For several years we've kept track of the IBM alternative to the HP 3000 integrated package. For many years it was called the AS/400, then the iSeries, then the i5, and now, System i. Recently, several items crossed our desk about this server, one whose customers seem as ardent as any HP 3000 fan, dedicated to a longtime solution which is not Windows or Unix-based. (Though the Series i can do Linux, Unix and Windows, with some add-ons)
Item 1: IBM Series i applications often rely on something called 5250 processing capability, a kind of in-the-terminal intelligence. IBM measures this 5250 horsepower, called CPW, and charges a customer accordingly. Your apps need more, you pay extra. The IBM market has responded with software that bypasses the IBM measurements. IBM has followed with suits against several third party firms selling what that market calls "governor-busters." Fast400 was the latest to fall last year, in an out-of-court settlement.
But things change. IBM is now endorsing one of these busters, from Australian company Looksoftware, according to iSeries News. The toolset lookdirect "lets a system's full-batch CPW capability be used for interactive applications — with IBM's blessing."
This a development that seems to mirror one of the bigger questions still before HP 3000 homesteaders: Will HP ever unleash all the horsepower in the N-Class and A-Class servers? If a third-party solution ever emerged to do this, would HP respond with a suit, or support?
IBM's endorsement of lookdirect saves customers money, but will prompt some upgrades to newer System i servers. The iSeries Network reports:
It takes advantage of the latest POWER5 [CPU] technology, allowing the full-batch CPW capability of a system to be utilized for 5250 applications and enabling organizations to deploy 5250 workloads to System i Standard Edition rather than Enterprise Edition.
As an example of cost savings, by deploying 5250 workloads to a Standard Edition 520 with 3,800 CPW in the P10 software tier, you can save up to $60,000 in hardware costs. A high-end user switching to a Standard Edition 595 with 92,000 CPW in the P50/60 software tier can save up to $900,000.
You need to upgrade to a POWER5 server to get this, but nearly a million dollars is not chump change. IBM is a vendor seeing the light about hampering its hardware. This from a vendor still trying to sell its enterprise alternative to the 3000. It does make me wonder how long HP can keep slowdown code in the 3000's OS, with little impact on anything but migration business.
Item 2: IBM announced that its iSeries revenue was down 7 percent for the most recent quarter. Sales tailed off, however, because the vendor couldn't get the systems out the door fast enough. European environmental laws slowed manufacturing. By figuring in this inability to supply all of the demand for System i the year-to-year revenue would have been about flat.
Item 3: IBM, along with Web sites IT Jungle and Search 400, report that Trident Seafood, an HP 3000 shop, has now migrated to an iSeries— er, System i solution. Trident was a long-time 3000 customer, but the story reported by Search400 said "a lot of the company had home-written applications that weren't tightly integrated. Trident was looking for an enterprise resource planning (ERP) software package to manage its inventory, allowing an easier way to track where and when the fish and seafood had been and was going.
That is a common profile among HP 3000 manufacting and distribution customers. Integration is hard work, and so many 3000 sites saw their development budgets stripped bare after Y2K. The solution at Trident is the Oracle/JD Edwards EnterpriseOne applications, along with a server mirroring solution and some Windows-based (IBM's System x) server capability.
One way to triangulate these data points is to see that IBM will change its business plans to keep the Series i sales moving, all while its packaged applications lineup draws HP 3000 customers out of the homegrown-application cycle. Does HP have an answer to this? The vendor believes that it does in its HP-UX solutions, which probably introduce no more change and cost than moving to a mega-app like EnterpriseOne. Of course, there's that Unix to administer, something less self-maintaining than System i environment.