Does the IBM Server Selection Tool Select the System i?
July 10, 2006 Mary Lou Roberts
Recently, IBM posted the Systems Advisor Tool on its Web site. This tool, according to Big Blue, “pinpoints the server or storage offering that best suit your needs and offers up to three recommended choices.” Intrigued, I decided to check this out.
My mother told me many times in my life to be wary of easy answers. But I was curious to see if this quick and easy tool would select the beloved System i or if it was predisposed to recommend other server choices.
The tool has six questions to pose to the reader relating to:
In question 5, of course, i5/OS (and OS/400) is one of the choices, and any time you select this operating system preference the tool will recommend the System i. But you also have the option of responding, “Unsure/no preference” which, of course, many users new to the platform might select.
I gave it a try, telling the tool that I wanted to use my server as an application server, database server, and for ERP. I selected 50 to 99 concurrent users, moderate growth, 500 GB of storage, and no preference on operating system or physical size. The tool responded that my best choice was the System i5 520 Express, and offered me two other recommendations: an xSeries x366 Express, and a BladeCenter HS20 Express. (Express, in the IBM server lingo, means a preconfigured machine that has all the basic software and peripherals you need to do real work, usually with a discount.)
I then ran the tool (with no operating system preference) with several other responses, each time getting an i5 as a recommendation until I give it more than 1,000 users or more than 2 TB of data storage, at which point it pointed to the zSeries.
Matt Graybiel, iSeries channels engineer for NetIQ gave it a try, describing his hypothetical needs for an application, collaboration and email, CRM, and database server with 100 to 499 concurrent users, moderate growth, 500 GB to 1 TB of storage, and no preference for operating system or physical space. The tool recommended three servers: the i5 520, i5 Domino Edition, and the xSeries x366 Express. “Not bad that the top recommendation was an i5,” says Graybiel.
Nigel Fortlage, vice president of information technology for GHY International gave the tool a try seven different times with various configurations from collaboration servers. The results, he says, always seemed to point to the i5 Domino Edition as the right selection for a small, less-than-50 user applications server.
Steve Rosen, vice president of marketing for EXTOL also gave the tool a try, selecting CRM and applications for a mid-sized company with no preference for operating system or physical space. Using these criteria, the system recommended a pSeries with i5 as an alternate recommendation.
Rosen makes some interesting observations about the tool, however. “I note that the ‘uses’ were not business uses, but focused on the typical IT issues (supporting the status quo more efficiently, focused on utilities–the IBM way), rather than on the job that needs to get done or what business needs are to be addresses. There was nothing about e-business, B2B, company efficiency, extending value from legacy applications, scaling for business growth,” he says.
Finally, IT Jungle’s own Timothy Prickett Morgan, ever the curmudgeon, asked the tool for an OS/400-based blade server with 1 TB of storage capacity and minimal growth needs. The response: “No server found. We’re sorry, there are no servers that match the exact criteria you requested. However, this does not mean we cannot recommend a server.”
“Well,” TPM says, “actually that’s exactly what it means.” His point being, of course, that IBM should have long since delivered an OS/400-based blade server.