March 27, 2018 | IBM i

Is an IBM POWER9 Hardware Upgrade Worth IT?


Many companies (maybe even yours) are still running IBM POWER5, POWER6, POWER7, and POWER8 hardware and things are working just fine. They have no performance issues, there’s more than enough disk space, and the system is paid for. So, with IBM offering new POWER9 machines designed for IBM i shops, why should anyone with a well-functioning older POWER system consider upgrading to the latest POWER9 machines?


There are several benefits that the new POWER9 systems offer, that you’ll want to think about if you’re still running an older model.  If you have an older POWER system and wondering whether you should upgrade your system, here are three key areas where a POWER9 upgrade offers significant benefits through advanced technology, financial incentives, and business benefits.

Advanced technology benefits                                                                   

POWER9 offers increased performance over IBM POWER8 hardware.  The expected performance increase is 1.5 times greater than POWER8.  Not only is processing faster, but you can also improve performance by having up to 4TB of memory in any of the new two socket machines, including the S924 and S922 that offer full IBM i support. The S914 model, which will meet the needs of most IBM i shops is a 1 socket machine that supports up to 1 TB of memory. To help improve I/O bandwidth, POWER9 supports PCI Gen4 adapters that double the bandwidth of Gen 3 adapters.  The chip runs algorithms and preforms analytics, which allow it to run in an always optimized state, improving system performance. Shops moving from POWER7 or lower will see significant performance gains.


Improved security is something that can benefit every company.  Spectre and Meltdown aren’t a problem when running POWER9, because all the latest firmware patches have already been applied to the processors and the Spectre and Meltdown operating system updates are included in supported versions of the OS.  POWER9 will support IBM i 7.2 at TR8 or higher and 7.3 TR 4 and higher. These releases include other features that help improve the security and performance of your system, which is another reason to keep current.

Financial Benefits

When you buy new POWER hardware, IBM includes 3 years of Hardware Maintenance in the cost.  POWER5 machines are end of life, which means you can’t get maintenance on the hardware from IBM any longer.  Many POWER6 machines will be out of support by the end of 2018.  If you have a hardware failure, IBM is not going to help you, and getting used parts for older hardware can be difficult.  End of life hardware provides only two choices for keeping POWER5 or POWER6 machines up and running: you can contract for third-party hardware maintenance or go without maintenance.


Third-party maintenance is an additional cost on an existing machine and, depending on the quality of the maintenance provider, it may put your machine at risk if the vendor is unable to obtain refurbished replacement parts. Not having hardware maintenance puts you more at risk of downtime, in the event of a machine failure.  Having 3 years of hardware maintenance gives you piece of mind and protects you from hardware failures.


POWER5 and POWER6 hardware cannot support IBM i 7.2, so there’s no OS upgrade path for an older machine, leaving customers with no options when they need to upgrade.  Since IBM i 7.1 is at end of life starting April 30, 2018, anyone still using i 7.1 will be charged an extended service fee with their software maintenance.  While paying double software maintenance may not seem too bad for some companies, it’s important to keep in mind that this will just get you phone support.  If you encounter a problem and that problem was included in another release, then you are out of luck.  IBM will tell you to upgrade to fix the problem.  If your hardware can’t support an OS upgrade than you are also in trouble if you need an upgrade to implement new features or the upgrade is required for regulatory compliance.


Upgrading your hardware can save you significant increases in hardware and software maintenance fees.  In many cases, it may even be cheaper to upgrade rather than to maintain your current system. If you’re going to pay IBM or a third-party provider either way, doesn’t it make more sense to get the latest and greatest IBM have to offer?

Business Benefits

Many companies run their core applications on IBM i.  Whether it is ERP, Warehouse Management or core banking, there are lots of different types of applications that run on IBM i.  Taking advantage of the latest technology can help businesses differentiate from one another.


POWER9 is poised to help businesses take advantage of AI and Big Data.  Although, we all know that IBM i has been able to processing large amounts of data for a long time; now it can easily integrate with Watson to make analyzing data faster than before.  If IT can help the business respond faster to trends, it can have a significant impact on the bottom line.


We mentioned security as a technical benefit, but it is also a business benefit.  If your company has to comply with regulations, than you need to keep current. You don’t want to become infamous because you had a data breach, possibly costing hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, much less than the cost of a new system.  Keeping your IBM i operating system current with PTF’s will help protect your business from threats, and penalties resulting from data breaches.

The Future

IBM has provided another great system for us with the POWER9.  There are plans in the work for the POWER10 and other future generations of systems.  Not only is the hardware future strong, the support for the Operating System goes out to 2028.  For all of those people who’ve said that the IBM i is dead, they couldn’t be more wrong.  The platform has a long future.