Monday, 29 August 2011

IMS systems and costs - analysis

I blogged about IBM’s IMS (Information Management System) at the end of July, saying that it has been around since 1968 and originated as a bill-of-materials program for NASA’s Apollo programme. I said that IMS effectively comes in two parts – there’s the Transaction Manager (TM) part and the Data Base (DB) part. I talked about different types of database, and I mentioned the Virtual IMS user group at

Today I want to pose the questions: how much does an IMS development/test system cost? And how many development test systems does a site typically have installed?

It’s a bit like asking: how long is a piece of string? Obviously every piece of string has a length, but it is unknown, a quantative answer can’t be given. And by implication, whatever else is being discussed will contain a degree of indeterminate uncertainty!

Our experience at iTech-Ed (where we administer the Virtual IMS user group) is that a single IMS development test system can cost an organisation between US$1,000,000 per year and $2,000,000 per year (and possibly more in some cases).

There are some sites that run their development systems on dedicated machines that can be larger than many average-sized organizations’ production systems.

However, there is an additional complication. We believe that, although IMS is a huge revenue earner for IBM, they will waive their fee for software for organisations that are development shops and don't use it for production.

We also estimate that the personnel costs for installing and maintaining IMS development systems can amount to about half a million US dollars per year.

And the number of IMS development/test systems can vary hugely from 1 or 2 true development systems (plus test, QA, etc) in smaller shops, to larger customers, who may have any number from around ten to perhaps 30+. We know of some users with 300+ test IMS regions, but the bulk of the bell-shaped curve is skewed to much lower values. The reason we believe the average is ten or slightly above is because of the amount of administrative effort these test systems take to maintain.

The waters can be muddied further by the fact that organizations can negotiate deals on price with IBM, but are then discouraged from sharing information about those prices with others.

Our conclusion is that the cost to the organisation of running a development system depends on the size of the installation. US$1-2M is a good estimate of the cost for each IMS development/test system, with 10 being a reasonable estimate of, on average, how many development/test systems exist.

And, of course, if you have any further information on this, we would be really interested to hear from you.

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