In a recent mini-survey of French users of computer technology, IBM Corp’s AS/400 beat all other server and workstation systems, particularly Unix servers such as its sister RS/6000, for simplicity and economy of operation. And, in an age when the cost of supporting and administering information technology continues to climb inexorably, this instills a fervent […]
In a recent mini-survey of French users of computer technology, IBM Corp’s AS/400 beat all other server and workstation systems, particularly Unix servers such as its sister RS/6000, for simplicity and economy of operation. And, in an age when the cost of supporting and administering information technology continues to climb inexorably, this instills a fervent loyalty among AS/400 users. It’s out of the question for us to change, said Marc Boussounian, information technology manager of five AS/400 units at a Paris-area factory for fountain pen and lighter manufacturer, ST Dupont. Said a banking user of his single AS/400, We have so many applications on it, it would be awful for us to change. Among the eight sources surveyed, the AS/400 was used predominantly for company management applications, including accounting, sales and hotel property management. The RS/6000 was used for company management applications and software product testing, and as a network concentrator.
Half of the users used both systems. Each of the half-dozen AS/400 users surveyed praised the machine’s simple and inexpensive operation, including its integrated database management system and system administration tools. It has a marvellous operating system, with multitasking and everything, which will soon be compatible with Unix. It has the most widely sold database in the world that will also be 100% relational soon, said Gilles Gaumetou, management information systems director at Christofle, a Paris-area manufacturer of table arts and an owner of three AS/400 servers. Our operational costs do not lie with the AS/400, but with the RS/6000 and our personal computers, said a banking user, who was one of two sources to remark on the RS/6000’s elevated cost. He remarked, however, that such cost is inherent in Unix systems in a demanding commercial environment like banking. There are still lots more production and security tools in the mainframe world than there are for Unix, he said, adding that the RS/6000’s cost might be less in the industrial world, where security requirements are sometimes less rigorous. Of the two industrial RS/6000 users surveyed, one remarked on its high cost, while Jean Mousty, Unix systems support manager at Kodak-Pathe was completely satisfied. Mousty did, however, remark on the expense of operation. He explained that his staff had trained on the RS/6000, but that the one Sun Microsystems Inc machine in house just sits there because we’re not big enough to support lots of different Unix systems – Solaris, AIX, HP-UX. It is supported from headquarters in Rochester (New York). The hidden cost of Unix systems is not a secret to French users, who find that after all the sums are done, the AS/400 often works out cheaper. And while Hewlett-Packard is awarded high marks for its support, nobody seemed to have a good word to say about Sun. Marsha Johnston reports from Paris on a survey of French users. One RS/6000 customer who uses four machines strictly for testing and designing upgrades to a software product, remarked that the system has good clustering, operating system management functions and tools, even if the latest upgrades to the AIX operating system were yet to arrive. Technically, we have rated it second only to DEC, he said. Among the other manufacturers’ systems used, Sun was the only one really lacking in positive comments. Hewlett-Packard Co got stars for its computer-aided design and manufacturing excellence and new portables (DX 400), and beat IBM specifically on customer relations. We’re a small company and IBM treats often treats us as if we were imbeciles. Hewlett-Packard has respect for us, said Christofle’s Gaumetou, who uses only Hewlett-Packard personal computers. Digital Equipment Corp was seen to be the technology market leader for the moment. While limited in its application scope, Silicon Graphics Inc systems got their usual laurels for performance, as did Stratus Computer Inc and Tandem Computers Inc for their banking user support. Not a single user was found to
praise Sun’s technology or customer service. Three quarters of the sources did not have immediate purchase or replacement plans, although three of those indicated the desire to upgrade, lease or put out calls for proposals if market offerings were enticing enough.
We buy applications
We don’t have any purchases planned now, but we do a call for offers every six months for personal computers. For Unix servers, it is done as a function of need, which can be every two months or four months, with so many announcements in that sector, said a banking user. Another, technically advanced user was holding off purchases while its headquarters decided whether to start leasing, rather than buying, servers, which were likely to be personal computers in the future instead of workstations, since the company had decided they were now powerful enough to compete. Several sources noted that in both cases – AS/400 and RS/6000 – neither the machines themselves, nor loyalty to IBM, drove their decisions. Applications did. We have no policy of buying from a particular vendor. We buy applications, said a multinational industrial user. We’re not a loyal client of IBM or anyone else. If the application runs on an RS/6000, we buy it, said a banking user. Despite a trade press that often calls into question IB M’s commitment to the AS/400, its users do not express the slightest reservation about its future. If it becomes Unix-compatible with the relational database, it will truly be the world’s marvel, said Gaumetou. Boussounian was convinced that IBM would issue a machine of convergence, Unix-AS/400.