Power9 Capacity and Configuration

How to Right-Size Your POWER9 Capacity and Configuration

The POWER9 Movement Is Underway

You’ve no doubt heard about the recent launch of IBM’s POWER9 servers, with their blazing-fast processing speeds and ability to handle advanced workloads. That said, your businesses may be running older Power technology (POWER5, POWER6, or POWER7) and will consider a move to POWER8 or POWER9. But, when it comes right down to it, how do you know:

  • Which model?
  • How many cores?
  • How to configure them?
  • How much memory you need?
  • Which storage options to select?

A Common Problem with Evaluating New Server Technology

When new technologies come onto the market, many IT organizations get excited about the capabilities without carefully analyzing what they actually require to run their business, including any projected changes. Just as it’s important to determine the number of employees you need to carry out day-to-day work, you also need to plan capacity for the underlying infrastructure, which likely encompasses many operating environments such as IBM i, AIX, VIOS, and Linux.

Unfortunately, undertaking a detailed evaluation of your utilization and projected needs can be a cumbersome or intimidating process, making it easy to sweep aside. According to the 2016 Global IT Management Survey, IT “fires” are a large drain on team resources. In the study, IT managers reported dealing with an average of six unexpected issues each week, with each situation taking eight staff members an average of three hours and 16 minutes to properly address. Not only does this mean team members are already spread thin and don’t have time for planning initiatives, but it also begs the question of whether some of these issues could be happening due to a lack of effective planning.

Your goal is always to avoid a critical situation where you aren’t able to effectively run your business in an optimal way. For example, Target.com crashed after large numbers of shoppers went online for a well-publicized sales event that the company didn’t support with the appropriate level of web capacity. No business wants to find themselves managing this sort of disaster.

The Solution: Effective Capacity Planning

Effective Capacity Planning

The Solution: Effective Capacity Planning

In the 2016 Global IT Management survey mentioned previously, researchers found another interesting stat: 61 percent of respondents believed they could consolidate servers to reduce infrastructure administration workload. Yet, a hunch like this requires investigation and data.

Capacity planning plays a critical role in making sure everything stays up and running at maximum efficiency. Whether you open another office, launch a new product or service, or simply want to be sure your infrastructure will be reliable and cost-effective, capacity planning will help you keep service levels up and costs down.

While capacity planning has long been important for minimizing the risk of downtime and maximizing uptime, reliability, and efficiency, the best ways to optimize service delivery have changed over time.

Not long ago, capacity planning was strictly focused on infrastructure in the on-premises data center. The top priority was keeping an eye on servers, storage, and network bandwidth to ensure resources were properly utilized.

Adoption of virtualization eliminated the fixed tie between an application and the infrastructure. The capacity planning process then had to take things like workload placement and resource pools into consideration.

Regardless of technology, you need to know about future business demands and how they will impact capacity requirements over time. Only then can you optimize your sourcing strategy and cost.

It’s also important to remember that paradigm shifts are rarely binary, nor do they happen overnight. You will most likely have services running on older technologies that still need to be managed. Your capacity planning process has to cover all technologies used by your organization.

How Capacity Planning Helps You Right-Size Your Investment

Right-Size Your Investment

How Capacity Planning Helps You Right-Size Your Investment

Simply put, capacity planning eliminates guesswork and equips you with the facts you need to make an informed decision when buying POWER9 hardware. Some IT teams may try to accomplish this via simple tools like Excel spreadsheets, but these can be prone to error, especially if a lot of data is involved. Likewise, it usually doesn’t work to assume a linear increase in capacity requirements; there could be cyclical or seasonal changes or usage spikes due to promotions or short-term business changes that you need to capture.

Capacity planning is a decision-making tool that enables you to:

  • Avoid overspending and underspending on new equipment
  • Justify the cost of purchases to decision makers on the buying team
  • Make accurate capacity predictions that include reasonable buffers
  • Identify technology gaps
  • Evaluate your full IT environment, spanning multiple operating systems across on-premises, cloud, and hybrid infrastructure

The good news is your existing servers contain a veritable treasure trove of information regarding actual usage over time. The key is accessing and interpreting this data to inform your future investments. This takes the right tools and guidance.

An effective capacity planning assessment takes a look at your system’s performance data—which could span days, months, or years—to display information graphically across:

  • CPU utilization
  • Memory utilization
  • Disk I/O utilization
  • Network utilization

This deep-dive evaluation will help you:

  • Analyze historical data for complex CPU, memory, and disk reports in HTML output for one partition, the whole frame, or the entire enterprise
  • Plan and configure upgrades, server consolidations, LPAR configurations, and competitive migrations with powerful, what-if capacity planning analysis
  • Model or combine workloads from any or all servers to any IBM Power Systems server

Case Study

How Scott & White Saves with Capacity Planning

Scott & White is the largest multi-specialty practice in Texas. Scott & White boasts more than 500 physicians at its 15 regional clinics throughout the central part of the state. Scott & White uses capacity planning software daily and continues to exploit its advantages in a variety of projects. Most recently, the software was used to aid in a server consolidation project. Managing the environment had become more costly than the hardware itself, due primarily to power, cooling, and space costs that far outpaced the cost of servers and other IT gear.

“In our case, [capacity planning] proved that consolidating our server population would maximize CPU and RAM utilization. Modeling showed that higher utilization—while still maintaining service levels—could easily be achieved through micro-partitioning.”

—System Administrator, Scott & White Hospital and Clinic

The Risks of Forgoing Capacity Planning

The Risks of Forgoing Capacity Planning

The Risks of Forgoing Capacity Planning

Without taking the time to accurately analyze your hardware needs based on real-world data, you’re flying blind when it comes to making a major hardware investment. Ultimately, not having the right capacity can negatively impact your ability to run your business the way you need to. Here are common scenarios and the risks associated with each.

Having Too Much Capacity

With the tremendous processing capabilities of POWER9, having excess capacity is possible. If you’re just guessing what you need and overestimate your usage, you are tying up valuable dollars in equipment when you likely need it for other uses. Buying a more powerful server or more servers than you require could also lead to higher total cost of ownership (TCO) or hidden costs, such as an increase in the electricity needed to run the equipment. You may also have to purchase additional software licenses or staff to manage the excess capacity. Remember that TCO includes not only hardware, but also software and maintenance.

Not Having Enough Capacity

This risk is often caused by a perceived lack of budget. However, if you can build out the business case and financials using capacity planning, you’ll be better off in the long run. Otherwise, your infrastructure could become your Achilles’ heel. If you fail to implement the right server capacity, you could experience service outages or interruptions that can affect your customers. Another risk is the possibility of developing internal bottlenecks that impede efficient project completion or lead to higher costs than you originally anticipated. Finally, you could negatively impact your organization’s ability to carry out important initiatives such as launching a new product, expanding operations, or facilitating a merger or acquisition.  

Why Guess When You Can Know for Sure?

Why Guess When You Can Know for Sure?

Accurate capacity planning is a critical step for any business considering the purchase of new technology to support their operations. Not only does this exercise give you the opportunity to consider how your IT team will be involved in and support ongoing business changes, but it also gives you a clear picture of how your data center has been running to date.

No doubt it can be difficult to carve out time for your busy team to undertake a capacity planning project. But the risks of not understanding where you are today and where you need to be down the road are simply not worth taking for your business. The first step is to develop a baseline understanding of your current system performance. Once you've collected historical data on the performance status of each LPAR, make it easy on yourself and bring that information into a capacity planning consultation with experts who can help you interpret the data and make smart planning decisions.

Next Steps

Next Steps

Next Steps

Before you make an investment in POWER9 or other Power server technology, here are a few things to consider:

  • Do you have old hardware that is no longer supported?
  • What operating system releases are supported on the new hardware?
  • How can virtualization reduce cost and improve performance?
  • Which storage options are best for your environment?
  • Which models are best, scale-out or scale-up?
  • Should you purchase for growth up front or purchase as needed?
  • How does this affect high availability, disaster recovery, and backups?

Thinking about your answers to these questions will get you headed in the right direction. MPG, a HelpSystems Company, is a leading expert in this space and we're ready to support you in your capacity planning efforts.

Start building your baseline historical performance data today by downloading our free monitoring tool for IBM i, AIX, VIOS, and Linux. Following the easy install on your primary operating system, our tool will immediately begin collecting data. Our proprietary tools are updated with the latest POWER9 specs for accurate server sizing and provide access to a number of reports for interpreting the data to determine your capacity needs.

Don't have the time or expertise to interpret the data?

Call MPG, a HelpSystems Company, at 800-328-1000 and our capacity planning experts will help you navigate the complex process with a data-driven look at how to approach your technology spend. You'll come away with the cost justification information decision makers such as IT infrastructure managers, IT directors, and CTOs need to move forward with an investment for your business.

About MPG, A HelpSystems Company

Acquired by HelpSystems in 2018, Midrange Performance Group, Inc. (MPG) is a recognized industry expert in capacity planning and performance measurement for midrange and enterprise-class servers. Dedicated to helping our customers get the most from their IT investment, MPG has assisted a variety of organizations in managing the cost and improving the performance of their hardware and software systems. Visit us online for more information.

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