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iSeries, pSeries merge complete

IBM's announcement today of the eServer p5 and enhancements to the eServer i5 makes IBM's strategy to converge technologies complete. For users, it means choice, unprecedented performance and low pricing that appeals to the masses.

IBM's announcement today of the release of the eServer p5 and additional capabilities to the eServer i5 surprised no one. But the news is clearly a milestone for Big Blue and not one to be overlooked by users.

The fact that IBM has followed through on a strategy it has worked on for years to converge technologies is pretty significant, experts said.

We're seeing the culmination of a single platform," said Clay Ryder, executive vice president of the Sageza Group, Mountain View, Calif. "Not the idea of one, but the real thing."

Users should be pretty pumped up about how this will change the computing landscape, he said.

In May, IBM announced the next generation of its iSeries, the eServer i5 , the first server based on the Power5 chip. The new server was developed using technology from the pSeries, and, as a result, the servers share common hardware.

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The announcement of the p5, a Unix-based server that uses the Power5 technology, makes the convergence complete. The p5 consolidates IBM's pSeries family with its AIX operating system and the iSeries with its OS/400 and i5/OS operating systems.

"The only question for users now is which box to use," Ryder said.

Enhancements to the i5 include AIX 5L 5.3 support, additional Linux capabilities (through the Integrated xSeries Server (IXS) and Integrated xSeries Attachment) and the extension of the i5 Model 570 to a 16-way processor.

"They aren't sexy and glossy but they are significant," Ryder said.

Like the i5, the new p5 system will feature virtualization technology, the first Unix system to do so, enabling clients to run multiple (up to 10) virtual servers or micro-partitions on a single microprocessor. Virtualization allows multiple operating systems, including Linux and Windows, to run on the p5 and i5.

"[Virtualization] is historically a mainframe capability," Ryder said. "Now, the common man has access to these capabilities."

The p5 will also feature two- to 16-way processors and will ultimately include much larger systems.

Later this year, IBM will announce support for i5/OS on the p5 Model 570.

While it's not likely that iSeries users will rush to use AIX or pSeries users will to implement i5/OS, the appeal is that IBM is giving them a choice, said Jonathan Eunice, president and principal analyst with Nashua, N.H.- based Illuminata Inc. Which system they opt to purchase really depends on whether their focus is i5/OS or AIX.

"The i5 is an integrated package designed for small business," said Karl Freund, vice president of solution marketing for the pSeries. "The p5 is designed for the Unix marketplace where users are looking for flexibility of choice on how they want to configure their system. It's a Chinese restaurant menu, custom configuration."

Users are also interested in the systems because of the performance, which is three to five times faster than its predecessors, and the low price of the boxes, particularly the iSeries platform. Upshot: common hardware, common price.

"These systems have kick-ass performance," Ryder said. "But they're priced for the low- to mid-market. There's no room for price gouging."

Dan Dybwad, vice president of IT for GFG Division of US Foodservice, Grand Forks, N.D. said the convergence of the two systems is a windfall to AS/400 users. The cost of cards, memory, disk and processors have always been higher on the AS/400 than on other eServers, he notes. However, with income from i5 hardware going down, IBM will need to make up margins in some other area - probably increased prices for operating systems and services.

"I think though, that this will end up being a wash for most existing AS/400 users," he said.

"It's very important for users to understand that they are on the industry's leading technology," said Ian Jarman, iSeries product marketing manager, "From Power5 and the virtualization technology, it does mark a significant milestone, particularly for our eServer family. We've been talking about the investment we've made in bringing together our resources and here's a great example of how we've done that," he said.

David Cole of Sundata, an IBM business partner based in Brisbane, Australia, said he believes the advantage of having consolidated platforms is having the same options on similar models.

"Previously, there has been a bit of alignment between iSeries models and pSeries models, but it was quite often hard to compare, and due to the difference in pricing, quite often you just didn't want to know which iSeries compared to which pSeries," he said. "Having similar price structures will certainly make iSeries more competitive."

But the major benefit will be realized, he said, with users who have both environments, or have the opportunity to implement both environments.

"We have quite a few clients in this boat who have an iSeries for major [applications] -- ERP/Domino, for example -- but also an AIX box that may run a particular application," he said. "These guys can consolidate onto the one box -- just pick how many operating systems you need or want. An AIX user may have a requirement to run some Domino or Websphere type applications. Hey, why not decide which operating system is best for the use, and whack it on the box."

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Kate Evans-Correia, Senior News Editor

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