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Users speak their minds on the iSeries, IBM's treatment of it

When it comes to offering an opinion or taking a stance against something, nothing compares to AS/400 (or iSeries) users. We wanted to find out what's on your minds concerning it these days, so recently we asked Search400 members what they would say to iSeries general manager Buell Duncan -- good or bad -- if they had the chance. Everyone sang the praises of the machine, but many voiced concerns with IBM's marketing of the system and with the company's customer service.

When it comes to offering an opinion or taking a stance against something, nothing compares to AS/400 (or iSeries) users. We wanted to find out what's on your minds concerning it these days, so recently we asked Search400 members what they would say to iSeries general manager Buell Duncan -- good or bad -- if they had the chance. Everyone sang the praises of the machine, but many voiced concerns with IBM's marketing of the system and with the company's customer service.

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Take our poll and tell us what's the most controversial issue concerning the iSeries

Nothing beats the iSeries for reliability and performance
The reliability, performance and stability of the AS/400 is excellent. You auto IPL once a week and never expect the machine to fail. We use the AS/400 platform for our mission-critical applications and use a LAN/WAN (NT/Windows 2000) for various other applications (Intranet, Internet,Outlook, MS Word/Excel, Browser based apps, etc). Expect the AS/400, or something based on the AS/400, to be around for a long time.

Rick Coke
Sr. vice president/CIO
Summit Bank

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We moved to a new office in October 2001. At that time we downed the AS/400. We moved it, brought it back up and haven't had to IPL it again until last weekend. When we usually IPL the AS/400 it is because we are upgrading, applying a PTF, etc. Comparatively, we have to reboot our 2000 server boxes constantly -- some of them daily, most of them weekly. They regularly have unexplained hang-ups and slowdowns. For reliability, stability and functionality, MS servers can't compare to the AS/400. I'd love to see MS come up to AS/400 standards rather than see the AS/400 downgrade to their level.

Diane Davidson

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The 400 is a great product. It is truly industrial strength and has many, many things in it to make life easier for those that develop on it and support it. It is too bad the industry as a whole cannot realize this, and it is to bad that mother IBM cannot play favorites to anyone of its children (i, p, x series). I think this has been a great downfall, but I can understand how IBM could end up competing with its self. On the other hand, many think that is a good thing. Years ago, when this strategy seemed to be in place, most of IBM sales were direct, not through business partners, thus creating an expensive sales process. Now that is different. Maybe it is time to let the platforms compete.

If IBM could control the competition to marketing and continue to share technology, new niches may form and the best features should morph into one over a 5 to 10 development cycle.

IBM missed the boat on 64-bit during that period. They are missing the boat in MSFT OS upgrades and drivers.

Todd Humphrey


Tell the world the benefits of the iSeries, OS/400
I've been an AS/400 SA since 1988. I started working at IBM and now I'm a client of IBM. It is very sad to see that IBM does not promote the 400 more, I have real data to compare: 80 Unix servers, 40 NT servers and two AS/400s. The most reliable box is the 400, and it is very easy to maintain.

What IBM could do better is to promote it in financial institutions. The 400 is a VERY good, scalable, secure, reliable DB server and that is what financial institutions want.

Philippe Pfeiffer
Enterprise Technology Management Zuerich
Goldman, Sachs & Co. Bank

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Market OS/400.

I don't care if iSeries hardware runs Linux, zOS, AIX or Mac OS X. I don't care if we share hardware with pSeries, zSeries or xSeries. I don't care if the SPD bus goes away, and I don't care if the box is black or beige. The hardware is not the AS/400 -- it's the operating system. Consolidate the hardware all you can, but keep OS/400 and MARKET IT!

Buck Calabro


What does the future hold for the iSeries?
I would like to know how long does IBM plan to keep the AS/400 product line going -- five, 10, 20 years? I know this type of question may not be able to be answered.

I am assuming that the AS/400 product line is IBM's bread and butter, but it doesn't seem to be marketed at all this way.

We have a substantial investment in the RPG/ILE language that goes all the way back to the System 36. With the rapid changes in the technology field, I would sleep better knowing that the AS/400 product line has a long, prosperous future to look forward to.

John Gordon Jr.
Roosevelt Paper Company


Give us stats on iSeries systems
I would like to be able to go to one place to easily get statistical information on the iSeries. Statistics like: The number of systems installed. The number of iSeries systems running SAP, JDE, JDA, Seibel, MoveX, Fiserv, etc. Survey results for Total Operating Costs compared to other servers. Consolidations to the AS/400 by other companies. What is IBM doing to promote the iSeries? This information should be available free with no membership dues required.

Ken Krouse
AS/400 Applications Management
Kansas City Service Center
Cap Gemini Ernst & Young


Bad service is bad business
This is not so much a complaint about the AS/400 as it is a comment about the way IBM does business. We are a software developer using the 400 as our main server of choice. A year and a half ago we put our 170 on maintenance after the one-year warranty. I know the CE's, and I also decided that our shop does not need 24X7 availability. I figured I would save the few hundred dollars a year on the premise I never thought our 400 would go down, and also the CE's would not be losing family time on nights or weekends. I thought it was best for all.

Well, we did make a service call, our 400 was down cold, I called in at 8 a.m. and waited for a response. Our CE called about 11 a.m., and asked if we were having trouble? I told him I put in a service call but had not heard anything from anyone else. He informed me he was not busy, so he got online to check what was in the pipe. He noticed our call and decided to call even though he had not been dispatched. When he came over he told me because of our 8-5 contract, IBM takes the stance that we will not get called until the end of the day and that he would not be responsible to come out until the end of the next day.

I called and complained to the supervisor in Rochester hardware maintenance, and she was very cold to me, stating that the contract states they are not required to respond until the next business day on an 8-5 agreement. I soon after dropped my maintenance agreement altogether, figuring I would rather roll the dice than give IBM money for that kind of service. Our CE told me that is their way of getting everyone on the 24X7 maintenance agreement. I say, if they do not want to provide good service on an 8-5, they should not offer it, period.

Now we have a 270 in our shop, and it recently went out of warranty. I just received a letter from Gary K. Johnson with IBM, stating that our machine had run out of warranty and is no longer being maintained by "one of the largest, fastest, and smartest support networks in the world, IBM Global Services." I proceeded to file it in the round file.

Don't these people at IBM realize most of them have their retirement mostly based on IBM stock? Are they so big they think they can treat anybody as they want. Maybe if IBM got a little hungry they would give fair and equal service based on the time of the contract vs. trying to make life miserable for the ones on 8-5 telling them "if only you had 24X7."

Now, don't get me wrong, I still believe in the 400 as being the best business machine out there. We have our entire software suite built on the 400, but if there were a choice with the operating system the 400 has, I would not put up with IBM's attitude.

Rick Bishop
President
Software Alternatives

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Recently IBM announced that Business Partner lease rates were going up from 1% to 1.75%. That is almost double! The net result of that is that smaller software development firms will be forced to look at other platforms. That is bad for the software development firms and it will be bad for IBM because there will be that many less developers pushing their hardware. I sent an email to IBM and didn't even get a response.

Richard T. Chaves
Chaves Consulting


Pay attention to small and mid-sized companies
I almost had the opportunity to give Buell Duncan a piece of mind at the IBM technical conference in Las Vegas a few weeks ago, but there were plenty of irate people in front of me, that gave him that same piece. We are a medium-sized, about a $60 million manufacturing aerospace firm, running JD Edwards on a 20S. For two years I have been pricing an upgrade to my machine, since IBM decided to not support the upgrade paths for this machine about a year and a half ago. The upgrade is more expensive, then actually going out and purchasing a new machine! Also, I am purchasing DASD from a third-party vendor so I won't have to pay $2,000 a disk drive to increase my disk space for now, while waiting for some kind of price break or promotion to get a new box!!

I have been programming for 22 years in RPG and have followed IBM from the system 34 to the 36 then 38 and then in 1989 the AS/400. I am one of those diehard AS/400 customers -- no other box can do the job. I now manage a shop of my own, and I am frustrated by the lack direction and the way it seems IBM ignores the AS/400, not iSeries, AS/400.

I would like to ask Mr. Duncan for an upgrade box to replace my 20S. It has to have the same capacity and power as the old one without the price of a new one. Now, while I listened to his lecture during that conference, he said they would be focusing on the small to medium-sized businesses and their problems. Well, here we are, and after 22 years of loyalty, IBM owes us some answers.

Lou Ann Poe
IT manager
Meggitt Safety Systems
Simi Valley, Calif.


True GUI front end needed
I would tell Mr. Duncan that the iSeries is awesome, but still needs a true GUI front end to keep away from dying off. I know OpsNav is really cool, and you can do anything from it, but it's still a client that needs installment. Couldn't they make a default HTTP server come up on IPL with a full GUI interface for 5250? Like the cool Web-based WebSphere admin., but for everyday users? No client access needed!

Chris Eidsmoe
Senior programmer/analyst project lead
SAFECO Financial Institution Services
Irvine, Calif.

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