Exactly why should users decide on the RS/6000?
According to IDC's research as of January, 2000, IBM is the numero uno worldwide server vendor with a 23 per cent market share, measured by revenue. The statistics flow thick and fast. At least one IBM server is installed in 95 per cent of the companies listed in Dun & Bradstreet's 1,000 key businesses.
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Some 70 per cent of the world's business data and business transactions are managed by IBM servers. In the largest commitment to the Linux operating system by any server company, IBM announced this January it would enable Linux OS software on RS/6000, AS/400, S/390 and Netfinity.
The RS/6000 model S80 is touted as 'the world's fastest web server' and in the four months from first availability in December, 1999, IBM shipped 1,000-plus systems, leading to double digit growth for this enterprise server segment. The RS/6000 also ranked first in analyst D. H. Brown's composite benchmark study of server performance this January.
IBM points to IDC figures on Sun's E10000 competing box, claiming it 'took Sun two years to sell 1,000 E10000s'. Sun is unabashed.
Rod Adkins, general manager, IBM web server unit, says: 'Customers from Fortune 500 companies to dot.com start-ups are choosing S80 to power mission-critical e-business applications. The reception accorded to S80 is no fluke, as customers recognise it provides unparalleled performance, scaleability, and reliability, at a price far below comparable offerings from Sun.'
Chris Sarfas, Sun's UK product marketing manager, says: 'This is at odds with IDC's report, which states IBM sold 20 S80s in the UK last quarter '99 at an average price of $423k, proving S80 comparisons should be with E5500/6500, of which we shipped 31 in the same period in the UK. We sold 20 E10000s in the same period at an average price of $1.04m. IBM is only selling medium size S80s. Customers are buying large E10000s because it's proven.'
Sarfas continues: 'IDC says hardware server sales for all OSs were up for Sun, HP-UX and Dell NT in 1999 by 9.5, 6 and 68 per cent respectively last year over 1998. The losers under the same parameters were IBM all servers, IBM Unix, AS/400 and Compaq all servers by -17, -25, -48 and -20 per cent respectively. That is not success.'
In 1999, IBM did $14.6bn in e-commerce, compared to $3.2bn for 1998. Most of this revenue accrued through work with business partners, followed by oem partners, large customer extranets, and consumers, and small businesses. Average revenue per day was some $40m in 1999. Personal Systems Group products represented 55 per cent of all e-commerce transactions in 1999. Other major brand transactions included storage at 11 per cent, AS/400 at 9 per cent and RS/6000 at 7 per cent.
Ian Simmons is RS/6000 web server business manager and Tina Mattsson Northern Region product manager. According to Mattsson, the RS/6000 at year end 1999 was involved in 20 per cent of the business IBM does.
'That covers hardware sales, the server portion of a networking equipment configuration, and cases where a Unix solution is part of a big deal,' says Mattsson. 'We expect there to be growth in this percentage share of the business, particularly with the growth expected in Unix and Linux markets.'
Why should users select RS/6000, and what about IBM's other offerings? Simmons points to the enterprise server group based in Warwick, which covers Big Blue's northern region, Europe.
'The enterprise group looks at customer solutions and offers the best fit products from the line up of S/390, RS/6000, AS/400 and Netfinity,' says Simmons. 'As a rough guidance, for mainframe type environments, manageability and reliability it's S/390. For scaleability and performance it's RS/6000. For off-the-shelf collaborative computing, it's AS/400. Then Netfinity and NT can offer a two tier solution, to meld with any of the other offerings.'
'There are several reasons why RS/6000 is selected as a web server,' says Simmons. 'Performance is a key characteristic. What companies find when they launch an e-commerce site is that it is difficult to judge the requirements, performance-wise. With an unknown number of users coming on-line at any time, they have to be comfortable knowing that when there is a larger number of hits on the web site than was expected, the performance will still be there.
'This leads on to scaleability. Customers can take comfort in the RS/6000's potential to move from six to 24 way configurations gives scaleability. Indeed the independent tests show RS/6000 to be the most powerful Unix server available today.
'Reliability is also a given factor - clustering the RS/6000 with another high availability system generates the sought-after 'four nines' availability,' says Simmons. 'Customers realise if their site goes down, their customers will go to the next site. With 'four nines' availability, all applications are available. To tie all these factors together, remember our partnership with Linux - lots of developers use Linux now - and at the end of this year project Monterey kicks in which equally opens up the Intel space.'
IBM points to IDC's report demonstrating the impact its technology is having on the Unix server market. 'The 64-bit RS/6000 S80, with 24 IBM copper based microprocessors, beats Sun's E10000, using up to 64 microprocessors, in benchmark tests' is the claim. The war of words continues with price/performance claims that such an RS/6000 with 64 Gbytes memory is 50 per cent better than E10000 with similar memory. Sun disagrees, and points to 'real world activity'.
'There's a trend where we're seeing more and more of other solutions moving to the web,' says Mattsson. 'So it's difficult to say with precision what percentage of RS/6000 sales are web based. Lots of applications are being web enabled, for example, as well as moves to more distributed architectures.
This includes the enterprise resource planning and business intelligence markets. With our business in the UK and Netherlands today, a large percentage of S80 sales are going to the e-commerce and Netgen areas. The S80 strategy is to take greater market share in the e-commerce space. Note, Unix is the driver for web enablement. Unix systems have a head start here vis-a-vis non-Unix systems.'
'We've stolen the high ground,' says Simmons. 'Two key points to make; we offer workload manager, a better solution than multiple partitioning, which is only to be used when you can't scale. Prioritisation is a tidier solution. Then there's project Monterey, so significant for independent software vendors and access to all the Intel space.'
'E10000 is highly redundant with no single point of failure,' says Sarfas. 'The mainframe is a paragon of excellence we want to emulate. Running a SAP benchmark, IBM S/390 G5, and DB2, notches up 6,000 users. E10000, with Oracle, and the same transactions, handles 14,000 users. We're rated at some 3,000 IBM mainframe mips.'
A quick interjection from Microsoft UK's manufacturing industries marketing manager Rod Blackwell: 'Of the 23,000 SAP sites world-wide, over 10,000 run on NT - 100 run on Linux.'
For IBM, in the high-end Unix arena it's IBM vs Sun head-to-head. But for Sun, its Solaris vs NT. The war continues. l
Customers on the web
The 1,000th S80 went to works.com, an internet business productivity purchasing service. The company selected two S80s to power its web site - www.works.com - which provides small and medium-sized businesses with discounts and fast delivery on 20,000+ business products.
Roy Kipp, co-founder and chief technology officer of works.com, says: 'We selected S80 after an intensive search for a highly scaleable and reliable server platform that could deliver the raw computing power we needed. We evaluated other solutions, but they could not compete with IBM's combination of performance, price, and excellent on-site technical support. S80 gives us dramatic gains in scaleability, manageability, and overall computing capacity.'
There are two S80s running under Aix - Big Blue's Unix operating system - at the core of works.com's internet operations. The servers support the company's expanding customer base, who use the site to automate and manage their purchasing of computer accessories and peripherals, software, office supplies, furniture, sundries, and office cleaning supplies. Customers also enjoy access to Fortune 100 volume discounts through the company's co-operative buying programme, which can assist them reduce their monthly supply bills by up to 30 per cent.
Sun's Sarfas reckons some 30 per cent and growing of E10000 business is 'internet activity, including mobile companies, and wireless internet access' - and 'all the internet banks use Sun - Egg and Smile run on E10000s for example'. Up to 50 per cent is ERP related, a sector increasingly being brought into the e-business fold through e-procurement and supply chain automation work.