How Much Is That Server In The Window?

Do you remember that song about the doggie in the window? You know – the one with the waggely tail? Well, he costs $63,000, and since the “man’s best friend” software won’t run on your basic entry level dog, the Canine Model 170-2290, better known as the “nuisance dog,” you better get the $63,000 dog or the pet shop owner won’t help you when the dog won’t do tricks!

My mistake. I leased the “nuisance dog,” an AS/400e Model 170-2290 with 128MB of memory, thinking that it would be adequate for testing purposes. I’m not trying to do anything overly taxing—or at least I didn’t think what I wanted to do was overly taxing. I installed various and sundry software products—ILE RPG, Query Manager, ADTS—and had no problems. I even installed Lotus Domino and the only problem I had was that it was slow—excruciatingly slow—but it worked nonetheless. Personally, for testing purposes only, I am prepared to put up with a slow system in order to save a few bucks.

It was only when I attempted to install Websphere Advanced Edition 3.0 that I started running into problems. After successfully downloading the product from the IBM web site and installing it on my AS/400, I attempted to get this puppy running (OK, that will be the last of the canine tie-ins) and immediately started having trouble.

My first inclination was to call IBM and see if they could help me troubleshoot the problem. I called the friendly people at IBM media relations and explained my problem. After a few days I received an e-mail asking for a description of the problem and a run down of my system, you know, software, hardware, etc. I replied to the e-mail with everything they wanted and waited for a response.

Unfortunately the response I expected was not the response I received. I expected IBM to walk through the problem with me and help me get the software working. The response I received—and this is a direct quote—was “I am mostly concerned with your system size and the amount of memory you have. The prereqs state that a model 170 - 2385 with 1 Gig of memory is required. The 170-2290 has a CPW (Commercial processing Workload) of 73 as compared to a CPW of 460 on the 2385. The 2385 adds L2 cache which provides even better performance for memory intensive applications. Additionally, the 128MB of memory on your system is far below the prerequisite of 1 Gig.” He continued, “Please note that these prerequisites are not just for running WebSphere on the AS/400; rather, they are for running Java in general on the AS/400.” The IBM representative goes on to conclude, “In summary, I cannot support WebSphere Advanced 3.0 on your hardware.”

He referred me to the IBM V4R4 Performance Capabilities Reference manual for a full discourse on Java Performance (Chapter 7, pages 102-119.) In this document I found a section that divided AS/400s into three categories:

  • Better Machines For Java
  • Machines To Be Used With Caution For Java
  • Machines To Be Used With Extreme Caution For JavaMy machine was listed under the third category and I find it interesting that there is not a fourth category, “Best Machines For Java.” This lack of a “Best” category could mean that IBM doesn’t want to have to constantly update the “Better” list, or maybe there is no best AS/400 to run Java on. I’ll leave that one up to you to determine.

    I also find it interesting that the text of this document doesn’t say that Java won’t work on any of these machines, only that customers may be disappointed with Java performance on machines in the last two categories.

    So what does this all mean? Well, for me, it means that I can’t deliver a product review of Websphere Advanced Edition 3.0 to you until IBM gets me a loaner of a “big dog.” For you, it means that the AS/400 you already have may not be appropriate for Java use, let alone running Websphere.

    The bottom line is if you are considering running Java, check out the V4R4 Performance Capabilities Reference, which can be found at http://publib.boulder.ibm.com/pubs/html/as400/online/chgfrm.htm (new window). A little research upfront could save you a lot of pain later and maybe you can avoid having someone at IBM tell you they won’t help you because your system is not supported.

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