IBM 'Freshens Up' System i With Per-User Pricing

By Michael Hickins (Send Email)
Posted Apr 12, 2007


IBM is rolling out two Express versions of its all-in-one System i business server.

Big Blue crafts System i for the SMB market with simplicity and a focus on core business issues.

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System i is used to help customers manage their IT infrastructures by running disparate operating systems, such as Windows and Linux, and applications in a single location.

As with other IBM Express products, System i Express, unveiled at an event at IBM's Lotus campus in Cambridge, Mass. today, is designed to appeal to cost-conscious small- and midsize businesses (SMBs).

The Armonk, N.Y.-based systems vendor does this by focusing on core features while allowing customers to add more advanced functionalities as needed.

For instance, with the new Express versions, IBM hasn't bundled in the sophisticated virtualization and storage area networking capabilities inherent in traditional System i installations, but makes them available as options as needed.

The Express systems do include a built-in workload manager that allows customers to manage multiple applications independently on one system, instead of having to deploy a new server every time they need to add a new application. IBM quoted figures from a 2006 Gartner study showing that the average small business deploys seven servers on site.

That represents significant waste, noted IBM System i product manager Ian Jarman, since typically, a server running one application operates at just 5 percent of capacity.

"The concept for System i is that these applications can run together on the same server," he told internetnews.com. That kind of consolidation helps reduce management as well as energy costs.

Jarman said that the system helps SMBs get the most out of their IT resources.

"Do you want your staff installing patches or would you rather have them deploying the next application that the business needs, or a new function for your customer-facing Web site?" he said.

And in a departure from its past practice with System i configurations, Big Blue is also introducing the per-user pricing model familiar to Microsoft Windows customers.

Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT Research, predicted that the Express versions will be a boon to the integrated software vendors (ISVs) that develop applications for SMBs, many of which are starved for software to manage their businesses more effectively.

"It could open some eyes up to applications that don't exist in the Windows world," he told internetnews.com.

According to King, competition from the likes of HP and Dell has put IBM under pressure to "freshen up System i and make it appealing to new customers and also add options that will appeal to existing customers."

He said that IBM has responded smartly by simplifying the licensing structure and decreasing costs, "especially for small businesses that are very sensitive to pricing issues."

The System i 515 Express, designed for companies with fewer than 40 employees, starts at $7,995 and includes five user licenses. Additional user licenses cost $1,250 per five users.

The 525 Express, for customers with over 30 employees, is priced at $34,900. Both versions are expected to be available later this month.

This article was originally published on internetnews.

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