What is an IBM AS/400? - A Personal View

Simply expressed, probably the most advanced, most secure, most scaleable and most reliable server in the world.

The AS/400 is equally appropriate for a small business requiring an economic system for a few users that can grow as the business grows, or for a very large company requiring a server to support, say, 75,000 concurrent Lotus Domino mail users with average response times of under 0.3 seconds.

Whether you require traditional "back office" style interactive transaction and batch processing, or the latest state of the art Internet based e-commerce applications, or to run a massive ERP system, the AS/400 is the best system for the job.

Its operating system, OS/400, is very robust. The AS/400 has its own database, communications, etc., fully integrated with both the hardware and the operating system, so that, if something should go wrong, you don't get caught between multiple suppliers who claim that it is the fault of one of the others and nothing to do with them. But AS/400's very rarely go wrong, whether because of hardware or software problems. If any of the applications running on them should fail, the AS/400 just keeps on running.

Perhaps you have a variety of servers, each one undertaking a different task. One AS/400 can undertake the workload of a great many other separate servers, such as Windows NT, Windows 2000 or UNIX. In fact you can even run Windows NT or WIndows 2000 on the AS/400 and you can port UNIX applications to the AS/400. If you imagine that having separate servers means that your systems are less frail because if any one fails, it does not affect the rest, an AS/400 will just keep running anyway. An independent report recorded 99.94% availability. This is not measured between reboots. It covers every hour of every day. AS/400's are often left running for many months without ever being rebooted. Back up can be taken whilst they are in productive use. For an IBM white paper on AS/400 availability, click here.

An AS/400 does not require the small army of troubleshooters needed by a server "farm". Total cost of ownership is much reduced compared with multiple servers, even though, individually, these may have been purchased very cheaply. Administration is much simplified. For instance, if you are not familiar with AS/400 single level storage management, check it out, and see how your present operating system compares. The AS/400 is designed to allow you to get on with running your business, without letting technology take over your life.

Concerned about security? The AS/400 is certified to the highest levels of security required by the US Deparment of Defense. AS/400 security is not a product that you buy separately but is totally integrated with the operating system, and works with all your AS/400 applications. If your AS/400 is set up properly, you will not be worrying about hackers breaking into your system. If, one day, a hacker should break into an AS/400 for the first time, IBM will fix it, quickly. Their AS/400 software support surely has no equal.

Viruses? AS/400 users only come across them if they also use a PC.

AS/400's have been around for many years, aren't they just an old fashioned legacy system? The hardware of the AS/400 has been changed totally many times during its lifetime in line with the latest techology, much of which has been invented by IBM. Users will probably have only noticed the increased capacity and the considerable price/performance benefits, improving by about 30 - 40% each and every year. They are unlikely to be aware that this is possible only because the architecture of the AS/400, with its technology-independent machine interface, insulates users from such changes. Your applications just keep on running without change, even when you upgrade the operating system to a new release. But, you may ask, surely when IBM changed the AS/400 from 48 bit to 64 bit architecture, that must have caused some problems? Well, to convert the whole of ERROS to 64 bit architecture, including its complete development and operational environments, applications and user data took just 20 minutes! (that is not a typing error). No other major computer system has the ability to evolve continually whilst protecting its users' investments.

The software and functionality have changed in line with the hardware changes and the demands of the market place. This is a process of continual evolution, adding to a very sound base. This is a legacy with which AS/400 users are happy to live. They are the most satisfied computer users in the world.

But I want a reliable internet server with very high availability? The AS/400 is for you.

What about JAVA? The AS/400 Java Virtual Machine is by far the best performer that there is. Click on IBM AS/400e sets performance records for Java runtimes. A design quirk of Java is "garbage collection". Other systems come to a stop whilst this is carried out. The AS/400 just carries on.

The AS/400 has an enormous depth of features that take some time to assimilate. But you can get it up and running very quickly without needing to know what most of these are.

The above jottings are just a few personal views of the AS/400.

There are plenty of independent views. For instance, D.H. BROWN ASSOCIATES, INC. stated

"Traditional IT users, who place a strong emphasis on transaction processing and scheduled batch operations, will find that even the most advanced versions of Windows NT continue to fall short of the AS/400 in meeting many of their demands. Moreover, key AS/400 strengths in terms of reliability, scalability, and remote manageability make the system a competitive alternative even for more contemporary computing tasks based on Internet connectivity and client/server computing."

For the full report, click on Comparing Windows NT Server and AS/400 in the Enterprise

If you have any comments on the above view of the AS/400, please click here to e-mail me

Copyright 2000, Rob Dixon

To create your Internet ready AS/400 applications using the most productive AS/400 development tool, use ERROS. For information about ERROS, click on Erros plc Home Page