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IBM's Latest iSeries Announcements--A Second Look

Analysis of News Events
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When IBM tuned up its eServer i5 models two weeks ago, it quietly announced several hardware and software enhancements that deserve further examination. In keeping with that statement, I am using this week's article to dive into the details of the July 12 announcements and help iSeries users understand their implications.

Among the hardware enhancements that IBM unveiled, the standouts were two announcements that increased the I/O capacities of the eServer i5 models. In the first announcement, IBM increased the number of I/O towers and drawers that users can attach to selected Model 570 and Model 595 configurations. Effective immediately, customers can attach up to eight additional towers or drawers to Model 570 5/8-way and 9/12-way configurations. The Model 570 13/16-way now supports 18 additional towers and drawers, while 16-way and 32-way configurations of the Model 595 support 12 additional towers and drawers. IBM made these changes because some of its biggest users--especially those that support large numbers of logical partitions--were running out of I/O capacity.

In a second hardware announcement, IBM doubled the maximum disk storage capacity for all eServer i5 models. The action gives the Model 520 a capacity of 39 TB, tops out the Model 550 at 77 TB, boosts the Model 570 to 193 TB, and scales the Model 595 to a dizzying 381 TB. To take advantage of the doubled capacity, users will need to install the 141 GB drives that IBM announced in April of this year. However, before you rush out to buy 141 GB drives, you should know that these drives have the same number of disk arms as 35 GB and 70 GB drives. As such, you could end up putting more data under the same number of disk arms and degrading your I/O throughput. To avoid that scenario, customers should conduct performance studies before they move data to the 141 GB drives. Most customers will find that the high-capacity drives are best suited for archived or seldom-used data. By the way, users can move the data from two 70 GB drives in a RAID array to a pair of 141 GB mirrored drives and get the same I/O performance, since such swaps do not increase the data under each disk arm.

Speaking of mirroring, IBM created a mirrored disk storage package that combines a dozen 141 GB disks and a 2780 disk controller at a discounted price of $39,900. The package, which carries the feature code 5556, is only available for eServer i5 models. It is similar to the 5554 and 5555 packages IBM introduced last year that bundle a dozen 35 GB or 70 GB drives for mirroring on iSeries 270 and 8xx models as well as the eServer i5. Like those bundles, the 141 GB package requires mirroring not only at the disk and controller levels, but also at the IOP or system bus level.

A Glimpse of the Softer Side

Besides tweaking its hardware offerings, IBM also tuned up the software that animates all of that silicon and metal. For Java developers, one important announcement was the shipment of the Java Development Kit 1.5 for OS/400 V5R3. The kit, which includes Java 2 Standard Edition (J2SE) 5.0, provides enhancements that Java enthusiasts have long awaited. These include support for generics, a feature that allows a type or method to operate on objects of various types while providing compile-time type safety. The kit also includes all of the other J2SE 5.0 features such as autoboxing and unboxing, typesafe enums, and a metadata feature that lets developers generate boilerplate code from annotations in the source code.

In another pitch to developers, IBM updated WebSphere Development Studio Client for iSeries (WDSc) to the Version 6.0 level. Unlike previous versions of WDSc, this version is based on Rational Web Developer (RWD) for WebSphere Software 6.0. As you may know, IBM charged its Rational Division with the task of integrating its various development tools last year. One of the products of that integration effort is RWD 6.0, which is an upgrade to the WebSphere Studio Site Developer (WSSD) toolset that was the basis for previous versions of WDSc.

In short, WDSc 6.0 inherits the capabilities of RWD 6.0 and adds the usual iSeries extensions, such as the WebFacing Tool and Remote Systems Explorer. There is also an Advanced Edition of WDSc 6.0 that is based on Rational Application Developer 6.0, a toolset that offers additional functions beyond RWD 6.0. I am not going to examine the enhancements that WDSc 6.0 offers iSeries developers, as the technical editors at MC Press can do a far better job of that than I can. Until they provide their assessments, check out IBM's RWD Web site for information about the new foundation for WDSc.

At the application level, IBM announced that it will now ship Workplace Services Express (WSE) 2.5 with Enterprise Editions of the eServer i5 Models 550, 570, and 595. It will also ship WSE with the Model 550 Solution Edition and with Enterprise Editions of the iSeries Models 825, 870, and 890. On these editions, WSE will replace WebSphere Portal Server Express Plus, as WSE offers a superset of the latter product's features. IBM will continue to ship WebSphere Portal Server Express Plus on the Model 520 Enterprise Edition, as some configurations of this server lack the performance to support WSE. As I explained in an article last year, WSE is an integrated platform for email, instant messaging, collaboration, and content management that competes with Microsoft's Office System family of products. By shipping WSE with many of its current iSeries models, IBM could put additional competitive pressure on its biggest middleware rival.

While IBM's July announcements were far from earth shattering, the good news is that they apparently did not need to be. When the company announced its second quarter financial results last week, it noted that iSeries revenues grew by 10% over the same quarter last year. According to sources inside IBM, much of that growth came from sales of the same high-end models that the company enhanced this month. With the enhancements in place, those systems are well positioned to sell in greater numbers in the months ahead.

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..

Lee Kroon is a Senior Industry Analyst for Andrews Consulting Group, a firm that helps mid-sized companies manage business transformation through technology.


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