The iSeries Blog

Dec 16 2009   6:22PM GMT

AS/400 specialty engines?

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

In a recent column, IT Jungle suggests that IBM offer specialty engines on the IBM System i, similar to what they do with the mainframe.

Currently with its System z mainframes, IBM offers three kinds of specialty engines: the Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL) to run Linux applications, the System z Application Assist Processor (zAAP) to run Java, and the System z Integrated Information Processor (zIIP) to run database applications, particularly DB2. Mind you, there is no physical difference between the mainframe’s central processors and its specialty engines. They’re the same chip. The difference lies in software licensing, which is free on the specialty engines.

IT Jungle thinks this philosophy could carry over to the System i and AS/400, particularly as IBM moves toward Power7-based machines:

On entry, midrange, and enterprise boxes that have more cores per chip activated, IBM would be wise to take a page out of its mainframe playbook and designate some engines for i/OS and others to run particular workloads as so-called “specialty engines.” These could be configured to run database queries, support Java virtual machines, run PHP applications, support various application modernization front ends from third-party tool suppliers, support Linux for infrastructure workloads, run firewalls, support fault tolerance and disaster recovery mirroring on a single system, or even allow for the harvesting of number-crunching capacity for analytics applications running on workstations.

While I don’t like the idea of i/OS engines carrying a premium price, lowering the overall price of a mixed workload system with i/OS and its DB2 for i database at the center of it all is a lot better than having a Power Systems i box that is too expensive to do anything but run the absolutely minimal amount of legacy code. I would prefer that these future Power7 boxes offer better value for the dollar than IBM’s AIX-DB2 combo, in fact.

The column hints at the benefit for both sides. System i pros can viably stay on the platform that they’ve know and loved, probably for decades. Meanwhile, IBM can prevent any mass migration off the System i by allowing shops to mix-and-match so-called legacy AS/400 applications with newer ones that run on Linux and PHP, for example.

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