Second-Hand iSeries Boxes Are Pretty Cheap
March 20, 2006 Timothy Prickett Morgan
As we all know, the reliability and stability of the AS/400 and iSeries servers made by the good people in Rochester, Minnesota, are legendary, as was the ruggedness of the System/36 and System/38 before them. The fact that RPG is a relatively stable language, too, and is supported in both source and binary form on a range of machines that now spans a decade means that if your performance needs are modest, there is a used iSeries somewhere that can meet your processing and possibly your budgetary needs.
In days gone by, when there were far more ISV partners and resellers for the AS/400 platform, there was a vibrant market in second-hand AS/400 systems and an even more lively market for memory cards, disk drives, and other peripherals that are always in demand. Particularly when IBM has moved on one, two, or three generations and no longer sells new feature cards for economically old but still technically viable OS/400 machinery. Back then, The Four Hundred was printed on paper once a month, and it cost a few hundred bucks a year. And one of the things that made it valuable, so the readers who paid for it told me, was the quarterly report I did on new and used AS/400 gear. I surveyed used equipment dealers and resellers to get a sense of what the current street prices were for bare servers and key memory, disk, and peripheral features. I could then track prices over time, and even do a bit of predicting to see what effect an impending server announcement and current street prices might mean for future server prices. Those were
I say that with some nostalgia, because there were hundreds of fairly large “junk dealers,” and they liked to talk about all kinds of things–not just prices–and I learned a lot from them. But as IBM cut back on the AS/400 channel, IBM’s own Global Financing (formerly IBM Credit Corp) became much more aggressive in taking back used gear as part of deals, and as the OS/400 platform started its decline in the late 1990s many of these used equipment dealers went out of business. In the past few years, Global Financing has more or less set the market for used iSeries gear.
With that in mind, I browsed through Global Financing’s refurbished iSeries equipment site, and wanted to give you the lowdown on what Global Financing thinks vintage iSeries gear is worth. (You can check out this site yourself at this link. Prices change quickly sometimes, so take my survey of Global Financing’s prices as a guideline for where prices are, not where they will be a week or two from now.)
The old servers that IBM is trying to sell through its Global Financing unit are like those in use at tens of thousands of OS/400 shops worldwide today: they are first-generation iSeries boxes–Model 270, 820, 830, and 840 machines–which initially ran OS/400 V4 and which will be the last of the old machines that can run the new i5/OS V5R4. And for some customers, who need older releases because their software won’t run on new machines–yes, that does happen–such old gear is the only way to go.
First up, IBM has a Model 270 with no green-screen power and 370 CPWs of total performance for $3,452. That machine has 1 GB of main memory, a 17.5 GB disk, a RAID disk controller, various peripherals, and OS/400 V4R5. A similarly configured machine with 30 CPWs of green-screen power costs $6,326.
Global Financing is selling three different Model 820 configurations. The first Model 820 is configured with the 2395 processor and the 1523 interactive card, which means it has 120 CPWs of 5250 power and 370 CPWs of total power; this box also comes with 1 GB of memory and a single 17.5 GB disk, plus V4R5. It costs $9,168. A similar machine with the faster 2396 processor (rated at 950 CPWs) but with the 70 CPW interactive feature 1522 costs $10,466. IBM is also peddling a Model 820 with OS/400 V5R1 on it that has the two-way 2397 processor feature. This configuration has a 120 CPW feature 1523 interactive card, and the same 1 GB of main memory and 17.5 GB disk. It costs $22,195. Why so much more? It is rated at 2,000 CPWs of raw power.
If you want a bigger vintage iSeries, Global Financing is selling a Model 830 with processor feature 2400–rated at 1,850 CPWs with 70 CPWs activated for green-screen workloads–with 1 GB of main memory and four 8.6 GB disk drives for $16,711. And finally, IBM has a 12-way Model 840 with 10,000 CPWs of raw power and 120 CPWs of it activated for green-screen workloads for sale. This box has 4 GB of memory and four 8.6 GB disks, plus OS/400 V5R2 on the box. IBM wants $87,834 for that.
I suspect that this will not fit on the company credit card if you try to buy it online.
IBM’s online store for used gear also has lots of features for sale, and hysterically, for certain memory cards, no matter what the capacity is, IBM charges the same amount. For example, certain 16 MB, 32 MB, 128 MB, 256 MB, 512 MB, and 1 GB used memory cards all cost $115. Other cards cost a few hundred bucks and prices are all over the map as are capacities. In general, the more modern the memory, the more it costs. Used 8.6 GB disks for older AS/400 machines also cost $115, and IBM is not peddling any used disks with higher capacities.