System i Resellers Stalled by Power Systems Transition
April 28, 2008 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Under the best of circumstances, when hardware and software technology changes are modest, server product transitions can still be problematic. But sometimes, the changes are quite large, and this causes issues. Such was the case in the transition IBM did in 1993 and 1994 to the CISC-based AS/400 3XX, in 1995 with the jump to PowerPC chips with the AS/400 5XX boxes, in 2002 and 2003 with the Power4 iSeries 8XX machines, and now in 2007 and 2008 as IBM converges the System i and System p lines into the single Power Systems line.
Resellers like to have transitions over with quickly and all of the backend configuration and sales tools ready to go on launch day; they like for there to be no rumors of impending announcements ahead of the launch and they also like to have little or no delay between launch day and when first shipments to customers will begin. It is good to like things, and as my wife says sometimes, she would like a pony, a little red wagon, and a sailboat, too–but that doesn’t mean she is going to get them.
With the Power Systems i Edition launch in early April, none of the things that resellers like happened, and it appears to be disrupting their businesses. If this were the heydays of the ERP and Y2K booms in the AS/400 market in 1998 and early 1999, no one would be complaining much, since there was so much business around. But this is a tightening economy in the Western markets where the OS/400 and i5/OS platform gets most of its installations, and the expectation that Power6-based servers were on the horizon in early 2008 has hurt sales in the first quarter. And as the second quarter got underway, IBM made the Power Systems convergence announcement, with deliveries of machines in May. And as a consequence, a lot of deals on System i 515, 520, and 525 machines that were in the pipeline were put on hold. This is very hard on resellers trying to make their quotas, the two master resellers of IBM iron, Arrow and Avnet, and of course IBM itself.
Here we are, nearly a month after the announcement, and IBM does not yet have the Quick Pricer document together to help resellers figure out what the Power Systems iron and software really costs in configured systems. IBM has put out Quick Pricers for the JS12 and JS22 blades, updated the Quick Pricer for the System i line for various feature and price changes, and has a Quick Pricer out for selected i-related software. But the Quick Pricer for Power Systems 520, 550, 570, and 595 machines is still not out, and according to the resellers I am talking to, IBM’s eConfig online configuration tool is not yet kicking back responses to configuration requests for the new iron.
Hopefully this will all be cleared up soon and IBM and its resellers can get back to business and i5/OS and i shops can get back to finalizing their upgrade plans. And hopefully IBM will create a unified Quick Pricer that spans all configurations and features of the entire Power Systems line. This is an extremely useful document, and the people who have put together the AS/400, iSeries, and System i documents all these years deserve a lot of credit for putting it together and explaining all the technical and economic ins and outs of each successive OS/400, i5/OS, and i product line.