IBM System z vs. HP

According to an early April report at  HP is launching a competitive attack on the System z. Writes Phillip Hunter “HP’s EMEA program manager for mainframe migration Herman Eggink [is] accusing IBM of bullying and coercing its customers to stay with the zSeries mainframe, and of issuing dire and false warnings of the risks migration to an alternative platform would pose to their business.”

This is bullying? C’mon, bullying is when IBM writes threatening letters to NEON’s zPrime customers and then files a lawsuit.

Like HP, Larry Ellison, top dude at Oracle/Sun, clearly has a thing against IBM and the System z too. Back in the fall the company ran print ads challenging IBM and the System z. It was a watch-out-we’re-coming-after-you sort of message. This blog covered that spat here in September.

There is no doubt that IBM is gunning for both Sun and HP customers. I just completed a case study on BC Card, the leading Korean credit card processor. It tossed out its HP servers in favor of three System z machines as part of a sweet System z Solutions Edition deal. IBM’s presentations in the past year have regularly tallied wins over HP and Sun.

Think of it as the platform body count. At one of IBM’s periodic briefings in 2009 the company reported 11 new mainframe business wins, six of which were competitive replacements (4 HP, 1 Sun, 1 Dell). IBM has perfected the competitive TCO analysis. In one, it calculated that moving mainframe functionality to an HP platform would result in a reduction in MIPS and while increasing costs by almost $1 million.

The trick to this kind of TCO lies in identifying all the costs. Distributed platforms when used at the scale of the mainframe for comparable workloads requiring comparable availability and failover almost invariably require more people. IT organizations can be very good at masking this manpower as partial FTEs dispersed throughout the organization. IBM is savvy at smoking out these hidden FTEs and adding their cost into the full TCO.

The one piece IBM hasn’t quite nailed down is the cost of the mainframe learning curve. For a shop that is new to the System z environment, there is a steep learning hurdle for at least a handful of key people.

According to Hunter, “IBM continues to refute HP’s claims, with Colin Grocock, manager of IBM Mainframe  Business Development UK, insisting that zSeries was actually winning new business by combining its core mainframe strengths such as high security and robustness with its status as a distributed system running Linux.”

Certainly Linux on z greatly changes the cost equation, especially when combined with a System z Solution Edition package and some cheap IFLs. The software savings alone can run well into six-figures each year.

HP touts its Integrity Superdome as a mainframe alternative based on high MTBF. That barely gets you into the game. The Superdome is better compared with the IBM System p (now called POWER Systems).

So, as long as IBM continues the Solution Edition program and doesn’t tinker with the discounted IFL hardware and software licensing costs the company should be able to hold off challenges from HP and Sun. Now if it only provided active support for OpenSolaris on z; that could be the nail in the coffin for RISC servers competing with the System z.

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One Response to “IBM System z vs. HP”

  1. Alan Says:

    Interesting analysis, thanks!

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