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  1. Technology
February 21, 1999


By CBR Staff Writer

By Timothy Prickett Morgan

Rumor has it that IBM is getting ready to replace the Multiprise 2000 line of low-end mainframes, which feature integrated disk subsystems and geared down G3 and G4 CMOS processor engines, with a beefed-up line of S/390 Integrated Servers. All IBM has said officially is that it will make major changes in 1999 to the Integrated Server, but that it would make only minor changes to the Multiprise line. The Integrated Servers are IBM’s latest in a line of low-end machines that it has aimed at software developers to assist them in porting Unix and PC applications to the mainframe but which more times than not end up in low-end mainframe shops who just want to move their old S/370 legacy applications running under VM or VSE ahead to more modern iron than the 9370s or 4300s that they currently use to run their production applications. The original baby S/390 server, the P/390, was announced several years ago and included an RS/6000 PowerPC processor running Unix and a daughter card with a custom VLSI gate array chip that could run S/390 applications. IBM then announced versions of the P/390 that had an Intel Pentium chip running instead of an RS/6000 motherboard. Neither machines supported 3380 and 3390 disks subsystems or their channels directly, nor did they support the 9332, 9335 and 9336 disks used with the 9370s. The P/390s also did not support other channel- attached peripherals, and some of the software running on the box was not exactly the same as the MVS, VM or VSE that runs on true ES/9000 and 9672 mainframes. This obviously limited their appeal to both application developers and end user companies. Last September, IBM announced the S/390 Integrated Server, which turned the PC-based P/390 into a full-fledged member of the S/390 family. This machine, which was supposed to ship in volume in early November, started shipping in late December and provides 8 MIPS of mainframe processing power. It is essentially the same as the P/390 except that it comes with a full bank of memory – 256 megabytes – on the S/390 daughter card. The PC side of the Integrated Server is a 266MHz Pentium II and 36 gigabytes of SSA RAID 5 disk capacity; disk capacity can be bumped up to 255 gigabytes internally and customers can use PCI-based or ISA-based ESCON or parallel channel cards to connect standard mainframe channels to the box, too. The PC side of the Integrated Server had to run OS/2 Warp, which is used to manage access to disk resources and presumably is also used to create virtual expanded memory from PC memory (specs are not given for it) for the S/390 daughter card like the original P/390 did running AIX. The current S/390 Integrated Server can run OS/390, MVS/ESA, VSE/ESA and VM/ESA.

Pentium II and OS/2 Warp to go

According to a report from Technology News ( the upcoming S/390 Integrated Server, which could be announced as early as the summer and ship in the fall along side the expected G6 series of high-end 9672 mainframes, IBM will apparently get rid of the Pentium II processor and OS/2 Warp and replace the S/390 daughter card as well and use true 9672 processors in the box; the gossip has it that the Integrated Server will be equipped with G5 processors, which will be one generation back from the (hopefully) then-current G6 engines used in 9672s. IBM’s plans apparently call for the Integrated Server to be equipped with one or two processor cards, each using 100 MIPS G5 engines. The first card supposedly has two G5 engines, one for workloads, one to manage I/O (just like 9672 multichip module engines have some of CPUs dedicated to I/O). The second card, which customers will add to increase the processing capacity of the Integrated Server, will have three G5 engines, two for production work and one for system I/O and SMP overhead. IBM will presumably also offer geared down versions of the single card to fill in the huge gap between the 8 MIPS of the current Integrated Server and the 100 MIPS of a base S/390 motherboard running at 100 MIPS. The new Integrated Servers may, for marketing reasons, keep the Multiprise moniker, but it is more likely that it will be called the Integrated Server because Multiprise has not exactly been a barnburner for IBM. No matter what name it has, if the rumors are right, the new machines will effectively replace the Multiprise line. The real trick for IBM is figuring out how to price its software on the new Integrated Servers. Software on the old P/390s and existing Integrated Servers is available under the Entry Support License (ESL) fee schedule from IBM, which offers the software licenses only under a one-time charge scheme rather than the monthly payment scheme IBM prefers for most of its mainframe customers. A reasonably configured Integrated Server costs about $65,000 for hardware; the OS/390 operating system plus the DB2 data base and CICS transaction monitor run about $52,000. To buy hardware and software for an equivalently powerful Multiprise (or even a used 9672) is much more expensive. The question is, will IBM sell 100 or 200 MIPS machines (that’s about how much capacity will be available in the Integrated Server with three production G5 engines) with flat-fee based software like the current Integrated Server, or will it switch to usage-based and tier-based monthly rental fees as it does for the rest of the S/390 line. It’s a real conundrum for IBM, since to sell the hardware it has to cut software prices; if it doesn’t cut mainframe software prices, which will adversely affect both its top and bottom lines, it won’t be able to sell low-end hardware to customers who are fed up with high software costs and who are ready to jump to AS/400s, Unix boxes and NT servers.

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