AS/400 Unseats SGI for Top Spot in VARBusiness Annual Report Card

Joanna Doyle

Service improvements received high marks and the IBM AS/400 received top ranking in the VARBusiness’ Annual Report Card’s midrange server category. The AS/400 moved up dramatically in several categories, taking first place over two-time winner SGI in all but three criteria, and placing second in two.

The AS/400 saw its biggest improvement in the rankings in the category of presales support, jumping from last in 1998, to sixth, then to first this year. According to Patrice Mitchell, IBM VP of product management and segment solutions, improvement in this criteria can be attributed to IBM’s new Web-based tools and information system. The new system allows VARs to perform systems sizing and configuration operations in the presales cycle, and makes a variety of performance-tuning, sales positioning, competitive information and partner solutions available on the Web.

Further improvement in the AS/400’s rating occurred in the area of channel management, following a major change IBM implemented to make it easier for partners to sell multiple products and to work in multiple countries. Previously, such activity required separate authorizations.

While changes in service were crucial to the AS/400’s ascent to the ARC’s top spot, product improvement was also a significant factor. The new 700 series AS/400, which offers a 50 percent increase in performance over IBM’s 600 series, ranked first across the board in the products/pricing area. The new product’s improved performance, along with the institution of IBM’s new QuickShip program, has led to “substantial improvement in the price-performance ratio across the product line” according to Mitchell.

“The AS/400 is very easy to sell,” said Scott Goodhew, director of marketing and sales for Image Systems Solutions, a Toronto-based IBM integrator. “It has a tremendous reputation in the market. As a result, we’ve seen a move away from a ‘push’ to a ‘pull’ selling strategy.”

The one criteria in which the AS/400 fell short was in ease of doing business, where the system placed fourth.