IBM Announces New System i5 Collaboration Edition
May 15, 2006 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Slowly but surely, I think that IBM is coming around to the idea that if it wants to win the business of small businesses, it has to make its System i5 machines less expensive. I also think that IBM wants its established Notes/Domino groupware and emerging Workplace collaboration software to drive more sales of System i5 boxes. And that is why Big Blue has created the System i5 Collaboration Edition, which is a less-expensive i5 box aimed at supporting various Lotus-branded software.
With Ray Ozzie, the brains behind Notes client and Domino groupware software (and the competing Groove collaboration software), now essentially third in command at Microsoft, IBM really needs to think through its combined server, operating system, and middleware strategies if it is to preserve its Notes/Domino business and extend Workplace into places where Notes/Domino is way overkill. Domino has been a great driver of server sales for IBM, which acquired Lotus Development back in July 1995 for $3.5 billion, one of the largest acquisitions that Big Blue ever did. I did some rough math on the back of an envelope, and I would guess that the Notes/Domino stack has driven about $2.5 billion in server sales since it went live on the AS/400 back in March 1998 with OS/400 V4R3. That represents about 15 percent of the $17 billion or so in AS/400 and iSeries sales from 1998 to 2005 that IBM has booked. (These numbers do not include external storage and software other than the operating system and integrated database.) In the late 1990s, Domino was a big factor in OS/400 server sales. (For more history of Domino on the OS/400 platform, see Domino on the iSeries Versus the Competition.)
It’s called i5/OS today, of course, and the machine is the System i5, but the game plan is still much the same. IBM wants SMB customers to deploy Notes/Domino and now Workplace collaboration software on its Power-based entry and midrange servers. Technically, the new offering is called the System i5 520 Collaboration Edition, and as the name suggests, it is a new flavor of OS/400 server that is tailored specifically to have a configuration and price to make running Lotus software on it attractive.
The Collaboration Edition is a little bit different from the “Bumblebee” Dedicated Server for Domino machines that Big Blue started peddling as the millennium changed. (That nickname referred to the fact that the AS/400 was a black server case and the Domino edition had a yellow stripe on it.) First and foremost, it is not restricted to running just Domino groupware servers. Moreover, the i5 550 Domino Edition from the 2005 product line offered about a 51 percent savings compared to a similarly configured i5 550 Standard Edition machine–about $61,050 for a machine with two Power5 cores activated and 5 GB of main memory compared to $124,050 for the same machine in a Standard Edition setup–at 6,350 CPWs of performance and a P20 software tier, this machine was just a bit too pricey and a bit too powerful for small businesses. And, it was really only designed to run Domino.
With the System i5 520 Collaboration Edition, IBM is offering a much smaller machine with a much lower price tag, and, according to Michael Rousseaux, worldwide manager for System i collaboration offerings at IBM, making 11 different Lotus-branded products eligible to be run on the machine. As the name suggests, Collaboration Edition is not just about Domino any more. The good news, according to Rousseaux, is that if you have Domino or any other Lotus software licenses on an earlier AS/400 or iSeries machine, or on a competitive Windows, Linux, or Unix box, IBM will honor those licenses (so long as they are under current maintenance support) and allow you to move them onto a 520 Collaboration Edition box. That goes for licenses on a prior generation of AS/400 or iSeries Bumblebee or i5 Domino Editions, too.
The 520 Collaboration Edition is a single-socket machine that uses the 1.9 GHz Power5+ processor. This machine uses DDR2 main memory, which is cooler and faster than the DDR main memory used in the 2005 editions of the i5 machines. The machine is rated at 1,200 CPWs of raw computing power, but it cannot be used to run OLTP workloads that employ the 5250 green-screen protocol. It can, however, run green-screen applications that have been modified using IBM’s WebFacing tools, which means it can run Lotus workloads and homegrown RPG and COBOL code–provided you have WebFaced, that is. The 520 Collaboration Edition comes with 4 GB of main memory and four 35.4 GB disk drives as well as a license to i5/OS V5R3 or V5R4; it is in the P10 OS/400 software tier. The machine costs $30,197 for that base configuration, which Rousseaux says represents a 33 percent savings on the iron and base operating system license compared to a similarly configured i5 520 Standard Edition machine. While this 33 percent hardware and OS discount is lower than for the i5 550 Domino Edition from last year (which was at 51 percent), and the performance in the box is a lot lower (1,200 CPWs compared to 6,350 CPWs), IBM has lowered the entry price point considerably and opened up the software stack that runs on it.
I would have been happier if IBM kept the same bang for the buck on the 520 Collaboration Edition as it was offering for the i5 550 Domino Edition. The hardware and base software in that i5 550 Domino Edition box cost about $9.61 per CPW, which would imply that the new 520 Collaboration Edition should be worth about $11,600 based on a strict CPW-for-CPW comparison. If IBM had kept the same 51 percent discount on the base machine, this would have dropped the price to $22,084.
To buy a 520 Collaboration Edition, you have to prove you have a license to Lotus Domino, Lotus Instant Messaging and Web Conferencing (Sametime), Lotus Team Workplace (QuickPlace), Domino Web Access, and other Lotus solutions such as Workplace Collaboration Services. Rousseaux says that a license to most of these programs costs in the range of $15,000 to $16,000. Yeah, that is not exactly an SMB price. I know. Exchange Server 2003 Enterprise Edition costs $3,999 per server plus $67 per seat, and the Standard Edition of that Microsoft software only costs $699 per server plus the per-seat charge.
The 520 Collaboration Edition will be available on June 12.