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Promoting IBM i—TCO, TCA, Reliability and Strategy

How to promote the value of IBM i through TCO, TCA, reliability and strategy.

"You and i" in white against a purple banner, white chat bubble in righthand corner, with two planets colliding below.

Several of my blogs this year have concerned the topic of preparing yourself to promote the value of IBM i to your organization. I’ve talked about “Triggering Events” that can cause a business to initiate a platform review. I’ve listed some “Buzzwords & Hot Buttons” that might be on the minds of your executives. One of those hot buttons is getting new people in the organization who can work on IBM i, and so I pointed out the Fresh Faces marketing campaign and discussed ways these newcomers can promote the platform. And because one of the biggest misconceptions about IBM i is that it can’t do newer workloads, I most recently wrote about integrating IBM i applications and IBM Watson (and Bluemix).

All of these things can be helpful, depending on your situation. Today, we’re going to discuss three other resources you have, two of which were published very recently.

I’ll spend most of this blog discussing the two fresh resources: The analyst papers written by Quark+Lepton, and compare IBM i on POWER to our competition in midsize businesses and in enterprises. Here are the links, and then we will discuss the content. These papers are helpful not only because of the information they contain, but also because they are written for the IT Director, CIO and CTO. The topics discussed are business and financial in nature, though they certainly also include some discussion of the IBM i technology. When you’re preparing to promote IBM i in your organization, sending these analyst papers in advance (or leaving them behind after a meeting with your executives) can solidify the messages you’re giving. What messages? Well, let’s see what some of the big themes are.

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

The integration of IBM i has always held the promise of producing a platform that’s easier to manage and maintain than would be possible on other systems. The heuristic intelligence we build into Db2, for example, automates tasks which require people to spend time on, when using other databases. The way we integrate the IBM i security model, and our delivery of “extra” software such as the Apache webserver is designed to require less work than would be needed on another platform.

“Easier” translated to business terms should mean two things: It costs less to run—that is, it has a lower total cost of ownership (TCO)—and it’s less likely to cause errors.

The Quark+Lepton study shows, again, this is the case for IBM i when compared to its competition in the midrange customer market.

The analysis shows that the TCO of IBM i is more than 60 percent lower than that of competitors. And while almost all of the components of TCO are smaller, the most obvious gain is in the “Personnel” component. This bears out what we consistently see in our client base: the IBM i platform does most of the work in an IT shop (see the HelpSystems survey for corroboration of that) and yet there’s typically far fewer IBM i-specific staff than are required to support other platforms.

This analysis alone can be a winner for CIOs or IT Directors, particularly if data from their own organizations fall in line with what the study says.

Total Cost of Acquisition (TCA)

Within the TCO numbers—which measure the cost of doing business over a three-year period—another important number is the Total Cost of Acquisition (TCA.) The Quark+Lepton study has a good story here, too.

In this chart, the blue represents the amount of money a business has to spend to acquire the platforms to run their businesses, again assuming the business runs completely on that single platform.

Here, the ability of IBM i to handle multiple different workloads, and thus run more of the key business processes on a single OS instance, results in being able to own fewer servers and buy fewer software licenses. Yes, an individual Power System with one license of IBM i is likely going to cost more than a single x86-based system with one license of Linux. But you can run a whole business on that single IBM i platform, including ERP, CRM, web and customized applications for your industry. To accomplish the same number of workloads on another platform requires more hardware, more licenses for software and more networking to manage the interoperations required.

Again, this message is often borne out when executives see how their IT organizations operate, if they’re able to look past the single unit cost of a system to the combined costs associated with their workloads.

Reliability as a Lower Cost of Downtime

Many IBM i IT directors are seen within their organizations as running the “machine that never goes down.” That’s great. It’s another factor in low TCO, but until the past few years, we haven’t had a good way to quantify what reliability brings to the bottom line. This chart from the Quark+Lepton study helps do exactly that.

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Though we always hope our clients see zero downtime, we must realize that some unplanned downtime does happen for some clients. We also have to factor in planned downtime for IPLs, hardware installation and sometimes PTFs. So, on the average, our IBM i clients do see some downtime over three years.

However, what this chart shows is that businesses that rely on competing platforms see 3-4 times as much downtime, and that downtime costs them money. Here again, the cost of running a business is lower on IBM i.

Getting an executive to place proper weight on this aspect of the value of IBM i can really cause them to pause if they are considering moving to another platform.

Security and Integrity—Supported by Architecture

The final point I’ll mention from the Quark+Lepton studies is important about the chart’s data source.

This data shows operating system vulnerabilities reported to the Computer Security Division of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). This part of the U.S. government exists so that people have a way of reporting OS vulnerability issues that might affect others, outside of the vendors who produce those OSes.

The kinds of vulnerabilities that appear for other OSs are prevented by the very nature of the IBM i architecture. One of the sessions I created this year, in fact, gives me the chance to talk about the inherent security and integrity of IBM i, and the many ways we’ve improved it over the years since the AS/400 was introduced.

Many IT executives place a very high value on knowing that their OS is two orders of magnitude less likely to expose their business’s data and operations to viruses and Trojan horses, but first they have to be educated. They need to see this chart, and then have a few of the key aspects of IBM i architecture explained. Again, it’s very helpful if you know this material exists and how to find it if you’re hoping to show it to your bosses to help defend the plaform.

The IBM i Strategy and Roadmap Whitepaper

Now at the outset of this blog, I said there would be three resources. Beyond the two papers above, you should also be ready with the most current IBM i Strategy and Roadmap whitepaper. As of the publishing of this blog, the current one can be found here. We’re in the process of revising the paper (which we do every 18-24 months) so if you’re reading this blog sometime after October 2017, you should check the IBM i webpage on to see if there’s a more current IBM i Strategy and Roadmap paper.

When I first started this blog series, I mentioned that I often encounter IBM i IT people who are in a panic because their executives are re-evaluating the position of IBM i in their infrastructure. The material I’ve presented in the previous blogs is meant to help you move from being panicked to being prepared. I believe the information in this blog, and in the reports themselves, should help as well. Go get them. See what else is there. Be prepared, and you will be in the best position to promote your value, and the value of IBM i, to your business.
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