IBM Corp. this month will unveil "bookend" servers to its AS/400e Model 170 line, a new version of the OS/400 platform with a built-in set of clustering APIs, and another series of customizable servers that consolidates the overall line into fewer families.
The lower-end Model 170, priced at $6,995, is the lowest priced AS/400 to date, and it will be positioned to compete directly with Compaq's Windows NT-based ProLiant 800 servers.
"With this price we are sitting right on top of Compaq. We intend to compete very aggressively against them," said Debra Thompson, vice president of the AS/400 Enterprise Servers division at IBM, in Somers, N.Y.
Thompson and other IBM officials are confident the new system can throw a few rocks in the path of some of the fast-selling NT-based servers. They believe they can do so based not just on aggressive price performance, but on the system's built-in capability to host and manage NT applications via an optional 333-MHz Pentium II-based board.
"If you look at the market share Microsoft has stolen in the past year it has largely been at the expense of competitors like Novell's NetWare for file and print functions," Thompson said.
The high-end bookend, also part of the Model 170 series, is a two-way symmetrical multiprocessing server that offers about twice the performance of the company's existing Model 170 server. This system will be aimed primarily at corporate users looking to fuel enterprise resource planning or Web-serving applications, company officials said.
Along with the new systems, the company will take the wraps off a new version of the operating system called OS/400, Version 4, Release 4.
The operating system is set to be delivered May 21 and features built-in clustering APIs and logical partitioning.
IBM said the new systems are designed to work with previous version of the OSes, something its users have been asking for.
"The new line is retrofitted back to run [OS/400] Version 4, Release 3. We are finding that about 60 percent of orders for the new systems are being shipped with that version because users say it is stable," Thompson said.
Other improvements include enhancements to the operating system's TCP/IP capabilities and its Operations Navigator.
The company has also integrated free support for Windows clients, including Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows NT 4.0.
IBM will also consolidate its existing system, server, and mixed mode lines of the AS/400 down into the 7xx family, of which there are three different groups. One of the advantages of the new lines is that corporate users can better customize a system to meet their specific application needs.
The entry-level 720 line has only one processor; the 730 is available with as many as four processors, and the 740 line has anywhere from eight to 12 chips, according to a company representative.
"These [7xx series] boxes are intended to help meet users' requirements whether they are running traditional back-office applications, newer e-business applications, or both," the representative said.