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IBM 'mini' PureApplication System may cause sticker shock

Is the price of IBM's new entry-level PureApplication System low enough to broaden its appeal?

IBM has rolled out a raft of new PureSystems based on its Power 7+ processor, including a mini version of its PureApplication System that some IT pros say costs too much for an entry-level offering.

The new IBM PureApplication System comes in two configurations: a 32-core configuration and a 64-core configuration, both x86-based. This system is available starting at $31,000 per month with 0% financing over 36 months, which amounts to $1.116 million.

The PureApplication System consists of converged infrastructure and software that automatically installs and scales applications. IBM pushes its more basic PureFlex systems, which start at $100,000, for managed service providers (MSPs), and will offer pay-as-you-go pricing for MSPs registered as IBM Business Partners only. PureApplication is based on PureFlex, but with middleware and database software woven in to automatically deploy Java applications.

While not marketed specifically for small- to medium-sized businesses, the mini model will offer organizations with limited budgets a "cloud in a box," according to an IBM press release.

Although the IBM PureApplication System adds value, it doesn't jibe with the large price difference, said one independent software vendor partner who offers software on both systems.

"It leads us to use PureFlex more extensively instead of PureApplication," said Panos Konstantinidis, co-founder and business strategy director for OneTree Solutions, makers of PriceLenz software based in Luxembourg.

It would be nice if the PureFlex pay-as-you-go price plan offered to MSPs could be offered to enterprise customers as well, Konstantinidis said.

For an enterprise user, the choice for a new infrastructure is either PureFlex or a Power 7+ server environment orchestrated with IBM Systems Director. Though there are new PureApplication "patterns" -- IBM's name for the automated application-deployment software that comes with PureApplication -- there aren't enough of them that suit the company's needs.

"PureFlex is a more general-purpose system," said Nigel Fortlage, a CIO at a large Canadian international trade service provider.

The case for IBM PureApplication

The two systems actually have two different audiences, said Joe Clabby, president of Clabby Analytics based in Yarmouth, Maine.

Those who are attracted to PureFlex want to tinker with hardware components using a unified management midplane provided by IBM, whereas those who go for PureApplication want IBM to do all the integration work and tuning involved in deploying a complete application.

The value added by IBM doing all the integration and tuning is worth the cost of admission, Clabby said, when weighed against the amount of labor and time involved in deploying an application infrastructure within an organization.

"It's either pay me now or pay more later to do it yourself," he said. "PureApplication may cost more, but it lowers your exposure to failure, which is a good fit for customers concerned about high availability and reliability."

IBM claimed that clients who have done business value assessments with the PureApplication System have saved up to $5 million over three years.

New Power 7+ server squares off with x86

IBM will offer new models of its Power7+ servers, starting at $5,947, which some industry watchers say is competitive with comparable x86-based systems.

"So often, x86 systems in the volume space are positioned as extremely competitive price-wise," said Jonathan Eunice, analyst for Nashua, N.H.-based Illuminata Inc. "But add on things like VMware licensing and clustering software, and cost floods back in."

IBM's System x server line starts at around $3,000 for a single-processor system, according to the IBM website. VMware's vSphere Standard starts at $995 per processor, plus $273 for basic support and subscription.

It's unlikely that many shops will jump from x86 to Linux on Power, analysts said, but for those with existing Power-based systems, it could be reassuring.

"The real challenge for IBM is to convince people that Linux on Power is really Linux, and apps will just run, and an alternative processor won't cause compatibility issues," Eunice said.

Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for and Write to her at or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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