Abacus Offers i 6.1 Upgrade Virtual Test Drive Service
December 14, 2009 Timothy Prickett Morgan
I was grousing in last week’s issue of The Four Hundred that the program conversion process that IBM is forcing customers to go through to move to the i 6.1 operating system was Big Blue’s breaking of the covenant between itself and AS/400 shops that they would not have to recompile their applications to move to new hardware and operating system releases. I suggested that IBM do something about it, like give away free servers or porting services to get customers on modern hardware and software. As it turns out, Abacus Solutions has beaten IBM to the punch.
Patrick Schutz, iSeries product manager at Abacus, which is a seller of refurbished midrange gear that is located in the suburbs northwest of Atlanta, Georgia, contacted me and said his company is adapting its disaster recovery service so it can be a 61-day i 6.1 test drive program for i/OS shops who want to see how deep the program conversion water is before jumping in. That disaster recovery backup service that Abacus sells is based on remote backup machines using high availability software from Vision Solutions (iTera) and Trader’s (Quick-EDD).
The way the i 6.1 Upgrade 61 Day Virtual Test Drive works is pretty simple. Customers that are already using the DR service replicate their data over to the Abacus facility in Georgia and the company sets up a box that is close to the one the customer has on their own data center floor in terms of processors, CPW ratings, memory, disk arms, and such. If you are not a DR customer, you can send Abacus tapes. For a fee of $3,250, the company will restore the applications and databases that were running on OS/400 V5R2, OS/400 V5R3, and i5/OS V5R4 machines to one running the i 6.1 operating system. Then, Abacus techies will run the Analyze Object Conversion tool from IBM, and document the program conversion issues that companies will face with their own. The programmers in your shops can access this machine without any restrictions through a virtual private network for 30 days, so they can even tweak the code as needed to be compatible with i 6.1 on the virtual box. Having done that, Abacus can even spit out tapes that can be used to do the real upgrade on the real box, if customers want to do it that way. The odds favor customers doing the upgrade themselves based on the roadmap that Abacus creates, knowing the self-reliance of IBM midrange shops. But maybe not.
If you are willing to travel to the offices of Abacus and hear a sales pitch about all of the solutions the company offers–refurbished servers and storage, third-party maintenance, leasing and rental, even virtual tape libraries from FalconStor–the company cuts the price of the service i 6.1 virtual upgrade service to $2,000. The service is available to companies in the United States, Canada, and the rest of the world, provided that they speak English. Abacus does not have a lot of techies that speak other languages.
“We’re trying to minimize the pain,” says Schutz. “All they have to really do is get us tapes. The customers we talk to want to get to the new technology, but getting off older technology is a bear. If somebody doesn’t help them figure out how to do the i 6.1 upgrade within their windows, they are just going to ride this out with their existing machines. Even large end users, who you think have plenty of development and test resources, seem to be interested in this kind of service because they really don’t have the time.”
Abacus was founded 10 years ago, and today has grown to have 60 employees and around $50 million in annual revenues. The company was founded by Patrick Hiller, who was an iSeries broker, and Ken Snuggs, a pSeries broker; Schutz later joined them as a partner. The company’s i-related products are detailed here and information about the i 6.1 upgrade virtual test drive is here.