For a medium or large enterprise with an extensive IT infrastructure the idea of upgrading your servers can be a daunting one. Often existing provisions seem adequate and continued maintenance and gradual expansion less risky than wholesale replacement.
The IBM AS/400 systems which have been the backbone of many companies have done an admirable job of serving the needs of American businesses. Since their introduction in the late 1980s the Power Architecture based line has been through several revisions, with name changes to reflect the advances in technology. In 2000 the line became the eServer iSeries, and was renamed again to the System i as part of IBM's rebranding in 2006. These venerable older systems may still be ticking along nicely, running a business's applications well enough.
So why should you consider upgrading from AS/400s and System i servers? Now known as the IBM Power Systems, IBM's current mid-range servers have at their core POWER5 and POWER6 processors, with the newest models containing the POWER7 processor. These systems have significantly advanced the state-of-the-art in both processing and energy management, and offer benefits substantial enough to justify the expense of an upgrade.
The major concern when considering whether to upgrade is the expense. The capital outlay required to purchase new systems is not insignificant. However, neither is the expense involved in maintaining a cluster of aging servers. These machines have a lifespan, and their components degrade with time, increasing the costs of maintaining them and replacing parts. The worst nightmare of a business is that they have long period of downtime or loss of data due to hardware failure. Either of these can have negative consequences on a company's reputation and lead to loss of revenue and customers.
Because of the technological advances incorporated into modern IBM Power Systems, they are considerably less expensive to run than an equivalent number of older servers. POWER7 processors are able to run hundreds of virtual machines, each of which is capable of replacing an older legacy server. Many companies have replaced server farms of many dozens of older systems with less than five Power Systems. The savings in maintenance and spare parts alone reduces the total cost of ownership of these systems to significantly less than legacy systems. With the addition of IBM's Energy Scale technology, POWER7 systems use considerably less energy than a far less capable legacy server. The savings in energy expenses can be as much as 60 percent.
A business's current systems may appear adequate, but business conditions change, and hopefully companies will outgrow their present needs. Older AS/400s lack the sort of flexibility and scalability that modern systems have. Growth must be anticipated so that a company can smoothly ramp up their production and services, rather than struggling fitfully to squeeze every drop of life out of older systems.
To return to the original question: when should a business upgrade its technology infrastructure? Before they absolutely need to. If businesses wait until the last possible moment they are risking infrastructure failures, failing to take advantage of the economic incentives modern technology can bring, and will be unable to cope with expansion and the requirements of a changing world.