Workload-Driven zEnterprise Solution Edition Program

The IBM Solution Edition (SE) program for the zEnterprise is one of the few true bargains in mainframe computing. It delivers a zEnterprise mainframe as a bundle with software, middleware, and maintenance at a steep discount. It is, however, workload-specific.  It is a great deal only if you can live within the workload constraints of the SE agreement.

To qualify for the SE deal you must use it for a workload new to your mainframe environment. This deal is designed to expand the usage of the mainframe at a given shop.

IBM notes, the SE is tailored to meet specific business needs and designed to enable maximum value from the current IT infrastructure in the fastest possible time and at the lowest cost. The SE program addresses the following specific workloads: ACI, App Dev, Chordiant (CRM), Cloud Computing, Enterprise Linux, GDPS, Security, and WebSphere as well as SAP.

Take the SE for SAP program. The program makes it more affordable for companies to benefit from the strengths of System z for their SAP environment.  If you already are running SAP in a distributed environment you can bring it to the mainframe through SE for SAP or Linux on System z by taking advantage of the System z SE for Enterprise Linux, which is one of the most versatile SE offerings .

Hybrid computing environments also can be accommodated under the SE program. For example, when implementing the SAP with z/OS and DB2 on zEnterprise companies may choose to implement the SAP application server on zEnterprise with Linux on z or on the zBX with POWER7 blades and AIX.  This comes at a higher cost as both the zBX and Unified Resource Manager are considered SE optional products.

The SE program offers a great deal if you can live within the constraints. But as one DancingDinosuar reader writes, “from experience we now know that the reality is somewhat different. The SE contract imposes procurement terms and usage restrictions that detract from the perceived discount relative to the business-as-usual (BAU) price to meet the same business requirement.

For example, software price protection is only guaranteed for the SE term as long as there are no software version upgrades. Version upgrades will incur revised charges. Very few applications, it turns out, are truly fenced in to the extent that this issue can be ignored. Furthermore, since the SE is a bottom-line deal, there is no way to determine exactly what discount level would be applicable in the event of a version upgrade.

Another complaint: SE software is licensed for peak workload. It is highly unlikely, however, in any BAU situation the monthly software charges would be for 100% of the capacity of the machine/LPAR from day one and for every month through the contract period. In a BAU situation, the highest four hour rolling average for an on-line workload typically is less than 80% of the machine/LPAR capacity. It’s wonderful that the z can perform reliably at near 100% utilization, but most shops don’t run it that way.

This manager has identified a dozen or so similar SE gotchas, many arising only when something has changed at the company that requires changes to the z. IBM insists that SE users can add and delete software from the stack, spread workloads across LPARs, and buy more capacity if needed.  Where IBM gets difficult, and rightly so, is when the requested change alters the nature of the workload. “The SE is workload-based pricing and will be the best price you can get for that workload and capacity,” says an IBM SE manager.

Another DancingDinosuar reader balked at the SE qualifying workload notion. The whole concept of a qualifying workload, he notes, is an inhibitor.  Workloads evolve over time.  Furthermore, if you price a z114 to run a certain workload compared to the price of a System p capable of running that same workload, the p likely will be more attractive.  The z only wins when other factors (reliability, fault-tolerance, granularity of virtualization, scalability, etc.) make the premium worth it.

SE delivers a great deal but you must read the fine print closely to make sure you can live within the workload constraints for the 3-5 years of the SE agreement before you take the low price.

Anyone who has considered the SE program and will talk about it (anonymously, of course) please contact me.

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One Response to “Workload-Driven zEnterprise Solution Edition Program”

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