For an arts supply company based in California, it wasn't the attraction of the System i hardware that attracted it to the platform, per se. Rather, it was a particular application by CommercialWare, a System i business partner, that helped the company perform all its backend operations -- order entry, inventory, sales reporting -- and brought them to the iSeries.
It didn't hurt that the then-current hardware for Flax Art, based in Brisbane, Calif., was Hewlett-Packard Co.'s e3000, a server line that HP had announced it was discontinuing, including its support for the platform.
According to Flax Art's CEO, Howard Flax, moving to CommercialWare on an entry-level iSeries 810 running OS400 allowed them to eliminate a full-time developer position that was required to monitor, upgrade and fix backend applications that were compatible with the e3000.
"We were traditionally supported by an HP e3000 but with software that no longer served its function," Flax said. "We looked for a system with a new backend operating system. Eventually we chose CommercialWare, partnered with IBM. They suggested the iSeries and the rest is history."
According to Flax, the company was using software that originally had been BSA, but changed hands and names to Mortech and eventually to its current iteration, which would be closely aligned to Ecometry.
All of these name alterations and changes of hands had Flax Art looking for software that was more stable. "It served its function but we had extended it beyond its life," Flax said. "The software had changed hands a few times."
Flax Art evaluated competitors CommercialWare and Ecometry. Both companies provide applications for companies that sell directly and indirectly to customers, whether it be through their own Web sites – which is what Flax Art does – or via other avenues. For Flax, CommercialWare worked because it relied on the integrated DB2 database on the iSeries, as opposed to the Oracle-driven Ecometry software, which requires more database administration knowledge.
The story is not unusual. A user decides on a particular type of application and then bases hardware decisions on what platforms that application supports. Building a large cadre of independent software vendors (ISVs) helped the System i win over Flax Art. It was one of the goals for Big Blue, which set its sights on e3000 users as potential new customers when HP announced its discontinuation of the server line.
Shortly after the announcement four years ago, IBM started making moves to grab HP 3000 customers. It attended a conference hosted by an HP user group, invited HP 3000 customers to Rochester to hear about the iSeries, and working closely with ISVs.
Laura Naylor, marketing VP at CommercialWare, said that's how it worked with Flax Art. "They were making a business decision on the application, and the infrastructure that runs on is an element of that," she said.
Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Mark Fontecchio, News Writer
Dig Deeper on Upgrading
At the conclusion of the COMMON user group conference in Miami Beach last week, Randy Dufault took over for Beverly Russell as president of the group. Dufault, a principal in the government practice for MBS Technologies Inc. in Minneapolis, has been attending COMMON conferences since 1988 and has worked with IBM midrange systems since 1983, starting with the System/36. He's been treasurer of COMMON the last two years.
In a recent conversation by email that spilled over to the phone, Dufault talked about his perceived role at Common, the new iSociety and the future of the System i. Here is a portion of those conversations.