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ISCSI integration available on System i, plus new Lotus discount

New integration capabilities that allow IBM System i servers to manage IBM's x86 machines became generally available this week. Customers can also get a hardware discount for buying Lotus products.

IBM announced today that its System i servers would have better connections with Windows and blade servers, and also offered a discount on an i520 server that has Lotus products tied into it.

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With its connectivity news, Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM is aiming at small businesses that want to streamline file management, storage and tasks like assigning user passwords to employees. It allows System i servers to connect with System x and BladeCenter servers with iSCSI, which is a data transfer protocol over networks.

The iSCSI integration package was announced in a product preview back in January 2006 but is now generally available.

"From a customer's perspective, the value of what we're talking about is integration of application servers using the System i," said George Gaylord, iSeries product manager. "Say you want to centralize storage and have the System i. Instead of buying storage on each server, you can connect it much like a storage network would do."

The announcement comes on the heels of IBM reducing prices last week on its System i enterprise edition and high-availability servers, with most of them seeing cost cuts of 10-20%. Analysts said the price reductions were probably in the cards for a while, considering the revenue drops for System i revenue in the last two quarters.

Group Dekko, a Kendallville, Ind.-based company that manufactures wiring for products such as office furniture and automobiles, has been testing the new iSCSI connection for the past four weeks. Chris Edwards, vice president of information systems at Group Dekko, said the company has been using the technology to carve up and allocate iSeries disk space.

"We've had really good luck with it, it's performing well," Edwards said. "It's a little difficult to configure because you're dealing with IP addresses and the Ethernet, but once you get past that, it's very simple."

He added that the connection "gives you a wider opportunity to open up to other products, not only the xSeries but the BladeCenter as well."

Clay Ryder, president of Union City, Calif.-based Sageza Group Inc., said the integration improvements have been a long time coming, but he didn't predict "overnight it's going to cause System i sales to go through the roof."

"If [customers] were considering it, and one of the issues was the connectivity, this would certainly help," he said. "Just because the iSCSI is there, if they haven't bought into the idea of doing central management with the i, it's not going to be there."

That being said, Ryder thinks the integration could help make data center managers' lives easier.

"For a small business, it goes a long way to reduce one of the complexity headaches in having all these multiple systems," he said.

IBM announced the i520 Collaboration Edition, also aimed at small to midsized businesses. The server starts off with 4 GB of memory and four 35 GB disk drives for about $30,000, which is $15,000 less than the standard edition with the same configuration.

The catch is that the price only applies if the customer has already or plans to buy a certain amount of product licenses from Lotus. There are 11 different Lotus products that customers could qualify under, including Domino, Notes and Sametime.

"One of the important points here is the combination of Lotus products and System i benefits to our customers are an excellent combination," said Michael Rousseaux, System i offering manager for collaboration technologies.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Mark Fontecchio, News Writer

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