The company will also introduce three new iSeries servers featuring its recently released S-Star copper and silicon-on-insulator processor technology, which will deliver new levels of performance for midmarket customers, according to IBM.
The iSeries servers are the latest incarnations of the AS/400, one of IBM's longest-running and most popular technology lines.
During the past few years, the company has been adding new technologies and capabilities aimed at boosting the servers' reliability while also making them more interoperable with Windows and Linux environments.
The moves "are an extension of what IBM has been doing so far; they are taking the next logical step," said Peter Martin, editor of "The 400 Group," a newsletter for IBM users.
For instance, the new version of the operating system allows users to carve out 32 partitions within a single system, compared with the 12 partitions supported on earlier versions, said John Reed, an IBM manager.
Network managers will also for the first time be able to partition a single processor system into four separate domains to run multiple applications, he added.
The OS/400 V5R1 also significantly boosts users' ability to manage Windows servers, Reed said. The new operating system lets users directly attach as many as 16 four-processor Intel Corp. servers to a single iSeries system or consolidate as many as 32 individual Windows severs within a single iSeries box.
IBM is also making available a new graphical user interface with tools and setup wizards aimed at making it easier for users to create and manage multiple partitions.
Also being introduced are wireless management capabilities that the company said will allow administrators to monitor and send commands to iSeries servers managing Windows server farms.
Sea Island, a US-based resort firm, has multiple instances of Windows 2000 running on partitions within a single iSeries box managed by a single unified management interface.
"The approach provides an opportunity for Sea Island to exploit new technology while preserving their investment in existing systems, without compromising the high standards demanded" for the applications, said Pete Smith, IT director at Sea Island.
IBM's announcement comes at a time when sales of iSeries systems have been dropping steadily. Almost all of the current growth comes from the installed base, said Martin.
As a result, "IBM will continue to give [existing] users what they want, but they are probably not going to aggressively try and grow this market," he said.