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Linux on POWER Delivers the Best Performance for the Price

Linux on POWER servers are an example of how IBM delivers more value than the competition in both total cost of acquisition and total cost of ownership.

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Consumers want more value for their money and assurance that investments are well spent. IBM keeps this top of mind in all of its offerings. Linux* on POWER* servers are an example of how IBM delivers more value than the competition in both total cost of acquisition (TCA) and total cost of ownership (TCO).

The Linux OS has evolved over the past 25 years to become a key component in many enterprise IT shops. Workloads running on the OS have not only increased in number but have also become more aggressive and demanding on infrastructure. Data centers must balance handling the increase in workloads, delivering reliable and secure service, and maximizing efficiency.

Efficiency has several definitions but generally includes cost of acquisition, performance of the workload and operating cost, which covers IT staff, floor space and energy usage. Service-level agreements are essential to efficiency, as businesses want to ensure timely and high-quality delivery to their customers. Clients must select the right infrastructure for their workloads to drive efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

“Bringing POWER infrastructure into the Linux world gives clients a choice of infrastructure so they can get the best efficiency for their workloads.”
—Stefanie Chiras, vice president, IBM Power Systems Offering Management, Systems of Engagement

“We’re seeing a real change in Linux purchasing behaviors as clients mature in how they include efficiency and conduct cost assessments,” says Stefanie Chiras, vice president, IBM Power Systems* Offering Management, Systems of Engagement. “Commodity is not good enough anymore. While a commodity system may provide adequate efficiency and TCA for some workloads, it’s not good enough to deliver efficiency on more demanding workloads. That’s where the choice comes in.”

Price Performance

Purchasing decisions are no longer based solely on the Linux server cost. The discussion now centers on TCO for the data center and workload so clients can get the best value from the infrastructure. They can assess newly available options to make the best business decision.

TCO varies for each client, depending on needs and priorities. To assist clients in purchasing decisions, IBM focuses on value and the price performance that Linux on POWER delivers. TCO should focus on the value that can be derived from the infrastructure today and in the future.

Price performance is a new discussion for many Linux on x86 clients. Linux on POWER brings choice in architecture, performance and strategy. “We find that price performance is a key value proposition clients are interested in. They’ve clearly been waiting for a choice,” Chiras notes.

The definition of price performance is specific to each client. Some include floor space and energy consumed by the data center. Others include workload types. For example, a client running Neo4j—a graph database—often needs scalability, so that parameter must be included in a price-performance comparison.

Software is often a significant cost driver, as are software licensing and any specific skills a client wants to leverage. Security is also an important requirement, though its valuation is difficult to establish.

“We take great pride in the Power Systems platform’s price performance—it’s better than x86-based systems for data-intensive workloads,” Chiras says. Running open-source databases such as MongoDB on Linux on POWER, for example, will yield, on average, a 1.8x better price performance than running that workload on x86, she explains.

Determining Variables

“IBM is committed to enabling clients to get the best from their infrastructure, and has teams to assess a client’s particular situation to help determine and optimize the key parameters for its data center. Those considerations vary not only from client to client but also region to region,” says Todd Boyd, senior technical staff member, IBM Power Systems of Engagement Infrastructures.

For example, clients in Japan focus more on energy costs because they are a major business expense. Other clients may be more concerned about software costs, but for those using open-source software, this cost may not be a significant driver.

“IBM is committed to enabling clients to get the best from their infrastructure.”
—Todd Boyd, senior technical staff member, IBM Power Systems of Engagement Infrastructures

Clients must look at the cost to solve the task they face, Boyd notes. Sometimes they may be focused solely on the acquisition price of the infrastructure and miss the fact that cost savings can be gained by switching to POWER technology. For example, a client may need only 10 POWER servers to perform the same work that now requires 14 x86-based servers, he explains.

Fewer servers can result in lower infrastructure costs and help to decrease energy consumption. Because fewer servers are needed to do the work, management costs also are reduced.

Making the Business Case

Most clients can calculate cost performance by themselves, but IBM can help address specific needs.

Boyd finds that clients don’t often need system customization but require assistance with making the business case. The aforementioned client in Japan may need the same infrastructure as one in the U.S. However, because energy costs are different between the two locations, the Japanese business case will focus on those, while the U.S. case would focus on software costs. “Modeling the business case helps deliver the right solution to the client,” he explains.

IBM strives to excel within each client’s definition of value. Partnerships with OpenPOWER members have allowed the LC server offerings to meet a new price point and still deliver the value of POWER architecture and IBM support and service, Chiras notes.

For example, IBM hardware acquisition cost may be similar to x86 servers. But IBM servers will potentially end up saving the client millions in software costs. Boyd says if clients look only at the box price, software cost savings may be overlooked at their detriment.

Hardware and software are always included in TCO calculations, but some clients also incorporate considerations such as management, energy and floor space. Timelines are important to TCO because what really matters is how much a client spends over the next one to three years, Chiras notes.

While this timeline depends on each client’s needs, Chiras says three to five years is typical. Clients purchasing a server must examine the value and savings that will be gained over time. Those preparing an installation with the POWER platform will receive savings from day one. Others migrating from x86 to POWER will see savings, but realizing full savings depends on the migration plan speed.

For instance, IBM is helping one client migrate 1,000 x86 servers onto 130 Linux on POWER servers. Over a three-year period, this will reduce the client’s software licensing by $12 million annually, beginning in year three. Energy costs were reduced by more than 30 percent, and floor space was cut by 60 percent, Boyd notes.

The Power to Choose

In the past, clients were forced to make decisions based only on TCA, as an alternative to x86 for Linux workloads did not exist. Numerous x86 system vendors delivered products with similar energy usage, management costs and performance, so system price was the only differentiator.

Today, clients can stay with x86 or choose Linux on POWER to gain flexibility and reliability that POWER technology provides. “Bringing POWER infrastructure into the Linux world gives clients a choice of infrastructure so they can get the best efficiency for their workloads,” Chiras explains. “Now that clients have choice, a TCO comparison shows them how to pull value and cost savings from their infrastructure.”

IBM is committed to providing choices that bring value-added capabilities to Linux infrastructure. POWER is a value platform—not a commodity platform, Chiras notes.

More Advantages

Intrinsic benefits of the POWER platform go beyond server performance. As many software providers base their licensing prices on the number of cores, the POWER architecture provides an advantage. Eight-way, multi-threading, large caches and faster data delivery from the cache to processor give the POWER platform better performance. “We’ve reduced our cache latency dramatically compared with x86 because moving more data closer to the core drives core performance up,” Boyd says.

In comparison, commodity servers get more work done by adding cores and servers, which drives up software licensing costs. Adding servers increases energy costs and requires more floor space. Costs can only rise, not fall, in a commodity world.

IBM is focused on performance and advantages over x86 at the core level. For every software license the client buys, the core provides the best value for every dollar spent on software.

While TCO is specific to each organization, the concept of value applies to all businesses and industries. IBM strives to provide value to clients with Linux on POWER.

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