IBM Refines Its iSeries Offerings

Analysis of News Events
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As most seasoned iSeries customers know, IBM normally sets aside one day during the first quarter of each year to make a large number of iSeries announcements. For 2005, that day happened to be last Tuesday. While this year's stack of announcements was not as tall as that of previous years, the contents were nonetheless significant.

As most industry observers expected, this year's announcements focused more on the solutions and middleware that IBM is delivering on its servers and less on the servers themselves. However, that did not stop Big Blue from making some hardware announcements that will have a significant impact on customers' IT plans and budgets. With that in mind, let's start with last Tuesday's software announcements.

  • Solution Editions for SAP and Clear Technologies--In an effort to sell more iSeries servers through independent software vendors (ISVs), IBM announced that two additional ISVs are offering their solutions on discounted configurations of the eServer i5 Model 550. The Solution Edition for SAP includes the mySAP ERP software suite running on either a two-way or four-way Model 550. The Solution Edition for Clear Technologies includes that vendor's C2 CRM solution for customer relationship management along with Domino Utility Server Express on a two-way Model 550.
  • WebSphere Application Server (WAS) 6.0 for OS/400--As expected, IBM fulfilled the statement of direction that it made last November to ship an OS/400 version of WAS 6.0. Like its Version 5.1 predecessor, WAS 6.0 comes in Express, Base, Network Deployment, and Developer editions. However, unlike WAS 5.1 Express, WAS 6.0 Express provides full support for the J2EE 1.4 specification, including Enterprise JavaBeans (EJBs) and Web Services. In addition, IBM has simplified the installation process for WAS 6.0 Express and added extensions to it that were part of the more expensive Base edition. As a result, WAS 6.0 Express offers significantly greater functionality than WAS 5.1 Express. Owners of eServer i5 models running i5/OS can order WAS 6.0 Express at no charge through the new Web Enablement for i5/OS Offering. Customers running OS/400 V5R2 on older iSeries models can also support any version of WAS 6.0. If you are such a customer and hold a WAS 5.0 or 5.1 Express license with an active Passport Advantage maintenance contract, you can upgrade to WAS 6.0 Express at no charge.
  • WebSphere Host Access Transformation Services (HATS) 6.0-- In a bid to improve its application modernization tools, IBM also released a new version of HATS, one of its tools for extending green-screen applications to Web browsers. For the new HATS version, IBM focused most of its attention on improving the tool's ease of use. For instance, users can now preview how a 5250 screen will be rendered in the browser and can apply Cascading Style Sheets during the design phase. In addition, HATS 6.0 offers expanded support for subfiles, including a larger number of options for rendering subfile data.

Hot Hardware News

Among last Tuesday's announcements, the one that will affect the most customers is IBM's notice that it will withdraw all upgrades from its iSeries Models 270, 820, 830, and 840 to newer models as of October 1, 2005. On the same date, IBM will cease selling OS/400 V5R2 licenses.

As I predicted in an article last year, it was likely that IBM would end upgrades for these models during the second half of 2005. The withdrawal date is consistent with those of previous iSeries generations and should come as no surprise to customers. The models in question have been around for almost five years and IBM has been reasonably generous in providing upgrade paths for this long. While some owners of these models may grumble about upgrading by October 1, they should consider the benefits of doing so. Most customers will realize considerable savings on monthly maintenance charges by upgrading, and many of them will find themselves in less expensive software tiers as well. As such, the operational savings should more than pay for the upgrades over the lifetimes of most systems.

IBM's New iSeries Products
Product Name
Ship Date
List Price
Solution Edition for mySAP ERP--2-way Model 550 (server only)
Solution Edition for mySAP ERP--4-way Model 550 (server only)
Solution Edition for Clear Technologies C2 CRM
WebSphere Application Server (WAS) 6.0 Express – Internet Version (charge per processor)
WAS 6.0 Express - Intranet Version (charge per 20 users)
WAS 6.0 Express - Developer Version (charge per developer)
WAS 6.0 Standard Edition (charge per processor)
WAS 6.0 Network Deployment Edition (charge per processor)
WAS 6.0 for Developers (charge per developer)
WebSphere Host Access Transformation Services (HATS) 6.0 for iSeries (charge per registered user)
HATS 6.0 for iSeries (charge per concurrent user)
HATS 6.0 for Multiplatforms (charge per registered user)
HATS 6.0 for Multiplatforms (charge per concurrent user)

3-Meter HSL1 to HSL2 Cable (for connecting Integrated xSeries Adapters)
16 GB Memory for eServer i5 Model 570
8/16 GB Memory for eServer i5 Model 570
10 Gbps Ethernet I/O Adapter for AIX 5L Partitions
2-Port Asynchronous I/O Adapter for AIX 5L Partitions
1.8-Meter Rack Acoustic Doors
2.0-Meter Rack Acoustic Doors

Besides announcing withdrawal dates for selected products, IBM also announced new hardware feature codes that could prove attractive to many customers. Among them are the following items.

  • A less-expensive cable for Integrated xSeries Adapter (IXA) cards--The new 3-meter cable (feature code #1487) connects IXA cards in xSeries servers to iSeries servers and expansion towers that use a High Speed Link 2 (HSL2) port. It does so for $250 less than the 6-meter cable that IBM currently provides for that purpose. Of course, the shorter length of the cable imposes some limitations on where customers locate their xSeries servers.
  • Expanded memory options for the eServer i5 Model 570--IBM announced a new 16 GB memory feature for the Model 570 (feature code #4494) that costs $2,000 per GB. That is 37% less than what the company charges for its current 16 GB and 32 GB modules for the server. However, customers should note that the 4494 runs at a clock speed that is 25% slower than the original 16 GB module and that there are some configuration restrictions. IBM also announced an On Demand memory module for the Model 570 that comes with 8 GB of active memory and the option to activate an additional 8 GB.
  • Acoustic doors for IBM racks--IBM also announced two door kits for its 1.8- and 2.0-meter racks that make it easier to operate them in rooms with noise restrictions.
  • New I/O adapters and lower disk prices for AIX workloads-- To support customers who run AIX workloads on the eServer i5, IBM announced a 10 Gbps Ethernet adapter and a 2-Port Asynchronous Adapter designed for AIX partitions. In addition, IBM slashed prices for 10,000-RPM disk drives that eServer i5 owners can use with AIX (but not OS/400) partitions. The company reduced the list price for its 73.4 GB drive from $1,400 to $750 and cut the price of its 146.8 GB drive from $1,999 to $1,400.

While last week's announcements may not set the IT industry on fire, they will make a big difference to selected iSeries customers and developers. In particular, WebSphere Application Server 6.0 will introduce new capabilities to the iSeries that this magazine's readers will want to explore (and no doubt debate) in the coming weeks. There is little doubt, however, that IBM will use the availability of its latest middleware on the iSeries to make a point with software vendors. The point is that far from being a "legacy system," the iSeries supports the open technologies that the IT community is using to create tomorrow's service-oriented architectures. It is critical for IBM to make that and related points stick, for they touch on the core issue of whether the iSeries is still a relevant solutions platform. That is an ongoing argument in which IBM must stay engaged, and last week's announcement gives it some much-needed ammunition for the debate.

Lee Kroon is a Senior Industry Analyst for Andrews Consulting Group, a firm that helps mid-sized companies manage business transformation through technology. You can reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..