Since the announcement by IBM of new 36 models using the 5363 processor, it appears the System 36 is becoming popular again, and by describing the range as AS/Entry, reports Computerwoche, IBM is trying to capitalise on this popularity to convince users of the viability of entry into the AS/400 world. The only problem, of […]
Since the announcement by IBM of new 36 models using the 5363 processor, it appears the System 36 is becoming popular again, and by describing the range as AS/Entry, reports Computerwoche, IBM is trying to capitalise on this popularity to convince users of the viability of entry into the AS/400 world. The only problem, of course, is that at present the 5363s and AS/400 are not compatible, and that, far from being won over to the AS/400 cause, these same users are totally confused by the AS/Entry misnomer. In West Germany, even IBM dealer and leasing company Intercom Buroautomation GmbH admits it is still not entirely clear as to what IBM means by the term, and reports that its customers are equally baffled. The whole situation bears resemblance to the state of affairs that exists with the 9370s, comments the West German weekly, where three models with theoretically the same performance are sold at different prices – but then, as Siegfried Cremer of Intercom points out, IBM has a habit of doing things that one can’t quite understand. Cremer believes that the AS/Entry tag is intended to entice more West German customers into the $35,000 price bracket and that System 36 models can only be of interest to medium-sized companies whose data processing needs exceed the performance of their personal computer networks. In the Bundesrepublik, it is universally agreed that ulterior motives lie behind the AS/Entry nomenclature: Reinhold Schreiber, head of data processing at the Schlecker-Zentral in Ehingen, sees it as a purely tactical measure to increase the prestige of the 5363 CPU, but is nonetheless optimistic about the implications the naming seems to hold out, believing that after a development period of between one and three years, an AS/Entry machine at this level could exist that actually is AS/400-compatible. For Dieter Hey of Meerbusch-based mbc-Computer-Handel, the success of this would rely on the fact that the present financial upheavals and difficulties required of System 36 users to upgrade to the AS/400 must be overcome.
For this reason he sees the entry system as just an interim solution; the promise of compatibility hinted at by IBM must at some point in the future be fulfilled by a completely new software offering. For the rest, Hey does not foresee any great migration from System 36 to AS/400: only around 15% of System 36 users are hitting the ceiling on the top of the range model, and that would be the main reason for moving to AS/400. Meanwhile, the AS/Entry models presently on offer in Europe and the US do not offer any of the options or enhancements, such as higher performance than the old System 36s or better file transfer to personal computers, that many believe would have been the decisive factor in the success of the new systems; Friedhelm Beckmann, in charge of the computing centre of the CMA in Bonn, warns that migration from 5363 to AS/400 will bring with it unacceptable programming difficulties and ensuing personnel problems, and can only make sense of the introduction of the AS/Entry system in terms of IBM then going on to offer the capability to re-program step-by-step on to the AS/400. In that case, either RPG II should then become RPG/400 with all its functionality on the AS/Entry, or a future AS/Entry machine should have an emulation of the AS/400 operating system. Only in this way could the System 36 be revolutionised, and the move up to the AS/400 world made possible without entailing excessive costs. For the present, though, the general view is that the introduction of the AS/Entry system is a statement of intent from IBM. Rolf Safron of NMB GmbH in Langen reckons that for the moment its appeal is limited: The AS/Entry machine is only of value to customers new to data processing or for those currently using Wang or Nixdorf systems, and who are prepared to be absorbed into IBM’s world.