IBM Offers iSeries Roadmap

Faced with plummeting sales and fighting a losing battle in attracting enough new customers, IBM recently unveiled its plan to transition the AS/400 into a new server name called the iSeries 400, where it will fall under the new IBM eserver umbrella.

The announcement put an end to speculation about what IBM was going to do with the AS/400 server line, as IBM revealed that the 800 series, the model 270, and all future hardware releases will fall under the iSeries name. The other servers, such as the 700 series, will still be referred to as AS/400s until they gradually phase out over the next year and a half or so.

Now, the question turns to what IBM is going to do with the iSeries. While announcing its server strategy, IBM offered some insights as to what lies ahead.

In May of this year, IBM introduced a new line of AS/400 servers, the 800 series, along with a model 270. Because of this, there will not be any new hardware server announcements for a while. There will, however, be a major release of OS/400 in 2001.

One of the main focuses of the iSeries will be the B2B space. “To create an e-business niche, we’re going to focus on B2B initiatives,” says Ian Jarman, manager, AS/400 product marketing. “In the industrial, manufacturing, and distribution markets, there’s a strong demand for B2B and that’s where the AS/400 has been strong in. We’re going to focus on making B2B e-business simple for these companies.”

A new offering, called iSeries Connect, will provide a software integration framework for e-commerce. Designed for mid and small-sized suppliers, iSeries Connect will feature a series of connectors that allow suppliers to publish their catalog to e-marketplaces, such as Ariba, or to their own e-commerce site. The IBM MQSeries will serve as the connection between the e-marketplaces and a company’s core back-end business applications.

Besides the B2B focus, a number of other plans are in the works. IBM will be introducing a program that will facilitate interaction between middleware across its entire eserver line.

An initiative called capacity on demand will allow model 840 users to buy servers that will come equipped with extra processors, a feature designed to allow ASPs and others the ability to add more power as they grow. An 8-way 840 can be upgraded to a 12-way, a 12-way to an 18-way, and an 18-way to a 24-way. “Capacity on demand is extremely important for e-business,” says Jarman.

Although the new iSeries will not be physically different from the AS/400, some packaging and cosmetic changes will be made eventually. The model 270, 830, and 840 will be rack mountable, another feature aimed at ASPs. Down the line, IBM will also be putting metallic copper accents – in place of the red accents – on all future iSeries servers.

Also in the works is a series of cross-server applications that both IBM and ISVs will begin to introduce over the next few months and beyond. These integrated solutions will capitalize on IBM’s strategy of leveraging the technologies of its four product lines and will target companies that run two or more of the platforms in the e-server family. For example, one solution might be developed to run partly on the iSeries and partly on the xSeries.

Concerning its Linux plans, Jarman says Linux will be available on the iSeries sometime in 2001, but will only run on the Model 270 and the Model 8XX servers and future iSeries releases. Those wanting to run Linux will have to have the latest release of OS/400 to do so. The iSeries will also support another open industry standard, the Apache Web server, which will be available in December of 2001.

Related Editorial:

  • "AS/400" Era Coming to an End
  • IBM Delivers New AS/400 Models, OS/400 V4R5

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