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Reliability of POWER9 Supplies Business Value

Dylan Boday explains how robust and reliable infrastructure can bolster businesses.

Photograph of Dylan Boday.

Dylan Boday director of offering management for IBM Cognitive Systems, Image by Craig Washburn

Introducing new IBM computing hardware was once done strictly by the numbers. The performance of the new systems was emphasized, and why not? With each new release of IBM POWER® processors, the numbers tell a compelling story. For instance, IBM POWER9™ delivers up to 1.5x greater per-core performance than IBM POWER8® systems, and various benchmarks indicate that POWER9 outperforms comparable x86 systems by more than 2x. 

Over time though, it’s become clear that while “speeds and feeds” metrics may grab headlines on announcement day, making the case for IBM Power Systems™ servers is an ongoing process that extends far beyond raw numbers. These days, IBM engages clients in the language of business as well as the language of technology. Rather than simply promote what their machines can do, clients learn IBM solutions can help them meet their needs and advance their businesses.

More than two years after the official unveiling of POWER9, work on the Power Systems platform is ongoing, with numerous enhancements being delivered in AIX® and IBM i technology refreshes. IBM Power Systems servers provide the flexibility to run modern applications and workloads like Linux® and databases like SAP HANA, implement private and hybrid clouds, conduct analytics using AI, and much more.

“You have the hardware capabilities and the security of it, the reliability of the software, the architecture from a memory capacity, the partitioning capability of PowerVM®. These are important pieces that add inherent value to our clients,” says Dylan Boday, director of offering management for IBM Cognitive Systems. “In the past, it was performance, performance, performance, but now with a lot of our clients, we start elsewhere.”

“Some of our clients need more throughput or more capacity, and we have some very special offers around that. Others can handle their demand. That's where we talk about lower acquisition pricing and deferred payment.”
Dylan Boday, director of offering management for IBM Cognitive Systems.

The Business of Moving Forward

Recent events have forced us all to adapt to a new normal. No one knew what to expect initially, but over the past few months, we’ve seen the business world’s response. Of course, in certain areas, like healthcare, daunting new challenges exist. However, in some respects, it’s actually been closer to business as usual. Enterprises that had planned and budgeted purchases went through with those deals. And while substantial numbers of IT pros adjusted to working from home, some administrators and consultants continued to tend to systems onsite at data centers. Cautiously and carefully, business has kept moving.

In this environment, IBM continues to meet client needs. As Boday notes, the company is doing what it can for its employees and clients. 

“Obviously, there are great challenges for everybody in the world. First and foremost, we always hope that our clients and our IBM personnel who work with those clients are safe,” he says. “Then you step back and consider, ‘what do our clients need today?’ ”

Since spring, IBM has instituted special offers that allow clients to lower their acquisition costs of IBM Power Systems servers and related products through deferred payment and other options. For instance, in May, when the company announced a new offering, the IBM Power Systems Private Cloud Solution, it reduced the entry-level or acquisition price by 50%.

“Some of our clients need more throughput or more capacity, and we have some very special offers around that,” Boday says. “Others can handle their demand. That’s where we talk about lower acquisition pricing and deferred payment.”

The cloud solution is an example of the latter. The infrastructure offering features a dynamic pay-for-use pricing structure. In that sense, it’s a “cloud-ified” version of Capacity on Demand, which allows clients to activate processors and memory on an as-needed basis and pay only for the system resources they consume. This offering would be of particular interest to retailers and other industries that experience peaks in demand. 

“Clients can purchase the absolute minimum amount of resources they need—as little as a single core with a small amount of memory—and then consume that hardware on a permanent basis. Clients can pool multiple servers and only be charged for average use across the pool. IBM Power Systems Private Cloud Solution allows you to reduce your acquisition costs, which is incredibly important in today’s environment. It provides tremendous flexibility.”

Reliability and Flexibility

When it comes to making the case for POWER9, it’s necessary to look beyond performance and consider the complete picture. POWER9 extends the IBM Power Systems track record of reliability. In terms of fewest outages and least amount of downtime, Power Systems has been at the top of availability ratings for years, trailing only IBM Z®.

Then there’s flexibility. If your response to recent events is to logically conclude that your IT environment would benefit from enhanced remote management capabilities, POWER9 and IBM Power Systems servers are built to provide that level of flexibility.

“Going onsite to do patching, replace parts, etc., those are all direct costs to you and actually exposures to your business,” says Boday. “Because POWER9 servers are reliable and secure, fewer onsite visits are needed, reducing your risk.”

Boday frequently talks about IBM Power Systems allowing you to do more with less. Red Hat® Ansible, a recent addition to the IBM Power Systems platform, highlights this notion. The widely used open-source configuration management and provisioning tool automates an array of systems administrative processes either in on-premise or across public cloud environments. Ansible’s many capabilities are detailed in "The Way Forward,".

Because most IBM clients already possess Ansible skills, it’s a natural fit for Power Systems environments. “It’s a big addition to our portfolio and huge for our clients. They can apply their x86 skills while getting the benefits of Power®,” Boday adds.

POWER9 also includes some specific features and capabilities, IBM Power Systems Private Cloud Solution being one. It’s only available for POWER9 E980 and E950 enterprise models. Likewise, the capability known as Virtual Persistent Memory (PMEM) is also exclusive to POWER9.

Virtual PMEM allows for some system reboots to occur without reloading the database, saving precious minutes at a time in reduced maintenance. It’s most commonly utilized in SAP HANA environments. (SAP has updated its database reload command to accommodate it.)

Because it’s a hardware capability, there’s no need to install memory or activate virtual PMEM. Simply download the firmware and ensure that the proper OS levels are in place.

Unlocking New Value 

Boday cites SAP HANA when talking about the growth of the Power Systems platform. Clients have been flocking to the POWER9 H models since the announcement.

“HANA has been growing very rapidly for us,” he says. The benefits of POWER9 extend beyond performance; they extend beyond hardware. For clients from the midrange to the enterprise level, POWER9 is the engine that allows clients to drive their businesses forward, in any direction they choose. Boday adds, “As Power plays in more areas, I believe it’s unlocking new value for our clients. Things like cloud or even Linux are still relatively new. What it really comes down to is reinforcing the value that we can provide.”

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