Avoiding forced upgrades on IBM mainframes

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Blue Chip Blog
12 Jun 2019
Avoiding forced upgrades on IBM mainframes

During my twenty-five years working with IBM mainframes and defining data centre lifecycle management strategies, I’ve seen them go from decline to growth and to who knows where today?

The cost of IBM mainframes, along with their support, has always been a hotly-debated topic. Nobody doubts the strengths, reliability and sheer brute force of these data centre titans. However, there is always debate amongst my clients regarding the cost of all those licences, the hardware, and the ongoing support.

Forced upgrades

Then there are IBM’s forced upgrades. As an example, I recently met with an IBM mainframe customer running a zEnterprise 114 in production with a z114 CBU. This was at their DR site, where they planned for the worst, but hoped never to invoke.

As they had moved some workloads off the mainframe, this customer found that they had plenty of capacity on their production platform and they were still running supported versions of z/OS.

Last year, an IBM sales rep visited to tell the customer that from mid-2019 they would no longer be able to use the CBU feature and would be forced to upgrade to two new IBM z14 mainframes. The customer felt that they were being strong-armed by IBM. They felt that the upgrades were unnecessary and totally against their green policies, knowing that a perfectly good mainframe system could be sent to the crusher, never to be used again.

IBM was insistent. They increased the maintenance charges of the customer’s mainframe against a backdrop of only a couple of fault calls per year and offered a reduction to purchase the two z14 servers. Clearly IBM had started high, expecting that the odd customer would panic and pay full price. Now, realising that this customer was not so gullible, they dropped the price. Then they dropped it again, and then again for the end of year ‘special special special’ deal.

A bolt from Big Blue

At no point in these discussions was the customer offered an alternative to the brand-new IBM z14. Instead, they also steadfastly refused to discuss extending the CBU licence as an option.

In trying to force the upgrade, IBM was forcing their customer to look at migrating more applications away from the mainframe platform in a shorter timeframe.

In sheer frustration, the customer turned to Blue Chip, knowing that we specialise in extending the life of IBM mainframes and IBM Power systems. Our livelihood depends on the success of IBM mainframes being around and requiring support.

We sat down with the customer and explained that, in an ideal scenario, the customer could continue to get benefit from the existing IBM zEnterprise 114 mainframes for at least another two or three years while their programs for migrating other technologies to the cloud continued. Then in two to three years’ time when they had a crystal-clear plan and understood which applications were required on the mainframe, together with the processing capacity required to serve up their data to the new cloud systems, they could justify the upgrade to the next generation of IBM mainframes. Maybe a z15 or z16 server or whatever the equivalent modelling convention will be in three years’ time.

This means that for around £100,000 less than just the IBM maintenance renewal, the customer was able to purchase a second-user IBM zEnterprise 114 mainframe with Blue Chip providing the maintenance.

Pressure drop

Although IBM did not secure a z14 upgrade and lost out on hardware maintenance, the silver lining for IBM is that the longer-term future for IBM mainframe within this customer is now brighter and the pressure to upgrade applications away from z/OS has significantly reduced. IBM once again have a happy mainframe customer.

To find out more about mainframe maintenance, or mainframe upgrades, please contact me, Bill Everingham, at bill.everingham@bluechip.co.uk.  I’d be happy to come in and discuss your situation, to see if we can save you 50% on your mainframe maintenance or extend the life of your mainframe with an upgrade not available from IBM.

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This article was written by Bill Everingham.

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