IBM Power Systems Review

The hardware is rock-solid and reliable but the Power Systems can be a tough sell

What is most valuable?

The Power hardware is rock-solid and reliable. You can't really ask for better hardware support, software support and reliability of the equipment. It is very powerful for what it does. 

How has it helped my organization?

From a reliability standpoint it has provided us with excellent performance. 

We are in retail and we can't send technical people out to retail locations. We have to have a system that is very reliable, that will basically run 24/7, 365. In some cases, we have had the same chassis in a location for 10 years. For the most part, it takes its normal fans and power drives and power supplies, but it's the same chassis that has been sitting there running. That's why we continue to purchase IBM and Power equipment.

The Power Systems can oftentimes be a tough sell because it is much more expensive than Commodity X86 hardware. But it's not a dollars and cents kind of thing. It's the fact that we don't spend dollars and cents. It's the reliability. The fact that we've been able to use the same procedures and processes in our stores for so long is a huge benefit.

What needs improvement?

We are a special case, because what we want is the cheapest Power box we can get in all of our locations. That is not the way the industry is moving.

Cloud would be a great option, if you didn't get the worst internet connections in the world in very remote locations. That's where we are in a kind of unique situation. We have to have the processing power at a location, but we don't have the luxury of a good internet connection. In some cases, we have DSL. That goes down for days. You can't have a Cloud-based solution. You have to have something that can process on-site and retain and then batch upload data.

The lack of software vendors moving onto the platform, as opposed to fleeing the platform, is an issue.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using Power since the early 90's. Right now I'm using version 4, all the way up to 7+. I'm using it for AIX. I would definitely be interested in upgrading to POWER8 in the future, but it comes down to cost. It's always cost, especially in retail.

What was my experience with deployment of the solution?

We transitioned not too long ago from POWER6 to POWER7 equipment. Literally, it was just moving the Powers from one system to another. There were no questions about compatibility, it was just a move from here to here. You take care of some base prerequisites and you are done.  

OS upgrades are non issues. You just do them. Typically, we're only doing them because a vendor or an application needs it, but they work. Often there is very little downtime and no need to roll back, it just works. The same can't be said for a lot of the competitors' products.

How is customer service and technical support?

Both software and hardware support are wonderful. They are very responsive and knowledgeable. We deal with the field service technicians, the IBM CEs all the time. Usually it takes only one visit to fix the problem, which is huge. They get stuff done. 

Whereas, with some other two-digit vendors, two-letter vendors, that is not the case. In fact, we even saw discrepancies between IBM's Power and Lenovo's x86 support structure. We've actually moved some of our x86 systems away from Lenovo because the support structure isn't as good as what we were used to.

How was the initial setup?

Setup was a non-issue. The upgrades are complex, but it's easy to figure out what you have to do.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Power certainly isn't a great value proposition. A lot of that has to do with the fact that everybody else in our industry, from a software or maintenance standpoint, is moving away from it. 

Because of the cost I am rating them a six.

It is designed for a large workload, as opposed to a small workload. For our circumstances, and even as an independent, I can't buy a Power system to experiment on. It can't happen. You cannot buy them.

Even if you can buy them, I don't have $6000 to $10,000 to drop on a toy.  As far as I know, there is no enthusiast. There is no developer world to do that. You either have to have a big, massive system working for a corporation or you don't touch it. It's a non-starter, as far as open source software is concerned. Either you're doing it for a business, or it's not happening. That's when there are huge problems.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

I consider other options all of the time but it's simpler to just keep going with what we have. 

We also like what Power does. It's very reliable and very powerful. And because of the code compatibility we are able to run the same programs today that we did back in 1992. That has a lot to do with it. There is no cost to upgrade the software side of things. It's just a hardware upgrade, in some cases.

What other advice do I have?

Ten or 15 years ago, software would have been written. There would have been Linux and Power, and maybe Windows, but nowadays it's Linux or it's the Cloud. You can run Linux on Power, but not for what these clients want. They want x86. They want Intel software, Red Hat or centOS on x86. 

Our software vendors, at least in our retail locations, are moving away from supporting Power. In fact, I'm shocked that they do some days. Whereas, our datacenter loads, those stay the same. Those are still going to be continuing to run what they are, because most of the major players, database systems and ERP systems, still continue to support Power.

I would not consider IBM to be a market leader in terms of servers. The reason is because if you go around and you ask people about a server, they don't talk about IBM. Maybe 10 years ago they did, but now it's HP. It's maybe Lenovo and it's Dell.  When you start talking servers, people don't think IBM. They think x86. That's where IBM dropped the ball, in some regards, because why would I think of them?

I can't buy them. I can't get them on the used market. I can't run them. I can't develop software for them. Though it's a different situation when you talk about the Cloud. That's when people tend to think more about IBM.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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