SUSE zBX Promo Saves $39K

A few months back SUSE launched a promotion to drive adoption of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server on zBX blades. If you are a new or existing SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z user, you can get a free Basic subscription for x86 blades in your zBX. Full details here.

Ordinarily, the x86 subscription costs $349. With the zBX able to take 112 x86 blades that comes to $39,088 in subscription charges avoided if you load the maximum number of x86 blades and use them all to run SUSE. By comparison, the cost of a basic subscription for the System z is $11,999. The Basic subscription allows unlimited use of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server with all your zBX hardware and includes code maintenance for patches, fixes and security updates, but it does not include any active support services.

This promotion has generated surprisingly little buzz. In part it got lost in the acquisition by Attachmate. It also got ignored due to the generally slow adoption of the zBX. At last count, IBM reported over 80 zBX customers. Nice but given the number of active System z shops that is not exactly a big percentage of mainframe users jumping on the zBX bandwagon. To be fair, hybrid computing, of which the zBX is a key component, is both new and radically different; adoption will take time. The SUSE promotion is only good for the combination of System z and zBX.

The SUSE free subscription is a cute gesture, but it is a gimmick of minimal value. Any System z shop that wants more support won’t be interested in a Basic subscription; rather a higher level of support is available at an additional fee. Few shops are likely to deploy a zBX with 112 x86-blades running SUSE Linux, which is what it would take to capture the full $39,000 value of the promotion.

SUSE insists that some customers have picked up on the offer although they do not identify them. SUSE’s Basic subscription is the entry-level offering. System z shops are more likely to opt for the Standard offering, 12hr x Mon-Fri (5 day) support, or Priority, 24×7 support. No free subscription with these.

SUSE’s promo actually turns out to be a pretty expensive way to deploy free Linux.  A popular third party discount reseller offers IBM Hx5 blades starting at just under $5000 (Server – blade – 2-way – 1 x Xeon E7-4807 / 1.86 GHz – RAM 8 GB – no HDD). The purchase of 112 blades at $4500 each comes to $504,000, maybe less if you wrangle a discount.

You still will need to buy multiple zBX cabinets to house the blades. Figuring a maximum of 28 x5 blades per rack, you need 4 racks to accommodate 112 blades. That’s going to run close to $1 million. And that’s not all the costs.

So, to capture the full savings of $349 on each of 112 x86 blade SUSE Linux subscription you’ll probably end up spending close to $2 million. And why would you need to run that many instances of x86 Linux in the first place if you already have a zEnterprise? A more realistic use case might be 8-12 x86 blades running Linux in the zBX. The couple of thousand dollars in savings won’t be dramatic, but you probably won’t want the Basic subscription anyway.

If you already have a zEnterprise and want to run many instances of Linux use z/VM with IFLs to run hundreds, if not thousands of Linux instances just on the z. Then, if you really want a good deal take advantage of the IBM System z Enterprise Linux Solution Edition package. (You’ll have to qualify it as a new workload but with a little creativity that shouldn’t be too difficult.)

The combination of the zEnterprise and zBX and the resulting hybrid computing represents the future of enterprise computing. Linux certainly will play a big role. However, deploying SUSE on 112 x86 blades in a zBX, even with the promotion, may not be the best way to get there.

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