IBM has announced a revamp of its mid-range AS/400 range, with increased processing power and a new version of the operating system designed to position the server as a true e-commerce platform.
The AS/400e series also boasts a number of enhancements including native support for Lotus Domino and an integrated firewall, with native Java support expected early next year.
"What we're doing here is embracing a lot of Web technology, and integrating that technology into the AS/400," said David Russell, IBM's manager for the AS/400 division.
"The market that we are going after with the AS/400 is not so much the Internet server, but electronic-commerce, because from an AS/400 standpoint we are very strong in mission-critical application serving. So all these technologies are coming into place now."
Russell said IBM is continuing to market the AS/400 on ease of use. "We're extending the simplicity, integrating all the leading technologies into the AS/400, so customers don't have to do the integration piece." IBM is also changing the way it licenses the OS/400 operating system, by rolling it into the hardware purchase. "So no longer do you buy the OS separately, you get it in as one bundle, priced as the hardware price," Russell said. In doing so IBM has also dropped the user-based pricing model.
The e series itself represents the third generation of RISC technology. Russell says the new machines deliver the largest price/performance leap in the line's history, providing 170 times scalability from smallest AS/400 to the largest, where the e series is 500 per cent more powerful than previous units. Up to 12 parallel processors can be supported in one box, while up to 32 units can be linked together in one system.
"It takes us from supporting a couple of thousand users to about 7000 users," Russell said.
The AS/400e series will also provide the ability to NT Server on a specialised add-in 200MHz Pentium Pro processor, Russell said.
As for Java support, he said that will most likely be integrated into the operating system itself, with IBM writing the Java Virtual Machine into the AS/400 microcode for optimum performance.
To help support users IBM has also developed a special AS/400 Web page, providing customer care through personalised home pages, along with order tracking and installation support.
Russell said his division has also been experiencing success with its AS/400 Advanced Entry offering for small business, winning business in accounts previously unknown to IBM. He said the Advanced Entry's specialist distributor Tardis has signed up 40 business partners, most of which have not dealt with the division previously.