When IBM first announced it would change the names of its server platforms (xSeries, zSeries, iSeries and pSeries all under the eServer brand) I understood immediately that the notation was not nearly as arbitrary as adding the ".com" to the end of a company name to make the stocks go up. I also knew it wasn't just a marketing ploy -- IBM had an ulterior motive for making the change.
While the mere thought of losing our precious "OS/400" causes most of us to break out in a cold sweat, none of these changes should have come as a surprise. When IBM announced it would switch from a CISC to a RISC chip and send the manufacturing of the RS/6000 to Rochester, the handwriting was on the wall.
IBM was attempting to cloud the waters between the platforms and allow the various hardware solutions to lose their individual identities. The name changes signaled the future integration of the platforms and software. By using a single logo (that little "e" in "eServer") for the entire line of systems, the integration was assumed and even (wrongly) touted by IBM all over the marketplace.
Now, the question for all of the AS/400-iSeries people is, does any of this mean the iSeries platform will cease to exist?
No one can say for sure, but if you look at the "strategic" moves IBM has made in the past several months, you might be able to figure it out. Look at these platform transformations.
IBM is making Linux and Unix native on the iSeries hardware. That means the underlying operating system is insignificant; it doesn't matter what system you're working on. When IBM finishes the migration, it will have Unix, OS/400 and Windows all running on the same hardware. The only difference will be the hardware on theinside. The iSeries transformation is in process, and with Unix in the next year or so, the pSeries transformation will be complete.
IBM has a version of OS/400 and DB2/400 on a PC-type platform. With this already in the wings, the xSeries transformation going from OS/400 running on a PC chip to Windows running on a RISC chip could probably be completed without too much trouble. And with the integrated Netfinity server, it's well on the way. Does the fact that we can run the PC operating system on a RISC chip indicate that the hardware will also merge? It's likely.
The zSeries transformation comes from the fact that these systems now have Java and WebSphere running, so converting those shops to an iSeries that is already capable of running CICS isn't far away. IBM now only has to sell one platform.
Everything is moving away from OS/400 and toward WebSphere and Linux. Was that due to a demand for WebSphere or Internet connectivity? No. It was due to the fact that IBM could make lots of money by moving the market away from OS/400 where you got everything you needed in one package (with add-ons, of course), to a package that would eventually become "platform-independent." If IBM had pushed to allow normal iSeries developers to quickly develop Internet applications, the company couldn't sell more software nor could it move it to another piece of hardware without major rewriting, or could they?
What did they do? They changed our hardware to use the pSeries RISC chip. Then they put the competition on our hardware. Is it an xSeries, zSeries, iSeries or a pSeries? I sure can't tell you. I can tell you that it's an eServer. Which I know, isn't saying much.
Of course, I wouldn't know. I'm just a flunky programmer.
About the author: John Brandt is a site expert on Search400.com and vice president of technical services, iStudio400.com. He welcomes your comments and feedback; send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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- John Brandt so woefully misses the mark with his "conspiracy theory" server integration article. The realities:
* The iSeries isn't getting new customers.
* However, OS/400 is widely successful and still very widely deployed.
* OS/400 users remain loyal, at least for in-placed apps.
* IBM wants to keep OS/400 customers --
not just to harvest the higher-on-the-tree add-on Wintel/Linux cash, but to harvest the low-hanging fruit OS/400 hardware upgrades represent.
* iSeries customers want platform option
The notion of an old-time "AS/400" has gone the way of the Packard, the Archies, the Apple Lisa and OS/2. Today, what was once an AS/400 now runs many platforms. How can you tell if what was an AS/400 shop is still truly an AS/400? Ask them one simple question: on what platform will you host your next new application? Unless they reply, without pause or indecision, the iSeries, that shop isn't solely an AS/400 shop anymore.
* IBM can't afford to keep cranking out proprietary hardware to perpetuate OS/400. That IBM will consolidate servers is a good thing for OS/400 users, not a bad thing. The consolidated server offers the long-term promise of a rational place to run OS/400 apps for a long time. That is the news that OS/400 users need -- and want -- to hear. To suggest that the consolidated server represents the demise of OS/400 is poppycock.
-- Roger Pence
This was first published in June 2003