
Well, they can order keys for IBM i 7.4 and IBM i 7.5 and download standard PTFs for IBM i 7.3. That’s really it. And the PTFs for IBM i 7.3 will not be new features and functions. Those development efforts are going into IBM i 7.4, IBM i 7.5, and IBM i Next. Any PTFs after IBM i 7.3 goes End of Service will be critical fixes for security vulnerabilities and core operating system bugs. Since IBM i 7.3 is so mature, you can expect any new PTFs to be few and far between. From a cost/benefit perspective, Service Extension territory isn’t somewhere you want to be for long. It’s best to be prepared to upgrade sooner or later.
With rumblings of a proposed hardware maintenance increase in 2024 for Power8 servers coinciding with their respective End of Service dates, many customers are looking to order Power10 iron before the end of the year to facilitate a Q1 hardware migration. They may already be running IBM i 7.4 on their Power8 machines but getting to a Power10 server will be much more cost-effective in the long run with the proposed hardware maintenance increase being about 70 percent.
This technical debt isn’t difficult to pay off. However, the longer you leave it the more expensive it will be.
Keep this in mind: Below are the End of Service dates for Power8 machines:
|Power Systems S821LC||31/10/2024|
|Power Systems S812L||31/05/2024|
|Power Systems S822L||31/03/2024|
|Power Systems S824L||31/03/2024|
|Power Systems S822||31/03/2024|
|Power Systems S814||31/05/2024|
|Power Systems S824||31/03/2024|
|Power Systems E850C||31/10/2024|
|Power Systems E850||31/10/2023|
|Power Systems E880C||31/10/2024|
|Power Systems E870C||31/10/2024|
|Power Systems E880||31/10/2024|
|Power Systems E870||31/10/2024|
Read carefully, they are not all the same.
Many customers want to talk about how to implement high availability or disaster recovery properly. I would argue it’s one out of two customers who will state something like this: “Well, we have a backup box, but it’s pretty old and was never really implemented properly. We’ve never done a role swap. It’s a disaster recovery solution in theory, but not in practice. Plus, the DR box is a Power7, so if we go to 7.4 on production, we’d never be able to fail over to it.”
Fifth: Moving to a Power10 machine is an excellent time to consider what you currently do for high availability and disaster recovery – and determine what you want to do strategically going forward.
Is moving to external storage a good option for you to take advantage of things like FlashCopy?
Being able to quiesce your storage, flash it to another partition, and then run a Save 21 on that partition is an excellent way to enhance your overall backup and recovery while bringing your downtime to near zero. Plus, you’ll get a Save 21 every single day. If you pair that with a Virtual Tape Library (or two to get your data off-site), you’ll have a good recovery point in a separate location (or even cloud). That’s a very simple disaster recovery solution.
Or perhaps leveraging an IBM SAN to replicate to another IBM SAN to have more of a “hot” type of disaster recovery solution.
IBM PowerHA is an excellent option to have more of a seamless hardware-based high availability solution. Either way, if you’re looking at moving to a Power10 machine, this is the right time to investigate if external IBM storage is a good match for your business. It offers several creative opportunities for HA and DR.
Sixth: If you have the budget, one of the smartest things you can get is a Customer Backup Unit (CBU).
It’s essentially a replica of the production Power10 hardware, however, you’re only paying for minimum operating system licenses and minimum users. Your CBU entitlement will allow you to run on the CBU in a disaster or during a high availability test. The beauty is that a CBU is super cheap since you’re only paying for the hardware and base OS/user licenses. Then in future years, you can stagger your upgrades, always keeping your assets current.
For example, I have a customer who does a Power refresh every two to three years. They purchased a Power9-based Power S914 – specifically the 9009-41A version – in 2018. Then they purchased a Power S914 variant with better I/O and in a CBU version called the 9009-41G CBU in 2021 and are effectively running on that for production. This year, they’re replacing the 9009-41A with a Power10-based 9105-41B version of the Power S1014 and using that as production. This is perfectly legit as far as IBM entitlements go. They’re turning over their production machine every three years while taking advantage of the new speeds and feeds. Compare that with refreshing two machines (production and CBU) every five years. It’s a much harder sell because the cost is all at once. Those harder sells tend to get pushed down the road where it becomes more painful to not only cost justify but physically make that type of change.
Just some food for thought for when you’re considering Power10. Good luck!
Looking for more information on Power10? I’ll be answering questions in a Live Q&A on Wednesday, October 4 at 10 AM Eastern. If you can’t make the live Q&A, a replay will be available, but be sure to register so you can receive it. Register Here
We’re also happy to talk about what upgrading to Power10 might look like for you. We’re offering a complimentary consultation to help navigate EOSL for Power8, price comparisons, and more. Sign up for a consultation here
Steve Pitcher is Sales Consultant & Security Engineer at Service Express. Steve has been involved with IBM i since 2001 primarily in the manufacturing and distribution industries. Over that period he’s been a systems administrator, developer, IT Manager and IT Director. Steve brings expertise in security, IBM Lotus Domino and WebSphere. A longtime IBM Champion, first as part of the inaugural group for IBM Collaboration Solutions (2011) and then as an IBM Champion for Power Systems (2016-present), you’ll find Steve speaking at events around the world about IBM i administration, modernization, and security.