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May 4, 1994

IBM EMBARKS ON AN ENERGETIC CAMPAIGN TO SAVE THE AS/400

By CBR Staff Writer

In what amounts to a virtual surrender to the Unix community, IBM Corp yesterday launched an energetic and determined campaign to save the AS/400, starting by going around and changing the name of almost everything in preparation for all the open enhancements it has in the works. AS no longer stands for Application System, it is now Advanced Series; the database gets a name for the same time: DS2/400 – but don’t worry, it’s still the same database, but SQL/400 now comes bundled and instead of forcing users to write stored procedures for the database in a proprietary language as all the independent database vendors require, these can be written in any AS/400 language – the new Integrated Language Environment C launched last year, RPG/400 and there is a new IBM Visual RPG coming in the Integrated Language Environment, or Cobol, also set for a facelift. Database input-output performance has also been improved. But the most dramatic changes are in the planned embracing of almost everything Unix. In the new 3.1 release of OS/400, due in September, native SNA support is three times faster, but TCP/IP support for personal computer clients – in a new Client Access bundled with OS/400, with support for Windows, Macintosh System and OS/2 clients – runs eight times faster, and is claimed to match SNA performance. A new 66MHz full 80486 co-processor board can be added to the new models to provide a full OS/2 LAN Server capability for client personal computers – OS/400 loads the server software and dedicates disks to the server. One day second half 1995 is the current promise – OS/400 will be able to load NetWare on the board in the same way. IBM started out by holding off on any C compiler for the AS/400, then deliberately came out with a very poor one in an attempt to keep the Unix hordes at bay, but the company has now completed the volte face initiated with the new C and is now not only actively wooing Unix developers to include AS/400 in their plans with a promise that OS/400 will eventually achieve Unix Spec 1170 branding; Berkeley Sockets are on the way. In the future, Workplace OS will offer multiple personalities under OS/400, so you will be able to have an OS/2 or Unix file system on the machine. IBM has also commissioned Novell Inc to put the Tuxedo transaction processing monitor up on the PowerPC version of the AS/400. The thing that will matter most to users is of course price, and IBM has bitten the bullet with the new hardware and software: OS/400 will be user-based pricing only, much separately-priced software will now be bundled, and with the new hardware, IBM is claiming a 20% performance improvement and a 40% price-performance improvement. On the hardware front, confusion reigns: for no explicable reason, IBM has replaced the old numbering system with an impenetrable new one. There are four series – 200, 300, 310 and 320. The processor board now becomes a Feature Card, each tagged with another impenet rable number. The 200 has three Feature Card options, the 300 has three, the 310 has two, the bigger being a two-way; the 320 has one, two and four-way Feature Cards, the last being a repackaged Model 97. Packaging is important: it is chea per for IBM and more compact for the user, and the machines will run off a 110V mains supply where their predecessors needed 220V. All but B models are upgradable to the new ones, the new ones – out next month will be upgradable to the 64-bit PowerPC RISC sometime next year.

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