IBM Forges Hot AS/400 Iron and Announces V4R5

Analysis of News Events
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After months of trials and tribulations about when the AS/400 I-Star and OS/400 V4R5 announcements should take place, IBM’s top AS/400 executives decided to roll out the next generation of AS/400s a bit earlier than the company had planned late last summer. On May 22, IBM announced the next generation of AS/400s, which include a mix of Northstar, Pulsar, and I-Star PowerPC processors and which all run V4R5. While all you software gurus out there probably don’t like to hear this—and IBM itself would certainly want to argue the point to help push V4R5 sales—the new generation of AS/400s is mostly about applying the hot technology developed for the RS/6000 S80 “Condor” servers, which IBM announced last year, to the AS/400 line. Being a hardware motorhead, this is my kind of announcement. You see, thanks to IBM’s investment in copper and silicon-on-insulator (SOI) chip fabrication process technology and supercomputer-class crossbar memory and I/O switches, the AS/400 is once again the fastest commercial computer in the world.

Just two weeks before the new AS/400s were launched, IBM refreshed the RS/6000 line with its 450-MHz copper processors and even added new eight-way midrange servers that use 500-MHz Pulsars and have as much power as the former top-end 12-way AS/400 and RS/6000 “Blackbird” Northstar servers. While the RS/6000s are impressive and appropriately geared to attack Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard in the fiercely competitive UNIX server market—which is more concerned with the needs of ISPs and application service providers (ASPs) these days—the new AS/400s are aimed at fulfilling the processing needs of AS/400 shops that are going to need lots more processing capacity, memory capacity, and memory and I/O bandwidth to support e-business applications and Java workloads. While some of the machines in the new AS/400 line look very much like the F80, H80, M80, and S80 Pulsar RS/6000 servers, the AS/400 Model 250, 270, and 8XX boxes are, nonetheless, unique designs. The differences are especially clear when you compare the low-end models of the new AS/400 and RS/6000 server lines. I’ll do a technical and economic comparison of the new AS/400s and RS/6000s in Midrange Insights in the August issue of MC. For now, I’ll just talk about the new AS/400 line and its V4R5 software so you can start your capacity planning. (Figure 1 gives a statistical overview of the new machines.)

Copper for the Craftsman Cunning in His Trade

At the very low end of the new AS/400 line is the Model 250. There are two different configurations of this machine, both of which use the existing Northstar processor and

look an awful lot like the Model 170-2289 and the 170-2290 with 256 MB of additional maximum memory capacity thrown in. Like those Model 170s, the Model 250s can have up to 10 disk drives for a total of 175 GB of capacity installed in their black desk-side tower cases. The Model 250s can have up to 240 twinax workstations attached to them, and they support the existing 333-MHz Pentium II Integrated Netfinity PC Server card rather than the new 700-MHz Pentium III Integrated Netfinity Server for AS/400 (INS) card that is only supported on the bigger models in the new AS/400 line. The Model 250 comes with Client Access, Query/400, DB2 Query Manager, and the SQL Development Kit prebundled on the box along with the standard prebundled OS/400 and DB2/400 that are installed on all new AS/400 machines as part of the hardware purchase price.

The Model 250-2295, which has 50 Commercial Processing Workloads (CPWs) of server power and 15 CPWs of interactive power, costs $7,400. The Model 250-2250, which has 75 CPWs of server power and 20 CPWs of interactive power, costs $11,000. Both of these prices are higher than the list prices of the Model 170s they effectively replace, but, when you factor in the bundled software, the smaller Model 270 is about 35 percent cheaper than the Model 170 with the same software installed, and the larger Model 250 is about 18 percent cheaper than a similarly powered Model 170 with that software.

The new Model 270 comes with either one or two IBM Pulsar processors and provides four different server CPW performance levels ranging from 150 to 2,000 CPWs and from 25 to 70 CPWs of interactive performance. The Model 270-2248 and Model 270- 2250 can be equipped with up to 4 GB of main memory, while the more powerful 270- 2252 and 270-2253 machines can have up to 8 GB of memory. All four Model 270 configurations can have up to 421 GB of disk capacity under their skins. To give you a sense of the price range in the Model 270 line, a low-end Model 270-2248 costs $10,400. This machine is in the same P05 software tier as the Model 250s, and, considering that it has anywhere from two to three times the server power of the Model 250s, customers who are more worried about future processing needs than they are about discounted Client Access and query tool software might think they would do better to go with the smallest Model 270 instead. But, with IBM, you have to be careful with the fine print. The Model 250 includes not only bundled software goodies but also 256 MB of main memory, 8.58 GB of disk, a CD-ROM drive, and a twinax console. All of the Model 270s have had these base hardware elements stripped out of them so IBM can show somewhat lower initial list prices on them.

The Model 270-2250 has 370 CPWs of server power and no base interactive power, and that is why it costs $8,000. However, with a 30-CPW interactive feature added to the box, the Model 270-2250 costs $27,500. The next-biggest Model 270 machine is the 270-2252, which has 950 CPWs of server power at a cost of $20,000. An optional 50- CPW interactive feature for this model costs $50,000, bringing the total cost of the box up to $70,000. The biggest Model 270, the 270-2253, is a two-way Pulsar machine that costs $43,000 without interactive features and $139,000 with the 70-CPW interactive feature installed. Remember that these machines do not include the cost of all the other supplemental hardware AS/400 shops will have to buy for a minimal configuration. So, comparing the Model 270s with the Model 170s, which included this hardware, is tricky. (Look for this in a future issue.)

Goliath Copperfield

The Model 8XX family consists of three different series, just like the 6XX Apache and 7XX Northstar families before it. The 820 series consists of four models that have one, two, or four processors. The 820s use a mix of 400-MHz and 450-MHz Pulsar and 500- MHz and 540-MHz I-Star processors. CPW ratings for the Model 820s range from 370 for a uniprocessor to 3,200 for a four-way. The machines all come with 35 CPWs of base interactive processing power, but that interactive power can be increased to between 240 and 2,000 CPWs of power, depending on the model. All the 820s come with 256 MB of

main memory, and the top-end 820-2397 and 820-2398 machines can have up to 16 GB of main memory. They can house more than 4 terabytes (TB) of disk storage. The 820- 2395—the smallest uniprocessor in the 8XX family, with a 370 CPW server power rating—costs $30,000 with no interactive features installed; with the 240 CPW interactive feature installed, the 820-2395 costs $185,000. (Again, none of these 8XX machines have base memory, disk, CD drive, or console installed, unlike the 6XX, SXX, and 7XX models.) The biggest 820-series machine costs $247,000 with no interactive features and $1,072,000 with 2,000 CPWs of interactive power activated. That machine has about the same power as an eight-way Northstar, which cost $1,110,000 before the 7XX price cuts that IBM made on May 22. (IBM is expected to cut Northstar 7XX prices by an average of 20 percent in conjunction with the V4R5 announcements, but the exact details of these price cuts are unknown as we go to press.)

The 830-series AS/400 servers come with two, four, or eight 540-MHz I-Star processors, offering from 1,850 to 7,350 CPWs of processing power. (These I-Stars are running a little slower than the 550-MHz I-Stars that IBM has been showing around chip industry tradeshows, but they are plenty fast.) Roughly half of the processing capacity in the 830 machines is available to support interactive workloads. The Model 830s come with 1 GB of main memory, expandable to 32 GB. The 830s can accommodate up to 11 TB of disk capacity. The base 830 machine, the two-way 830-2400, has 1,850 CPWs of server power and 70 CPWs of interactive power; it costs $152,000. With 1,050 CPWs of interactive power activated, the 830-2400 costs $717,000. The biggest Model 830 is the 830-2403, which costs $560,000 in a base configuration that provides 7,350 CPWs of server power and $1,920,000 for a machine that activates 4,550 CPWs of that power for interactive loads.

The new big gun in the server market is the AS/400 Model 840. The two top-ofthe-line 840-series models use 500-MHz I-Star processors and are currently the fastest high-end servers on the market, bar none—including the RS/6000 S80 “Condor.” The 840-2418 has a dozen I-Star processors in a single frame, while the 840-2420 has two dozen of these processors. Both models come with 4 GB of main memory, expandable to 96 GB, and can house up to 19 TB of disk capacity. The design of the Condor server allows IBM to create servers with six, 12, 18, or 24 processors using from one to four sixway Condor processor boards connected to a super-high-speed crossbar memory and I/O switch that provides up to 36 GB per second of bandwidth. Oddly enough, the AS/400 team has only implemented the 12-way and 24-way Condor servers using the I-Star chips. The six-way and 18-way configurations are not available for AS/400 shops, at least not this time around. Maybe later in the year we’ll see these machines, which would be particularly useful for high-end customers who have capacity needs that fall between the performance points IBM is delivering.

At any rate, the 12-way 840-2418 provides 10,000 CPWs of server power at a cost of $700,000. That’s twice the power and a little more than twice the price of the biggest Northstar 7XX before the May 22 announcement. An 840-2418 with all of its power activated for interactive workloads costs $3,130,000, which is a little less than twice the cost of a 12-way Northstar with all of its capacity available for green-screen processing. The 24-way 840-2420 offers 16,500 CPWs of power (that’s 3.6 times the power of the biggest Northstar) at a cost of $1,190,000 (that’s 3.5 times the cost of that Northstar). With all of its power brought to bear on green-screen applications, that 24-way AS/400 I- Star server costs $4,890,000. That’s a lot of pennies, but, for AS/400 shops that need that kind of power, it sure beats having to rewrite RPG applications in C++ or Java.

You’ll Never Take Me Alive, Copper

The May 22 announcements were not just about hardware. IBM has made plenty of tweaks and changes to OS/400 with the V4R5 release. In the July issue of MC, we will have a

thorough analysis of all the new stuff in V4R5. If you want to see an overview of the main V4R5 enhancements, check out Read This First! on page 130.

Pennies from Heaven

As we all knew, V4R5 machines will support Windows 2000. IBM is also finally delivering the 700-MHz Pentium III INS card that I mentioned. The new INS card can be hot-plugged into Model 270 and Model 820 servers and can be equipped with up to 4 GB of its own main memory to run Windows 2000. The new INS has hot-plug slots for three LAN adapters and two USB ports. Up to three of the new INS cards can be plugged into Model 270s, while the 820s can have a dozen, and the 830s and 840s can have up to 16. The new INS cards will run Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 as well. IBM also plans to support Windows 2000 on the older 333-MHz Pentium II INS cards, but, for that to happen, customers will have to upgrade their servers to OS/400 V4R5. IBM has reiterated its plan to offer direct AS/400 bus attachment of four-way external Netfinity servers to the AS/400, which is expected in the first half of next year.

New AS/400e Northstar, Pulsar, and I-Star Servers

Max Max CPW CPW Software Mem Disk List Model CPUs C/S 5250 Group (MB) (GB) Price

250-2295 1 50.0 15.0 PSS 1,024 175 $7,400 250-2250 1 75.0 20.0 PSS 1,024 175 $11,000

270-2248 1 150.0 25.0 P05 4,096 421 $10,400 270-2250 (Base) 1 370.0 0.0 P10 4,096 421 $8,000 270-2250 (Max Int) 1 370.0 30.0 P10 4,096 421 $27,500 270-2252 (Base) 1 950.0 0.0 P10 8,192 421 $20,000 270-2252 (Max Int) 1 950.0 50.0 P10 8,192 421 $70,000 270-2253 (Base) 2 2,000.0 0.0 P20 8,192 421 $43,000 270-2253 (Max Int) 2 2,000.0 70.0 P20 8,192 421 $139,000

820-2395 (Base) 1 370.0 35.0 P10 4,096 4,159 $30,000 820-2395 (Max Int) 1 370.0 240.0 P20 4,096 4,159 $185,000 820-2396 (Base) 1 950.0 35.0 P20 8,192 4,159 $77,000 820-2396 (Max Int) 1 950.0 560.0 P30 8,192 4,159 $392,000 820-2397 (Base) 2 2,000.0 35.0 P20 16,384 4,159 $155,000 820-2397 (Max Int) 2 2,000.0 1,050.0 P30 16,384 4,159 $685,000 820-2398 (Base) 4 3,200.0 35.0 P30 16,384 4,159 $247,000 820-2398 (Max Int) 4 3,200.0 2,000.0 P40 16,384 4,159 $1,072,000

830-2400 (Base) 2 1,850.0 70.0 P20 32,768 11,056 $152,000 830-2400 (Max Int) 2 1,850.0 1,050.0 P30 32,768 11,056 $717,000 830-2402 (Base) 4 4,000.0 70.0 P20 32,768 11,056 $335,000 830-2402 (Max Int) 4 4,000.0 2,000.0 P30 32,768 11,056 $1,195,000 830-2403 (Base) 8 7,350.0 70.0 P40 32,768 11,056 $560,000 830-2403 (Max Int) 8 7,350.0 4,550.0 P50 32,768 11,056 $1,920,000

840-2418 (Base) 12 10,000.0 120.0 P40 98,304 18,953 $700,000 840-2418 (Max Int) 12 10,000.0 10,000.0 P50 98,304 18,953 $3,130,000 840-2420 (Base) 24 16,500.0 120.0 P40 98,304 18,953 $1,190,000 840-2420 (Max Int) 24 16,500.0 16,500.0 P50 98,304 18,953 $4,890,000

Figure 1: The new AS/400s offer a huge span in performance, as well as price.