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Q&A: IBM System i Business Systems' Marc Dupaquier

@46007 In July 2007, IBM Corp. split its System i division into two parts: the higher-end Power Systems unit, and the lower-end Business Systems unit. It soon became clear that the Business Systems unit would be crucial in the survival of the System i platform, with the unit generating 95% of System i volume and 70% of its revenue.

Marc Dupaquier, a relatively unknown figure in the System i world, is head of the Business Systems unit. spoke with Dupaquier recently about how he got his start at IBM, the difference between big and small System i customers, and when the i5/OS is coming out.

Tell us how you joined the Business Systems Unit.

For more on System i and SMBs:

IBM's strategy to lure SMBs to System i cast in doubt

IBM eyes SMBs with entry-level System i boxes

IBM System i division filing for divorce

I came on board as the general manager of the Business Systems unit in January 2007… [which] we created at that time to build a new organization of the hardware business of IBM to give out new offerings for the SMB segment. The IBM System i split up is one event, which happened in July, but it was part of a grand plan that started in January.

It was exciting for me when I came into this job because I started my career in France as a software specialist, and then as an AS/400 sales rep. I sold AS/400 a lot at the time in France. I believe that I can claim I sold the first AS/400 in France.

What's the main difference between larger companies that buy from the Power Systems unit and the smaller ones that buy from the Business Systems unit?
Companies that buy large high-end System i's tend to have a significant operation in more than one environment. So they run an i, they run a [System] p , maybe they run a [System] z. They run i for a particular application. What's important for them is the integration of i into the overall IT organization. Really, here they look at the application rather than the hardware itself.

The rest of the market -- the SMB customers -- they are relatively small IT organizations. They tend to like i5 integration because they don't have a large team to run it. The people who are running System i are the same people running Intel servers right next to it.

Will IBM develop different technology now that different System i machines are in different groups?
The technology we'll be using is the same. It's not a statement of different technology. We're using the same development team. We kept one hardware development team developing Power6, and we'll have one team on the Power7 technology. It's the same statement for i5: We're keeping one i5 team and this team will provide the i5 operating system for both the high-end and the low-end.

Does an SMB benefit by having i5/OS on a blade, which IBM will release next year?
We believe that this will be, over time, the No. 1 form factor used by customers. It's relatively easy to implement, to install; it's easier to put a blade in a chassis than stack a rack somewhere. Most System i customers are also running Intel servers. It's fair to say that about 98% of SMB customers are running Intel systems. And they're moving toward a server consolidation approach. Having the power blades and Intel blades, and using virtualization to manage all of this, is something they really like.

Can you be more specific about when the i5/OS blade will be released?
It's safe to say that by midyear, they will be available or announced with a very clear date for when they're ready.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Mark Fontecchio, News Writer.

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