IBM iSeries – Less Than A Mainframe More Than A PC Server. Possibly Perfect For Your Business.

I have often seen IBM’s announcements about its iSeries line of servers but never paid much attention to them as I always thought that they were for large businesses – like main frames if you will. I was wrong and spoke with Ian Jarman, Product Manager, IBM eServer iSeries to learn.
Mainframes are big, hulking, expensive machines that are needed by businesses who process HUGE, MEGA amounts of information. For example the US Census bureau, the IRS and etc. PC Servers, however, have increasingly been used as they are much cheaper than main frames and can be strung together in “server farms” to exponentially increase computing power. Amazon, Yahoo and many other companies use PC based servers quite successfully.
IBM’s iSeries of computers sit somewhere in the middle. While not as powerful as a mainframe, IBM’s iSeries computers are much more powerful and stable than a traditional Windows based server. While you might need a cluster of PC servers to run an application or entire business you can get plenty of power from one iSeries computer.
iSeries servers are not only more powerful than PC servers but are also more stable and this MIGHT be one of the most important differentiators.
Often times a PC server will be used for one function – an email server, web server or etc. This is often done so that the particular application will not crash due to other applications. With an iSeries server, core components such as a database, application server, email server and other services can be run on ONE server in their own, individual, virtual environments or subsystems.
Since applications are enclosed in their own virtual environments, the issue of 32bit vs more powerful 64bit computing has never been a problem. iSeries have been 64bit since 1995. Also, since iSeries and all its applications have been fully 64-bit since 1995, the issue of 32-bit versus the more powerful 64bit computing has not been an issue.
IBM Partners
Like any computer, without applications, the iSeries is just a pretty piece of black metal and plastic. Therefore IBM is aggressively aligning itself with partners who are building solutions specifically designed for the iSeries. The iSeries can Linux, Uniz and even Windows and Windows based applications on a ‘blade’ inside the iSeries but IBM is primarily pushing NON Windows solutions on its own integrated operating system, i5/OS.
In June IBM announced the early successes of its business partner program targeted to helping ISVs and tool partners develop software applications and tools for the IBM eServer iSeries system. IBM claims that this initiative has delivered over 180 new modernized applications from its application innovation program and tools innovation program, key programs within the IBM eServer iSeries Initiative for Innovation, launched in February.
More secure than Windows?
I am always cautious of big vendor claims, but IBM claims that a report by Andrews Consulting, May 2005, said SMBs have found that running Windows on the iSeries is a more secure environment than Microsoft based PC servers. In fact, IBM claims the iSeries has never reported a virus while Intel lead the list of security incidents (Gartner Report, May 2003, “Patch Management Is a Fast Growing Market”). Other sources say that Intel solutions have 10 times more unplanned downtime than iSeries.
In fairness, as Windows has evolved it has gotten more stable but not as stable as businesses would like. Hence many banks still use Unix as their operating system.
So what’s the bottom line? If you’re a small-medium sized business and need high end computing power a mainframe computer is going to probably be too expensive and overkill for you. On the other hand you might not want to a) string together a series of servers to get the power you need or b) worry about how stable they will be.
If this is the scenario you are in, you might want to consider an IBM iSeries server for your needs.

Case Study
Here’s a case study from IBM that helps to illustrate the iSeries. Tyler Cooper & Alcorn, and one of Connecticut’s oldest and most successful law firms, reduced its IT costs by 45 percent by choosing IBM over a Microsoft solution to consolidate its sprawling servers, secure its email system and install a highly-reliable IT infrastructure.
IBM’s press release reads that with 70 lawyers spread across four Connecticut towns, Tyler Cooper provides a full range of legal services and boasts nine partners on the National Attorneys Directory of “The Best Lawyers in America.” Challenged to maintain its success and adhere to its centuries-old practice of using experienced law partners to personally perform clients’ legal work, the firm switched from a Microsoft solution that frequently crashed. As such Tyler Cooper has increased its attorney productivity and is one of a handful of law firms with a true fail-over, disaster recovery and virus-free IT environment.
“I can now sleep soundly at night,” said Barry Winnick, attorney and IT director, Tyler Cooper & Alcorn. “We used Microsoft Outlook on Windows NT clients and a Microsoft Exchange server. With Microsoft, every time you turn around, you need another server — seven for document management, three more for e-mail, and another three to five for financial systems, and then they’d crash. Our iSeries system has not gone down, and I don’t have to worry about managing a farm of separate servers. It’s all in one, highly-reliable small platform.”
The new streamlined IT infrastructure is powered by an IBM eServer iSeries system running IBM DB2 Universal Database, Lotus Domino and Lotus Notes. The single iSeries server runs the firm’s accounting software, document management system, Lotus Notes e-mail system and tightly-integrated legal software suite from IBM Business Partner Rippe & Kingston.
Having just one server run all the applications helped reduce Tyler Cooper’s IT staff by 50 percent, proving why the iSeries system continues to be the server of choice for many small-to medium-sized businesses.
Approximately 100 people at the firm use the reliable workflows built into Lotus Notes software to handle meetings and other collaborative tasks on demand. The firms plans on adding many new high productivity features such as an intranet/extranet and a Web portal this year.
Tyler Cooper & Alcorn worked with Rippe and Kingston to implement the Legal Management System for firm accounting and WANDOCs for document management. Currently more than 200 law firms across the country are running Rippe & Kingston legal applications built on an IBM infrastructure.
“Our goal is to help Tyler Cooper & Alcorn continue its phenomenal growth and success,” said Ron Sharp, President of Rippe & Kingston, LLC. “That means growing the network without growing staff. The combined R&K-IBM solution has helped us accomplish that goal and then some. We love the virus free environment, 99.997 percent uptime, and bullet-proof security.”
According to R&K, for a 100-attorney firm, a typical WinTel-based-solution requires about 15 separate servers and an IT staff of 10 to 12 employees. By switching to R&K LMS V, the highly-integrated e-business suite for law firms, Microsoft server farms can be reduced to a single iSeries, and the IT staff can be reduced from 12 to four people, freeing eight employees to do other important tasks.