Study Shows IBM i Has Big Cost Advantage Over Alternatives

According to an August 2017 study conducted by Quark + Lepton, an independent research and management consulting firm, IBM i on Power Systems servers provides a substantial TCO (total cost of ownership) advantage over equivalent Windows or Linux platforms.

For the study, which was funded by IBM, Quark + Lepton used three different server/database configurations: an IBM Power Systems server running IBM i Operating System V7.3 with DB2, an x86 server running Windows Server 2016 and SQL Server 2016 and an x86 with Linux and Oracle Database 12c. TCO estimates were based on the costs of hardware acquisition and maintenance, OS and database licenses and support, system and database admin personnel salaries and facilities expenses. Several different use cases were analyzed.

A Big TCO Advantage

The results of the study showed the projected three-year TCO for the three setups to be as follows:

  • Power Systems/IBM i/DB2 – $430,815
  • x86/Windows/SQL Server – $1.18 million
  • x86/Linux/Oracle – $1.27 million

The study concludes that “costs for use of IBM i on Power Systems are lower across the board”. For example, initial hardware and software acquisition costs for the IBM i systems averaged 8% less than the Windows systems, and fully 24 % less than the Linux systems.

Perhaps the most surprising factor in the stark differential between the IBM i solution and the others was in the cost of required support staff. Based on a 300-user scenario, IBM i required 0.3 FTE (full time equivalent) support personnel, compared to 0.5 FTE for the Windows setup and 0.55 FTE for Linux.

But the biggest differential in staff costs arose from the fact that IBM i admins could handle both the OS and the database. Those double-duty IBM i personnel commanded salaries of about $86,000, while Windows and Linux sysadmins were paid $71,564 and $86,843 respectively. However, the Windows and Linux setups also required the support of separate database admins, adding $100,699 (SQL Server) and $103,283 (Oracle) to the personnel costs for those solutions.


In its conclusion the report notes that while the industry is trending toward ever-greater complexity, the simplicity of IBM i makes it by far the most cost-effective platform on which to base an organization’s IT infrastructure.

What Is Software Defined Storage?

One of the major trends in IT storage today is the accelerating growth of software defined storage (SDS). According to market research firm MarketsandMarkets, the market for SDS products will grow from $4.72 billion in 2016 to $22.56 billion by 2021. That’s an outstanding compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 36.7%.

But many IT leaders, even storage professionals, remain unsure of exactly what the term SDS really signifies.

Actually, that confusion is not surprising. As with many new technologies that begin to expand their market share, some storage vendors have taken the opportunity to break out the software component of existing products and call it SDS. And, of course, their definition of SDS just happens to precisely match the feature set of the product they are trying to sell.

Contrary to what some skeptics claim, however, SDS is much more than just the latest marketing buzzword. In fact, many proponents see it as the vanguard of a revolutionary advance in how enterprise storage is managed and delivered.

SDS Defined

The Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) defines SDS as “virtualized storage with a service management interface.”

Although storage virtualization has been in use for some time, SDS takes it to a new level. The distinctive feature of SDS is the decoupling of the intelligence of the storage system from the underlying hardware. This means SDS is storage-agnostic – it isn’t tied to any particular type of hardware or media. Instead it treats all the devices it controls, whether spinning disks, flash memory arrays, or even entire SAN or NAS subsystems, as part of a single storage pool. Users and applications (via standard APIs) can access storage through a consistent software interface without needing to have any knowledge of what hardware is actually storing the data.

One of the major benefits of the storage heterogeneity SDS allows is that costly special-designed storage appliances are not required (though, of course, they can be used if desired). Instead, inexpensive commodity hard drives attached to x86 hosts can be used, mixed in with higher performance technologies such as flash memory arrays as necessary. The SDS software has the intelligence to use tiering and caching functions to dynamically assign particular sets of data to the appropriate storage devices based on the performance demands of the workload being run.

The result of hiding all the storage hardware behind the SDS software interface is that flexibility, scalability, and control are maximized, while costs for hardware, maintenance, and storage management are minimized.

Public vs Private Cloud Technologies

Both public and private cloud hosting solutions greatly benefit any growing business requiring expansion capabilities. Leveraging this technology is key to improving many aspects of your business strategy including revenue growth and employee morale, but the debate continues as to which is superior. Thus, the beauty is in the eye of the user. Choose the one that’s the most pertinent to your company’s needs. If you’re having trouble deciding, here are some comparative features to help you make a more informed decision.

Public Cloud

The public cloud is an environment containing multiple users whereby each user purchases their own piece of the cloud server. The commune of the cloud computing world, public clouds are convenient in that they rarely require any type of contract and generally run pay by the hour services. Also a perk for some, public clouds are self managed, giving the user the freedom to set up and manage their own particulars.

The drawbacks, however, generally pertain to security. The public cloud provider customarily designates the hardware and network your virtual server relies on. Because other users in the cloud also share these facets, compliance requirements such as SOX or PCI are rarely possible. Therefore, development systems and web servers employing a business model that does not require security and compliance are the best candidates for public cloud computing.

Private Cloud

As the name suggests, the private cloud hosting environment caters to a single user. Your own personal computing residence, the private cloud provides your company with dedicated hardware and secure data storage capabilities that none of the center’s other clients can access. Security compliance standards are therefore easily achieved. An additional benefit is that the private cloud’s hardware, network and storage performance are also highly customizable.

This is a higher-end, more specialized service that aptly tends to cost more. Though you’re gaining many advantages over the public cloud, the resources provided in the private cloud are numerous and can potentially be under-utilized by smaller businesses. It’s also pertinent to consider many private clouds potentially require a contractual obligation.

As with any tech upgrade for your business, doing your due diligence is crucial to finding the solution that’s right for you.

Considerations for Selecting the Right IT Vendor

As always, the field of information technology is growing exponentially. Along with ever-expanding growth comes a plethora of players, all seeming to offer the perfect IT solution for your company. Here are a few tips to consider when determining how to select the best IT vendor in order to meet both current and future technology needs.

Does the vendor believe in the product?

One of the most telling signs as to whether an IT vendor really believes in their products, is if they actually use what they are selling. If they do, it certainly speaks volumes as to the confidence level in their own products. If they don’t, it certainly is a tough sell to tout their products to others. Most vendors promote their products based upon the promises of reduced costs and increased productivity. If you want to determine whether or not that is actually the case, take a look at their financial reports. Their promises should show up for the vendor company or any other company they might mention as a reference.

Does the product “play nice” with others?

Another important consideration is interoperability. Do the products an IT vendor offers play well with others? Although there is the advantage of initial simplicity when choosing homogeneous products, potentially it does narrow one’s future and reduces the opportunity for diverse expansion and growth. Many companies these days see the value of solutions with built-in flexibility and are shying away from getting locked into homogeneous solutions.

Will the vendor be there for you?

Of course, service after the sale is important as well. When problems crop up, it’s important to know your IT vendor provides the stability and continuity in their workforce so you have a solid relationship upon which you can rely. For honest reviews of a particular company, you can check out sites like Glassdoor. If the employee turnover rate for a particular IT vendor is high, then chances are you will spend a fair amount of time re-making initial connections with reps instead of interacting with someone who knows you and your company very well.

Conclusion: Do Your Research

In essence, selecting a good IT vendor is not only about listening to sales presentations and then selecting the one with the most appeal. It also involves conducting further research to verify sales material and understanding the relationship with the vendor after the sale is just as important as the product itself.