IBM’s latest PowerLinux servers and strategy are clearly well thought-out from a price, performance and business standpoint. IBM has clearly covered all its bases and done its homework in terms of market research in sizing the current and future market for industry standard Red Hat and SUSE Linux distributions on its Power servers. It has also polled customers on requirements for workloads and TCA pricing. IBM’s announcement has all the elements: brand recognition and respect; demonstrable experience in performance, technical service and support and a new pricing model to up sell current customers and drive new wins, to make the PowerLinux platform a success.
The biggest challenges IBM faces in the near term are:
-- To distinguish and differentiate the PowerLinux solutions from its PowerAIX offerings
-- To challenge VMware’s dominance in the server virtualization market.
IBM is is aggressively addressing the challenges via marketing, high performance and price leadership. IBM will emphasize the differences between the AIX and Linux customers from both a technology and cost standpoint to both existing customers as well as potential new customers. Handy noted that presently, 66% of IBM’s potential PowerLinux opportunities have no IBM Power servers in use at their organizations. Additionally, IBM will not recommend that current PowerAIX customers migrate to PowerLinux, Handy said.
Virtualization is a key part of IBM’s latest PowerLinux initiative. Big Blue will contest VMware on experience, price and performance. IBM actually developed virtualization for its mainframes and cluster servers in the 1970s. It will also use its economies of scale to undercut VMware pricing. According to Handy, the PowerLinux solutions will list for 16% less than VMware pricing and offer customers 30% better TCA. Specifically the IBM PowerVM for PowerLinux retails for $7,840 which includes licenses and a 3 year 9×5 SWMA agreement. By contrast, Handy claimed VMware’s comparable vSphere 5.0 Enterprise lists for $9,374.
PowerVM delivers scale-up efficiency that outperforms VMware’s vSphere 5.0 by up to 131%, running the same workloads across virtualized resources, according to IBM’s own internal benchmark tests. The IBM benchmark results also found that PowerVM performed 120% better than vSphere 5.0 on 16 vcpus (virtual CPUs) and 131% better on 32 vcpus.
ITIC recognizes that all vendors showcase benchmark test results that favor their products. Corporations ultimately must perform their own comparative due diligence under workload conditions that closely replicate their individual infrastructures. Based on the breadth and depth of IBM’s technical expertise with highly efficient, scalable and reliable hardware, IBM’s claims are credible. Additionally, IBM Power servers regularly register the least amount of downtime in ITIC’s Global Server Hardware and Server OS Reliability surveys. The survey data showed that IBM leads all vendors for both server hardware and server OS reliability as well as the fewest number of overall Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 unplanned server outages per year. Some 75% of survey respondents said they experienced less than one of the minor Tier 1 outages on the IBM AIX v7.1. And 78% of IBM AIX on Power Systems customers experience less than one unplanned outage per server, per year. Finally, 61% of IBM Power Systems users experience less than 10 minutes of unplanned server downtime annually or 99.99% and 99.999% availability.
From a competitive standpoint, IBM has scored impressive new customer wins – particularly from among legacy Sun Microsystems customers who are disaffected over the changes Oracle has made to pricing, licensing and support contracts since 2010. IBM will have to work harder though to lure customers away from other server rivals like HP and Dell and VMware, Microsoft, Citrix and other x86 vendors in the virtualization space. All of these competitors have extremely, loyal committed customers who are generally very satisfied with pricing, service and support.
IBM does have a clear cut advantage when it comes to the intelligence that powers its systems. The much heralded Watson is leagues ahead of all comers in intelligent data analytics and is at the heart of IBM’s “Smarter Planet” initiative. IBM is adapting Watson for all of its servers to perform accelerated, predictive analysis. The fact that IBM is now harnessing the power of Watson and making it available to the masses at an affordable price point augurs well for the mainstream success of its PowerLinux strategy.