Will On Demand Put iSeries in Demand? Not Likely, Says Gartner
April 12, 2004 Dan Burger
How is life in your IT world? Has anyone you know in this business come up to you recently (ever?) and said, “Life in the my IT department just keeps getting easier and easier every day”? Not likely. You have more demands from the business side. At best, you have predictable peaks and, at worst, unmanageable spikes. Does IBM‘s On Demand mantra offer you anything to make your life easier? Does it even relate to the iSeries?
Most people look at On Demand from an infrastructure perspective. For one thing, you need to move workloads through the fluctuation of heavy and normal loads. For another, you need to quickly deploy services, such as installing a server instance, bringing network capacity online, or carving out some additional storage. A very large part of On Demand, as IBM preaches it, has to do with systems integration, deployment, integration, configuration management, and availability management.
“On Demand is about realigning your business and IT,” says Tom Bittman, vice president and research director for server strategies at Gartner Research. “You can’t have a business that throws things at IT and an IT department that takes a month to react.”
Gartner is predicting that businesses are changing how they operate from a transaction standpoint. They have to do this because opportunities are not as predictable and the windows of opportunity are smaller. According to Gartner’s analysis, the requirement to react quickly will become more and more critical. “There is a change in business that will push dynamic need for IT resources,” says Bittman. “eCommerce is an example of that, but there will be more examples as business becomes more and more standardized in its relationships.”
Going forward, IBM is going to sell technologies–a combination of hardware, software, and services–that it will deliver “on demand.” As an iSeries user, you probably recognize you’ve got a lot of these capabilities already in your box. In many ways, the iSeries can say it’s all about On Demand.
“For one thing, it allows the mixing of workloads,” Bittman points out. “You can deploy. You can optimize. You can use subsystems and deploy them quickly. You can install an application and get it up and running quickly. You can deploy a new partition quickly. You can tune LPARs [logical partitions], tune job priorities, and tweak them as you go. You can get reasonable statistics out of third-party tools that monitor application performance for service level assurance. Much of this can be automated.”
At the core of On Demand is autonomic computing, where a key component is self-management capability. When any system needs to increase speed, reducing or eliminating failures is one of the first places to focus. If you can reduce the amount of time people are manually tuning and managing, increased speed is a net result. The AS/400 has always been a good system for self-management. Just look at the number of database managers required compared to other platforms as an example. (It’s a lot smaller, probably by a factor of two or three to one.)
“There’s going to be a challenge for companies that want a single mechanism to manage all their IT infrastructure resources,” Bittman says. “In the past companies bought operating systems, servers, and storage devices, and linked them together. Then they bought tools to fill gaps and create sort of a hodge-podge. We believe there will be a movement toward an active manager–an automated system for much of the work. “
Although the iSeries has much of this functionality, IBM is building its On Demand strategy around its cross-platform Tivoli Intelligent Orchestrator and Enterprise Workload Manager (eWLM). Bittman describes these as a “meta operating system” above and beyond all infrastructure–servers, storage, and networking–that manages how things are deployed and tuned.
So if the iSeries is an excellent box for operating in the On Demand world, what will it take to make it successful in this environment? How does iSeries fit into On Demand?
Inside the iSeries box, many of these On Demand capabilities are built into OS/400. Some companies could buy an iSeries and be done. In a larger enterprise, one iSeries is not enough. “Managers will want something that manages all the iSeries boxes and the infrastructure,” Bittman says while explaining that the iSeries does not fit in that framework. “The value of OS/400 doesn’t show up when it is a cog in a big enterprise wheel. The value shows up when it is in a smaller enterprise where all can be managed on that one system.”
Bittman predicts the iSeries will continue to do well in medium-sized businesses, where it has been traditionally strong. It faces a serious threat, he says, because in many of the shops it is one of many systems running. The iSeries needs to fit into the self-management infrastructure or workloads will move off the platform. He also believes the iSeries will continue to struggle at the small enterprise level, where it has run into purchase price issues when compared to Intel and soon AMD boxes.
“Unfortunately, people are not buying on ease of management today. They are buying quantity systems, basically Windows, and then adding on and on. The total cost of ownership may not be that great, but that’s the trend. Microsoft is working to make the Windows Server System a homogenous, well-integrated, but distributed environment. That’s the competition for iSeries on the low end.”
Overall, Bittman looks for 2004 to be a slightly declining year for iSeries revenue. Even the optimists in the iSeries market (like us) would be astonished if it grew more than 10 percent compared to the sales level in 2003. And it would take a lot of new customers and a smooth transition to OS/400 V5R3 and the Power5-based “Squadron” servers, we believe, to make that happen.