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IBM Strikes Back

IBM launched a new marketing assault on its vast but aging System/36 base last week as it brought out three CPUs at the low end of its AS/400 line, including its fourth so-called Entry model that runs S/36 software but which is the first that can be field upgraded to full AS/400 capability.

In addition to the introduciton of the new computers, as well as new sotware and peripherals, IBM issued a statement of direction, noting it plans to expand AS/400 performance with a field-upgradable model offering twice the current high-end B70 performance in mid-1991.

Industry sources said the moves signal IBM’s intent to boost the price/performance of its proprietary systems to keep pace with similar developments that have occurred in the so-called open systems market based on industry standard architectures and operating systems. Fueling IBM’s intent at the low end, they noted, is the sizeable base of the company’s earlier equipment, in this particular instance of S/36 machine, which the firm has previously said amounts to some 200,000.

The latest AS/Entry model comes about 11 months after IBM brought out the initial Entry models, (EN, October 2, 1989) that extended the S/36 architecture but incorporated some of the newer technologies found in the AS/400, which when originally introduced were intended to wean users from both the S/36 and S/38. The three earlier Entry models could not, however, be field upgraded to an AS/400 as can the AS/Entry Y10 brought out last week. The Y10, listing for $11,000, was accompanied by a new version of the S/36 operating system, SSP Release 6, priced at $1,195. a filed upgrade, consisting of a board swap, would amount to $7,500. The price of moving to the AS/400 OS involved in the upgrade would be $6,350.

The $11,000 price tag for the Y10 would yield a CPU with one megabyte of memory — with another megabyte optional — and 160 megabytes of disk storage, with the optional maximum set at 640MB. While IBM said it would continue to offer the AS/Entry S10 introduced last September, the Y10 appeared to offer better price/performance, as well as the upgrade capability. Both list for the same price for a one megabyte machine but the S10 offers less disk capacity with 105MB as standard.

The new Y10 can be upgraded to only the larger of the two new AS/400 computers fielded by IBM last week — the C6, which the eight megabytes of memory and 640MB of disk storage as standard lists for $17,500. The smaller C4, with the same standard memory and disk capacity, is priced at $14,500. The C4 also can use a less expensive version of the OS/400 operating system, priced at $3,750, compared to the $6,350 list on the C6’s OS, which as noted supports the upgrade from the Y10 Entry upgrade.

The C4 can be expanded to 12MB of memory and 960MB of disk capacity, while the C6 can grow to 16MB of memory and 1,280MB of disk storage.

In terms of performance, IBM rated the C4 at 1.1 times the power of the B10, the smallest of the original AS/400 family. The C6 offers 1.3 times the B10’s performance. Both, IBM said,are less expensive, with the C4, for example, coming in some 30 percent under the older B10’s price. As another yardstick, the C4 is said to support 14 local workstations and the C6 up to 54.

The C4, C6 and Y10 are all use a new 9402 system unit, a floor standing platform.

The AS/400 OS also came in a new release last week and was anther in what IBM said was more than 200 hardware and software enhancements across the AS/400 family.

In peripherals, IBM brought out disk and tape storage products and a memory expansion option for AS/400 systems.

Disk storage was increased up to 54.8 gigabytes with the new IBM 9336 disk unit for the B30 and up. IBM said customers can use the increased capacity for disk storage mirroring. The 9336, which uses compact 5.25-inch disk drives, is up to 38 percent faster and offers better reliability than the earlier 9332 and 9335 disk units, according to IBM. There are two basic 9336 models: the Model 10 with 471MB at $26,000 and the Model 20 with 857MB at $39,000. Additional capacity comes with add-on features priced from $8,500 to $30,000.

IBM also expanded disk capacity of the earlier AS/400 C25 by 50 percent to 3.84GB, enabling mirroring. In addition, main memory for the Model B70 can noww be doubled to 1982 megabytes. The firm said the B70 memory increase is made possible by a new 32-megabyte memory card which uses IBM’s new four-megabit 65-nanosecond memory chip manufactured in Burlington, Vt., representing its first use in an IBM computer.

The firm brought out the optional 9348 magnetic tape unit Model 2, a tabletop unit with a 1600/6250 bpi (bit per inch), 1/2-inch reel tape drive which allows the interchange of information from an AS/400 to another IBM or non-IBM system and also can be used to back up information, to avoid hard drive failure in general.

September 28 availability was set for the C4 and C6, OS/400 Release 3, the 9348 tape subsystem and the 9336 disk unit as part of new orders for the B50, B60 and B70. The disk unit becomes available October 26 for upgrade orders on those three systems. For new or upgrade orders for the B30, B35, B45, P35 and P45, the disk unit will be available next March 15. The Y10 AS/Entry is slated for this October.

Other new features fielded last week for the AS/400 line were an integrated Ethernet LAN attachment, a 16/4 megabit Token-Ring LAN adapter and TCP/IP TELNET support intended to improve the ability of the line to operate in computer networks with other manufacturers’ equipment and to function as a client/server.

New languages included FORTRAN/400, RM/COBOL-85 and Procedures Language 400/REXX.

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