IBM's Latest iSeries Announcements--A Closer Look

Analysis of News Events
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On February 12, IBM quietly released a slim package of iSeries announcements that were short on verbiage but long on implications for customers. In a handful of pages, the computer giant extended support services for OS/400 V4R5 by five months, doubled the DASD capacity of the 8XX server line with a new 35GB drive, provided less expensive upgrade paths to owners of some 7XX models, and strengthened its entry-level server lineup. Big Blue also backed up its 2002 marketing initiatives with several new rebate offers.

In the same spirit of brevity that inspired IBM, let's dive into the announcements to see what they hold for the iSeries community.

  • OS/400 V4R5 Withdrawals and Extensions--IBM declared that, on July 2, 2002, it will withdraw V4R5 from marketing. At the same time, the company stated that it will extend Program Services for V4R5 until December 31, 2002, a full five months longer than originally announced. Apparently, IBM realized that many iSeries customers won't be ready to migrate to V5R1 by the end of July. This gives them extra time to make the transition.
  • New 35GB Drives--With a formatted capacity of just over 35GB, IBM's newest iSeries drive (feature code #4319) offers twice the capacity of the current 17.54GB drives at an attractive price ($3,200 versus $2,010 for the old drives). Understand, however, that this probably won't reduce the number of drives your servers need by half. That's because the 35GB drives have the same number of disk arms as the 17.54GB drives, which means you would have half the number of disk arms to access your data?a recipe for poor I/O performance. In short, use Performance Manager/400 or Workload Estimator to estimate your disk arm requirements and act accordingly.

    These considerations aside, the 35GB drive doubles the capacity of all Model 270 and 8XX servers running OS/400 V5R1 (the drive only runs on the 270 and 8XX with V5R1). Disk capacities now stand at 840GB for the 270, 8TB for the 820, 22TB for the 830, and a whopping 38TB for the 840.

  • Changes to 7XX Upgrade Paths--If you want to add more processor or interactive CPWs to a 7XX system, you must do so before July 2, 2002. That's when IBM withdraws all 7XX CPW feature upgrades from marketing. Since the company has already eliminated 7XX model-to-model upgrades (e.g., 720 to 730, 730 to 740), this new withdrawal will leave 7XX owners with one option: upgrade to an 8XX model.

    To make such upgrades easier for some 7XX owners, IBM also announced two new 7XX-to-8XX upgrade paths. The first path, which upgrades the 720-2063 (810 CPW) to an 820-2436 (1,100 CPW), costs $70,500 less than the smallest upgrade IBM had previously offered, which was to a 2,000 CPW model. The second upgrade path, which boosts a 740-2069 (3,660 CPW) to an 830-2402 (4,200 CPW), costs $213,700 less than the original upgrade offering to a 7,350 CPW server.

  • New Model 250 Packages--With this announcement, IBM transformed the entry-level 250 from a custom-configured server to a packaged offering. The company is offering two models--the 250-0297 "Entry" package and 250-0298 "Growth" package--at prices of $8,500 and $12,000, respectively. By the way, these prices are not what you'll see in the announcement letter, which lists prices for the feature codes only and not for the underlying base system. What you'll get for these prices are fairly robust configurations that include 256MB of memory, two 17.5GB disk drives, a 4GB quarter-inch cartridge tape drive, a 10/100Mbps Ethernet I/O adapter, a twinaxial I/O adapter, and a two-line WAN I/O adapter with modem.
  • More Rebates--IBM also added three rebate offerings to its raft of incentives. The Server Consolidation and Replacement Rebate gives you a 5 percent rebate when you replace two or more AS/400 6XX or older models with an iSeries 8XX model, or an 8 percent rebate when you replace two or more qualifying non-IBM servers. Under the Enterprise and e-business Applications Rebate, you receive a 3 percent rebate on the purchase of a Model 270 or an 8 percent rebate on an 8XX purchase when you also purchase a qualifying software solution. (The list of solutions takes 14 pages, so you have plenty of options.) Finally, if you purchase or upgrade to an 8XX model, use the server as a high availability (HA) target system, and purchase a qualifying HA solution with selected HA implementation services, you'll get a 10 percent rebate under the High Availability and Implementation Services Rebate.

There's even more to this announcement than I can pack into this short article, including a new 1Ghz version of the Integrated xSeries for iSeries Server and various hardware product withdrawals. Of special note was IBM's formal notice to customers that future iSeries models will not support the SPD I/O devices and migration towers that current models support. The SPD I/O notice has broad implications for AS/400 and iSeries customers, so look for us to revisit this announcement in future issues.

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..