New AS/400s Alleviate Server Performance and Value Anxiety

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When the AS/400 Pulsar and I-Star servers start shipping this month, AS/400 customers who have been pushing the performance envelope on their Model 170 or 7XX Northstar servers will be able to breathe a sigh of relief. The new AS/400 line demonstrates that, at least as far as raw performance is concerned, the AS/400 can hold its own against the best in the midrange. To prove that point and to assist the AS/400 sales team and Business Partners in competing for AS/400 sales against other midrange players—such as Sun Microsystems, Compaq Computer, and Hewlett-Packard—IBM’s competitive analysis gurus put together a little comparative guide that shows the new AS/400s stack up pretty well against the current crop of midrange UNIX and Microsoft Windows NT servers. While the information that IBM’s competitive analysis presents to sales representatives and resellers has a definite AS/400 bias in that IBM’s comparisons to Sun, HP, and Compaq servers reflect the way that AS/400s are configured—but not necessarily how those servers are configured when purchased by those vendors’ respective customers—the information does illustrate that the AS/400 has significant strengths in performance and price/performance that IBM should be able to exploit to extend the reach of the V4R5 range of AS/400s in the modern e-business world. At the very least, the information (which IBM has gathered for an internal report and which I will present in this article) will be useful to those AS/400 shops that find themselves in the position of having to defend an AS/400 purchase or to those AS/400 resellers or IBM sales reps who are trying to preserve and extend an AS/400 account.

But before I get into that, I’ll review a bit of history to give you some perspective on the V4R5 Pulsar and I-Star machines, which I detailed in the June issue of Midrange Computing (see “Midrange Insights: IBM Forges Hot AS/400 Iron and Announces V4R5”).

The competitive landscape for the AS/400 bears some resemblance to a situation in late 1995 when IBM was just starting to ship its first PowerPC RISC servers bearing the AS/400 moniker. Back then, the 4XX and 5XX AS/400s provided a quantum leap in performance capacity and represented dramatic improvements in price/performance as well. The improvements in power and value were absolutely vital in the then-maturing client/server applications market, and these initial RISC machines—with their modern Internet-enabled (by 1995 standards) operating system (OS/400) and updated DB2/400 database management system (which got support for parallel processing as well as for

triggers and stored procedures, among many other new features)—sold like proverbial hotcakes in 1996 and early 1997, even as IBM was getting ready to launch the Apache PowerPC servers in August 1997.

Here in 2000, client/server has been replaced by Internet-style e-business, and companies are looking at processing workloads that can double or triple over the course of a year. The V4R5 generation of AS/400 server hardware provides substantially more performance than the Northstar AS/400 generation (to say nothing of the prior seven generations of machines that are represented in the AS/400 installed base), and that extra power may be absolutely necessary (and maybe just sufficient) for many AS/400 customers as they expand out onto the Web.

The pity, at least as far as I can see, is that the dramatic price reductions that IBM delivered with the 1995 AS/400 generation did not come around again this time in 2000. The first RISC generation price cuts were, to say the least, stupendous. A heavily configured 2XX or 3XX generation AS/400 server cost $1,500 to $2,000 per transaction per minute (TPM) on the TPC-C online transaction processing benchmark test. With the 4XX and 5XX RISC generation, which really didn’t start shipping until early 1996, those configured server prices dropped to between $450 and $600 per TPM. It is worth remembering that Compaq ProLiant servers cost about $160 per TPM, while the AS/400 Model 40S “Compaq killer” server, which IBM announced in February 1996, costs about $250 per TPM.

While that four-way ProLiant server could only handle just under 4,000 TPM, it was a very attractive box for companies that wanted to support fledgling Windows NT applications. A four-way 53S server using IBM’s 154 MHz “Muskie” PowerPC chipset actually did less work and cost more than twice as much, even after the big price breaks. IBM has done much to close the pricing gap between AS/400s and high-end PC servers and UNIX servers, and while it has not yet announced TPC-C results for the new machines, Model 270s should be in the $25-per-TPM range and Model 8XXs in the $50- per-TPM range for heavily configured machines.

Part of the reason that IBM did not radically chop AS/400 prices for the V4R5 Pulsar and I-Star generation of machines is that, if it still wants to make its numbers, it cannot afford to. The other reason, as this review of IBM’s analysis illustrates, is that IBM does not believe that it needs to cut AS/400 prices to be competitive. IBM very clearly thinks that AS/400 pricing is competitive, and it would rather focus on the performance and ease of use of the AS/400 as an e-business platform. Regular readers of this column and of Monday Morning AS/400 Update know full well how I feel about IBM’s AS/400 pricing, but, just in case you need reminding, I’ll say it again: IBM’s tight integration for OS/400 is genius from a technical and marketing standpoint, but its bundled pricing drives away potential customers who suffer from sticker shock because they won’t take the time to analyze AS/400 pricing. With that said, the competitive situation, at least as far as IBM’s numbers show, seems to have improved with the V4R5 generation.

It’s money that matters, so take a look at how the Model 270 stacks up against current servers from Sun, HP, and Compaq in the midrange arena. Figure 1 shows a comparison among similarly powered midrange machines, including an AS/400, a Sun box, an HP server, and a Compaq PC server. IBM’s configuration for the PC server, detailed in its competitive analysis report, was not consistent with the AS/400 and the Sun and HP UNIX boxes shown in the figure, so I got pricing from Compaq and brought all of the machines in line. IBM’s intent was to set up servers to support 200 database users. The machines were all configured with a single processor, 1 GB of main memory, 90 GB of RAID 5 disk storage, a tape backup, a LAN card, an operating system, a database, and a one-year warranty. All of the machines include an integrated Java environment and Web server, which is standard in the business these days. With the exception of the Compaq ProLiant, operating systems are also bundled for “free” on the machines shown. The Sun and HP boxes were configured with Solaris and HP-UNIX, respectively, and with

Oracle8i Standard Edition, while the Compaq server was equipped with Windows 2000 Server and SQL Server 7.

IBM’s analysis shows that the AS/400 fares quite well against the Sun and HP solutions at the low end of the midrange, and it even suggests that AS/400 pricing is competitive with Windows server pricing.

IBM restricted its pricing comparisons with other platforms to machines that more or less match up against the Model 270 Pulsar AS/400 server in the same rough performance category. IBM is making its value proposition for the AS/400 with the Model 270, not just because its pricing looks good in this part of the AS/400 line but also because the Model 270 meets the power requirements of most of the core midrange customer base, consisting of companies within the $10 million to $50 million annual revenue bracket. Thus, these companies do not need a 24-way I-Star-based “Condor” server but find that a dual processor database engine, like a Model 270, more than meets their core application processing requirements. This is consistent with Compaq’s own PC server sales. Compaq is driving more and more of its growth with sales of machines that can support two processors or four-way machines that have only two processors installed from the get-go, leaving expansion room as workloads grow.

IBM’s pricing analysis shows that a Model 270-2252, capable of supporting 200 users, costs $48,401. By IBM’s reckoning of the transaction processing power of the AS/400, Sun, HP, and Compaq product lines (see Figure 1), the AS/400 is capable of processing about 9,500 TPM at a cost of just over $5 per TPM. (These machines are considerably skinnier than those that would be used in the real TPC-C test. And this price/performance amount does not include the cost of supplemental application servers, development software and middleware, or five year’s worth of maintenance as the real TPC-C test does.)

IBM has, for some inexplicable reason, given Sun the benefit of the doubt by comparing an Enterprise 250 server with one 400-MHz UltraSparc-II processor against the 450 MHz Pulsar Model 270. That Sun box can handle only about 5,200 TPM, which is considerably less than the 9,500 TPM that the Model 270 can handle. Because of its relatively poor performance, the Sun box (which, at almost $12 per TPM, costs over $60,000) offered much worse price/performance than the AS/400.

The HP L1000 server that IBM configured for its competitive analysis offers about the same performance as the Model 270 because it uses HP’s new 552 MHz PA-8600 chip. But HP is charging a huge premium for this chip, and the cost of a L1000 server configured just like the Model 270 skyrockets to $102,662. The end result is that the L1000 has almost twice the performance of the Sun box but costs almost twice as much as

the AS/400 and ends up with about the same poor price/performance as the Sun box.

A similarly configured Compaq ProLiant ML370 server, which has an 866 MHz Pentium III processor, costs essentially the same as the AS/400 and offers about 15 percent more throughput, yielding 10 percent better bang for the buck than the AS/400. This is a modest gap, and one that IBM can close easily with discounting.

Just because I am pleased to be able to say that, at least as far as low-end uniprocessors running modern database applications are concerned, the new AS/400s are competing effectively does not mean that I do not have a bone or two to pick with IBM concerning its value proposition. Take a look at the last line in Figure 1. It reads Cost for Web Serving Only, and it shows the cost of buying one of those four platforms if you want to use it just for Web serving rather than database serving. Because OS/400 includes DB2/400 bundled in—meaning you can’t buy an AS/400 without paying for it—the AS/400 costs the same whether it is a database server or a Web server. This is not the case with the other three servers in IBM’s comparison. The Sun and Compaq boxes cost half as much as the Model 270 for Web serving (assuming the hardware and operating system configurations do not differ from the database serving example), and they also very likely offer better MHz-for-MHz Web serving performance than the AS/400. (IBM has never published open Web serving benchmarks for the AS/400, so it is hard to say for sure

whether this is the case; however, Solaris, Windows, and Linux are the dominant Web serving environments, and that is not an accident.) The reason I bring this up is that it points out, rather clearly, how bundled pricing on AS/400s can work against the AS/400. I also have a problem with expansion costs on AS/400s compared to other platforms and with the fact that IBM’s comparisons did not include the cost of 5250 interactive features, which are required by a very large portion of the AS/400’s vast portfolio of applications. The Model 270, with no interactive, green-screen processing capacity, costs $20,000 in a base configuration. Adding a second processor to the 270- 2252, which converts it to a 270-2253, raises the price to $43,000. That’s right, an extra $23,000 for another 450 MHz Pulsar processor and the “free” OS/400 license to make use of its power. To add interactive processing power to that 270-2252 drives the price up to $70,000, and to add it to the two-way Model 270 would raise the price to $139,000.

Sun’s list pricing, which is available only on selected E250 configurations, makes it impossible to figure out the cost of a second processor. So does HP’s pricing on the L1000s, which is also vague. (There are reasons why IBM’s antitrust lawsuits were important to IT shops, and enforced list prices is one of the biggies.) But PC server vendors like Compaq that sell machines in this power class directly to customers provide all their list pricing on the Web for all components because they have to; otherwise, they can’t sell direct. It will come as no surprise to any of you that adding a second 866 MHz Pentium III processor to the Compaq ML370 server and boosting the performance of the machine

by 65 percent costs a mere $1,817. Clearly, IBM’s AS/400 pricing assumes that, when you add performance, you are adding users, while Compaq’s pricing assumes that you might be either adding users or needing better response time. This obviously does not always play in IBM’s favor. Adding a second processor to the AS/400 and ProLiant machines shown in Figure 1 to boost performance raises the price of the AS/400 configuration to $71,401, or $3.57 per TPM. For the Compaq setup, the two-way machine costs $50,620, or $2.81 per TPM, which is considerably lower than the AS/400.

Finally—and this is not really IBM’s fault but rather the consequence of timing—Sun is just about ready to revamp its server lines with the “Cheetah” UltraSparc- III processor. The company is expected to debut workgroup servers using 600 MHz and

750 MHz processors, and it will very likely cut prices, too, to be able to sell against Windows NT/2K servers. The new Cheetah servers will probably offer excellent bang for the buck compared to the AS/400. IBM’s numbers do not reflect this, because Sun is more than 18 months late in getting the Cheetah chips to market. Now there’s something to really crab about...but I’ve just run out of space.

Timothy Prickett Morgan is the midrange industry analyst for Midrange Computing publications. He can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

AS/400 vs. Sun, HP, and Compaq Servers on 200 Database User Setups

IBM AS/400 Sun HP Compaq 270-2252 UE250 L1000 ML370 Base Server $20,000 $9,205 $15,570 $4,446 Main Memory to 1 GB $4,096 $6,300 $9,995 $3,915 90 GB RAID 5 Disk $21,200 $11,425 $38,675 $4,539 Tape, Other Peripherals $3,105 $1,350 $3,045 $1,112 Operating System $0 $0 $0 $8,788 Database $0 $32,000 $32,000 $25,168 Warranty $0 $0 $3,377 $485 Installation $0 $0 $0 $350 Total $48,401 $60,280 $102,662 $48,803

Estimated TPM 9,500 5,200 9,700 11,000

Cost Per TPM $5.09 $11.59 $10.58 $4.44

Cost for Web Serving Only $48,401 $28,280 $67,285 $22,800

Sources: IBM, Compaq



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    • What is stored inside my IFS directories?
    • How do I monitor the IFS?
    • How do I replicate the IFS or back it up?
    • How do I secure the IFS?

    Understanding what the integrated file system is and how to work with it must be a critical part of your systems management plans for IBM i.


  • Expert Tips for IBM i Security: Beyond the Basics

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

    Don't miss this chance to take your knowledge of IBM i security beyond the basics.



  • 5 IBM i Security Quick Wins

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn today’s threat landscape, upper management is laser-focused on cybersecurity. You need to make progress in securing your systems—and make it fast.
    There’s no shortage of actions you could take, but what tactics will actually deliver the results you need? And how can you find a security strategy that fits your budget and time constraints?
    Join top IBM i security expert Robin Tatam as he outlines the five fastest and most impactful changes you can make to strengthen IBM i security this year.
    Your system didn’t become unsecure overnight and you won’t be able to turn it around overnight either. But quick wins are possible with IBM i security, and Robin Tatam will show you how to achieve them.

  • How to Meet the Newest Encryption Requirements on IBM i

    SB PowerTech WC GenericA growing number of compliance mandates require sensitive data to be encrypted. But what kind of encryption solution will satisfy an auditor and how can you implement encryption on IBM i? Watch this on-demand webinar to find out how to meet today’s most common encryption requirements on IBM i. You’ll also learn:

    • Why disk encryption isn’t enough
    • What sets strong encryption apart from other solutions
    • Important considerations before implementing encryption



  • Security Bulletin: Malware Infection Discovered on IBM i Server!

    SB PowerTech WC GenericMalicious programs can bring entire businesses to their knees—and IBM i shops are not immune. It’s critical to grasp the true impact malware can have on IBM i and the network that connects to it. Attend this webinar to gain a thorough understanding of the relationships between:

    • Viruses, native objects, and the integrated file system (IFS)
    • Power Systems and Windows-based viruses and malware
    • PC-based anti-virus scanning versus native IBM i scanning

    There are a number of ways you can minimize your exposure to viruses. IBM i security expert Sandi Moore explains the facts, including how to ensure you're fully protected and compliant with regulations such as PCI.



  • Fight Cyber Threats with IBM i Encryption

    SB PowerTech WC GenericCyber attacks often target mission-critical servers, and those attack strategies are constantly changing. To stay on top of these threats, your cybersecurity strategies must evolve, too. In this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access




  • 10 Practical IBM i Security Tips for Surviving Covid-19 and Working From Home

    SB PowerTech WC GenericNow that many organizations have moved to a work from home model, security concerns have risen.

    During this session Carol Woodbury will discuss the issues that the world is currently seeing such as increased malware attacks and then provide practical actions you can take to both monitor and protect your IBM i during this challenging time.


  • How to Transfer IBM i Data to Microsoft Excel

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_Generic3 easy ways to get IBM i data into Excel every time
    There’s an easy, more reliable way to import your IBM i data to Excel? It’s called Sequel. During this webinar, our data access experts demonstrate how you can simplify the process of getting data from multiple sources—including Db2 for i—into Excel. Watch to learn how to:

    • Download your IBM i data to Excel in a single step
    • Deliver data to business users in Excel via email or a scheduled job
    • Access IBM i data directly using the Excel add-in in Sequel

    Make 2020 the year you finally see your data clearly, quickly, and securely. Start by giving business users the ability to access crucial business data from IBM i the way they want it—in Microsoft Excel.



  • HA Alternatives: MIMIX Is Not Your Only Option on IBM i

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericIn this recorded webinar, our experts introduce you to the new HA transition technology available with our Robot HA software. You’ll learn how to:

    • Transition your rules from MIMIX (if you’re happy with them)
    • Simplify your day-to-day activities around high availability
    • Gain back time in your work week
    • Make your CEO happy about reducing IT costs

    Don’t stick with a legacy high availability solution that makes you uncomfortable when transitioning to something better can be simple, safe, and cost-effective.



  • Node Webinar Series Pt. 1: The World of Node.js on IBM i

    SB Profound WC GenericHave you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application.
    Part 1 will teach you what Node.js is, why it's a great option for IBM i shops, and how to take advantage of the ecosystem surrounding Node.
    In addition to background information, our Director of Product Development Scott Klement will demonstrate applications that take advantage of the Node Package Manager (npm).
    Watch Now.

  • The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security

    SB Profound WC Generic The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security
    Here’s the harsh reality: cybersecurity pros have to get their jobs right every single day, while an attacker only has to succeed once to do incredible damage.
    Whether that’s thousands of exposed records, millions of dollars in fines and legal fees, or diminished share value, it’s easy to judge organizations that fall victim. IBM i enjoys an enviable reputation for security, but no system is impervious to mistakes.
    Join this webinar to learn about the biggest errors made when securing a Power Systems server.
    This knowledge is critical for ensuring integrity of your application data and preventing you from becoming the next Equifax. It’s also essential for complying with all formal regulations, including SOX, PCI, GDPR, and HIPAA
    Watch Now.

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  • Backup and Recovery on IBM i: Your Strategy for the Unexpected

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates the routine tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:
    - Simplified backup procedures
    - Easy data encryption
    - Save media management
    - Guided restoration
    - Seamless product integration
    Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Try the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Manage IBM i Messages by Exception with Robot

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Managing messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events?
    Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated message management
    - Tailored notifications and automatic escalation
    - System-wide control of your IBM i partitions
    - Two-way system notifications from your mobile device
    - Seamless product integration
    Try the Robot Message Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Easiest Way to Save Money? Stop Printing IBM i Reports

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing.
    Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

    - Automated report distribution
    - View online without delay
    - Browser interface to make notes
    - Custom retention capabilities
    - Seamless product integration
    Rerun another report? Never again. Try the Robot Report Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Hassle-Free IBM i Operations around the Clock

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413For over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i.
    Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated batch, interactive, and cross-platform scheduling
    - Event-driven dependency processing
    - Centralized monitoring and reporting
    - Audit log and ready-to-use reports
    - Seamless product integration
    Scale your software, not your staff. Try the Robot Job Scheduling Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • ACO MONITOR Manages your IBM i 24/7 and Notifies You When Your IBM i Needs Assistance!

    SB DDL Systems 5429More than a paging system - ACO MONITOR is a complete systems management solution for your Power Systems running IBM i. ACO MONITOR manages your Power System 24/7, uses advanced technology (like two-way messaging) to notify on-duty support personnel, and responds to complex problems before they reach critical status.

    ACO MONITOR is proven technology and is capable of processing thousands of mission-critical events daily. The software is pre-configured, easy to install, scalable, and greatly improves data center efficiency.