IBM Z Solution Consumption License Charges (SCLC): A Viable R4HA Alternative?

In the same timeframe as the recent IBM z14 and LinuxONE Enhanced Driver Maintenance (GA2) hardware announcements, there were modifications to the Container Pricing for IBM Z mechanism, namely Solution Consumption License Charges (SCLC) and the Application Development and Test Solution.  Neither of these new pricing models are dependent on the IBM z14 GA2 hardware announcement, but do require the latest IBM z13, IBM z13s, IBM z14 or IBM z14 ZR1 servers and z/OS V2.2 and upwards for collocated workloads and z/OS V2.1 and upwards for separate LPAR workloads.

For many years, IBM themselves have attempted to introduce new sub-capacity software pricing models to encourage new workloads to the IBM Z server and associated z/OS operating system.  Some iterations include z Systems New Application License Charges (zNALC), Integrated Workload Pricing (IWP) and z Systems Collocated Application Pricing (zCAP), naming but a few.  The latest iteration appears to be Container Pricing for IBM Z, announced in July 2017, with three options, namely the aforementioned Application Development and Test Solution, the New Application Solution and Payments Pricing Solution.  This recent October 2018 announcement adapts the New Application Solution option, classifying it as the Solution Consumption License Charges (SCLC) mechanism.  For the purposes of this blog, we will concentrate on the SCLC mechanism, although the potential benefits of the Application Development and Test Solution for non-Production workloads should not be under estimated…

From a big picture viewpoint, z/OS, CICS, Db2, IMS and MQ are the most expensive IBM Z software products and of course, IBM Mainframe users have designed their environments to reduce software costs accordingly, initially with sub-capacity and then Workload Licence Charging (WLC) and the associated Rolling 4 Hour Average (R4HA).  Arguably CPU MSU management is a specialized capacity and performance management discipline in itself, with several 3rd party ISV options for optimized soft-capping (I.E. AutoSoftCapping, iCap, zDynaCap/Dynamic Capacity Intelligence).  IBM thinks that this MSU management discipline has thwarted new workloads being added to the IBM Z ecosystem, unless there was a mandatory requirement for CICS, Db2, IMS or MQ.  Hence this recent approach of adding new and qualified workloads, outside of the traditional R4HA mechanism.  These things take time and with a few tweaks and repairs, maybe the realm of possibility exists and perhaps the Solution Consumption License Charges (SCLC) is a viable and eminently usable option?

SCLC offers a new pricing metric when calculating MLC software costs for qualified Container Pricing workloads.  SCLC is based on actual MSU consumption, as opposed to the traditional R4HA WLC metric.  SCLC delivers a pure and consistent metered usage model, where the MSU resource used is charged at the same flat rate, regardless of hourly workload peaks, delivering pricing predictability.  Therefore, SCLC directly reflects the total workload cost, regardless of consumption, on a predictable “pay for what you use” basis.  This is particularly beneficial for volatile workloads, which can significantly impact WLC costs associated with the R4HA.  There are two variations of SCLC for qualified and IBM verified New Applications (NewApp):

  • The SCLC pay-as-you-go option offers a low priced, per-MSU model for software programs within the NewApp Solution, with no minimum financial commitment.
  • The SCLC-committed MSU option offers a saving of 20% over the pay-as-you-go price points, with a monthly minimum MSU commitment of just 25,000 MSUs.

SCLC costs are calculated and charged per MSU on an hourly basis, aggregated over an entire (SCRT) month.  For example, if a NewApp solution utilized 50 MSU in hour #1, 100 MSU in hour #2 and 50 MSU in hour #3, the total chargeable MSU for the 3-hour period would be 200 MSU.  Hourly periods continue to be calculated this way over the entire month, providing a true, usage-based cost model.  We previously reviewed Container Pricing in a previous blog entry from August 2017.  At first glance, the opportunity for a predictable workload cost seems evident, but what about the monthly MSU commitment of 25,000 MSU?

Let’s try and break this down at the simplest level, using the SCLC hourly MSU base metric.  In a fixed 24-hour day and an arbitrary 30-day month, there would be 720 single MSU hours.  To qualify for the 25,000 MSU commitment, the hourly workload would need to average ~35 MSU (~300 MIPS) in size.  For the medium and large sized business, generating a 35 MSU workload isn’t a consideration, but probably is for the smaller IBM Mainframe user.  The monthly commitment also becomes somewhat of a challenge, as a calendar month is 28/29 days, once per year, 30 days, four times per year and 31 days, seven times per year.  This doesn’t really impact the R4HA, but for a pay per MSU usage model, the number of MSU hours per month does matter.  One must draw one’s own conclusions, but it’s clearly easier to exceed the 25,000 MSU threshold in a 31-day month, when compared with a 30, 29 or 28 day month!  From a dispassionate viewpoint, I can’t see any reason why the 20% discount can’t be applied when the 25,000 MSU threshold is exceeded, without a financial commitment form the customer.  This would be a truly win-win situation for the customer and IBM, as the customer doesn’t have to concern themselves about exceeding the arbitrary 25,000 MSU threshold and IBM have delivered a usable and attractive pricing mechanism for the desired New Application workload.

The definition of a New Application workload is forever thus, based upon a qualified and verified workload by IBM, assigned a Solution ID for SCRT classification purposes, integrating CICS, Db2, MQ, IMS or z/OS software.  Therefore existing workloads, potentially classified as legacy will not qualify for this New Application status, but any application re-engineering activities should consider this lower price per MSU approach.  New technologies such as blockchain could easily transform a legacy application and benefit from New Application pricing, while the implementation of DevOps could easily transform non-Production workloads into benefiting from the Application Development and Test Solution Container Pricing mechanism.

In conclusion, MSU management is a very important discipline for any IBM Z user and any lower cost MSU that can be eliminated from the R4HA metric delivers improved TCO.  As always, the actual IBM Z Mainframe user themselves are ideally placed to interact and collaborate with IBM and perhaps tweak these Container Pricing models to make them eminently viable for all parties concerned, strengthening the IBM Z ecosystem and value proposition accordingly.