IBM goes to bat for new iSeries

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 July, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 July, 2002, 12:00am

At its Asia-Pacific Strategic Planning Conference in Macau last week, IBM, the world's largest computer company, touted its iSeries of high-end servers as 'ultra-reliable, business-oriented servers' that companies could use without having to hire an army of technology specialists to care for them.

The product manager for the iSeries at IBM, Ian Jarman, said the iSeries should be thought of more as 'business servers' than a traditional server.

The iSeries is based on technology developed many years ago for IBM's mid-range AS/400 series of computers that were sold almost as 'turn-key' solutions that never crashed. Because they were so special, they were expensive and the software even more so. They did have a reputation for being rock-solid and easy to manage, once they were up and running. Today, however, the AS/400 is considered rather old. Hence the new iSeries.

The charitable view of the iSeries is that it is a more modern version of the AS/400. After all, the operating system is still called OS/400. The less charitable view is that IBM is trying to package an old product in a new box and get more money for it.

One of the problems with the AS/400 was that it did not have access to the large amounts of software that Unix has. Consequently, although the systems were stable, software sometimes had to be specially written and this was expensive. As Unix became more stable, it obviously encroached on AS/400 territory.

IBM's general manager for the eServer iSeries worldwide, Buell Duncan, said there had never been another product like the AS/400. 'The AS/400 has the highest customer satisfaction in the industry. One of my clients asked me last week: 'Have you any idea what it takes to tape back-up 30 Wintel servers?' '

The new iSeries is being aimed at those companies that want the solid technology of the AS/400 but with more modern software, including Web-based applications.

One aspect of the new iSeries is the ability to have extra processors included in the package that can be used later. IBM calls this 'capacity upgrade-on-demand'.

A customer can buy a system with four processors but IBM will deliver the machine with eight. If at Christmas the demand on the server is so great the customer needs more processing power, all he has to do is pay for it. A special number is sent to the customer and the extra processors can then be turned on - which, according to Mr Duncan, is what the customer wants.