IBM Offers Vision of NT Integration

Despite IBM's continued emphasis of AS/400 and networked Netfinity coexistence and rumors that the company is ready to wash its hands of the Integrated Netfinity Server, IBM has taken steps to address the direction of these two distinct methods of Windows NT connectivity.

IBM plans to promote use of standalone Netfinity servers as a way for the AS/400 market to take advantage of the latest Intel technology, according to Ian Jarman, AS/400 product marketing manager. "When we first announced the Integrated Netfinity Server, we made a statement of direction that we would in the future provide a means to directly attach a standard Netfinity server to the AS/400, so that you could have the best of the AS/400 and the latest model from Netfinity directly connected together," he says.

The idea behind this direct AS/400-Netfinity connectivity is for IBM to retain all the current integration features the company has designed. "Today, we talk about systems management and disk consolidation as the two primary integration features we have on the AS/400, so that all the disks on the AS/400, as well as all the power control and startup, are [handled] inside the AS/400," Jarman says. Both the systems management and disk consolidation features are retained when an external Netfinity server is connected directly. All of the disks, systems management and power control are still conducted from within the AS/400. "In many respects, it is the same solution [as the Integrated Netfinity Server], except we are using an external Netfinity server to give us more power. Then we can use a four-way [processor configuration] for example, whereas inside the AS/400, we have only a uniprocessor," he adds.

Jarman says IBM wants to make it clear that the company is continuing to develop the Integrated Netfinity Server to operate under the covers of the AS/400. IBM's primary motivation for continuing its work on the Integrated Netfinity Server is to accommodate marketplaces where a uniprocessor and a Model 170 or 720, for example, operate best. "We continue to have a requirement going forward for the integrated server, and that will continue to be a uniprocessor," he says.

While IBM does not have plans to expand the Integrated Netfinity Server to become a multiprocessor, the company will continue to enhance the product in other ways, such as processor speed. "The key to this is market segmentation," Jarman points out. "If you look at the [Model] 170, you're unlikely to say 'I want a four-way or an eight-way Intel processor directly connected to it.' If you've got a [Model] 740, it could very well be that you want a four-way. What we've done today is focus on our entry marketplace."

The "sweet spot" for IBM in the entry marketplace is the Model 170 with an Integrated Netfinity Server, according to Jarman. IBM will instead target the directly attached Netfinity server configuration at its higher-end AS/400 models, where more processing power is required both on the AS/400 and on the Windows NT side.

While IBM knows the AS/400 customer base is incredibly loyal, the company is also aware of the need for Windows NT within that same group of users. "It's our view that the AS/400 can be the real leader in terms of NT integration in the industry," Jarman says. "Nobody else has a product that can combine NT and their other system in a way that we do here, but if you look at where we serve that market today with our uniprocessor, clearly there are still some customers who are choosing to buy Compaq or Dell outside of the AS/400. What we want to do is firstly provide an industry-leading solution between AS/400 and NT integrated together, but secondly to offer a complete IBM solution."

One way this all-Blue combination benefits the user is to facilitate the bringing of new technology to market faster. Within IBM, the AS/400 and Netfinity teams are able to work together early in the product development cycle.

"Since we introduced the FSIOP with V3R1, we've refreshed the integrated server technology each year, just like we refresh our AS/400 technology each year," Jarman says. "We will continue to refresh our integrated server technology. As it turns out, we're really beginning to see the success of the integrated server. We're selling it on approximately 20 percent of our 170 models."