Brief: IBM's foray into the client/server environment is no longer mere proposal or intangible philosophy-it's taking sturdy, metallic shape and will soon be unleashed on the midrange market. The company's September 7 announcements unleash an onslaught of client/server products, new workstations and printers, improvements to DASD and memory and more from IBM over the next several months.
On September 7, in one of its well-known announcement blitzes, IBM declared in no uncertain terms that the AS/400 is now a serious player in the client/server market. The computer giant endowed its industry-leading midrange system with a variety of hardware and software products designed to make its distributed computing bid a successful one. It also promised that, by the end of 1994, the AS/400's combination of function, performance and affordability will make it the industry's best-of-breed client/server platform. Refer to 1 for pricing information and availability dates associated with these hardware products announced by IBM:
On September 7, in one of its well-known announcement blitzes, IBM declared in no uncertain terms that the AS/400 is now a serious player in the client/server market. The computer giant endowed its industry-leading midrange system with a variety of hardware and software products designed to make its distributed computing bid a successful one. It also promised that, by the end of 1994, the AS/400's combination of function, performance and affordability will make it the industry's best-of-breed client/server platform. Refer to Figure 1 for pricing information and availability dates associated with these hardware products announced by IBM:
o Three new AS/400 Server Series models that IBM has optimized for distributed computing applications. o A new intelligent graphical workstation offering, known as ValuePoint for AS/400, that combines the power of IBM's ValuePoint personal computer with a consistent graphical interface to the AS/400. o Increases in the maximum memory and storage capacities for selected AS/400 models, as well as enhancements to memory utilization. o A new line of 9337 disk storage arrays that offers improved performance, reliability and capacity at lower prices. o The 3494 Tape Library Dataserver, the first in a series of automated tape library subsystems for the AS/400. o Enhancements to AS/400 connectivity including a new high-speed communications adapter, support for additional printers, and an increase in the capacity of the 5494 remote controller.
The Server Series-A Different Kind of AS/400
At the heart of IBM's announcement is a new family of systems-the AS/400 Server Series-that the company has optimized for the development and delivery of client/server applications. Each model in the series is an integrated package that includes a Server Series system, a preconfigured local area network (LAN), and a PS/ValuePoint or Apple Macintosh which acts as the system console. In addition, IBM provides preconfigured hardware and software that simplifies the task of connecting LAN environments to the new systems.
The series contains three models: the 100, 135 and 140. While the model 100 is based on the 9402 footprint, models 135 and 140 are based on the 9404 footprint. The model 140 is the first 9404 system to have two processors; in the past, only the largest 9406 systems were multiprocessors.
While customers can upgrade the model 135 to the model 140, they cannot convert traditional AS/400s into Server Series models. This is because the new series is unlike standard AS/400s in many ways. IBM optimized the Server Series for client/server tasks by altering the AS/400 processor's vertical microcode and customizing the control blocks in OS/400 that administer LANs. The company also boosted memory and disk storage capacities as well as the maximum number of LAN adapters.
As Figures 2 and 3 show, these modifications give the Server Series a unique set of specifications and performance characteristics. When performing traditional interactive tasks, the three server models have performance levels that are roughly equivalent to the models F02, F10 and F20, respectively. When it comes to client/server tasks such as database serving, however, the series has about the same performance as the models F45, F50 and F70. This represents an incredible improvement in distributed computing price/performance. While the model F70 costs $400,000, the Server Series 140 with equivalent client/server performance costs $57,000.
Though this quantum leap in price/performance is good news, it does not make traditional AS/400s obsolete. Because the Server Series is optimized for client/server tasks, it is not a cost-effective solution for batch and interactive workloads. According to our sources within IBM, the Server Series has a price/performance edge over traditional AS/400 models in environments where at least 60 percent of the workload is client/server. In data centers where the client/server workload is less than 40 percent, standard systems are the most cost-effective choice.
ValuePoint for AS/400-A New Look for Workstations
Another vital component of the September client/server announcement is the ValuePoint for AS/400, an intelligent graphical workstation which integrates IBM's popular PS/ValuePoint personal computer with preconfigured software. The new workstation fulfills a statement of direction IBM made during its F-model announcement in February 1993. It will connect to traditional AS/400 models as well as the new Server Series.
The ValuePoint for AS/400 comes with an Intel 80486 processor, a minimum of 4 megabytes (MB) of memory (expandable to 64MB), a floppy disk drive and a choice of three hard disks ranging in capacity from 120-340MB. It also comes preloaded with IBM's PC-DOS 5.0, Microsoft Windows 3.1, PC Support, RUMBA/400 and LAN Support Program. For those customers who prefer an OS/2 interface, IBM has issued a statement of direction that it will support OS/2 on the new workstations in 1994. The first ValuePoints for AS/400 will ship during the fourth quarter of this year.
The new workstation is an interesting alternative to dumb terminals and traditional PCs. Its preconfigured software could make it especially attractive to small companies with limited technical expertise. It could also serve as an excellent platform for the development and deployment of client/server applications. At the same time, customers have to wonder if there will be an adequate supply of the new workstation. The IBM PC Company, which manufactures and distributes the PS/ValuePoint, has had problems with order backlogs for its systems. Sources within IBM have told us that they are working hard to resolve these problems.
Improvements in Memory and Disk Storage
All AS/400 users can take advantage of several memory and disk storage enhancements that IBM announced for the standard models. These enhancements will boost both the capacity and performance of standard AS/400s when running a variety of tasks, including client/server applications.
For starters, IBM announced that 9404 F-series uses now have the option of installing 2-gigabyte(GB) drives on their systems. This increases the maximum disk capacity of all three models within the series to 19.7GB; prior to the announcement, the F10 and F20 had capacities of 11.9GB, while the F25 had a 15.8GB capacity. The increased storage capacity of these three models improves their ability to act as database servers in networked environments.
IBM also increased the memory and disk capacities of its largest 9406 F-models. In large part, the development of a new 256MB memory card effected this boost in memory. With the help of the new card, memory limits for the models F60, F80, F90 and F95 increased by 50-150 percent. The maximum memory for the F70 remained at 512MB (see 4). Because memory has a significant impact on response times, these increases will improve interactive and client/server performance while increasing the number of applications that can run simultaneously.
IBM also increased the memory and disk capacities of its largest 9406 F-models. In large part, the development of a new 256MB memory card effected this boost in memory. With the help of the new card, memory limits for the models F60, F80, F90 and F95 increased by 50-150 percent. The maximum memory for the F70 remained at 512MB (see Figure 4). Because memory has a significant impact on response times, these increases will improve interactive and client/server performance while increasing the number of applications that can run simultaneously.
To further improve memory performance, IBM also announced that it will integrate an expert cache algorithm into OS/400 V2R3 (due for release in December of this year). The algorithm is an enhanced version of I/O Cache/400, a currently available PRPQ. The new algorithm will let AS/400s with V2R3 take greater advantage of memory, particularly in batch processing environments but also in environments with mixed batch and interactive tasks. The result is a significant performance improvement in a wide range of application environments. Lapsed-time reductions for batch jobs can range up to 50 percent, depending on memory levels and disk storage characteristics.
Incremental Changes to 9337 Arrays
IBM radically changed the specifications of its 9337 disk array family by introducing an entirely new generation of drives and a high-speed controller (see 5). The new disk arrays break down into three distinct groups.
IBM radically changed the specifications of its 9337 disk array family by introducing an entirely new generation of drives and a high-speed controller (see Figure 5). The new disk arrays break down into three distinct groups.
The first group, made up of the 9337-15 and 9337-25, is for customers who do not need high-availability RAID-5 data protection. These two models have the same storage capacities as the 9337 models 10 and 20, but use low-profile disks that contain three platters instead of the eight found on the older models. As a result, they are faster than the old models and twice as reliable.
The second group, composed of the 9337-115 and 9337-125, has the same capacities as the high-availability 9337 models 110 and 120, respectively. Like the old models, the models 115 and 125 offer RAID-5 data protection, but use the new low-profile drives.
New Blueprint for Arrays
While the first two groups of arrays introduce incremental changes to the 9337 product line, the third group represents a total redesign of the architecture. The models in this group, known as the 200 series, can switch between non-RAID and RAID-5 modes without a hardware upgrade or data save/restore. To accomplish this, the AS/400 must be running OS/400 V2R3 in restricted mode; under these conditions, users can switch between RAID modes using AS/400 Dedicated Service Tools and the 9337 commands.
In addition, IBM replaced the Write Assist Disk (WAD) used in the 100 series with a nonvolatile 1MB write cache. This gives the 200 series eight storage bays rather than the seven bays found on other models, and 14-17 percent greater capacity than the 100 series. It also increases the maximum storage capacity of the AS/400 models F70 and above to 192GB, compared to the 169GB allowed when using other storage arrays.
Another advantage of the 200 series is the new, high-speed controller that comes with it: the 6501. Unlike the 6500 controller used in other 9337s, the 6501 uses a RISC processor and two-byte-wide SCSI-2 interface. This gives it a transfer rate of 20MB per second-four times faster than the 6500. As a result, the series represents a new level of capacity and performance for the 9337 array family. IBM developers have no plans to endow 9337s other than the 200 series with the 6501 controller.
In an effort to protect customer investments in current 9337 technology, IBM will offer upgrade paths to the same model number within the 200 series for all 9337s. For example, a 9337-20 owner can upgrade to a 9337-220, but not to a model 240 or 210. By limiting upgrade paths to the same model number, IBM can keep the same head-disk assemblies within the cabinet while upgrading other parts of the subsystem, including the WAD and the controller. A change in head- disk assemblies would require a total data rebuild of the system.
Bigger, Better Backups...and More
IBM's advances did not stop there. The company also unveiled a feature-rich system for the backup of data with the announcement of the 3494 Tape Library Dataserver, IBM's first automated tape library for the AS/400.
The tape library, which fulfills a statement of direction IBM made in February 1993, consists of the 3494-L10 Control Unit as well as storage units and drive units. The 3494-L10 contains the controller for the entire system, one or two tape drives, and up to 240 half-inch cartridges. It controls the optional storage units, which hold up to 400 cartridges, and the drive units, which can house two tape drives and up to 300 cartridges each. A single 3494-L10 can control up to eight tape drives, 3,040 cartridges and as much as 7.2 trillion bytes of data on a compressed basis. Up to four AS/400s can share a single 3494, which can also support IBM's RS/6000s and ES/9000 mainframes. In total, up to eight systems can share one 3494. While the 3494-L10 will ship this December, the optional storage and drive units will debut in the second half of 1994.
Before you rush out to purchase a 3494, you should know a few things about Backup Recovery and Media Services/400 (BRMS/400), the licensed program which controls the 3494. At present, BRMS/400 only automates full backups and restores of systems. It will eventually automate the archiving of individual files based on user-selected criteria, such as frequency of access. This enhancement should ship near the end of the first half of 1994.
Meanwhile, customers waiting for this enhancement can enjoy the improvement in backup performance that IBM will bundle with OS/400 V2R3 in December. The boost comes from a modification in the buffer-handling routines for high-speed tape drives. As a result of the modification, save/restore operations performed in the AS/400's nonrestricted mode can take as little as half the time they currently occupy.
You Gotta Have Connections
While the AS/400 has always been one of the industry's easiest systems to network, it never hurts to have a few more connections. With that in mind, IBM unveiled hardware and software designed to keep the AS/400 well-connected. (For details on connectivity software, see "AS/400 Software Directions" in this issue.) In a bid for the high-bandwidth market, the company introduced a new High-Speed Communications Adapter that lets users take advantage of T1/J1 (1.544Mbps) and E1 (2.048Mbps) speeds over public and private frame relay networks. This increases data rates for communications between AS/400s and other systems, while lowering transmission costs.
In addition, the computer manufacturer doubled the total number of devices that can attach to the 5494 Remote Control Unit. In the past, the 5494 could control up to 28 twinaxial devices or 40 devices via a remote token-ring gateway. The 5494 can now control 56 twinaxial or 80 token-ring attached devices.
Support for New Printers
IBM also rolled out a new group of printers and announced the AS/400's support for them. The new devices include: the 3916, a laser printer that outputs 16 pages per minute using either HP-PCL5 or Postscript; the 3930, a laser printer that generates 30 pages per minute in either simplex or duplex mode; the 4232- 302 dot matrix printer, which can emulate a 4224 and outputs 600 characters in fast draft mode; and the 6408-CT0, a line matrix printer that prints up to 800 lines per minute. In addition, the company announced the AS/400 will support the 3829, a cut-sheet electrophotographic printer with a rated speed of 92 impressions per minute.
A Preview of Coming Attractions
Instead of handing the September announcement to the analysts and telling them to read between the lines, IBM made its intentions for the future very clear. In a wide-reaching statement, the company set specific goals for improvement in AS/400 client/server performance through the next year. On the hardware front, it promised a Fast File Server Accelerator, an adapter feature that will radically improve the performance of traditional AS/400s acting as file servers to PC-based LANs. If this feature meets IBM's performance expectations, it will let the AS/400 act as the sole file server in many networks.
This would significantly reduce the cost of network administration associated with the common practice of running multiple file servers. The new adapter will likely ship early in the second half of 1994.
IBM was very open about its future directions. Over the next year, look for Server Series models with more processors than the two found in the Model 140. On the other hand, do not look for 9406 Server Series models; our IBM sources feel they can easily meet the needs of the client/server market within the 9404 form factor.
You can also expect additional preconfigured graphical workstation models besides the ValuePoint for AS/400. In the works are a "Macintosh for AS/400," an "IBM Notebook PC for AS/400" and a "software only" package that IBM could install on various IBM and non-IBM personal computers. Some of these preconfigured workstations could debut in the first half of next year.
As for disk storage arrays, expect IBM to continue the same breakneck pace of development it began a year ago. Look for the company to put more than eight of its low-profile drives into a single 9337 and increase the capacity of each drive. As a result, drive performance and reliability will continue to go up as the cost per megabyte goes through the floor.
Finally, look for IBM to make across-the-board improvements to the performance and capacity of the F-series around the middle of 1994. At the same time, the company will give the midrange system's client/server performance a second boost and enhance its connectivity to client platforms. In other words, IBM will continue to focus on the central message of the September announcement: when it comes to distributed client/server computing, nobody will do it better than the AS/400.
Lee Kroon is the industry analyst at Midrange Computing.
A Bold Leap to Client/Server
Figure 1 New AS/400 Hardware Prices and Ship Dates
Model/ First (Feature Code) Description List Price Ship Date 9402-100 Server Series Model $ 16,500 12/93 9404-135 Server Series Model $ 27,150 12/93 9404-140 Server Series Model $ 57,000 3/94 (2666) High-Speed Comm. Adapter $ 2,400 12/93 (3135) 256MB Memory (for F70 to F95) $195,840 12/93 (6501) Model 9406 DASD Controller $ 4,800 11/93 (6603) 1.96GB Single Disk Unit $ 6,800 11/93 (9404 only) 9337-015 Disk Array (1084GB Base Unit) $ 20,400 9/93 9337-025 Disk Array (1940GB Base Unit) $ 26,000 9/93 9337-115 Disk Array (1626GB Base Unit) $ 30,600 9/93 9337-125 Disk Array (2910GB Base Unit) $ 40,000 9/93 9337-210 Disk Array (1084GB Base Unit) $ 28,400 11/93 9337-215 Disk Array (1084GB Base Unit) $ 28,400 11/93 9337-220 Disk Array (1940GB Base Unit) $ 34,000 11/93 9337-225 Disk Array (1940GB Base Unit) $ 34,000 11/93 9337-240 Disk Array (7868GB Base Unit) $ 66,000 11/93 3494-L10 Tape Library Dataserver $ 86,900 12/93
A Bold Leap to Client/Server
Figure 2 A Comparison of the Server Series to Traditional AMinimum Maximum Maximum Maximum Model Memory (MB) Memory (MB) Disk Storage (GB) LAN Adapters Server Series 9402-100 16 56 7.9 2 9404-135 32 384 27.5 4 9404-140 64 512 47.2 6 Traditional Models 9402-F02 8 24 2.0 1 9402-F04 8 24 4.0 1 9402-F06 8 40 7.9 2 9404-F10 8 72 19.7 2 9404-F20 16 80 19.7 4 9404-F25 16 80 19.7 4
A Bold Leap to Client/Server
Figure 3 Server Series Performance: UNABLE TO REPRODUCE GRA
A Bold Leap to Client/Server
Figure 4 New Maximum Memory Capacities: UNABLE TO REPRODUCE
A Bold Leap to Client/Server
Figure 5 A Comparison of New and Old 9337 ModelsMin. Max. Min Max Drive # of # of Store Store Model Cache WAD Capacity Controller RAID-5 Drives Drives (MB) (MB) 10 542 6500 No 2 7 1084 3794 15 542 6500 No 2 7 1084 3794 20 970 6500 No 2 7 1940 6790 25 970 6500 No 2 7 1940 6790 40 1967 6500 No 4 7 7868 13769 110 o 542 6500 Yes 4 7 1626 3252 115 o 542 6500 Yes 4 7 1626 3252 120 o 970 6500 Yes 4 7 2910 5820 125 o 970 6500 Yes 4 7 2910 5820 140 o 1967 6500 Yes 4 7 5901 11802 210 o 542 6501 No 2 8 1084 4336 210 o 542 6501 Yes 4 8 1626 3794 215 o 542 6501 No 2 8 1084 4336 215 o 542 6501 Yes 4 8 1626 3794 220 o 970 6501 No 2 8 1940 7760 220 o 970 6501 Yes 4 8 2910 6790 225 o 970 6501 No 2 8 1940 7760 225 o 970 6501 Yes 4 8 2910 6790 240 o 1967 6501 No 4 8 7868 15736 240 o 1967 6501 Yes 4 8 5901 13769