D.H. Andrews Examines AS/400 E-Business Outlook

Over the past two years or so, IBM has been touting the AS/400 as a perfect fit for e-business, citing its well-known features of reliability, scalability, and security. During that time, both OS/400 and AS/400 have undergone a transformation as part of IBM’s attempt to position it to meet the needs of e-business companies.

Despite IBM’s push, there has been much debate about whether or not the public still views the AS/400 as a viable platform for the future, both in e-business and in other areas. This has been fueled, in large part, by the continuing decline of AS/400 sales over the past year and a half, along with the perception that the AS/400 is ‘old-school’ technology.

A recent study by D.H. Andrews Group (Cheshire, Conn.) entitled, “The AS/400 and E-Business: AS/400 customer plans for deploying AS/400 solutions on the AS/400 and other servers,” surveyed 350 AS/400 users on their e-business strategies over the next three years. The survey was one of seven that D.H. Andrews conducted in January and February as part of their 2000 AS/400 market research series.

For the most part, the results were positive for IBM , as D.H. Andrews reported ambitious plans for e-business among AS/400 users and a very strong commitment to using the AS/400 as the platform for their e-business initiatives.

“E-business was by far the biggest area that AS/400 users are embracing compared to the other areas such as ERP,” says John Knapp, senior industry analyst, D.H. Andrews Group. “There is a very strong commitment to the AS/400 for e-business, and a lot of companies have robust e-business plans, so there’s a lot of opportunity.”

There was, however, cause for concern, as the results showed some migration of applications and databases off of the AS/400 and onto other servers. This was fueled, for the most part, by a problem that has been plaguing IBM for some time--a lack of confidence about the future of the AS/400.

Of particular concern is the low mind-share among high- ranking executives.

“Some IT managers were frustrated by their senior management’s lack of confidence in the AS/400,” says Knapp. “Some executives just don’t associate the AS/400 with e-business, so they want to move to other platforms. There’s just not the same type of hype surrounding the AS/400 as there is about servers such as NT’s.”

The low mind-share seems to lend credence to those who say IBM is not paying enough attention to the AS/400. “It could be an indication of the marketing, or lack there-of, from IBM,” Knapp adds.

While most of the respondents were very high on the future of the AS/400, some voiced concern over the commitment of ISVs to the AS/400.

“They’re not concerned about the AS/400, they’re concerned about whether or not there are going to be enough AS/400 products and applications to meet their needs,” says Knapp.

According to Knapp, there is a considerable amount of development work being done using Java. Some are using it to increase their AS/400 capabilities in support of their e-business strategies, while others are using it to pave the way for migration to other platforms.

“They’re leaving the door open for change and that leaves the AS/400 in a delicate situation, because it’s easier than ever for companies to migrate,” added Knapp.

Although there are important issues that IBM has to tackle, Knapp says the AS/400 is still well-positioned to become a big player in the e-business market. The onus, he says, falls directly on IBM.

“Perception is very important. Existing customers want to continue to use the AS/400 for their e-business needs, but the decision to do so will be colored by their perception of what’s really happening in the market,” says Knapp. “It’s important for IBM and their business partners that the perception remains strong. If it does, then there’s no reason the AS/400 won’t grow strong in the e-business market.”

Related Information:

  • IBM AS/400 E-Business Page (new window)