Benchmark Testing Shows Power of 8xx Series

The new release of Merchandise Management System (MMS) from JDA Software (Scottsdale, Ariz.) demonstrates the dramatic processing power improvements of IBM’s upgraded AS/400 8xx server series, executives of both companies reported recently.

In recent benchmark testing, MMS 4R5 running on IBM AS/400 model 840 exhibited an average 200 percent performance improvement over the product’s previous release, according to Randy Kluck, VP of JDA’s AS/400 development group. Kluck says those numbers actually represent a conservative average, and that some test results suggested “significantly higher performance improvements than that,” in some cases as much as four-fold.

MMS 4R5 offers nearly 150 enhanced features over the previous version, but the most significant and extensive—in terms of improving performance—is JDA’s structural redesign of the system to make it particularly compatible with the 840.

“What we ended up doing with this was rearchitecting our system, so that we can take full advantage of all the processors the AS/400 makes available to us, which in the case of this release is 24,” Kluck said.

JDA MMS is an AS/400-based retail headquarters application that includes merchandising, warehouse and distribution, and financial application functions. MMS 4R5 offers such enhanced features as multicurrency support, new CRM modules, consignment sales support, and integration with for e-commerce initiatives. The AS/400e Model 840, released as part of a new line of servers introduced in June, is the first to use IBM’s silicon-on-insulator (SOI) processor and copper wiring technology. Its partitioning capability allows one server to scale from a single processor to a 24-way processor.

In terms of real business processes, one of the most significant ways in which MMS 4R5 takes advantage of the new server’s architecture is in the way it handles standard retail day-end activities, according to Kluck.

“In reality, retailers at the end of the business day have a high-volume of transactions they have to perform,” he explains.

For large retail chains, these day-end transactions consist of “pre-polling,” where corporate headquarters prepare to push updates and information out to branch locations; preparing, the process of actually transferring the data and collecting the day’s data from various stores; and finally “post-polling,” exchanging inventory updates, sales updates and replenishment orders.

Typically, a business would have to perform each of these high-volume transactions in succession. The new AS/400 840 release utilizes SMP capability to partition these functions so they can occur simultaneously, rather than sequentially, which drastically reduces the overall time required to complete the daily task.

Another benefit of AS/400’s LPAR capability is that it allows different kinds of applications to be hosted on the same server. For example, on the 840, Kluck says JDA is now able to run standard operations applications and data warehousing together on a single server.

“Traditionally, the data warehousing application would require its own box,” Kluck says. “Our customers like to have very lean IT shops, and one of the benefits of the AS/400 is the ability to run all that stuff. ... We wanted to verify that we could actually configure and run these operational systems and the data warehouse application on the same physical box.”

While the benefits of partitioning these workloads are great, configuring MMS 4R5 to take advantage of the capability was no small task for JDA, according to Kluck.

“It’s not something you can take advantage of just by installing the software on a new piece of hardware—it requires some reworking of the architecture,” he says.

However, says Guy Paradise, IBM’s distribution segment manager for AS/400, running the software using the 840’s 24 server partitions was a critical factor in achieving the improved performance.

“This is the first time JDA has chosen to take advantage of that capability, and that was a huge development step for them,” Paradise says. “It’s very impressive what they’ve done with this release.”

According to Kluck, users who choose not to upgrade to an AS/400 840 will still get some benefit from the new functionality included in MMS 4R5, but users should only expect to see the dramatic performance improvements described here if they are running the software on an upgraded server.

Related Editorial:

  • IBM Passes Goal of Backing UP 1TB in an Hour
  • New AS/400 Raises Benchmark Bar

    Related Information:

  • IBM AS/400 Page (new window)
  • JDA Software (new window)