System Administration & Operations Analysis Playing Roulette with IBM

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If you watch much television, you’ve probably seen the Dell commercial advertising its “Technology Rotation” plan. Under this plan, participants lease new computers and peripherals on a monthly basis. If, after participating in this plan for 24 or 36 months (the lease period options), users decide to upgrade to the latest, competitive model, they can do so by returning the old equipment and signing a new lease. As with any other lease, they also have the option of buying the existing system outright, at 15 to 24 percent of the original price. Sounds great until you read the fine print. The amount of money you’d pay in those two to three years under this installment agreement could be more than you’d pay if you went out and bought a new computer, monitor, and printer off the shelf.

The likelihood that such a deal is really no bargain increases as processor chips drop in price and as major retailers, along with the hardware manufacturers, continue to offer tremendous rebates.

So why would anyone participate in a plan like this? The answer is simple: Sometimes, you just want the comfort and peace of mind of knowing that you have a guaranteed out in case you find that your system has become outdated in two or three years, a not-unlikely occurrence. This way of looking at things isn’t so strange. People buy car insurance for the same reason. It’s one of those things that it’s better to have and not need than to need and not have.

IBM has apparently taken its lead from Dell and has begun to offer a similar plan for some of its customers.

Who Can Play

If your company uses Intentia’s Movex , J.D. Edwards’ OneWorld, SAP’s R/3, or System Software Associates’ eBPCS, IBM has a new plan designed with you in mind. Called the AS/400 Performance Protection Plan, this program allows you to purchase a new AS/400e with the confidence that, should your company’s needs outgrow your system’s capacity to handle them, IBM will provide a solution. That solution includes upgrades for your processor, memory, DASD, or processor interactive card.

The plan works like this: You send information about your business processes to either the ERP Techline Sizing Center (for J.D. Edwards, SAP, and SSA) or the Intentia International Competency Center. IBM then uses this information as the baseline to project your system’s future workload and to determine which AS/400e server can handle it. Once

you and IBM agree on an AS/400e configuration, IBM delivers the system and the fun begins. IBM is gambling that it has accurately predicted your workload for the next two to three years. If they’re wrong, they’re on the hook to make things right. I don’t suppose any company would enjoy having its system reach a crunch situation, but if the system did reach maximum capacity, it would be very nice indeed to know that the cost of upgrades doesn’t have to come out of the IS manager’s budget! This program takes quite a bit of the load off of those who must decide what size system to buy and then justify that decision to upper management.

The Small Print

Of course, nothing in life is free. You have to meet a couple of prerequisites to be allowed to participate in this plan. First, this deal applies only to purchases of a new AS/400e Custom Server. So if you are an SSA or J.D. Edwards customer with a relatively new system, you’re probably not in the market to upgrade right now, and therefore, you don’t qualify. Second, you must agree to purchase three additional services from IBM (I told you nothing was free!). Those services are the AS/400 Pre-Production Performance Evaluation (PPPE), SupportLine, and Performance Manager/400.

The relatively new AS/400 PPPE is really the heart of the Performance Protection Plan. The PPPE is a detailed evaluation of your system and business processes. It simulates your production environment, testing the hardware to determine whether it’s sufficient to support your needs. The simulation includes Commercial Processing Workload (CPW), throughput, memory, disk, etc. The PPPE also tests your LAN or WAN to identify bottlenecks. IBM then uses the test results to recommend the type and size of box for your business. You must purchase this exact configuration to take part in the program.

SupportLine gives you IBM software support for either business hours only or 24x7, depending on the options you purchase.

Performance Manager/400 is part of the IBM Operational Support Services for PM/400e. PM/400e is a software package that runs continuously on the AS/400, tracking such information as CPU utilization, response time, and throughput. Once a week, that information is sent to IBM, where it is periodically analyzed. The results are then returned to you so that you can decide what actions, if any, need to be taken to rectify performance problems. PM/400e is a critical part of the overall AS/400 Performance Protection Plan as it lets IBM monitor your system constantly to ensure that the workload is not approaching the system’s capacity. If it is, IBM can use the information collected to decide how to remedy the situation.

Hitting the Jackpot

If you use one of the above-named software packages and are contemplating upgrading, you should take a look at this program. At the very least, it can help you get a handle on the size of system you’ll need. And who knows, maybe you’ll beat the house by outgrowing your system, and IBM will have to pay off your jackpot with a free upgrade! For more information on this program, point your browser to www.as400.ibm.com/developer/packaging/index.html.

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