IBM Once Again Repackages System i for the Small and Mid-Size Enterprise

IBM last week unveiled two new System i servers for the SMB market

IBM Corp. last week unveiled two new System i offerings for the small- and medium-sized business (SMB) market: the i515 and i525 servers.

Packing 1.9 GHz POWER 5+ chips—the i525 is available in either single- or dual-processor configurations—and boasting flexible memory and storage footprints, analysts say they like what they see in Big Blue’s latest System i push.

IBM says its new System i machines are designed for SMB organizations of up to 100 employees. Its i515 system (which IBM says is intended for organizations of up to 40 users) supports up to 16 GB of memory and a maximum of 560 GB of storage, while the i525 (which can accommodate up to 100 users) supports up to 32 GB of memory and 32 TB of storage. Both systems are available as all-in-one IBM Express solutions, which are priced on a per-user basis.

“IBM is providing [SMB] clients simplified access to a complete system that is easy-to-manage, easy-to-secure and highly reliable, with built-in virus resistance, database, storage and systems management technology,” said System i general manager Mark Shearer, in a prepared release.

Veteran industry watcher Charles King, a principal with consultancy Pund-IT, says Big Blue’s new System i offerings give customers a distinct alternative to white-box Wintel or Linux servers. “[W]hile the relative price/performance of servers in general—and Wintel servers in particular—improved dramatically in recent years, many of the tools for managing those solutions have not kept pace with hardware improvements,” King points out.

One consequence of this, he says, is that “The dream of cheap, powerful technology too often turns into a nightmare of increasing complexity and support costs, particularly among the companies that can least afford it.”

Avoiding the Cost Spiral

Enter IBM’s new System i offerings, which King argues offer customers a “way out of” spiraling Wintel support costs. “The i515 and i525 build on the System i’s long history of and reputation for excellence in delivering the goods for small businesses, adding a couple of twists that should endear the platform to thousands of dedicated System i customers, as well as potential new SMB clients,” he says.

For one thing, King notes, the new machines include built-in workload tools that simplify the management of multiple applications. IBM claims that System i’s integrated workload management capabilities far outstrip those of Windows systems, for example. According to Big Blue, the workload manager that’s built into both models allows clients to run and manage multiple applications independently on a single system instead of deploying a new server whenever they need to bring up another application.

IBM will be selling its new System i offerings through its Vertical Industry Partner (VIP) initiative, which “leverages the expertise and innovative products of industry-focused ISVs into new System i-based solutions.”

King’s particularly high on the new per-user pricing schema that IBM announced in conjunction with the i515 and i525 systems. “[This] is the real eye-catcher here, as it provides System I customers a simplified means to tailor and buy exactly the server solutions their businesses need. That feature is sure to appeal to current System i customers and could help pave the way for businesses investigating the platform for the first time,” he argues.

Both systems will be available later this month, according to IBM.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.

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