The Name Game

After reading our front-page article titled, "AS/400 Era Coming to an End" you probably get the point -- there are big things happening in the AS/400, I mean, iSeries 400 community. I’d like to tell you the repositioning of server brands going on within IBM is more than just a name change, but I can’t, with a clear conscience, play along with IBM’s “this is more than just a name change” story.

Fundamentally, the iSeries 400 Model 840 is no different from the former AS/400e Model 840. In fact, today, there are absolutely no differences between the “new” iSeries 400 models and the AS/400e models that are left behind, other than that the iSeries systems use Copper/SOI technology and the AS/400e systems don’t. They both run OS/400, they both use the same system enclosures, and they both run the same applications.

The last major change in the AS/400 product line, which occurred in 1995, was the switch from CISC chips to RISC chips. This – on the surface – was a big change, but in reality, it really didn’t impact AS/400 users all that much. Why? Because the AS/400, from day one, was designed to handle just this kind of change. Hardware independence was one of the major selling points of the AS/400, and many an IS manager must have thanked their lucky stars it was when IBM decided to adopt the PowerPC microprocessor as the engine of the new AS/400 systems.

Since 1995 there was the minor name change where IBM added the letter ‘e’ after AS/400 to come up with the AS/400e, supposedly an attempt to position the AS/400 as a platform for e-business.Now we have a similar attempt by IBM to position the AS/400 (and all IBM platforms) as engines for e-business. The new ‘eserver’ brand, complete with IBM trademarked red ‘e’, is meant to unify the Netfinity, AS/400, RS/6000, and S/390 under one roof, a veritable one brand fits all offering.

Under the eserver brand, four ‘series’ of servers will be sold. The Netfinity becomes the xSeries, with the ‘x’ standing for Netfinity’s X architecture. The AS/400 becomes the iSeries 400 (the 400 will be dropped as soon as possible), with the ‘i’ standing for innovation, independence, and Internet, all at once. The RS/6000 becomes the pSeries, with the ‘p’ standing for performance. Finally, the S/390 becomes the zSeries, with the ‘z’ standing for god knows what. Zero downtime I guess, but I just can’t wait for the ‘z stands for zero’ jokes to start circulating. This is kind of like First Union (the sixth largest bank in the U.S.) naming their new sports arena here in Philadelphia the ‘First Union Center’. Try as they might they just can’t stop people from calling it the ‘FU Center’!

With a new name and an umbrella server brand, IBM believes potential customers will no longer see the server formerly known as AS/400, as old technology, a legacy system. Obviously, IBM has little respect for the intelligence of the average IS manager. Do they really think that a mere name change is going to convince someone who formerly had no interest in AS/400 to magically change their mind? Maybe, but I would hope they are more firmly grounded in reality than that.

So, my opinion is that this most recent attempt by IBM to market the AS/400 outside of the installed base will meet about as much success as any of its previous attempts. But the deeper question is will this name change turn off the current users of the AS/400? Who knows for sure, but I would tend to think, no. The bottom line is, the platform hasn’t changed. Sure, IBM will make enhancements to the iSeries over time, but it would have done that anyway, even if it hadn’t changed the name.

So, sit back, relax, and don’t worry. The platform you know and love will be around for quite a long time. What’s in a name anyway? Countries change their names all the time. If your country gets a bad human rights record, just become Myanmar. But don’t worry; it’s the same old Burma you know and love (loath)!

Related Editorial:

  • "AS/400" Era Coming to an End
  • IBM Offers iSeries Roadmap

    Related Information:

  • IBM iSeries Division (new window)