E-commerce in a box - that's how IBM is pitching its new AS/400e servers, which are released this week.
The new "e-series" features significant hardware enhancements, including new 64-bit eight and 12-way PowerPC processors, but it is its overall integration which IBM will be emphasising to would-be online merchants.
Internet connectivity and server features, IBM Firewall, a unlimited user relational database, online transaction processing and commerce protocols such as SSL and SET are bundled into the AS/400's operating system. The OS also natively supports Novell, Dos, and Unix file systems and its files can even be managed from a Windows 96 clients.
Although the AS/400 technology is similar to IBM's RS/6000, the two lines are aimed at different customers, says IBM New Zealand's AS/400 product manager, Dale Wheeler.
"The RS/6000 is for customers who want to develop a tailored, unique solution," says Wheeler. "Whereas with the AS/400, the message is that it's advanced computing made simple."
Plans for the AS/400e also reveal a good deal about IBM's plans for Lotus Notes. Currently supported on an expansion card (as is Windows NT), Notes will be native in the OS by next February, with beta versions available soon, says Wheeler.
"The AS/400 will then be the single most scalable Notes platform, with up to 5000 users from a single server," says Wheeler. "And because it's native, the Notes database will be able to talk directly to the relational database built in to the OS."
Java also features strongly in IBM's near-term plans for the AS/400e, says Wheeler.
"Also coming in February is our native Java compiler - not a JIT compiler - which will be as fast as our normal, native languages."
Further out, IBM, in its "San Francisco" project, has been working with the likes of JD Edwards and SSA to develop what will effectively be commerce, distribution and banking classes for Java.
There are currently around 500 AS/400s in use in New Zealand, including the six running Telecom's billing system. These will be replaced by only two of the new machines, says Wheeler "one of which is only present for redundancy".
Pricing for the AS/400e series begins at around $15,000