IBM guarantees AS/400 performance

Saying it helps to reduce the financial and technological risks to IT organisations associated with implementing enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions, IBM has announced a performance protection plan for its AS/400 servers.

Under the new plan, users who install ERP software from SAP, JD Edwards, System Software Associates, or Intentia on AS/400e servers can obtain a guarantee that their server will perform at a predetermined level over a two-year period.

The new plan essentially provides that a given ERP solution will support an agreed upon workload during the first 24 months. If the system's performance falls short of those goals, IBM will upgrade that server's memory, storage, or processor, free of charge.

"The net of this plan is it allows for customers not to worry about a machine not being appropriately sized. It allows them to focus on the really gnarly part of the ERP implementation, which is the actual business process reengineering of the software," said Karen Smith, director of solutions marketing for the AS/400 division.

In implementing extensive ERP solutions, some corporate users discover halfway through such a project that the hardware they purchased to fuel the solution was inadequate, IBM officials said. This can mean having to go back to the chief information officer and asking for additional funding, which often erodes their credibility with upper management.

"A plan such as this is always good to have tucked in your back pocket because ERP implementations often and unexpectedly expand out way beyond your initial plans," said Bruce Johnson, an IT executive with a large insurance company.

The AS/400 plan is following the lead of IBM's RS/6000 Division, which offered a similar plan involving Baan's ERP software. Officials from the AS/400 division said that users should expect other ERP price protection plans from all of IBM's major server divisions.

"You will continue to see offerings from each of the IBM server platforms along these lines, mostly aimed at middle market customers," Smith said. "There are a lot of pitfalls in implementing ambitious ERP solutions. People have lost their jobs over some of them."

Explaining how IBM works with users in setting up a plan, Smith said IBM first determines what the anticipated usage of an ERP solution will be during the next two years. Next, it discusses what level of performance an IT shop wants based on the number of users involved and the overall configuration available. Both parties then agree on an expected performance level based on that information.

As prerequisites of the plans users must ensure that the covered system is only for production use; must purchase an AS/400 SupportLine contract; must subscribe to the IBM Operational Support Services for PM/400e service; and must purchase and run the AS/400 Pre-production Performance Evaluation Service. The latter service is run before users go into production with the covered system.

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