Which Way Will You Go for Your Core ERP Solution? Power Systems or Windows?

Enterprise Resource Planning / Financial
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Consider all the ramifications before you make your choice.


Editor's Note: This article introduces the white paper titled "Key Strategies for ERP on IBM i," which is available free from the MC Press White Paper Center.


For System 21, Infor ERP XA (MAPICS), and Infor ERP LX (BPCS) users, there are two main options for core ERP systems. One option is to employ—or continue to employ—IBM Power Systems servers and i 6.1. For users of IBM iSeries and System i models equipped with POWER4 and POWER5 processors, migration to Power Systems servers and IBM i 6.1 has proven to be comparatively simple. New Power Systems servers offer higher performance and more-advanced energy-efficiency features.


The other option is to migrate to Windows-based ERP systems.


Organizations seeking to deploy new ERP systems should compare the costs and capabilities of third-party ISV solutions for Power Systems servers and IBM i 6.1 to the costs and capabilities of Windows-based equivalents deployed on commodity x86 servers. The combination of Power Systems servers and IBM i 6.1 retains the strengths of the IBM System i and its predecessors that have been enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of organizations. Many ISVs' core ERP systems run on Power Servers and i, while certain complementary applications are supported only for UNIX, Windows, and/or Linux.


Organizations moving to x86 platforms can expect significant increases in system and database administration staffing and data center costs, along with lower availability levels, greater risks of disastrous outages, and massively higher security and malware exposure.


Power Systems servers offer multiple options to support these alongside core i-based ERP systems. Common management services for all operating systems may be supplied by the IBM Systems Director 6.1 solution set. All Power Server physical and PowerVM virtual resources are also supported. IBM BladeCenter as well as IBM System x servers running Windows, VMware, and x86 versions of Linux may also be attached to Power Systems servers through iSCSI connections and may share a number of Power Systems virtual resources, security facilities, and management services.


Despite some popular misconceptions, commodity x86 platforms may not offer a lower-cost alternative to the use of Power Systems servers and IBM i 6.1.


Consider the comparisons between the combination of IBM Power Systems 520 and 550 servers equipped with IBM i 6.1, PowerVM virtualization firmware, and IBM PowerHA for i clustered failover software and the combination of Dell PowerEdge x86 servers equipped with Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008, and, for some configurations, VMware ESX virtualization enablers.


Three-year platform costs include server hardware acquisition and maintenance; license and support costs for operating systems, databases, and other systems software; personnel costs for system and database administration; and facilities costs (primarily energy).


Servers and server operating systems are not the same. There are fundamental differences between the Power Systems platform with IBM i 6.1 and commodity x86 servers with Windows and Linux environments. Tightly integrated system and workload management facilities of the former enable highly efficient use of processors, memory, I/O, and other system resources.


Typically, users have reported that full-time equivalent (FTE) system administration staffing levels for the System i were two to three times lower than for equivalent Windows server environments.


Furthermore, Windows is the operating system most frequently targeted—and penetrated—by hackers worldwide. Availability optimization features built into both Power Systems servers and IBM i 6.1 result in significantly lower levels of downtime than for any competitive x86 Windows or Linux server environment. Power Systems servers offer extremely high levels of hardware reliability, availability, and serviceability (RAS). These features are even more advanced for Power Systems than was the case for the System i platform.


The breadth of RAS features in Power Systems servers, and the sophistication of the microelectronics technologies employed, are significantly greater than for competitive x86 platforms. Integration and optimization of availability-related capabilities across hardware, firmware, and systems software is also more advanced.


In large part, these and other distinctive Power Systems and IBM i 6.1 capabilities account for lower overall platform costs.


To learn more about making this important ERP decision, download the white paper titled "Key Strategies for ERP on IBM i," available free from the MC Press White Paper Center.