IBM bolsters business smarts of AS/400 server

SOMERS, N.Y. (03/09/2000) - Looking to pick through your business data and figure out how to improve your products and services? IBM Corp. thinks its AS/400 server can help.

The company last week announced a mix of software and services to help users get AS/400s to start crunching business intelligence applications. Included in the announcements were software for online analytical processing (OLAP) and supply-chain management.

IBM predicts that investments in business intelligence applications will grow to $148 billion by 2003 and feels the AS/400 can help the company capture a portion of the market. The business intelligence announcement is part of IBM's "rolling thunder" initiative, which the company hopes will revitalize the AS/400 line and position the box as a heavy-duty e-business server.

Among the recent rolling thunder announcements was the unveiling of AS/400 Portable Application Solutions Environment, or AS/400 PASE, a software component in OS/400 that lets users run AIX applications on the AS/400.

Among the business intelligence products being ported to the AS/400 platform is the IBM DB2 OLAP Server, an application with built-in math and statistical functions that will let users build business analysis tools. It can also be easily tied to Web-based business intelligence applications for analysis of e-business operations.

The company will also tweak its DB2 Universal Database for AS/400 to recognize data requests from the Query Management Facility (QMF) for Windows. This software sits on a desktop and lets end users access large amounts of information on a relational database, generate reports and publish them in a Web format.

IBM is also supporting a number of products from independent software vendors.

For instance, Silvon Software is porting to the AS/400 its CategoryManager, which lets companies analyze sales and market performance. And SPSS, Inc. is rolling out its SPSS for AS/400 6.1.4, which will allow users to do statistical data mining and analysis, IBM says.

This rollout may prove interesting to existing AS/400 customers who want to employ the server for more complex tasks than they typically use it for. Among such users is Jon Dell'Antonia, chief information officer of OshKosh B'Gosh, an Oshkosh, Wis., maker and distributor of children's clothing. His network has four AS/400s running all the company's core business applications, such as order processing and data warehousing, for about 600 end users.

However, Dell'Antonia says he'd be willing to try out the AS/400 as a business intelligence server although he already has an IBM RS/6000 Unix box. He notes IBM has been working hard to keep AS/400 users interested in the server by developing new features, such as logical partitioning, which he would like to test in his network. Logical partitioning lets users run multiple versions of a server operating system on individual processors in one server. However, IBM has been adding these new functions faster than he can implement them, Dell'Antonia says.

QMF for Windows starts at $3,000 and is available now; the DB2 OLAP Server for AS/400 will be available in the second quarter, but pricing was unavailable; CategoryManager starts at $75,000; and SPSS for AS/400 6.1.4 costs $10,000 for the server software and $1,000 per user. Both products are available.


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