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RISC System/6000: The UNIX Alternative

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The UNIX Alternative

by Teresa Elms

It's faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and it helps design things (such as airplanes) that leap tall buildings in a single bound. It's IBM's new RISC System/6000, and it's a super box. According to benchmarks conducted by IBM, the RS/6000 dramatically outperforms all leading competitors in the market for technical and numerically intensive computing. But many commercial midrange systems users--the primary market for the AS/400--also will find the UNIX-based RS/6000 a seductive alternative.

The RS/6000 Family: Architected for Power

The RS/6000 line consists of six system units in desktop, deskside, and rack-mounted configurations (Table 1). Single-user technical workstations are called POWERstations, while multi-user systems and systems that function as LAN servers are called POWERservers. Both names refer to IBM's new Performance Optimization With Enhanced RISC (POWER) architecture, which supplants the older RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer) architecture used in the IBM RT PC series.

The POWER architecture has a number of interesting features that amply justify the name. For example, the POWER RISC processor consists of three functional units: a branch unit (which is capable of processing two instructions in one instruction cycle), a fixed-point arithmetic unit, and a floating-point arithmetic unit. These functional units operate concurrently, permitting the RS/6000 to execute as many as four instructions during one instruction cycle. Cache memories for both instructions and data further improve performance. Using this processor design, the RS/6000 executes up to 150 million instructions per second (MIPS) during bursts of peak performance, and averages from 27.5 MIPS to 34.5 MIPS, depending on the CPU model. The processor is implemented in high-density CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) technology that packages from 200,000 to more than 1 million circuits per chip.

The RS/6000 is a virtual memory system that supports single-level storage-- that is, applications on the system view memory and disk resources alike as one large region of main memory. Current models support up to 256 MB of real memory and 256 terabytes (TB) of virtual memory. But the 32-bit POWER architecture theoretically supports up to 4 GB of real memory and 4 pedabytes (PB)--or 4 million billion bytes--of virtual memory. (That's a lot of memory, but the AS/400 comes out ahead in this regard: today's 48- bit machines address 281 TB of virtual memory, and the AS/400 architecture provides for a 64-bit address that supports nearly 2 million pedabytes of virtual memory.) Memory on the RS/6000 is implemented in 1 megabit (Mb) DRAM (dynamic random access memory) technology today, but IBM is promising 4 Mb DRAM by the end of the year--at which time real memory capacity will double to 512 MB.

The I/O architecture of the RS/6000 bears some similarity to that of the AS/400, in that distributed I/O processors offload the main processor and thereby improve throughput. In particular, a variety of dedicated graphics processors support everything from simple 2D graphics to 3D wire modeling to advanced 3D solid modeling in real time. But in contrast to the AS/400, which relies on proprietary bus technology, the RS/6000 I/O bus supports IBM's Micro Channel Architecture (MCA). This strategy lets the RS/6000 incorporate off-the-shelf I/O adapter cards from the PS/2. And in the RS/6000, the MCA bus delivers screaming performance, with a data transfer rate of 40 MB per second. (Compare that to the AS/400 I/O bus, which transfers data at the more pedestrian 5 MB per second.)

Thanks to support for MCA and for the Small Computer Systems Interface (SCSI) standard, the RS/6000 offers a variety of I/O options too numerous to detail. Of these, the secondary storage options of the system may be the most interesting. The RS/6000 supports 5.25-inch and 3.5-inch, high- speed, high-density magnetic disk drives for total internal storage capacities up to 12 GB. One option is a removable hard disk drive that allows confidential information to be physically removed and locked away when the system is not in use. Another option is in-board CD-ROM optical disk storage. All RS/6000 documentation is available on CD-ROM disks.

There's more. In a statement of direction issued at the time of announcement, IBM promised a serial fiber-optic channel for the RS/6000. That super-speed channel will support inter-processor communications as well as direct attachment to high-bandwidth I/O devices. Deskside and rack-mounted RS/6000 units (but not the desktop models) already incorporate hardware provisions for the upgrade. In addition, IBM promised an I/O adapter card to support the Fiber Distributed Data Interface (FDDI) standard. This adapter will allow the RS/6000 to attach directly to a 100 Mbps optical LAN.

The UNIX Alternative

The RS/6000 operates under AIX Version 3, IBM's extended version of the UNIX operating system. UNIX is attractive to many users because it offers a wide variety of applications software and because its open architecture allows applications to move readily--at least in theory--from one vendor's platform to that of another vendor. Significant variations in the UNIX standard make the latter ideal more difficult to achieve than it should be. But AIX Version 3 offers a partial solution: it is compatible with most of the major UNIX standards, including AT&T UNIX System V, the IEEE 1003.1 (1988) standard for a Portable Operating System for Computer Environments (POSIX), and Berkeley Software Distribution 4.3 UNIX. It runs the popular C, Bourne, and Korn "shell" environments. It is also source-code- compatible with the AIX/RT application programming interfaces. IBM plans to add compatibility with the X/Open Common Applications Environment (CAE) in the future.

Whole-hearted support for UNIX has been long in coming from IBM. Big Blue traditionally prefers proprietary systems like OS/400--which ironically is becoming more and more of a closed system while AIX embraces ever more open standards. But public resentment of such power plays by vendors in the past has created a market for open systems that is too big today to ignore.

"We are very, very serious about UNIX," notes Terry Lautenbach, IBM senior vice-president and general manager of IBM United States. IBM estimates that UNIX-based computer systems generate $25 billion in annual revenues worldwide, and that market is growing at 30% per year.

IBM may be more serious about UNIX than it is about its flagship commercial midrange processor, the AS/400. Virtually every advanced technology feature promised to AS/400 users "someday" is available on the RS/6000 today.

Have you been waiting for intelligent workstations to support a powerful windowing environment for AS/400 processing? The RS/6000 offers a choice of two host-based windowing environments today. AIXWindows Environment /6000 is a graphical user interface and toolkit based on the Open Systems Foundation (OSF) Motif standard; it runs on multiuser RS/6000 POWERservers and presents an interface similar in look and feel to the SAA Presentation Manager. AIX NeXTStep Environment/6000 provides an object-oriented, graphical user interface and development platform compatible with Steve Jobs' NeXT computer; it runs on single-user POWERstations. Both AIXWindows and NeXTStep support a graphically rich style of user interaction known (facetiously) as the WIMP interface--for Windows, Icons, Mice, and Pull- down menus. In addition, an intelligent X-Windows workstation, the Xstation 120, allows users to access multiple host applications concurrently in a networked environment. The Xstation 120 can communicate with any host system that supports the X-Windows graphical interface standard. All three RS/6000 windowing environments support Display Postscript for superior font appearance.

Have you been waiting for IBM's Document Content Architecture (DCA) and shared folders to let you manage compound documents that contain elements of text, data, graphics, and image information--easily, smoothly, all at once? The RS/6000 today offers InfoExplorer, a hypertext database search and retrieval system that provides concurrent, on-line access to both text and graphics information. Using InfoExplorer, users can trace hypertext links to find associated text and image information, customize the presentation on the display, set bookmarks, annotate documents with private notes, view graphics with zoom/pan capabilities, and copy or print text and graphics information. The RS/6000 Hypertext Information Base is one database you might explore with InfoExplorer. The Hypertext Information Base resides on either magnetic disk or CD-ROM and contains the system documentation--with integrated text and graphics--for the RS/6000. The RS/6000 system software uses this information base independently of InfoExplorer to provide on-line help support to users.

Have you been waiting for modern programming languages that are functionally complete and that perform well? Have you been waiting for the developer's tools that go with them? The RS/6000 supports C, FORTRAN, Pascal, COBOL, Ada, and an assembler. (The latter is essential for systems programmers who need access to machine code in order to build fast, efficient, reusable tools). Programmer productivity aids include a powerful developers toolkit, a graphics interface toolkit, a mathematical functions library that optimizes performance in complex problems, and a raft of Computer Aided Software Engineering (CASE) products. (We're told that an independent developer, Software Ireland, is working on an RPG compiler as well.) To encourage software vendors to create applications for the RS/6000 platform, IBM has introduced a developer's program similar to that offered by Apple. Software vendors and academic researchers approved by IBM may purchase RS/6000 machines, peripherals, and associated software at half price. These products must be used for the creation or porting of application software and may not be resold.

Have you been waiting for powerful connectivity and cooperative processing in a heterogeneous, multi-vendor network? The RS/6000 supports asynchronous ASCII communications, Ethernet LAN connection, and the Token- Ring LAN. It also supports TCP/IP and the international OSI standards for data communications. The widely used Network File System (NFS) and Network Computing System (NCS) also appear on the RS/6000, where they support distributed database management and distributed computing in a network environment. A product called Viaduct also lets the RS/6000 access AS/400 databases on an interactive, peer-to-peer basis via APPC and SQL/400.

The list goes on. UNIX is not the perfect operating system. Ease of use in the raw UNIX product is non-existent; the system is a programmer's dream but an end-user's nightmare. Data management is primitive by the standards of more modern multi-user operating systems. Security is trivially easy to breach, as the rapid proliferation of the Morris virus on Internet attests. OS/400 offers significant advantages in the areas of data management, transaction processing, security, and machine independence over traditional, bare bones UNIX. But in AIX Version 3, IBM extensions and add-on features address every one of these potential problems. The NeXTStep environment, in particular, provides both programmers and end-users with productive, friendly access to the capabilities of UNIX.

Peaceful Coexistence?

IBM now offers three multiuser computer lines in the $10,000-to-$1,500,000 price range that defines the "midrange" product class. Those computers are the 9370 (augmented in February with new, economical, low-end models), the AS/400 (also augmented in February at the low end), and the RS/6000. IBM claims that these system don't compete with each other, but in fact they compete head-to-head, offering different strengths (and weaknesses) that make each of them attractive in different niches of the market. Big Blue hopes to make that look less like competition by declaring a winner in advance within each market niche.

The first factor to assess in this niche-wise evaluation process is application software. For example, if you want to run existing System/370 application software on a smaller, less expensive machine, the new 9370 systems are your choice. (This prospect is distinctly uninteresting to System/36, System/38, and AS/400 users--not to mention first-time computer users not yet saddled with an application inventory.)

When deciding between the AS/400 and the RS/6000, things are a little more complex. According to Stephen B. Schwartz, general manager of the Application Business Systems unit that makes the AS/400, IBM spent millions of dollars on a market segmentation study that broke the midrange market into hundreds of extremely specialized application niches. The study found significant differences between tractor parts distributors and auto parts distributors, for example. Within each such narrowly defined niche, IBM looked for the best application software regardless of platform. That application software determines the system that the IBM representative will pitch to the prospective account.

However, more general criteria may help individual users evaluate which system is best for their environment. The AS/400 remains the platform of choice when:

Workload is transaction-oriented rather than compute-intensive

RPG or COBOL are the preferred development languages

Synchronous communications capabilities are primary

A large database must be maintained on a single CPU

Hundreds of terminals must be active concurrently

The application software of choice runs only on the AS/400

Loyalty to IBM is an important factor.

Conversely, the RS/6000 is a better choice when:

Workload is compute-intensive rather than transaction- oriented

C or FORTRAN are the preferreddevelopment languages

Asynchronous communications capabilities are primary

Smaller, distributed databases are maintained

Dozens of terminals must be active concurrently

The application of choice runsunder UNIX

Vendor independence is an important factor.

A final discriminating factor is price. Entry prices for the RS/6000 processors range from $7,475 to $88,695. These are some of the most competitive prices in the technical computing market, and they are significantly more competitive than prices for the AS/400. For further ease of customer entry, AIX Version 3 is sold on a tiered pricing basis that depends both on the processor model and on the number of users for which the system is configured. Prices range from $1,250 to $10,000 for the base AIX system.

Could IBM have done all this for the AS/400? It certainly seems so, but for whatever reason, it didn't happen that way. Meanwhile, the RS/6000 delivers--today--the tools that IBM's commercial midrange users are still waiting for. It does so on an IBM-engineered platform that boasts that famous IBM reliability and IBM support. That's the real lure of IBM's UNIX alternative.

 --------------------------------------------------------------------------- TABLE 1 RISC SYSTEM/6000 MODEL SPECIFICATIONS ______________________________________________________________________ Configuration: --Desktop-- --------Deskside--------- --Rack-- Model: 320 520 530 730 540 930 ______________________________________________________________________ Memory: Standard (MB) 8 8 16 16 64 16 Maximum (MB) 32 128 128 128 256 128 Internal DASD: Standard (MB) 120 355 355 355 640 670 Maximum (MB) 640 2,571 2,571 2,571 2,571 11,998 Expansion Slots 4 7 7 6 7 7 Parallel Ports 1 1 1 1 1 0 Serial Ports 2 2 2 2 2 2 LINPACK DP (MFLOPS) 7.4 7.4 10.9 10.9 13.0 10.9 Dhrystones (K/SEC) 48.3 48.3 60.7 60.7 72.2 60.7 MIPS 27.5 27.5 34.5 34.5 41.1 34.5 Availability 2Q90 2Q90 2Q90 4Q90 3Q90 3Q90 Entry Price $7,475 $21,475 $36,935 $67,190 $88,695 $59,535 
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    Profound Logic Software, Inc.Have 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. In Part 2, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Attend this webinar to learn:

    • Different tools to develop Node.js applications on IBM i
    • Debugging Node.js
    • The basics of Git and tools to help those new to it
    • Using NodeRun.com as a pre-built development environment

     

     

  • Inside the Integrated File System (IFS)

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericDuring this webinar, you’ll learn basic tips, helpful tools, and integrated file system commands—including WRKLNK—for managing your IFS directories and Access Client Solutions (ACS). We’ll answer your most pressing IFS questions, including:

    • 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.