AS/400, ASPs Perfect Together

To listen to IBMers speak, today’s upsurge in the ASP market is the new century’s high-tech equivalent of big band swing music, and the AS/400 its wide tie complement—everything old is new again. Indeed, recent International Data Corporation (Framingham, Mass.) research forecasts the global ASP market to grow at a 90 percent compound annual growth rate, and is expected to “skyrocket to nearly $5 billion” by 2003.

“ASP is a better name [than time sharing],” says Tim Schuetz, an IBM AS/400 ASP marketing executive speaking at last month’s PartnerWorld 2000. “It’s really just a consultant’s trick to charge more.”

AS/400 ISV Goes ASP

One well-known AS/400 ISV that has jumped into the ASP market in a big way is Infinium Software Inc., a Hyannis, Mass.-based provider of business financial, human resources and supply-chain management solutions. Re-affirming Schuetz’s comments was Rick Bernard, Infinium’s CIO.

Asked why Infinium’s clients were turning to ASPs, Bernard cited the ubiquitous IT labor shortage as a leading factor. Those companies with a dearth of manpower, says Bernard, are looking for ways to take support and maintenance of department servers out of their way, experience the zero maintenance that Web access and thin-client desktops provide, and they’re looking for rapid, cost effective deployment. Put those factors together and they spell ASP.

As to why did Infinium chose to offer its application hosting on the AS/400 (Infinium also offers those solutions in a Windows NT flavor), Bernard repeats much of what Schuetz averred. The AS/400 shared services allows for one-to-many economies of scale. Combine that with its 99.94 percent up-time and “single integrated security model,” that offers SSL, VPNs and digital certificates, and, Bernard says, the Infinium data center can offer complete “lights-out operations” to its customers.

And, underscoring Infinium’s commitment, IBM on Feb. 1 unveiled seven new hosting companies that will offer their services to AS/400 software providers that want to host their applications over the Internet—all of which will set up data centers powered by AS/400e servers.

But he added, this time quite seriously, ISVs that are having trouble selling AS/400s on the open market anymore are making a fortune as ASPs, a phenomenon Big Blue hopes will open a new, burgeoning market and breath new life into the server. That’s because, Schuetz adds, ISVs and ISPs that are starting to add Internet Application Hosting functions to their product mix agree with IBM that the AS/400 is, as Schuetz states, “perfectly designed for this space.”

Schuetz runs down a litany of AS/400 attributes, highlighted by its high availability, scalability and security, which he claims prove the point. Data center costs are a primary concern for ASPs as they meet their customers’ demands in those three areas and, “The AS/400 offers a lower cost per user in the ASP space than any other option,” he adds.

In detail, he mentions LPAR support, Domino partitioning, and application subsystems as prime features underscoring those beliefs. In addition, IBM is touting the AS/400’s single level store memory sharing, its RAID capabilities, disk mirroring and auxiliary storage pools, and native job accounting APIs.

“ASPs are reaching customers who never would have bought AS/400s,” says Schuetz. But with the economies of scale enjoyed by ASPs who can service multiple client sites with one server, Schuetz asks, “Will ASPs lead to lower hardware sales?” Then replies to his own question, “We’ll lose it all if we don’t have ASPs on AS/400s.”

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