i5 Announcements Loaded with Software, Previews
May 17, 2004 Timothy Prickett Morgan
In the past few weeks, we’ve walked you through the new Power5-based “Squadron” servers, which bear the eServer i5 moniker, and the basic features of the new i5/OS V5R3 operating system. This week, I want to drill down a little deeper into the May 4 announcements and walk you through some other interesting software from Big Blue that is associated with the new operating system. I’ll also go over a number of product previews for future iSeries technologies.
One of the things IBM wants to stress, which may or may not play to the OS/400 crowd, is that its WebSphere Application Server Express Version 5 is now bundled, top to bottom, on all i5 machines and with i5/OS going forward. Customers can choose between WAS Express 5.0 or WAS Express 5.1, the latter of which supports the latest Java 1.4 specification. This is the base WebSphere application server, which supports Java servlets. Customers who want to use more sophisticated Enterprise JavaBeans code and other advanced Java features have to buy the full WebSphere Application Server for iSeries. IBM is not bundling its WebSphere Development Studio tools on these machines, either.
Having WebSphere on the boxes is one thing, of course, but what plenty of customers who are trying to deploy applications based on WebSphere have been saying is that WebSphere was designed at IBM Raleigh and does not really integrate all that well with OS/400. Sources at IBM say the company knows this is an issue, but that the kind of deep integration IBM has long since provided for the DB2/400 database inside OS/400 is something that did not happen overnight. They are working on WebSphere-OS/400 integration, but this will take years. This is also a tricky idea. IBM Rochester controls the DB2/400 database and the OS/400 operating system, so it controls the depth and pace of DB2/400 integration with that operating system. WebSphere is a Software Group product, and it has to span many different and incompatible platforms; it has to ride on top of operating systems and provide consistent (if, arguably, inefficient) results across many platforms. Deeply integrating WebSphere with OS/400 given these circumstances is somewhat problematic. But IBM has said it is committed to doing this, and it is up to OS/400 shops to hold IBM’s feet to the fire.
A free copy of WAS Express is interesting and will be useful to plenty (but by no means a majority) of OS/400 shops that move to the i5-i5/OS platform in the coming months. What customers really need are working applications that come with OS/400 and exploit WebSphere and demonstrate its usefulness. To their credit, this is what companies like Business Computer Design Int’l, LANSA, and others do with their application modernization tools. IBM is finally understanding that it needs to do this, too, and it is dipping its toe into the water with three applications, which it calls Business Solutions V1, that come inside i5/OS V5R3.
One of the integrated applications is a beefed up tool that IBM has been giving away for some time to demonstrate WebSphere’s capabilities. IBM Telephone Directory V5R2 is an online white pages that allows searching and is managed by OS/400’s LDAP server working in conjunction with WebSphere. Telephone Directory V5R2 integrates with Lotus Sametime instant messaging servers (namely, buddy lists and chat) as well as with Enterprise Identity Mapping (EIM) servers running on OS/400. IBM Survey Creator V1 is also a WebSphere application that uses LDAP for authentication of user information. As the name suggests, Survey Creator V1 is a browser-based survey engine that is used to create, configure, and manage online surveys. Such software costs hundreds to thousands of dollars, even on Windows boxes. IBM Welcome Page V1.1 is the third application that IBM is bundling with i5/OS. This application is in essence a portal for business applications that use WebSphere. It also includes an administrative interface to manage LDAP, Sametime, EIM, and other products that link into these applications.
Everything cannot always be ready to go on announcement day, so IBM often offers product previews of technologies that are expected within the next six months or so. The i5 announcements had a bunch of these previews.
The first four were lumped together as part of the “Virtualization Engine” rebranding IBM announced a few weeks ago, just before the i5 launch. In the second half of 2004, IBM expects to deliver a cross-platform version of IBM Director software, another Raleigh product. IBM Director is an xSeries tool that is itself a modernized version of the Netfinity systems management tools that IBM acquired when it bought systems management software maker Tivoli in 1995. (Remember that? And then IBM Raleigh liked the Netfinity software name so much that it put it on all of its X86-based servers and confused the heck out of everyone. Some things never change.) With IBM Director Multiplatform, the management and monitoring of i5/OS, AIX 5L, Linux, and Windows operating systems residing under the skins of iSeries and i5 servers will all work with a single, consistent tool. (IBM has also extended its Performance Monitor/400 software so it can gather performance information on AIX and Linux partitions on i5 boxes as part of the i5/OS announcement, incidentally.)
IBM is also tweaking its Think Dynamics systems provisioning software, now called Tivoli Intelligent Orchestrator, so it can manage the different platforms and resources embodied in the i5 launch. IBM will also, in the second half of this year, deliver a new Enterprise Workload Manager that spans these different platforms and makes use of the workload managers inside each of these different operating systems. With companies deploying n-tier applications–now possible inside an i5 box–there has to be a super-manager to make sure any one platform running a piece of an n-tier application doesn’t cause the whole shebang to stop working properly.
The last bit of the Virtualization Engine services that IBM is previewing is called the IBM Grid Toolbox for Multiplatforms. This software takes the open source Globus Toolkit for grid computing and adds in hooks to use nascent quality of service and Web services software that is being developed by IBM to support the Open Grid Services Architecture (OGSA), which is a merger of grid computing and Web services protocols that IBM is championing. This grid toolbox runs in conjunction with the WAS Express that is now being bundled on i5/OS. The grid toolbox will be available for download from IBM on June 25, and it will be available on CD on July 30.
On the hardware front, IBM said in its preview statements that in the second half of this year it would deliver iSeries for High Availability variants of the new Model 520 and Model 570 servers, as well as iSeries for Capacity BackUp variants of the Model 570. Why IBM is not yet previewing a Capacity BackUp variant of the Model 520 is unclear. In any event, the iSeries for HA machines are full machines running OS/400 Enterprise Edition that can run real workloads, which are intended as hot spares for production machines and have pretty decent discounts, compared with the cost of regular iSeries machines. The Capacity BackUp machines are intended to be used as replicated machines, in the event of a disaster, and cannot be used to do any other real work until a disaster occurs. The Capacity BackUp boxes have the lowest server prices in the iSeries line, but they are also the least useful (in terms of daily processing) of the iSeries boxes, too. Sources at IBM tell me that they are kicking around the idea of doing a so-called “Bumblebee” Dedicated Server for Domino variant of the i5s, but nothing has been decided as yet. I also think it would be interesting to offer special low-cost Java engines like IBM is doing on its zSeries 890 mainframes. But no word on that from inside IBM Rochester.
The last set of previews have to do with capacity-on-demand enhancements that I told you the company was working on several years ago. Specifically, the Model 570 will offer memory capacity on demand. Customers will be able to jam a lot of extra memory in the box and then activate it permanently or temporarily, much as they can for processors today. IBM will also allow customers to pre-buy a block of reserve processor capacity to help deal with peak workloads. Customers buy the reserve, and it can automatically be deployed in the event it is needed by any and all partitions on an i5 machine. This method of acquiring capacity means there is no delay between when a customer needs capacity and when it can be activated. It also means IBM gets some money up front. Finally, IBM also allows trial activation of processor and main memory capacity for running benchmarks, testing out new workloads, or coping with application peaks.