Internal Disk, PCI Enhancements Boost Performance

In defiance of repeated criticism that the AS/400 is "old technology" IBM complemented the July 29 announcement of its AS/400e Dedicated Server for Domino with a number of new features and enhancements to various aspects of the server line's hardware and software. While the dedicated Domino server--IBM's first application-specific server--may have stolen the show, these enhancements are not to be overlooked.

IBM continues to position the AS/400 for the new millennium, despite three successive quarters of revenue decline. By the end of the year, the AS/400 is expected to receive enhancements to its internal disk, three new PCI adapters, new versions of WebSphere Application Server and MQSeries e-business middleware, and Linux interoperability. Also, IBM confirmed that an enhancement package for V4R4, which will include Java for AS/400 and DB2 Universal Database enhancements, is scheduled for release in late October.

The internal disk improvements include an enhanced storage/PCI expansion tower, PCI Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) disk unit controller, 10,000 RPM 8.58GB disk unit and extended adaptive cache.

The storage/PCI expansion tower will now support up to 45 Ultra-2 SCSI disk units, has 12 PCI I/O slots and two removable media slots--of which up to three can be used for the disk unit controller--and two removable media slots, which can be used for internal tape and CD-ROM. This new 19-inch tower attaches to AS/400e servers via optical bus. "The benefits of this new package are support for lower-cost PCI technology on the high-end AS/400e servers," says Randy Grimm, AS/400 1999 announce program manager.

The PCI RAID disk unit controller comes equipped with 26MB of fast-write cache and is expected to improve internal subsystem disk performance with a faster onboard processor, according to Grimm. The controller supports RAID-5, optionally supports disk compression or large read caches and has three Ultra-2 SCSI buses providing throughput for up to 15 disk units.

The 10,000 RPM 8.58GB disk units are Ultra-2 SCSI-capable and can be used in RAID-5 or mirrored configurations. These new disk units can increase storage subsystem performance, particularly when used for transaction processing workloads. According to IBM, the combination of both the new PCI controller and the new disk unit can result in as much as a 60 percent performance improvement. When adding the 1.6GB read cache device to this combination, an additional performance improvement of up to 50 percent can be realized, Grimm says.

Up to a 20 percent improvement can be realized pairing the new 10,000 RPM disk and previous generation controllers. A combination of the new PCI controller and previous generation 7,200 RPM disk units can provide up to a 20 percent performance improvement as well.

Building upon PCI adapter technology first introduced to the AS/400 with V4R1, IBM announced three new PCI adapters designed to bring new solution options across the company's entire line of servers. PCI Cryptographic Coprocessor, a hardware encryption device scheduled for an August 20 release, is designed to provide high performance and secure key capabilities for banking and financial applications. According to Grimm, this coprocessor will be coupled with a no-charge cryptographic access provider license program from IBM.

The PCI ISDN Adapter--scheduled for availability on December 17-consolidates a variety of connectivity needs for remote devices attached to the AS/400e servers. Up to eight remote devices can be connected simultaneously using Serial Line Internet Protocol/Point-to-Point Protocol (SLIP/PPP), Integrated Digital Loop Carrier (IDLC) and fax.

The third and final PCI adapter-PCI Integrated Analog Modem, also scheduled for release on December 17--is based on DSP technology and allows the modem function to be integrated into the Input/Output Adapter (IOA) while supporting multiple analog modem support for up to eight lines.

On the software front, IBM announced that WebSphere Application Server for AS/400 Advanced Edition-which will include support for Enterprise JavaBeans-will be available on October 29. This support is compliant with the Sun Enterprise JavaBean specifications and is a chargeable version of the product, according to Grimm.

MQSeries 5.1 will be available for the AS/400 on November 26. Following the availability of v5.1, IBM is expected to offer MQ Series Integrator 1.1 (on December 17), delivering more tools and componentry to facilitate cross-server messaging.

Another key aspect of the July 29 announcement is AS/400 interoperability with Linux via industry standards with open source software. Grimm says AS/400 support for open industry standards makes it a natural to interoperate with open-source software like Linux. "Whether Linux is the operating system running on a client or a server, the AS/400 interoperates using a combination of IBM products and industry standards," he says. Grimm added that IBM SecureWay Host On-Demand version 4 is an example of IBM software that facilitates the interoperation of Linux and IBM.

V4R4 enhancements-scheduled to be available on October 29-will include improved performance for Java applications and an enhanced AS/400 Developer Kit for Java. IBM also announced a Database Enhance Pack, which will include new object relational support, large object support and user-defined types and definitions.