It has a busy couple weeks for the System i platform. One of the big pieces of news last week was that IBM is buying DataMirror, one of the larger high availability software vendors in the System i space. The other big players — Vision Solutions, iTera and Lakeview Technologies — have merged together under the Vision umbrella in the last eight months.
Now Gartner has come out with a news analysis: “IBM Strengthens Data Integration Suite with DataMirror Buy.” The massive research agency opines that DataMirror Transformation Server will be a good addition to IBM’s Information Server, but that DataMirror’s iCluster software — which is the high-availability program for System i — may eventually fold if IBM doesn’t roll it into its System i business unit.
Bottom line: DataMirror customers can expect continued support in the short-term, but the long-term is another question.
Mark Shearer, the IBM System i general manager, announced some big organizational news when I talked to him yesterday. Big Blue is splitting the server division in two.
High-end models like the 570 and 595 will be in a new Power Systems unit along with IBM’s Unix line, the System p. Lower-end models like the 515 and 525 will be in a Business Systems unit focused toward the SMB market.
Shearer also said that the first Power6-based System i server will be a 570. IBM will be announcing that next week. More Power6-based System i servers will be out later this year, even though Big Blue initially said the Power6 System i line would come out next year. Power6, of course, debuted in the System p server.
IBM will also introduce V6R1 of i5/OS next week. One interesting feature that Shearer spotlighted on the new i5/OS will be the ability of customers to pay just for operating features that they want. I’m not sure exactly how it’s going to work, but more details will probably come out next week on it.
Finally, Shearer said that IBM will be transforming its sales team from “product-based” to “client-based.” What that means is if you’re a channel partner or buy directly from IBM, you won’t have a System i rep, a System x rep, a System p rep, and a System z rep all knocking on your door. You’ll have one salesperson selling you a mix of IBM products to presumably meet your overall needs.
Once again, every hardware platform that IBM sells gained revenue except for the System i, which dropped double digits.
Big Blue released its second-quarter results today. System i is down 15 percent from the same period last year. Meanwhile, System z is up 4 percent, System p is up 7 percent, and System x is up a whopping 16 percent.
This is not just a blip in the radar — System i year-over-year revenues have gone down seven quarters in a row. That’s almost two years. And even though IBM has recently claimed that it’s focused on System i customers and not System i sales, one still has to admit that this doesn’t look good.
Is there anything good that can come out of this? Let me know what you think.
Chris Maxcer at the System i Network suggests that Elaine Lennox, the marketing manager for IBM System i, has hinted that i5/OS may be ported to other hardware platforms; in particular, blade servers.
Would you buy a System i blade?
This is really funny. I’m sure you’re all following it already, but there is something of a flame war going on regarding what to call a particular midrange server that IBM sells. You all know what I’m talking about — is it the AS/400, iSeries, or System i?
It all started when Trevor Perry, a System i consultant (I wouldn’t dare call him an AS/400 or iSeries consultant), decided to go on a “self-appointed campaign” to promote the use of the System i name. He came across many Web sites that still use AS/400 and iSeries to refer to the platform, and so he commented on their sites. We were one of them — read the comments from this post comparing an AS/400 to a cluster of Dell servers. Trevor’s alter ego is Angus, as in Angus the IT chap. His comment, in part:
What you are talking about is an i5 – a System i branded server. We need to get the word out that the server is modern, and the most powerful system on the planet. No one will believe an AS/400 can do any of those things – since it is so OLD.
Please use the correct names for the server (i5), the OS (i5/OS) and the brand (System i).
Perry also tried to comment on another site, the iSeries Cobol Blog. The author there, who remains anonymous because he doesn’t want his employer to know he’s writing the blog, wasn’t too keen on Perry’s comment, and so he refused to post it and blocked Perry from commenting further on the site. That ban has since been lifted, but in the meantime some back-and-forth posts went live on each of their blogs. Here’s a rundown:
- Trevor explains that he got banned from iSeries Cobol.
- iSeries Cobol dude explains why he banned Trevor.
- iSeries Cobol dude talks about the name of the platform.
- Trevor announces he’s been unblocked from the site.
Behind all of this is the debate about the name of the server platform, which rears its ugly head at every single COMMON conference. Mark Shearer and other executives get up in front of the audience to answer questions about the platform, and people complain about the name change.
Here’s a quick history. The platform was AS/400 until 2000, when it changed to iSeries, which then changed to System i in 2006. Got it? Good. Now Perry thinks an important part of moving the server platform toward the future is making sure we refer to the brand by its current name, the System i. I think he makes a solid point there.
But as I’m sure he knows, there are plenty of people out there who bought servers when the platform was called iSeries and AS/400, and so that’s what they call it.
Although calling the platform by its most recent name is good practice, I don’t believe that is the main way for the System i to thrive. There needs to be less focus on the name change and more on what the gosh darn platform needs to do, like attracting recent college grads and offering more flexible cost options for the hardware and software. The thing is, it seems like IBM is trying to do that. It has introduced VoIP to System i and now offers user-based System i servers and System i boxes integrated with third-party software. Whether those moves bring in more customers has yet to be seen, but I think the next couple years will definitely be an important indicator of the health of System i.
The System i high availability software market has heated up considerably in the last six months, with a flurry of consolidations. Now IBM has joined the fray, buying Markham, Ontario-based DataMirror for $161 million.
It all started back in November, when Vision Solutions bought iTera. Then last month, Vision bought Lakeview Technology, Inc. Now IBM is buying DataMirror. In short, the four largest System i high availability software vendors have been reduced to two, with one of them now being your hardware provider as well.
The acquisition is expected to be complete by the end of September. DataMirror has 220 employees and 2,200 customers, many of them in the System i HA space. It will be interesting to see how IBM positions itself in this market with the acquisition. It announced that it will integrate DataMirror software into its own Information Management Software, and there wasn’t one mention in the press release about the System i platform.
Still, the Vision-iTera-Lakeview combination is one to reckon with in the System i world, but IBM is one company that could do some reckoning, meaning competition in the HA space may still be alive and kicking.
One of the claims made by IBM and System i users is that it is more is energy efficient per workload than the equivalent computing power of scaled-out x86 boxes. Writing in the context of mainframes, immediate past president of the IBM user group Share, Robert Rosen, says that scale-out is horrible for energy efficiency because utilization is so low. Of course, the System i isn’t a mainframe, but does the utilization logic apply? Is looking at scaled-out clusters and the System i (or mainframe for that matter) in terms of energy efficiency an apples-to-apples comparison?
The issue of power efficiency and the System i was taken up recently by Chris Maxcer in the System i Network. He wonders how concerned a System i shop needs to be about their environmental contributions, because energy-saving strategies such as virtualization via LPAR allocation or proprietary software, is such a prominent part of the System i architecture.
Furthermore, if the System i is so efficient (and if you have the data that says it is, we’d love to see it), does it matter that IBM is investing in efforts like Project Green or The Green Grid? Sure, IBM has their x-series, blades and other products that could use some greening up in terms of energy efficiency, but what does it mean for System i users?
Speaking of those initiatives, does anyone really believe that IBM’s endeavors are environmentally altruistic? Or do most people recognize that it’s about the economics of power and the electricity bill that pops up on the CIO’s or CFO’s desk every month? One way to assess the integrity of these initiatives is to look at Gartner’s recent analysis of The Green Grid’s work. The consortium’s membership is heavy on vendors and light on end-user representation, meaning that the motives could point to self-interest. In other words, under the rubric of environmentally responsible green computing, who’s to say that a group of manufacturers, including System i creators IBM, aren’t just offering products that they deem energy efficient without the accountability of user feedback?
In all fairness, IBM did recently offer the new Power6 processor, which comes a premium price. The chip is twice as fast as the previous generation using almost no more energy. That is putting your R&D where your mouth is, isn’t it? The corporate skeptic in me, though, looks at the price and questions whether IBM isn’t just profiteering from the green computing craze. It’s hard to blame them, though. They are a business after all. Who says being green isn’t profitable?
A recent article from IT Jungle highlights an online analytical processing (OLAP) software suite from InfoManager, a little known but widely used System i software vendor. According to IT Jungle, InfoManager has been re-working its core of business intelligence software that can manage data and metadata across platforms. It also provides multidimensional ways of viewing BI data that transcends the traditional dashboard interface.
InfoManager plans to release WebAdvisor 3.0, a Java re-written Web -based client interface later this summer.
In a recent Slashdot post, readers compared using 60 Dell rack-mount servers in a Linux cluster to the AS/400.
The pro-Linux cluster reader said that the Dell/Linux cluster would have 30 times the throughput, 100 times the storage, and 0% of the software cost, and better uptime — and in fact, for the price you could have two smaller clusters in geographically distinct locations with a high-speed link between them.
Another reader rebutted with the following argument:
FYI: This whole debate spawned out of a thread about whether or not the iSeries should be considered a mainframe.
Check out the post for the full debate and let us know what you think.
Business Computer Design International Inc. (BCD) has announced the availability of a beta version of WebSmart PHP, which helps IBM System i developers to create PHP applications to run on i5/OS or other platforms such as Windows, Linux and Unix.
You can check out the details at the WebSmart PHP site, but basically BCD is making the software available to anyone who wants to evaluate it for 30 days.
BCD made the initial WebSmart PHP announcement at the COMMON conference this spring. The software includes more than 50 templates to help guide developers into creating the PHP application they need, and can support DB2 and MySQL databases. Licenses will start at $4,250 for two developer seats with additional seats costing $1,950; an unlimited site license for a single System i will also be available for $13,500.