Topics in this article

IBM Power Systems computers have been a mainstay of enterprise IT since the 1980s. From the original AS/400 through the current IBM iSeries, they’ve been prized for performance, stability and dependability. However, as enterprise cloud services have continued to replace onsite ERP, some people have written the AS/400 off.

With the ever-decreasing cost of cloud hosting, the IBM AS/400 is portrayed by its detractors as an outdated, pricey relic from a bygone age. Additionally, there is a perceived lack of IT support — particularly for companies moving to the cloud — that has led some companies to reconsider their IBM Power Systems infrastructure. However, the criticisms are overstated, and there are good reasons why so many companies still use the IBM AS/400.

Companies that use AS/400

AS/400 servers are still fairly common. According to iDatalabs, IBM hardware is used by about 10.1% of companies with their own servers, making it the second most popular type of server after HP servers (24.7%).

However, those numbers are a little deceptive, because they’re measuring hardware rather than, operating systems, and because cloud hosting services are measured in a separate category. When iDatalabs looked at the two operating system most closely associated with the IBM hardware, they found that only 1.0% of companies are using the IBM i operating system, and only 0.7% are using AIX. IBM hardware supports other, more popular operating systems, but it’s unclear what proportion of the tenants on those systems are actually using the IBM architecture.

AS/400 is popular in high-tech industries, such as manufacturing, computer software, and information technology. However, there are major companies that use AS/400 across all industries and around the world, from American pharmacy and health care giant, CVS Health, to Indian retail chain, Vishal Mega Mart. AS/400 is most popular among midmarket companies (38%), but is used across organizations of all sizes.

One of the biggest IBM AS/400 users is the German multinational manufacturing giant, Robert Bosch. The company generated about $88 billion worldwide in 2016, manufacturing a huge range of consumer goods, industrial technology, and other products. As a large enterprise, Bosch runs its own internal IT, which operates over 900 SAP deployments. They opted to install IBM Power8 servers to run their IT systems, citing its performance, reliability and scalability.

What is AS/400 used for?

AS/400 architecture is often used for ERP and other mission-critical tasks, particularly in industries that require extreme reliability, such as manufacturing. IBM Power Systems are popular with SAP users, as well as competing database management systems, such as Oracle Database.

The IBM architecture has also become an increasingly popular cloud solution, with the growth of the AS/400 cloud. IBM works closely with channel partners like Secure-24 to implement AS/400 solutions for a wide range of applications.

Ultimately, you can use AS/400 to host anything at this point, but different use cases may require very different deployments. A manufacturing company might need a hybrid AS/400 cloud to provide extremely low latency, while a retailer might benefit from the cost control and scalability of a cloud-only solution.

Why is AS/400 still used?

  1. IBM Power Systems preserve the legendary AS/400 performance and reliability. The IBM AS/400 was built to be bullet-proof, with massive hardware redundancy — particularly at the upper end of the server line. It’s also extremely high performing, with CPUs that are 3-5 times more powerful than competitors. For applications like SAP hosting that require extremely high performance and low downtime, these features are ideal.
  2. There are a good range of AS/400 options available. From inexpensive, entry-level systems to high power, massively redundant servers for larger enterprise users, to scalable models for ever-expanding data centers. The IBM iSeries also support multiple operating systems, including AIX, IBM i, SUSE and RedHat Enterprise Linux.
  3. Moving away from IBM Power Systems is not worth the expense. IBM Power Systems have a higher price per core than competitors, but their cores are also much more powerful. For example, in a recent presentation, IBM showed a price/performance edge for Power Systems LC machines over Intel Proliant, in both single and dual-socket machines. Keep in mind, this is a test run by IBM, and there are no absolute numbers for performance, since it depends on architecture and workload. Still, at the very least this shows that the IBM AS/400 is priced similarly to competitors. Any price savings gained by switching hardware will be dwarfed by the expense and disruption of moving to another platform — especially with the availability of cloud solutions.Additionally, the IBM AS/400 is backwards compatible, which can greatly reduce the cost of transformation. This is particularly true for companies that may be using legacy software or custom code based around the AS/400. Switching from the AS/400 could mean having to install and configure new software and audit and update your data, which can be quite an ordeal when you’ve been on the same platform for decades. This can also be extremely disruptive, particularly if you’re a manufacturer with a legacy control system architecture. In these situations, moving off IBM wastes a lot of money to no good end.
  4. The AS/400 managed cloud provides a complete solution. Our IBM iSeries cloud environment makes the AS/400 a truly competitive option for the cloud era. We reduce TCO, while replacing unpredictable CapEx with steady OpEx, charging only for the resources you need. You’ll be able to scale dynamically as your needs grow, eliminating the need to purchase and configure hardware ahead of time. Equally importantly, you can put the search for qualified IBM AS/400 staff behind you; as America’s largest Power Systems SAP Basis team, we have both the hardware and the skillset to provide a complete suite of enterprise cloud services for the IBM iSeries.

The IBM AS/400 can take you as far as you want to go.

For many businesses, the IBM AS/400 is like an old, reliable friend that has grown and flourished along with you. With our AS/400 cloud, you can take that friendship to the next level, benefiting from the same performance and ultra-high uptime, while lowering costs, enhancing flexibility and simplifying internal IT.

Contact us to learn how our AS/400 cloud can keep you on the cutting edge.