IBM repackages AS/400 for departmental workgroups

Looking to broaden its market share, IBM this week will unveil in the US an aggressively priced low-end AS/400 server designed for departments within corporate accounts and also for smaller businesses looking for workgroup solutions.

Essentially a repackaged version of an existing system, the AS/400 Advanced Portable Model 3 will carry an entry-level price of $US7995 and will be positioned as an alternative for IBM users considering client/server solutions involving Microsoft's Windows NT and Windows 95. IBM is including as part of the basic package a database tool called Win400 that allows Clipper, a popular Windows database application development program, to seamlessly access information residing in DB2 on the AS/400 from a Windows-based desktop.

"We think this offers a client/server solution where customers can integrate the AS/400 and PC clients and avoid some of the memory and storage costs associated with going to NT and [Windows] 95," said Steve Early, manager of the System 36 and small business market for IBM's AS/400 division.

The entry-level configuration of the system is centered around the A10 chip, which is a variant of IBM's PowerPC 620 RISC processor. Also bundled with the entry-level system are 16MB of Ram, a 2Gb hard drive, a 3450 tape drive, Win400, adapters for Token Ring add-in cards, and BasePak, which includes the OS/400 operating system and Query & Client Access package. The system is capable of supporting as many as 16 users on one LAN. It supports two communications lines, one for the system console and the other for the LAN itself, a company representative said. The new model does not include IBM's Integrated PC Server, a 486-based add-in board that allows the AS/400 to run products such as NetWare or Lotus Notes.

AS/400 officials admit they had taken their eye off the ball in the low-end market and were concentrating on selling to its installed based users at the higher end.

"We found it easier to sell to the installed base where we had established relationships. But if we are to continue to grow the overall business, we'll have to focus on new placements," Early said.

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