guest commentary: AS/400: The High Scorer in ERP

Even if you haven’t played many video games, I’m sure your kids have. I’m told it’s a great way to relieve stress, improve spatial reasoning, and hone hand-eye coordination. Video games are quite popular, with the majority of homes having a personal computer or some type of video game console.

Aside from perhaps its graphics quality, the factor that makes a video game platform most attractive is the selection of game titles -- the more varied and voluminous, the better.

It's not much different in the business world. A given company will often choose a hardware solution based on the availability of software. As terrific as the AS/400 is, it means little to customers unless IBM, its business partners and independent software vendors offer myriad applications to solve their business problems. That’s why we are working with our customers and partners to deliver the hottest application solutions covering just about every business need, from e-business and Java, to Lotus Domino and enterprise resource planning (ERP).

But, unlike a video platform, which runs its games with the push of a button, ERP applications are a bit different. ERP applications are software suites that link and automate almost every aspect of a business -- from shipping to receiving, from inventory to accounts receivable. Since the applications modules are so dependent on one another, ERP packages can sometimes be difficult and time consuming to install. Most can only be customized to a certain extent. For some adopters, implementing ERP packages means re-engineering their entire business operations.

So what is it about the AS/400 that makes it so appealing as an ERP server?

For starters, the AS/400 has an unparalleled ability to deploy software quickly and smoothly. In fact, a survey of consultants revealed an amazing statistic: ERP implementations on the AS/400 were consistently completed faster than planned. Even more, when you compare deployment times to other platforms, such as Windows NT and UNIX, the AS/400 wins hands down, averaging two months less per installation.

Ever hear the saying "time is money?" I bet your customers have. SAP, a leader in ERP, has called the AS/400 the fastest platform for R/3 implementations. (And just for the record, it is the only platform that can run R/3 on a single server.)

With software like ERP, which is not known for its flexibility, the AS/400 does more than most to ease implementation. Consider AS/400 custom server solutions, introduced in 1997 and expanded in 1998. They have been enthusiastically received in the marketplace and help address the needs of the middle market while lowering the risk of implementation. Simply put, the customer chooses a server pre-loaded with ERP software from one of three levels: basic preload (no customization of the software); customized preload (some customization) or server package (high level of customization with software tailored to a specific industry segment). Bottom line, the AS/400 delivers one-stop shopping, reduced install/bring-up time and a lower total cost than anyone else in our class of computing.

It doesn't get much easier than that. But there’s more.

Once you are up and running on an AS/400, you continue to run. It does you no good if the server is always down. An AS/400 rarely goes down, except for scheduled maintenance and upgrades. The AS/400 family outdistances its competitors with an average availability of 99.97 percent, roughly less than 3 hours of downtime a year. Compare that to Windows NT, with over 250 hours of downtime - - the equivalent to losing over six work weeks every year. The AS/400 is among the most available and most reliable servers in its class for ERP implementations.

The AS/400 is the ideal solution for ERP vendors to exploit opportunities in the middle market and to serve customers looking to connect and automate their entire business enterprise.

Dramatic change, however, is occurring in the ERP market. It is evolving rapidly to the next logical step. Thousands of companies have already deployed ERP software, particularly in large enterprises. The sweet spot is now in the middle market. Solution providers are looking for quick and simple ways to address this space.

Enter the AS/400 -- built for the way you do business.

Customer needs have moved to the traditional AS/400 strengths of reliability, scalability, security, service and support. The AS/400 maintains those characteristics, and continues to evolve, incorporating the latest technologies that customers demand.

The next evolution for ERP in large and small forward thinking businesses is supply chain management (SCM). SCM allows companies to automate the entire business process. SCM can link together manufacturers, suppliers, distributors and customers, without regard to functional, geographic or enterprise boundaries. This provides companies with dynamic and instant access to the most current data and applications, allowing them to plan, schedule, analyze and make the right decisions for their businesses. Automation of internal processes is great, but automating the entire supply chain with a complete e-business solution is what the future is all about.

Solutions for e-business are being offered to customers through our joint channel marketing program, where key ISVs, business partners and IBM all work together to design the best system to meet the needs of each customer. The level of confidence our partners are placing in the AS/400 is further exemplified by the ISVs themselves. When asked how much of their research and development would focus on AS/400-specific programs, software developers in North America responded over 80 percent; developers in Latin America, over 90 percent!


Well, it turns out that software developers look at servers the same way you and I view video games. The more titles a platform or solution has, the more attractive it will be to those that write to that hardware. When solution providers know that customers flock to a server like AS/400 because it boasts the software solutions for just about everybody, for just about every aspect of their businesses, they want to be a part of it. Sort of like a mall with strong anchor stores attracting other businesses. People want to go where the action is.

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