editor's desk: AS/400e-xtremism and IT Political Correctness

In late October, Microsoft brought some unexpected humor to the IT market when it changed the name of Windows NT to Windows 2000. I still don't know which is funnier, Windows NT being linked in name with the potential havoc of the Y2K bug or the Freudian slip of calling what would have been NT Server 5.0 Enterprise Edition, Windows 2000 Advanced Server.

As a recovering Unix bigot and now an "AS/400e-xtremist," it has been hard to first recognize and then embrace the peace now at hand -- a peace brokered by the end users. I love a good vendetta. Yet it is time to face the fact that the winds of the new world order are blowing across the midrange market. Windows NT is no longer the enemy trying to replace and conquer. It is just another tool seeking to compliment existing and future AS/400 investments.

Perhaps the most telling point that drove this home was the fact that Rochester is scrambling to keep pace with the demand for the Model 170. Much of the AS/400e Series success this year was underwritten by the overachieving "Invader," which was targeted as a PC server alternative at its introduction.

Despite the war of words and dire market predictions, NT-based PC servers are not staunching the sale of low-end AS/400s. In reality, détente was reached last spring with the availability of NT on the IPCS. 1999 will see a further and tighter integration between the two platforms. Can an SMP IPCS be too far away?

Interestingly, this war ended with no victor and no vanquished. Peace came while both sides were dealing from positions of strength. The AS/400 is having its best year ever and NT's momentum continues unabated. It is the fastest growing OS.

While NT bashing must give way to political correctness, I will remain an AS/400e-xtremist. How could I not?

The AS/400 is now running on its fourth generation of 64-bit technology. The dream of a 64-bit Wintel platform is still at least a year down the road – Merced won’t be available until late 1999 at best and NT 5.0 is now Windows 2000, giving you some idea of that deliverable. Plus, many of the future challenges faced by a 64-bit Wintel platform have already been addressed by the AS/400. The simple fact is that the road to optimization is long and winding, and there are no short cuts.

Additionally, with the availability of V4R4 during the first half of 1999, the AS/400e Series will again pull further away with its support of logical partitioning. The eventual Wintel strategy to offer this level of support is by throwing more and more clustered servers into the mix. However, logical partitioning is indeed a level of complexity beyond a subsystem capability. Again, the AS/400 will have solved a problem long before the NT space even understands what it is.

Clearly, the AS/400's place in the world is not going to be replaced by Wintel any time soon. Their workloads are entirely different. The AS/400 remains the best platform for business processing, while NT is probably the wisest choice for file, print and personal productivity application serving. In the platforms' differences, lie their combined strengths.

It's time to move forward.