I purchased my own IBM i a few years ago as it was a requirement since the
cloud provider I was using was closing it's doors and I already had a a few
thousand customers to take care of with our custom software/consulting, etc.
Luckily, IBM was offering a deal then with 1/2 price off for developers.
So I purchased my 515 (back then around 8k all said and done).
It's been chugging along with little worry for over 8 years. I've had to
replace the cache battery packs 3-4 times now, but that's about it.
The only issue now is it's stuck on V5R4. But, IBM also offers virtual
loaners so I can test/develop on V7Rx when needed as well for short periods
of time. I also have long term customers that let me use their hardware if
needed. But that's only in emergencies.
I was looking at updating my hardware and OS but the prices are really
quite high. Not to mention trying to figure out what you need can get very
confusing. That's where someone like Larry Boluis or a good IBM BP can
help a TON.
I've looked into cloud solutions too but if I can take 3 years of cloud and
pay for a machine that will last for 10, I'm still thinking I'd rather buy
new hardware. That's still up in the air, though.
If you really want to learn, build, etc it isn't going to be cheap at all.
:) But, it may be fun if you have the time.
If you want to create applications, your own machine or a cloud solution
would be the best. If you want to muck around with the hardware, more
power to you! I know there are a few on this site who would be invaluable
But, I look at the IBM i as a "set it and forget it" machine (minus PTFs).
Same with PCs. I used to build PCs too but there just came a time when I
decided just buying off the shelf does what I need it to do.
Keep us updated on what you do! Sounds like a fun journey for sure!