SAP Certifies AS/400 for High-Volume Retail

In another indication that AS/400e and SAP are perfect together, SAP has certified the AS/400e Series as a suitable platform for running SAP Retail at large chain store operators.

SAP certified IBM’s AS/400e Series benchmark of 1,345,000 POS (point of sale) sale data line items per hour on an 8-way database server. The benchmark was accomplished on an 8-way AS/400e Model S40-2207 database server running OS/400 V4R3 and release 4.0 B of R/3. SAP Retail is an enterprise solution for the retail industry based on R/3. It incorporates more than 300 additional functions specifically developed for retailers, such as merchandise planning, promotions management, purchasing and replenishment, and sales.

The benchmarking also used 11 AS/400e application servers, 10 of them 12-way machines.

What the benchmark measures is how fast transactions can be transferred from an IBM POS system to an SAP Retail database on the AS/400, explains Antonio Muttoni, AS/400 ERP worldwide segment manager and SAP relationship manager at IBM.

"We want to show the market that we have the ability to be applied in the bigger customer situations, but also scale down to smaller companies," he says. "We want to show that we offer the right solution for SAP retail from small business to the high end. That’s the strength of the AS/400 today. We can handle 15 users or 1,500 users. We’re scaleable, so we can target small and medium businesses and say, ‘If you grow your business, the AS/400 will grow with you.’"

The benchmarks are part of a mutually beneficial relationship between IBM and SAP. Joe Kozak, director of retail business development at SAP, says the AS/400 has a "strong presence" in the retail marketplace, something SAP is hoping to leverage.

"If we’re asked by a retailer what is the best platform to run our product on, we can show them the benchmark results and say, ‘Here’s how the AS/400 performed in benchmark mode.’ It gives them some point of reference."

Kozak says other platforms were benchmarked on SAP Retail as well, but says it’s impossible to compare one platform to another since different configurations yield different results. But he says the AS/400 "came out strong."

Aside from the benchmarking, the AS/400 and SAP Retail are a complementary combined solution for retailers, according to Kozak. With SAP Retail’s integrated financials, merchandising, human resources and distribution applications and the AS/400’s integrated database and operating system combined in the Ready-to-Run R/3 program, IBM and SAP can offer retailers "one-stop shopping," Kozak says.

"You take SAP software preloaded with best practices on an AS/400 and you cut down on your implementation time. That’s the whole value proposition to the retailer. You have rapid implementation and get up and running very quickly so you can maximize your IS staff by putting them on competitive projects rather than interfacing your system."

Kozak says retail is the largest new revenue area for SAP, but remains largely untapped, particularly in the mid-market, where the AS/400 is so strong.

"We pick our markets carefully. But once we pick a market to enter, we dominate that market. First we did it with raw materials, then process manufacturing, discrete manufacturing and consumer products. The next link along the supply chain is retail," Kozak says.

The benchmarking builds on a growing relationship between IBM and SAP in the retail markets. In September, IBM delivered its Makoro for Merchandise Planning application for SAP customers and the integration of IBM’s Payment Suite, incorporating Secure Electronic Transaction (SET) technology with SAP Retail Online Store using Business Application Programming Interfaces (BAPIs). In addition, IBM helped create the SAP Retail data model and develop the Retail Interchange interface as an option to connect POS systems to SAP Retail. IBM has also increased its investment in SAP Retail consulting.

IBM also recently announced its solutions packaging strategy for SAP Accelerated Financials.

The solution package combines SAP Ready-to-Run R/3 on the AS/400 or Netfinity servers with IBM Global Services consultants to assist with implementation and attractive financing options from IBM Global Financing. Upfront costs are spread over the life of the project, while customers can start taking advantage of the implementation immediately.

This fixed-scope solution allows for a rapid implementation of the financials application as a stand-alone or as a first phase towards a broader scope implementation.