The AS400 is dead – long live the IBM iSeries

IBM i

Aug 09

It’s a new Millenium: Y2K has just passed leaving nothing behind except a few hangovers. The dreaded Y2K apocalypse was diverted and since every AS400 on the planet steadfastly refused to bust into flames — it’s a new dawn for IBM Midrange computers.

AS400 renamed iSeries – The long-rumored and much-debated rebranding of IBM’s disparate server lines, known under the code-name Mach1, was announced on October 3 2000, just a few weeks before the fall COMMON midrange trade show in Baltimore. The AS/400 is henceforth known as the iSeries 400, not the I/500, as had been widely reported.

AS400 renamed iSeries

But there’s a lot more to Mach1 than renaming the AS/400.

For the next several months, IBM is going to be blitzing the media and its customer base in an attempt to establish a new, unifying brand identity for its server lines, as well as new subbrand identities for the machines that used to be called AS/400s, S/390s, RS/6000s, Netfinities, and NUMA-Qs. In addition to the server rebranding, IBM will position what was once known as the AS/400 as the premiere platform to support business-to-business (B2B) electronic commerce. IBM is also going to emphasize the broad collection of services it will offer its server customers, which are arguably not available to customers using other server brands.

The Mach1 campaign is by no means the first time that IBM has considered rebranding the AS/400 or its other server lines.

Before it made the jump to RISC PowerPC processors and OS/400 V3 software in 1995, IBM considered rebranding the machines. And with the announcement in 1997 of the Apache server line, which saw AS/400s and RS/6000s share much of the same hardware technology, IBM once again thought about rebranding the AS/400 to try to breathe some life into the midrange brand.

At that time, IBM tacked an “e” on the end of the AS/400 to rename it the AS/400e. While the AS/400e models kicked off IBM’s largely successful e-business campaign of the last three years, which has positioned IBM as one of the key e-commerce component suppliers, AS/400 customers and Business Partners, not to mention IBMers, have pretty much ignored the AS/400e moniker. Perhaps what is more significant than the name change for the AS/400 is that IBM is also introducing a new brand for its entire server line, now called the eservers, in an attempt to build a single, well-known brand with which it can compete against its rivals in the server business.

The eserver name stresses the fact that IBM coined the term e-business and, by its reckoning, is the dominant e-business player. Expect IBM to remind the world that it is still by far the world’s dominant supplier of servers (in terms of revenues, not shipment volumes) as part of the Mach1 campaign.

IBM will not say exactly how much money the eserver rebranding would cost the company and its Business Partners, but IBM clearly hopes that getting a new image for its existing five server lines will help it get the double-digit revenue growth that Sun Microsystems and Compaq have been able to get in the server market while IBM’s server sales have been stagnant (with the exception of the RS/6000 S80 “Condor” servers).

Here are the new brands IBM has chosen for its eserver lineup: iSeries–This name, which has also been used to promote certain ThinkPad laptop models, covers what used to be called the AS/400. The name will be backcast to Model 270 and 8XX servers, which use IBM’s copper-based PowerPC processors. IBM has added a copper-colored stripe for the iSeries, as well as a new nameplate for the little black boxes. IBM says that the “i” in iSeries stands for “integration” and “innovation,” two of the hallmarks of the former AS/400 line and the current iSeries line. IBM is also stressing that the iSeries is a flexible machine in that it can support Java, TCP/IP, Windows 2000 (through the Integrated xSeries Server), and a slew of standards today and will support Linux and other emerging standards tomorrow.

pSeries–IBM is combining RS/6000 and NUMA-Q UNIX server lines under a single brand; these machines will continue to use distinct processor technologies–PowerPC, Power3, and Power4 for the RS/6000 and Intel IA-32 and IA-64 chips for the NUMA-Qs–and will gradually merge operating systems as IBM introduces AIX-5L, formerly known as Monterey/64, next year. The “p” in pSeries stands for “performance.”

xSeries–Formerly known as the Netfinity PC server line–Netfinity was a brand name IBM acquired when it bought Tivoli Systems–IBM’s Intel-based PC server line is now the xSeries. The “x” refers to IBM’s X-Architecture initiative, whereby technologies developed for S/390, AS/400, and RS/6000 servers have been gradually ported to the Intel hardware platform.

zSeries–Say goodbye to the historical “System” in an IBM product brand name. The venerable System/390–heir to the Enterprise System/9000, the Enterprise System/3090, the System/370, and the grandfather of all mainframes, the System/360–is now simply the zSeries. The “z” in zSeries refers to “zero downtime,” something that an S/390, with the appropriate logical partitioning and Parallel Sysplex clustering technology activated, approaches very closely.

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About the Author

IBM i Software Developer, Digital Dad, AS400 Anarchist, RPG Modernizer, Alpha Nerd and Passionate Eater of Cheese and Biscuits. Nick Litten Dot Com is a mixture of blog posts that can be sometimes serious, frequently playful and probably down-right pointless all in the space of a day. Enjoy your stay, feel free to comment and in the words of the most interesting man in the world: Stay thirsty my friend.