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Forrester Research Praises the eServer i5
Analyst Brad Day of Forrester Research took some time out of his business schedule covering the server business to say some words of praise about the iSeries in two research reports released in early January.
Calling the eServer i5 the Swiss army knife of virtualization, Day said in one report that the i5 Virtualization Grand Slam benchmark, which mixed the PeopleSoft EnterpriseOne ERP suite running on i5/OS, the PeopleSoft Enterprise Learning Management suite on AIX, the IBM Trade3 Websphere-based stock-trading benchmark on i5/OS, and Linux-based firewall and file-serving on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9, was a good way of demonstrating the versatility of the i5 platform. "Firms generally choose to deploy one app on one dedicated OS on one box, as opposed to distributing apps across virtualized computing resources based on their particular workloads," wrote Day. "Now, however, there are more advanced virtualization alternatives for companies whose businesses cannot compromise either peak performance or manageability to run multiple, secure applications on a single server and cannot trade the performance of one application to satisfy the fluctuating demands of another."
In another report, called "IBM's eServer i5: A Shortlist Server Contender?" Day says that the architecture of the i5, with its native support of OS/400, AIX, Linux, and Windows, and its capacity-on-demand features for processors, memory, and storage, do indeed make it a contender. What he did not say is that many of the benefits of the OS/400 platform, including sophisticated logical partitioning, capacity on demand, and support for multiple operating systems, have been added identically to the p5 line. The argument for choosing the i5 over the p5 is, therefore, hard to make whenever a company intends to make only modest use of OS/400. The only real difference is among companies that want to run Windows workloads, since the p5 does not (yet) support X86-based Windows coprocessors, as the i5 does. And given that IBM wants companies to port Windows workloads to Linux, the p5 will probably never get IxS cards and IxA adapter cards.
The i5 Tops SAP Warehousing Benchmark
The eServer i5 has taken the top spot among four-way servers running the SAP Business Warehouse benchmark test. IBM tested a four-way i5 550 with 1.65 GHz Power5 processors, equipped with 8 GB of main memory and i5/OS V5R3. The SAP BW test examines the performance of a server in loading two sets of data into the warehouse (measured in rows per hour) and then running queries (which are measured in navigation steps per hour) against that data. The i5 550 was able to sustain an average throughput of 34.3 million rows per hour in the first load, 11.2 million rows per hour in the second load, and 78,948 query navigation steps per hour in the query phase of the test. During the latter part of the test, the machine was able to sustain 96 percent CPU utilization.
Those are roughly the same performance numbers that an eight-way xSeries 455 server posted using 1.5 GHz Itanium 2 processors last summer. While the xSeries 455 had about the same load times running DB2 UDB 8.1 on top of SUSE Linux 8, that Itanium box was able to handle 98,424 query steps, which is a little bit better than the four-way i5 550. A four-way rx5670 server from Hewlett-Packard running the same test on top of Windows 2003 and SQL Server 2000 was not able to load data as fast on the first test, did okay on the second load, but only processed 66,852 query navigation tests on the third part of the SAP BW benchmark.
It would be interesting to see how an i5 550 and 570 matched up against a p5 550 and 570 on this test. Which is exactly why IBM will not allow such a comparison.
Arrow Helps Partners Push the iSeries
The Support Net division of Arrow Electronics quietly rolled out a marketing program last month that it hopes will allow its downstream business partners to boost iSeries and i5 server sales by as much as 10 percent over the next 21 months.
The marketing initiative, called the iSeries SMB Enablement Program, will provide key iSeries resellers with assistance between now and September 2006. The members of this "21 Club," so called because the promotion will last for 21 months, will get help from Arrow to develop educational materials, marketing collateral for sales campaigns, and multimedia sales presentations that they can use to try to sell the i5 and i5/OS V5R3 and their virtues to new and existing customers. How much money is involved in all this, and how much revenue Arrow hopes to get from the initiative, the company is not saying.
IBM Offers New Hardware Management Console for i5, p5
IBM has announced a new Hardware Management Console for the eServer i5 and p5 servers. The HMC, which has been a bone of contention with the i5 crowd since the "Squadron" Power5-based servers and their OS/400-derived hypervisor were in beta testing, is used to control the logical partitions and hardware connections to those partitions in the i5s and p5s. The Model 7310 HMC is a modified desktop PC that runs its own microcode for controlling the i5 and p5 configurations; it has support for a 5250 OS/400 operations console and can even link into the Cluster Systems Management clustering software used in AIX and Linux clusters. The new HMC will be available on February 18 and costs $1,830.
This seems a bit pricey for a desktop PC; moreover, IBM would significantly improve relations with its i5 and p5 customers if it just gave away the HMC with an i5 or a p5 acquisition. IBM needs that goodwill more than it needs to sell a PC with a pumped-up price. That price for the HMC, even if it's lower than for the original HMCs that came out with the Power5 servers last summer, is ridiculous considering that IBM is selling its ThinkCentre desktop PCs for $550 to $750, including a Windows operating system and other features.
Financing Advantage Helps IBM Speed Up Deals For SMBs
While IBM has been offering various low-rate financing deals for its hardware, software, and services for many years, companies that fall into the small or midsized revenue brackets often have a much harder time obtaining financing on IT wares than their counterparts at large organizations.
That is why IBM's Global Financing unit has launched a new worldwide program called Financing Advantage. The company may not want to take unwarranted risks in lending to SMBs, which do not always have steady sales or squeaky-clean credit, but this is the fastest growing sector of the IT market, and everyone selling IT product is figuring out how to go after it.
One of the things that IBM has learned is that SMB companies that may want to come to IBM for financing often want to finance non-IBM gear, so the Financing Advantage program, which went live last week in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia, and Japan, allows for this. IBM says that the Financing Advantage program offers competitive rates and a credit approval process that can within one hour give the thumbs up or thumbs down to SMBs that try to finance as much as $300,000 in gear. IBM is providing the financing through a rapid online financing tool, and some 1,200 of its resellers have been certified to use it. Both IBM and its resellers want to not only do more business in the SMB space but also do it more quickly, which helps drive up customer satisfaction and retention.
Financing Advantage is available immediately in France, Germany, and the UK, and will be rolled out in other geographies throughout the year.
Gartner Points Out 'Gotchas' for Business Intelligence
Gartner hosted its Business Intelligence Summit last week in London, a week after the "real" business intelligence summit, the World Economic Forum, was being held in Davos, Switzerland. (The former is focused on data warehousing and such within IT departments; the latter is about running the world.)
In any event, at the Gartner summit, the IT analyst revealed that it had conducted a survey of 1,300 chief information officers in 30 countries, and on average they expect to increase spending on business intelligence projects by 6 percent in 2005. This is more or less consistent with the expected increase in IT spending from the various consultancies that make such projections. But the issues that companies face as they implement business intelligence projects are about more than spending money. Gartner says that too many companies have the "field of dreams" syndrome, believing that if they build a data warehouse, their companies will benefit from it. However, says Gartner, too many IT departments build data warehouses and related analytics without involving business managers, and therefore they end up gathering and modeling the wrong data sets. Moreover, managers who are well used to manipulating their own spreadsheets to win their arguments are not about to let the data warehouse do their talking for them. Gartner also warns that, within the next few years, about half of the data warehouses built will either fail or have limited acceptance within their organizations, because the IT and line of business managers will not cop to the fact that some of the data they keep in their warehouses is garbage.
Intentia Hires New American President
Swedish ERP software maker Intentia International has hired a new president and CEO for its Intentia Americas unit. Intentia is best known as one of the largest OS/400-based ERP software suppliers and is notable for its porting of its RPG-based MOVEX suite to the Java language a number of years ago.
The company has 3,400 customers worldwide, with about 200 located in the United States, and it wants to grow its base in this part of the globe. To that end, the company has hired David Rode to head the Americas unit. Rode was a top manager at textile manufacturer Milliken & Company and at Safeguard Scientifics, a business incubator focused on the high-tech arena. Most recently, Rode was vice president of international operations at New York-based Information Builders, which is a $300 million software company that sells application integration and business intelligence solutions. Rode's predecessor, Linus Parker, will remain at Intentia in an unspecified senior role.