Data Centers

The bells and whistles of IBM's iSeries

Last year was a feature-filled one for IBM's iSeries server. From enhanced partitioning to greater Linux support, this new incarnation of the AS400 illustrates that IBM is paying attention to what users want and need in a computing system.

IBM’s eServer iSeries (formerly known as the AS/400) has undergone a tremendous transformation in its 14-year history, from its inception as a closed, proprietary system to today’s open, versatile, and scalable system that not only supports its own proprietary OS/400 system, but Windows 2000/XP, Linux, and AIX as well.

In terms of language support, the iSeries has also made some leaps and bounds from supporting just a few (i.e., RPG, COBOL, BASIC, and C) to supporting virtually every major development language and environment, including Java, C++, and WebSphere.

In my previous article on the subject, "Is IBM's iSeries the right choice for your enterprise?" I discussed some of the pros and cons of bringing the iSeries into the enterprise. In this article, we’ll examine advanced features developed in 2001 for the iSeries that both enhance and support a business in today’s ever-changing technology realm.

iSeries series: Part 2
This is the second installment of a three-part series about IBM’s iSeries technology. The last article in this series will feature case studies on enterprises that have earned a strong return on investment from the IBM technology.

Better partitioning capability
Many businesses take advantage of logical partitioning (LPAR) running on systems such as IBM’s zSeries (formerly S/390). LPAR, for those unfamiliar with it, makes it possible to logically divide a single system into many smaller systems. This allows a business to devote a portion of its hardware, for a given system, to an arbitrary business entity. For example, LPAR would allow a company with divisions in New York City, Cleveland, and Seattle to carve out three logical, independent computer systems for each division from the same physical box. So the New York City office gets one-third of the processor, Cleveland gets one-third, and Seattle gets one-third. Essentially, one physical system independently supports three divisions.

When IBM enabled the iSeries for LPAR a few yeas ago, the number of individual partitions was small, and resource sharing was a bit of a chore. In 2001, IBM unveiled the new 8xx line of Sstar iSeries processors. This new hardware allows up to 32 logical partitions on a single computer. The space-saving aspect alone is tremendous: Think about running 32 separate worldwide companies, or divisions, on a solitary system that takes up less floor space than most minicomputers of the late 1970s.

But the new features don’t stop there. LPAR on iSeries has become dynamic. In our scenario above, with the three divisions in New York City, Cleveland, and Seattle, you could assign a percentage of the LPAR-capable system’s resources to a given LPAR, based on predefined metrics. For example, if the New York City division is busier from 8 A.M. to 10 A.M. than the other divisions, you could set up the LPAR system to take 70 percent (or whatever percentage you define) of the processor’s resources from the other divisions for that set time period and give it to the New York City LPAR.

One minute after 10 A.M., you could then give that processing power back to the Cleveland LPAR for its busiest time, whenever that may be.

It’s no secret that today’s technology gurus have taken a shine to Linux, and for good reason. For those of us who have suffered through crash after crash with Windows-based systems, the stability of Linux is quite appealing. Add to that the fact that Linux is open source—which means it can benefit from the very best developers—and supports very strong communications and security software, and it’s clear why Linux has been so strongly adopted.

IBM recognizes Linux’s power, strength, and popularity, and that’s why it pulled Linux into the iSeries last year. Starting with its V5R1 release of OS/400, IBM now fully supports Linux running in a logical partition on iSeries. Although Linux runs in its own partition, it can still share resources with the rest of the system, and I predict even tighter integration by May 2002, when the next incarnation of OS/400 will be released. One reason why is that all major Linux distributors fully support Linux on iSeries with the latest versions of their distributions.

Don't like the iSeries?
In this article, we discuss the benefits of the iSeries' new functionality and features. But if you feel that the iSeries is missing something or if you see some problems with it, share your experience and opinion with us. If we publish your story, we’ll send you a TechRepublic coffee mug. Write and tell us the cons you see in the iSeries, or share your opinion with members by starting a discussion.

A feature-filled year
Last year represented a tremendous features boost for the iSeries, and there isn’t enough space in this article to list the dozens of significant changes. Instead, I’ve chosen four of what I feel are the most innovative and interesting features—but not necessarily the best of the crop—to discuss in more detail below.

Capacity upgrade on demand:  Ever buy a new computer system and three months later realize that you didn’t size it correctly for business growth? The iSeries capacity upgrade on demand feature solves that issue, making it possible to buy a system with additional processing power built in. At whatever point users decide they need more processing capability, they can call IBM to get the necessary codes to enable additional processing power.

WebSphere 4.0:  IBM recently released WebSphere 4.0, with its Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) environment, and enterprises can purchase iSeries with WebSphere 4.0 preinstalled and configured. If you’re unfamiliar with WebSphere 4.0, let me sum up the concept as follows: WebSphere 4.0 will be to Web developers what the transistor was to the vacuum tube. In addition, a whole host of iSeries-centric development tools have been created and distributed to fully support this new paradigm in application development.

Domino features and support:  While the iSeries has supported Lotus Domino for many years, IBM has made several new and innovative enhancements that, in my opinion, make the iSeries one of the most cost-effective Domino servers on the market. Some features include complete integration with WebSphere, Domino Off-line Services, a new alternate search engine, and iNotes Access for Microsoft Outlook.

Apache server:  iSeries now fully supports the open source Apache server—the HTTP server of choice of those in the Linux and UNIX environments. The iSeries support for Apache fully integrates the Apache open source commands and functionality with native iSeries security and objects, making it one of the most versatile, stable, and secure Apache servers in the marketplace.

Get more details online
As I stated earlier, there simply isn’t room to cover all the new features that came out for iSeries in 2001. It’s a safe bet that no other major vendor came out with as many new, innovative features or enhancements this past year. But judge for yourself by getting more information about the iSeries online.

Stay tuned…
Part three of our series featuring IBM's eServer iSeries will focus on iSeries shops and some hidden features today’s users may not know about.


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