Top IBM Power Systems myths: “x86 public cloud beats Power cloud solutions on cost”

By | 4 minute read | July 22, 2019

Since I started the “Power myths” blog series in 2018, a lot has happened to enhance an already strong cloud strategy for IBM Power Systems, including the recent announcement that IBM POWER9 servers running AIX and IBM i are now available “as-a service” on IBM Cloud.

Clients have responded to Power’s cloud strategy very positively, and detractors have begrudgingly acknowledged this by propagating the myth that x86 public cloud solutions will always be less expensive than a public or private cloud offering built on Power Systems.

I already took on the myth that on-premises Power Systems are too expensive compared to x86, and now it’s time to address the myth that cloud solutions on Power Systems will always cost more than an x86 based alternative. Like the previous myth, there’s an element of truth in this one. Some x86 based cloud solutions will be less expensive than ones built on Power, but many others will not.

True or false?

  • Most public cloud solutions in the market today are based on x86.
  • Public cloud is where you want to be — it is cheaper, easier to manage and offers more flexibility.
  • Public cloud solutions are cheaper than private cloud or on-premises solutions.

The first statement is true. That said, the number of cloud service providers offering Power-based cloud solutions continues to grow, and the newly announced IBM Power Systems Virtual Server provides yet another Power-based cloud solution.

The other two statements are not true and contribute to the myth that x86 based cloud solutions will always be cheaper than comparable solutions based on Power Systems. Let’s have a look at why they’re false.

Public cloud isn’t necessarily where you want to be.

As reported in CRN, “80 percent of the 400 IT decision makers who participated in IDC’s 2018 Cloud and AI Adoption Survey said their organization has migrated either applications or data that were primarily part of a public cloud environment to an on-premises or private cloud solution in the last year.” (See similar research and reporting here and here.)

As I wrote in the first post in this series, “public clouds have never been, and never will be, the only true cloud solution.” They aren’t going away anytime soon, but organizations are getting smarter about what workloads belong in a private cloud or on-premises solution and not in a public cloud.

Public cloud solutions may not be cheaper than private cloud or on-premises solutions.

Consider the following: Dell CEO Michael Dell states that “for the predictable workloads – which are for most companies 85 percent to 90 percent of their workloads – an on-premise solution is much more cost effective.” Take the example of Dropbox, the popular storage service, which trimmed operational expenses by $74.6 million in two years after moving most of its operations from AWS public cloud to its own custom infrastructure.

x86 based public clouds are not necessarily a path to lower costs, but they will continue to be an essential part of any company’s hybrid cloud solution. That said, business outcomes are what should drive the choice of your cloud platform, be it public or private.

Will x86 based cloud solutions always be less expensive than a Power Systems alternative?

Based on what we know, it’s unlikely that x86 cloud solutions will always be less expensive than comparable solutions based on Power. Power can offer significantly higher performance than what you get from an x86 system, and that translates to fewer systems, lower software costs and much better utilization. Consider Cipher Health, which migrated from a public cloud environment to an IBM Power Systems–based private cloud that delivered five times the capabilities of its previous cloud-hosted infrastructure at one-half the price.

We also know that lower cost is not always the top criteria for selecting a solution. Many of the articles referenced above cite security, data protection, flexibility and reliability in addition to cost as reasons that companies are moving back to a private cloud or on-premises solution. These are the characteristics that make Power Systems so fundamentally different from x86.

Make the comparison

“Have you looked at Power lately?” is a question I ask anyone tasked with evaluating and acquiring cloud-based solutions today. There are far too many combinations of systems, options and workloads to present any meaningful price comparisons in this post.

Please take a few minutes and enjoy this video with David Spurway, IBM Power Systems Chief Technology Officer for UK and Ireland as he talks about why Amazon Web Services can be more expensive than IBM Power Systems. David’s data shows that Power Systems cloud solutions can be significantly less expensive than an x86 alternative.

IBM Systems Lab Services has a team of experienced consultants ready to help you get the most out of IBM Power Systems, be it cloud or on premises. Reach out to us today if you have questions, and stay tuned for the next post in this series.