IBM Server Line Redrawn

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IBM Server Line Redrawn
R. Krause - October 20, 2000

Event Summary

[Source: IBM press release]

Oct. 3, 2000 - IBM announced its new server product line, the IBM eServer. IBM's existing server and mainframe product lines (previously known as S/390, RS/6000, AS/400, and Netfinity) will now carry the eServer name and logo, starting with the first shipments, expected sometime this quarter.

In addition to the renaming, IBM has announced new features, including:

  • Capacity upgrade on demand (CUoD), similar to Sun's feature of "turning on" existing processors without a physical upgrade

  • Logical partitioning (LPAR) across the entire eServer product set

  • All servers will be Linux enabled

The eServer product line will be separated into four series:

  • zSeries - mainframes (although IBM no longer uses that term, apparently)

  • pSeries - UNIX-based

  • iSeries - mid-market

  • xSeries - Intel-based

Market Impact

On the surface, this looks like the standard product line revamping/renaming that almost every company goes through from time to time. There were really no earth-shattering new products nor special features (with the possible exception of "Capacity Upgrade on Demand") announced - just a restating of features IBM believes are advantageous to customers. From this perspective, the announcement is relatively uninteresting.

We believe the biggest impact of the product line renaming is related to Linux. For more than six months, IBM has been talking about having enterprise-wide Linux offerings. By replacing the various product lines with the "eServer" name, this will help strengthen the perception of a unified product structure, which ties into the Linux strategy. Although we previously felt Dell had made a bigger across-the-board commitment to Linux, we now believe IBM has taken that lead among the major computer manufacturers. In the server space, this will be a good thing for IBM. In the desktop space, the Linux market is not there yet, but IBM will be well-positioned when and if Linux becomes a serious desktop presence.

There is one part of this strategy we find a tad bothersome: for the second time in a month, IBM has created an all-encompassing product line where the customer has to remember which letter-series (e.g., "zSeries" for mainframes). In September, the PC product line adopted the name NetVista across all products, with only modest naming changes to distinguish between the markets served. (See TEC news analysis IBM PC Line Redrawn.) So, as a service to our readers, here are the translations between new and old product lines:

Table 1.

Market Segment Old Name New Name
Mainframe S/390 zSeries
UNIX RS/6000 pSeries
"Mid-Range" AS/400 iSeries
Intel Netfinity xSeries

(Side comment: we would have suggested that Big Blue give the lines letters which server as a mnemonic for the older names, e.g., aSeries for the former AS/400, iSeries for Intel-based Netfinity, sSeries for the S/390, rSeries for the RS/6000. But then again, they didn't ask our opinion.)

There is one other logistical issue that may bedevil IBM's plans. Apparently, the term "eServer" has already been trademarked by Technauts, Inc. of Morrisville, SC. IBM says theirs is different from Technauts; Technauts hints that they're considering legal action. Shown below are the two logos - we leave it to you decide how similar they are.

Technauts' logo

IBM logo

User Recommendations

For most users, the key benefit of this announcement is the enterprise-wide Linux commitment. Now that Linux has approximately 25% of the server market shipments, having a full product line offering for it will become more important. Naturally, customers who are committed to Windows (or Solaris or Netware) "first, last, and always" will have no use for this strength. However, the rest of the server world should pay attention to IBM's Linux products, and consider them seriously. Linux combined with IBM's strong reputation for quality and reliability will provide an alluring message for a number of customers.

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