Custom Servers Sparking ERP Growth

It’s not that difficult to get started with ERP on the AS/400. Since August of last year, IBM has sold AS/400s preloaded with selected vendors’ ERP solutions.

J.D. Edwards, SSA and SAP were the first three vendors to join this custom server program last year. Baan, IBS, Infinium, Intentia, JBA and MAPICS have since followed suit and more vendors will likely climb aboard in the future.

At their most basic level, the custom servers are just AS/400e series servers preloaded with the customers’ desired ERP solution [there are also custom servers for high availability vendors] in the language the customer wants.

At a second, advanced level, some minor customization is added to the servers, such as TCP/IP configuration or password blocking of unlicensed modules. MAPICS and SSA participate in the program at this level. At the leadership level of the program, IBM does a higher level of customization such as for I/O services and PTFs. SAP, with its Ready to Run R/3 program, and SSA are the only ERP vendors to participate at this level.

"We try to customize the servers as much as we can for the environment the customer feels the software is being sold into," says Jeff Trachy, AS/400 brand packaging strategist.

The ERP custom servers have been a big hit among new AS/400 customers. Greg Tavalsky, AS/400 Brand global industry solutions manager, says that about a third of the ERP custom server buyers are first-time AS/400 customers, a rate that’s higher than for the AS/400 in general.

Trachy says there’s a twofold reason for the popularity of the custom servers.

"The preloads and packages show a strong relationship between the [business] partner and IBM. Customers have a high level of confidence that we’re protecting their asset and doing the right thing for them. And it also saves install time. For a nominal fee, you can save days of installation time with an integrator. It makes the system come up faster and work a little bit better since it’s done the same every time," he says.

Infinium recently joined the custom server program and is starting to see some customer interest in it.

"We expect to see quite a bit of activity there," says Steve Boyd, Infinium’s product marketing manager. "Customers who need to upgrade their ERP systems are going to have to move fast with the Year 2000 looming and this is certainly a delivery mechanism that supports that."

Customer fees – in addition to the hardware and software cost – for a custom server vary, but generally range from $500 for a basic preload up to $995 for SAP Ready to Run.