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COMMON: IBM continues server convergence push

IBM continues to push the convergence of its servers. This sharing of technology means greater availability of applications on the iSeries and possibly cements a brighter future for the platform.

DENVER -- IBM is saying it loud and clear: the company will continue to move toward the convergence of its servers and with it, expand the number of applications that support the iSeries. That also includes the support of other operating environments, such as Windows, AIX, Unix and Linux.

"There used to be a time when Windows and Unix were the bad guys," said Frank Soltis, IBM's chief scientist for the iSeries, during an interview Tuesday at the COMMON Fall 2002 users conference. "For us to embrace those technologies, that was very difficult."

Difficult? Sure, but IBM has done it anyway and, so far, the sharing of technology and the support of other operating systems has not only made the iSeries a more attractive platform, but its means IBM can leverage its technology across the board.

Upshot: users get the stability, more apps. IBM gets more bang for its technology buck.

Soltis has long been campaigning for server convergence, and he likens IBM's strategy to sports car maker Porsche expanding into a line of sports utility vehicles. An avid sports car fan, Soltis said it's just another example of a "company that's taking what it does best and expanding it into other areas."

The convergence of IBM servers essentially means that each of the platforms shares similar technologies -- typically, technologies that were inherent in one and then ported to another. Each platform is able to run, in different partitions, a variety of operating systems, including Unix, Intel and Linux, and most recently AIX, natively on one system. Convergence of servers is part of IBM's server strategy, which included a re-branding effort two years ago, when the server family was renamed the "eServer" line.

The convergence of technologies usually is only available in the higher-end systems, such as the iSeries 890.

In the early stages of this strategy rollout, some users expressed concern that it would be the end of some IBM platforms. That has not happened. In fact, users attending this conference said that the shift holds a lot of promise for the future of the iSeries platform within their own shops.

Tom Woods, senior infrastructure specialist for Eaton Corp., Marshall, Minn., said that because his shop uses multiple platforms, including Unix, Intel and Windows, in addition to the OS/400, the ability to use different operating systems on one box has made a significant improvement in how he manages his applications.

"Convergence means I get high availability, stability and ease of use," he said. "It also makes the system highly scalable. "You can run a system from the high end to the low end and the administrative skills required don't change."

Woods commends IBM for bringing other technologies to the iSeries simply because it draws younger professionals without the OS/400 skill set to the platform.

Carolyn Monson, manager information systems for the city of Moorhead, Minn., said that the changes IBM has made to converge technologies "has been nice," although she admits to being confused over upgrades.

"One version works; the other one doesn't," she said. "One works on this model, but not on another. I don't think IBM's very clear."

Still, Monson, like Woods, said that the major benefit of convergence is the stability it brings to the environment. "You can have it all on the AS/400," she said. "You can have two completely different systems environments pulled together on the same box and you don't have to worry about the server crashing."


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