IBM Reveals New iSeries

Uses Power 4, EIM

On Monday IBM introduced the new version of the iSeries, the i890, which uses the same Power 4 processors deployed in the top-of-the line p690 Unix server and sports the latest version of OS/400, version 5 release 2.

IBM expects to deliver machines to its customers on June 14 and generally distribute the new OS/400 version in August. IBM last refreshed its iSeries line last year.

The Power 4 processors used in the i890 cram multiple processor cores onto a single piece of silicon, improving SMP performance and chip-to-chip communications. The processors were first used in IBM’s flagship p690 Unix server, nicknamed “Regatta.”

Ian Jarmon, iSeries product manager for IBM, says the chips are designed to switch between different modes to better suit the applications running on iSeries and pSeries machines. In one configuration, the chip is optimized for transactional or batch applications on the iSeries, and, in another configuration, the chip runs computationally intensive applications, Unix’ traditional workload, efficiently.

The introduction of the i890 also brings a new processor-related development to the platform: capacity-on-demand. IBM will ship each new greater-than-four-way iSeries machine with an additional four processors to allow enterprises to increase the capacity of a machine instantly. The processors will sit idle, but come online when IBM is paid for the extra capacity.

OS/400 v5 r2 also brings new capabilities to the midrange platform. One new feature IBM touts is Enterprise Identity Mapping (EIM), which uses a repository of user accounts to allow single sign-on for users. If users are listed in the repository, they can sign on once and access all the applications they’re entitled to. Jarmon says IBM is also providing the API for EIM to third-party ISVs, so each vendor can integrate its applications with EIM.

iSeries machines are often called “midrange systems,” in comparison to their mainframe brethren, but Jarmon says midrange machines now have many things in common with big iron. The first release of OS/400 v5 brought dynamic logical partitions to the midrange. “We’re able to bring mainframe technology right into the heart of our market,” Jarmon says.

Unlike some Unix servers, which can only create as many partitions as there are processors, the iSeries has a lot of flexibility in setting up partitions. “We’re able to divide a uni-processor into multiple partitions,” Jarmon says.

The latest machines can support up to 32 OS/400 and Linux partitions, and Jarmon says IBM is working to allow its Unix flavor AIX to run concurrently with OS/400. He believes this capability will come to market in 2004.

While some users may wonder why an enterprise would want to run Linux on a machine often reserved for traditional business applications, Jarmon says Linux adds flexibility for consolidating applications on an iSeries. With Linux, a business application can serve as a data store for a Web application and use the Linux partitions to run application servers. “We’re focused on eliminating the server-farm mentality,” he says.

About the Author

Chris McConnell is Product and Technology Editor for Enterprise Systems.