IBM midrange users face new IT issues

More than 3,000 users of IBM Corp.’s venerable iSeries midrange systems formerly known as the AS/400 will gather in Nashville this week for the biannual Common trade show.

Key areas of interest are likely to be server consolidation, Web-enabling of existing applications, support for Unix on iSeries servers and the upcoming release of a new version of the OS/400 operating system.

“Judging from the number of sessions on [logical partitioning], server consolidation is clearly one of the main interest areas,” said Charlie Massoglia, president of Common, the Chicago-based user group of IBM’s midrange systems. “The immediate payback in terms of savings on cost and management” is driving much of that interest, he said.

IBM’s perceived lack of marketing of the iSeries, which has been a long-standing complaint among some users, is sure to be high on the agenda as well, said Al Barsa, president of Barsa Consulting Group LLC, a Purchase, N.Y.-based iSeries consulting firm.

“For iSeries users, there are just two types of computers in the world: the iSeries and inferior computers,” Barsa said. “Most people are upset that IBM isn’t doing enough to tell the world about it.”

At the same time, user satisfaction with IBM’s iSeries technology remains high, he said. “They are bringing in all of the competitive features that other platforms are introducing and, in many cases, are actually leading [more popular] platforms,” Barsa said.

This is especially true of the support for logical partitions that IBM introduced on the iSeries about two years ago, Massoglia said. As the technology has matured, it has helped users cut costs by hosting multiple workloads on a single server, he said.

The iSeries support for multiple operating environments including Linux, Windows and soon AIX Unix in a single partition is also boosting its popularity within IBM’s installed base and with first-time buyers, Massoglia said.