In my previous blog post, we discussed the importance of the IBM i servers. In this post, I would like to highlight the challenges due to which, despite being cloud-ready, we still don't see many cloud providers supporting IBM i (AS/400) or iSeries as a service.
Major challenges preventing the MSPs from offering IBM i (AS/400) or iSeries on a cloud
- Service provider’s dilemma on hosting architecture’s selection: License cost is linked with the ‘Processor Group’ and the size of processors, and not on CPW or compute requirements
The first and foremost challenge relates to the licencing and maintenance (SWMA) for IBM i (AS/400), and iSeries SW works on this platform. Licensing and SWMA are directly linked with the HW ‘Processor Group’ (p05, p10, p20, p30, p50) on which the environment is hosted, instead of the compute capacity that the environment needs.
Thus, the same workload’s cost may vary in terms of SW license and SWMA, based on the choice of underlying IBM i (AS/400) or iSeries HW model. Since licensing covers the majority of the TCO for IBM i (AS/400) or iSeries environment, it becomes a major criterion in selection of the target IBM i (AS/400) or iSeries hosting architecture.
Here is an estimate on licensing and maintenance costs on IBM i (AS/400) or iSeries server based on the Processor Group:
NOTE: This pricing above is for reference only, and shows the comparison on license costs in different Processor Groups.
Even the third party vendors have started pricing their SW and maintenance on the same model. This is not a good practice and a big reason for cannibalization of ISV revenues, as the Power processors become more powerful and the core usage shrinks with each upgrade.
The chart below explains that with each upgrade, the power processors are providing more horse-power, and hence require fewer cores and smaller processors to execute a similar workload, thus reducing revenues for the ISVs going forward.
- Catch-22 for Service Providers: It’s like a ‘catch 22 situation’ for all service providers, when it comes to IBM i (AS/400) and iSeries hosting in a cloud like IaaS fashion. If the service provider picks a smaller processor group based HW, then scalability and on demand computing becomes a challenge. Whereas, if the service provider chooses a big processor group, then SW licenses and maintenance costs rise. Hence, there is no real rationale for providing Resource Unit (RU)based pricing for customers.
Even though there has always been a great demand in IBM i (AS/400) and iSeries market to have a cloud-like model, thanks to the old and traditional way of licensing, no service provider could provide an effective and scalable (elastic) model for IBM i (AS/400) and iSeries hosting.
- Leveraging existing license investments on multitenant environment is still a dream on this platform:
Traditionally, the OS licenses for IBM i (AS/400) or iSeries have been tightly coupled with HW’s serial number. This was accepted in the past when these servers used to work as a ‘Boxed server’. However, in the present disruptive age, when the IBM i (AS/400) or iSeries LPARs share the same HW space and parts with Linux and AIX LPARS, the concept of tying OS licenses closely with the HW serial number seems a bit outdated. So, technically, multiple customers cannot transfer their OS licenses to one single serial number.
This is the main reason multi-tenancy or an AS/400 cloud option and iSeries don’t make a good business case for customers as they are bound to lose their existing investments on OS licenses.
- Recent changes in the license transfer policies by IBM
For the point above, some IBM i (AS/400) iSeries enthusiasts found a way to work around this; and started giving out solutions by “farming” multiple smaller IBM i servers in their DCs (instead of a big multitenant environment), and hosting a single customer on each server. However, this model of hosting also faced a big setback with March 2017’s IBM announcement, which prevented the transfer of customer’s OS licenses to Managed Service Providers(MSPs).
With this new policy in place, MSPs can no longer leverage the investments made by customers on the perpetual OS licenses and, as a result, it makes the business case for setting up IBM i (AS/400) and iSeries cloud-based hosting even more challenging.
HCL’s solution to the problem
It is true that the licensing model on this platform needs overhauling in order for this platform to become easily available on AS/400 cloud by the mainstream cloud hosting providers. However, in the meantime, HCL has worked out the hosting and service models with IBM, which solves the problem of agility and flexibility of the compute capacity. HCL offers flexible IBM i compute capacity and hosting models to its customers, which caters to the requirement of seasonal and short-term capacity requirements of the customers.
HCL recommends its IBM i customers get an assessment done through its framework and IP, Optimize-i, to determine the cloud readiness and the correct hosting architecture for their IBM i application environments.
Optimize-i is HCL’s unique framework which defines a clearly charted out To-Be state of the IBM i environment. It helps reduce the TCO, improve ROI, enhance supportability, improve availability, bring in automation, reduce human errors, and optimize operational efforts in the environment. Typical savings achieved after implementation range from 30-40% TCO of the environment.