The story of a State Services Commission server

After over two years of planning, e-government moves off IBM's iSeries platform

It is unlikely there were any major celebrations at Datacom when it won a deal to supply a server and storage solution to the State Services Commission this month.

At $175,000 in value, it may not have even raised a cheer. But the deal is the culmination of two years of planning by the State Services Commission to get off IBM's iSeries platform (formerly known as AS/400) and on to the more standard x86 architecture.

The server is used for a range of e-government applications.

IBM has lost an iSeries customer, but is keeping the business anyway, supplying a System x3650, capable of up to four quad core Intel Xeon processors, 48Gb of memory and integrated RAID.

SSC first went to tender for the system in September 2006, driven by the need for increased functionality.

"We want a more flexible, extensible environment. It will also be cheaper in terms of total cost of ownership and more efficient to manage," spokesman Jason Ryan told ZDNet Australia at the time. The SSC had been using a leased IBM i810 server for a range of e-government applications on both Linux and Windows platforms. System i was originally built to operate IBM's proprietary midrange OS/400 operating system and then reengineered around the IBM Power 5 + processor, a processor that is not x86-based. In the tender, SSC said non-x86 systems "inhibit flexibility and, from experience managing a mix of Linux and Windows-based OSs, introduce unwanted complexity and overheads". Wayne Goss, manager of IBM's New Zealand systems and technology group, said at the time that new System i hardware was capable of natively running multiple operating systems in their own partitions. He said it was highly secure and freed business from complexity. "It is the best of IBM in one box," he said. "It is certainly not your grandaddy's AS/400." By May 2007, however, the plan to replace the i810 had been shelved.

Ryan told Computerworld at the time that the plans were now on hold, after discussions with IBM.

“We explored the options with IBM and realised one option was to buy the iSeries at the end of its lease,” he said. That would allow a further 12 to 18 months of use, during which time the cost of replacement and related activities could come down.

Ryan said it was still the SSC’s long-term goal to replace the server with an x86 system.

New Zealand System i manager Dale Wheeler told Computerworld the iSeries platform a had a clear development roadmap, with a new P6 processor upgrade scheduled. He said sales were growing in New Zealand and had rebounded in the US.

IBM moved to user-based pricing which, Wheeler said, took the platform into x86 territory in terms of cost.

He added that the SSC was using older-generation Intel cards inside its existing i810 and using 32-bit Linux rather than the 64-bit Linux the platform supported natively. Wheeler further said in-built virtualisation in the chip was seeing System i becoming part of the drive towards platform consolidation.

Despite finally signing a deal to upgrade its server, it seems the SSC is still not quite where it wants to be in replatforming its e-government applications.

Ryan says the Datacom deal is a "more modest proposal" which will se the iseries replaced and add some extra capacity as well as some virtualisation. That is because of the decision last year to separate the policy and delivery arms of the e-government programme.

That decision has seen the establishment of a separate delivery service, called the Government Technology Service, which will become part of the Department of Internal Affairs.

"We didn't want to lock ourselves into a a big dollar solution," he says.

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Tags State Services CommissionSpecial IDibm iseries

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