Under the Covers of Z Container Pricing

Along with the announcement of the z14, or now just Z, last July IBM also introduced container pricing as an upcoming capability of the machine intended to make it both flexible and price competitive. This is expected to happen by the end of this year.

A peak into the IBM z14

Container pricing implied overall cost savings and also simplified deployment. At the announcement IBM suggested competitive economics too, especially when benchmarked against public clouds and on-premises x86 environments.

By now you should realize that IBM has difficulty talking about price. They have lots of excuses relating to their global footprint and such. Funny, other systems vendors that sell globally don’t seem to have that problem. After two decades of covering IBM and the mainframe as a reporter, analyst, and blogger I’ve finally realized why the reticence: that the company’s pricing is almost always high, over-priced compared to the competition.

If you haven’t realized it yet, the only way IBM will talk price is around a 3-year TCO cost analysis. (Full disclosure: as an analyst, I have developed such TCO analyses and am quite familiar with how to manipulate them.) And even then you will have to swallow a number of assumptions and caveats to get the numbers to work.

For example, there is no doubt that IBM is targeting the x86 (Intel) platform with its LinuxONE lineup and especially its newest machine, the Emperor II. For example, IBM reports it can scale a single MongoDB database to 17TB on the Emperor II while running it at scale with less than 1ms response time. That will save up to 37% compared to x86 on a 3-year TCO analysis. The TCO analysis gets even better when you look at a priced-per-core data serving infrastructures. IBM reports it can consolidate thousands of x86 cores on a single LinuxONE server and reduce costs by up to 40%.

So, let’s see what the Z’s container pricing can do for you. IBM’s container pricing is being introduced to allow new workloads to be added onto z/OS in a way that doesn’t impact an organization’s rolling four-hour average while supporting deployment options that makes the most sense for an organization’s architecture while facilitating competitive pricing at an attractive price point relative to that workload.

For example, one of the initial use cases for container pricing revolves around payments workloads, particularly instant payments. That workload will be charged not to any capacity marker but to the number of payments processed. The payment workload pricing grid promises to be highly competitive with the price–per-payment starting at $0.0021 and dropping to $0.001 with volume. “That’s a very predictable, very aggressive price,” says Ray Jones, vice president, IBM Z Software and Hybrid Cloud. You can do the math and decide how competitive this is for your organization.

Container pricing applies to various deployment options—including co-located workloads in an existing LPAR—that present line-of-sight pricing to a solution. The new pricing promises simplified software pricing for qualified solutions. It even offers the possibility, IBM adds, of different pricing metrics within the same LPAR.

Container pricing, however, requires the use of IBM’s software for payments, Financial Transaction Manager (FTM). FTM counts the number of payments processed, which drives the billing from IBM.

To understand container pricing you must realize IBM is not talking about Docker containers. A container to IBM simply is an address space, or group of address spaces, in support of a particular workload. An organization can have multiple containers in an LPAR, have as many containers as it wants, and change the size of containers as needed. This is where the flexibility comes in.

The fundamental advantage of IBM’s container pricing comes from the co-location of workloads to get improved performance and lower latency. The new pricing eliminates what goes on in containers from consideration in the MLC calculations.

To get container pricing, however, you have to qualify. The company is setting up pricing agents around the world. Present your container plans and an agent will determine if you qualify and at what price. IBM isn’t saying anything about how you should present your container plans to qualify for the best deal. Just be prepared to negotiate as hard as you would with any IBM deal.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghost-writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at technologywriter.com and here.

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