The Value of Keeping Your IBM i Current

IBM i on IBM Power Servers is the best server platform in the universe. It is reliable, stable and provides all the tools needed to effectively operate and manage your mission-critical applications.  Most of us on the platform fully agree.  While this is an amazing accomplishment, it also has its downside. IBM i users have become complacent about the platform because they rarely have to worry about the hardware and operating system.  It just works. They even forget it exists. But even the best platform needs to stay current. Why?

IBM’s (and all IT provider’s) strategy is to constantly advance and improve. 

Cycle out the old and bring in the new with advanced features and enhanced capacities.  Savvy customers know that they want to be in the sweet spot, not too new (bleeding edge) and not too old (obsolete and unsupported).  For many, the struggle is convincing ownership to replace a server or upgrade the OS when it is working just fine. The question they ask is:

What is the benefit versus the cost of the upgrade? If you can’t provide a successful response, please read on.

Case Study (Very dramatic):

A customer went off support on their ERP application and can only run it on their Power5 server with IBM i V5R4.  The ERP application is tied to the server’s serial number.  The workload increased and they are out of processor capacity.  The only solution is to upgrade the server with a faster processor. However, the server is not current and the upgrade can only be sourced from used dealers.  And worst of all, the faster processor pushes the software tier of the server from P10 to P20, which incurs about $30,000 in software tier upgrade charges and doubles annual software maintenance charges.  If the customer was current, they could upgrade to Power9 for less than $30,000, and the software tier will go down from P10 to P05 and cut in half software maintenance charges.

Case Study (Dramatic):

A customer is replacing an older server with a new POWER9 and a newer LTO technology.  The older server still has some twinax attached printers and has an LTO3 tape drive.  When planning for the upgrade, we need to account for these older out of support devices.  For the twinax printers, the options are to replace them with network attached printers or to get a black box device that converts twinax to network.  In either case, it is an additional expense.  For LTO tape drives, they can read and write media at the same level and one level lower, and they can “read-only” 2 levels lower.  Current LTO tape drives are LTO6, LTO7 and LTO8.  There are two options here because of the incompatibility of tapes drives.  The first option is to back up the older server to a media that can be restored by an LTO tape drive on the Power9 server, an LTO4 or LTO5 tape drive will have to be rented and attached to the older server for the duration of the upgrade project. The other option would be to order the POWER9 with an LTO5 (which could read LTO3). Neither is a good option, as the first adds additional expense with very limited value, and the second doesn’t go with the latest technology.

Case Study (Less dramatic):

A customer is on a POWER6 server running IBM i 6.1. They finally want to upgrade to the current version, 7.3. Unfortunately, they can’t upgrade to 7.3 on a POWER6.  The highest they can upgrade to is definitely 7.1, and possibly 7.2 (depending on hardware and other software constraints).  There is no direct upgrade path available from 6.1 to 7.3, they would have to bring in a new machine to get to 7.3.  POWER6 hardware doesn’t support drawers with IOPs or connected via HSL. In addition, OS supported upgrade paths are for only 1 or 2 level jumps.  The upgrade will cost twice as much, take twice as long and involve much more risk.  And the customer gets absolutely no value from the intermediary upgrade.

When your hardware and OS platform is current:

  • You are fully supported for any hardware, OS and licensed program defects.
  • Hardware and OS upgrades are fully supported, from configuration to ordering to installation.
  • You can take advantage of new features and capacities of hardware and OS upgrades.
  • You can upgrade to the latest application software releases and versions.
  • Hardware defects are repaired according to your contracted response times – 2 hours, 4 hours or next business day, and are repaired no matter what, up to and including replacing the entire server. When you are off hardware support, repairs are the best effort only, time and materials (very expensive), when service personnel is available Monday to Friday.
  • You can easily implement new software applications, like high availability, or hardware features, like encryption, to meet constantly changing business requirements.
  • If desired, you have the option to have your application hosted by a cloud provider, like iInTheCloud.
  • In the long run, it is less expensive to stay current. If you are not current, eventually, you will have to do something and when you do it will be more expensive, take longer and will be riskier.
  • When you are current you have alternatives, everyone is competing for your business. When you are out of support, your choices are limited.

What I really don’t like about being out of support is that you are off the roadmap, off the grid.  You don’t have the extensive IBM support team behind you, you are on your own.  One small overlooked detail could lead to a huge disaster.

If you’re ready to ensure you’re current, contact the iTech Solutions team. 

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