Helping small businesses lower costs with iSeries

WHAT is it about the iSeries e-servers that make IBM staff so eager to sing its praises to the uninitiated?  

Taking its cue from The Lord of the Rings, iSeries has been touted as the “one system to run it all” or in plain English: a single server is able to support multiple operating system environments. 

Ian Jarmanb

With more than 750,000 iSeries and AS/400 servers (its precursor) shipped to customers in over 100 countries to date, and 485,000 systems installed, it's the “most popular computer ever made by IBM,” said Bob McCormick, vice-president, World Wide iSeries Sales. 

Its attraction is hardly surprising when one considers the findings of an International Data Corp white paper released in July: small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that consolidated Intel-based infrastructure servers to iSeries using Linux or Windows achieved big cost savings, 90% reduction in downtime and return on investment within a year. 

These SMBs are the “heartland” of the iSeries market, said IBM iSeries product manager Ian Jarman, adding that businesses faced three types of costs: purchase cost of equipment, operating cost and cost of technology transition.  

He said IBM delivered the last AS/400 server in 1999 and was on average, seeing 10%-20% of its customers upgrading to the iSeries every year. 

“Our customers can easily upgrade?They just add to what they have. Our speciality is integration (of multiple systems)?everything is tested and shipped to be set up and run the first time (it is booted up),” he told a group of journalists from Asean and India at the IBM executive briefing centre in Rochester, Minnesota. 

How does the iSeries fit into IBM's on-demand strategy? For starters, its advanced virtualisation capabilities, integration, support for open standards, pace-setting autonomic capabilities and on/off capacity on demand make iSeries the ideal on demand server.  

Jarman said iSeries has “unmatched capacity” for logical partitions in the market with up to 32 OS/400 and Linux partitions - and a growing number of satisfied customers around the world.  

One such customer in the US retail industry, quoted widely by IBM, said the capacity upgrade on-demand allowed his company's iSeries 830 webserver to handle the excessive glut of Internet transactions during the holidays. 

Part of the capacity on-demand involves shipping out more processors than its customers ordered. For example, a server might be shipped out with six processors installed, comprising three active and three on standby - to be activated on-demand. 

To date, IBM has shipped out over 4,000 iSeries servers with capacity on-demand. Last year, it shipped out more than 5,000 processors - not activated or paid for. In the second quarter of this year, more than 700 processors were activated, generating US$30mil in revenue for IBM. 

Where previously the computing system had to be brought down for the installation of additional capacity, which could take several days from the time an order was placed to actual running, the new approach allows the company to tap the reserve capacity as and when it is needed. 

“The predominant reason customers bought 700 processors is that after turning (the extra capacity) on and off, at some point it became more prudent to buy,” said Amit Dave, senior technical staff member, LPAR, Storage, Base Enablement. 

With iSeries' capability to run logical partitioning (LPAR), he said a lot of customers had now adopted partitioning which offered them flexibility to move the CPU capacity around to different processes, applications or environments that needed it. 

The iSeries is also well supported by IBM's independent solutions vendors that include SAP, JD Edwards and Intentia. As a brand, iSeries is expected to see US$500mil investment this year and an additional US$500mil over the next two years.  

To further promote iSeries in the Asia-Pacific, IBM has a host of activities lined up for the second half-year. August saw the launch of a new model, the 870. There will also be a 17-city SAP road show and 134 ISV activities. 

And should the physical realm leave you unmoved, consider checking out Who knows, you might be singing a different tune after watching the video clips featuring testimonies by some very satisfied IBM customers! 

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