By William Fellows IBM Corp’s Rochester, Minnesota lab has got Unix application code running natively on its OS/400 server but hasn’t decided whether it will pursue this route as a viable commercial strategy for getting other Unix programs up on its AS/400 servers. Probably not, according to the engineers we spoke to. Specifically, IBM has […]
By William Fellows
IBM Corp’s Rochester, Minnesota lab has got Unix application code running natively on its OS/400 server but hasn’t decided whether it will pursue this route as a viable commercial strategy for getting other Unix programs up on its AS/400 servers. Probably not, according to the engineers we spoke to.
Specifically, IBM has got source code written for its AIX Unix running on OS/400. The first packaged application which has gone up via this route is SPSS Inc’s analytic software. SPSS is the first in a series of business intelligence programs IBM wants up on AS/400 in short order, an application area in which the server is currently found lacking. Following its efforts to get ERP software including SAP R/3 up on AS/400, IBM is expected to follow SPSS with Manugistics, i2 and then a slew of CRM customer relationship management products.
Rochester engineers we spoke to said the reason the AIX-on-OS/400 strategy is unlikely to be anointed is that forcing AIX code to run on OS/400 is fine until processes break down. Then, what’s described as a messy set of kernel and system management operations must be performed by booting out into a new window and console to trace and correct problems. Not the sort of thing the average AS/400 customer is going to tolerate.
IBM said the first AIX code it got running natively on OS/400 – it doesn’t use emulation – was the Asteroids arcade game. The Rochester team apparently has its sights set on getting Guy Steele’s eponymous and powerful Emacs macro-based Unix editor up and running next.
There’s supposedly nothing specific to the latest OS/400 Version 4 Release 4 that enables AIX code to run despite the perceived wisdom among sections of the analyst community – perhaps the spin being employed by IBM – is that OS/400 is being tuned to run all kinds of Unix applications unchanged on the kernel, well below the machine interface. AIX and OS/400 run on RS/6000 and AS/400 processors respectively, some of which use the same PowerPC RISCs, although AS/400 is reckoned to perform more work with the same number of CPUs as a comparable RS/6000.
Taking IBM’s work to it logical conclusion – and the company has already consolidated AS/400 and RS/6000 hardware and manufacturing – doesn’t it mean that IBM could theoretically do the most heretical thing and get the Oracle database up on AS/400? The same engineers we spoke to said the notion that IBM has secretly got the Oracle database up and running on OS/400 in its Rochester lab was not something they’d either seen or heard. Not that it doesn’t mean IBM hasn’t or won’t do this but as the engineers pointed out, a large part of OS/400, perhaps 40%, is devoted entirely to running the integrated DB2 database. There’s not a business case for it, it said.
While IBM is committed to strengthening AS/400’s role as a mixed environment platform – it can perform multiple tasks, where other environments such as Windows NT require customers to buy another server to do the job – it also plans to calve application- specific models from the product line. Due in August is a system tailored specifically to run Lotus Domino, a platform that, when IBM bought Lotus, the AS/400 group never believed would be found in the OS/400 application portfolio. Now it’s creating a dedicated ‘appliance’ which will supposedly be based upon the guts of a souped-up model 700, itself the recent result of merging several different product lines.
Word is that IBM will take the price of a comparable Compaq Computer Corp server and knock 20% off its tag to arrive at the price it will sell the Domino/400. In the meantime, while IBM will continue to enhance OS/400’s suitability for Java, Rochester engineers told us they didn’t think Java on AS/400 necessarily beats the pants off Java on RS/6000. It depends on the task and application, it claimed.