TORONTO USERS GROUP for Midrange Systems
January 1996: Vol. 11, No. 3
PowerPC’s Impact on the AS/400
AS/400: Back to the Future
(Article Based on a White Paper by R. S. Tipton)
o the PC and LAN faithful, the AS/400 is old, legacy-burdened, slow and clumsy. To the open systems group, the AS/400 suffers from proprietary short-sightedness and chronic tardiness and superficiality in standards conformance. To the AS/400 zealot, the AS/400 is the lowest total-cost-to-operate system on the market with the ability to deliver high-quality business computing systems.
There are two areas in which the new AS/400 will shine: distributed computing serving; and the traditional, terminal-oriented transaction processing application from where its heritage has been built. Don't look for the AS/400 to become a graphics system, a floating point computation system, or a super-communications serving system. The AS/400 - in reality, OS/400 - has a strong potential for becoming the premier business-related computing platform: stronger than NT, more powerful than UNIX, more flexible and cost-effective than MVS, more adaptable and accommodating than VMS, etc. In fact it has the potential to dominate the business computing operating system world. Hardware is becoming a commodity, so Rochester's focus and profits will come from OS/400 with the potential of driving the AS/400 to a place no computer has gone before.
With V3R1 of OS/400 and the Power PC based AS/400, it is taking its first leap forward. The following points make it noteworthy:
SPEC 1170 compliance - with SPEC 1170 compliance, the industry regards it as a UNIX operating system!
Taligent Attention - Taligent being the co-operative venture between IBM, Apple and HP to develop fully object-oriented operating system and application concepts and components called frameworks. Frameworks will provide a "tinker toy" approach to systems development.
DCE - Distributed Computing Environment is a comprehensive set of standards and functional profiles that build enabling tools for heterogeneous interoperability among a diverse set of hardware and operating systems environments.
SOM/400 - System Object Model/400 - the AS/400's implementation of standards allowing for consistent behavior of objects (like files, output queues etc.) among similar or dissimilar operating environments.
DB2/400 - including stored procedures, triggers, referential integrity and an order of magnitude improvement in performance (even for SQL).
Microkernel - this operating environment allows for high-performance execution of multiple operating system personalities.
PowerPC - the name of the hardware alliance created by IBM, Motorola and Apple that is creating high-performance chips, both in 32-bit and 64-bit forms and in both commercial and numerically-intensive optimized versions. In its initial offering, the 64-bit Power PC chip (the 620) will allow the AS/400 to run in full 64-bit mode - no application software rewrites required and with apparently less than 1/2 of 1% of OS/400 needing to be changed to support it!
The new AS/400 will become a multi-personality system. It will allow 64-bit OS/400 based applications to run along side of 32-bit applications like UNIX and OS/2. We can look forward to the introduction of many other personality servers.
Some important issues that will be addressed are:
Application Frameworks - Frameworks are the building blocks for object-based applications. Customers will be supplied with the basics of a manufacturing application, and then through object-oriented languages modifications can be made to the frameworks to match the specific business environment. This will lead to exponentially better productivity in software development and increased software quality.
- System Frameworks - Similar in concept to applications frameworks except they are collections of objects useful in system and tool software development like printer drivers, communications protocols etc. to significantly improve the power and productivity of system software developers.
- Common Personality Servers - OS/400 will be able to execute full implementations of different operating system environments directly on the AS/400. Unlike an emulator, common personality servers provide all native function of the foreign operating system. With the amazing performance of the PowerPC chip (200 - 300 MHz) IBM claims OS/400 will run UNIX faster than a native UNIX processor and will run OS/2, Mac System 7 and NT (if implemented) faster than their native hardware environments. Common personality servers have the potential to allow the AS/400 to be the most desirable system on the market. It will be able to combine its differentiators in system integration, security, systems management and blistering performance with end-user demanded client applications running on a variety of environments. The AS/400 could be the "master integrator" and would provide functions to give security, integration, integrity and availability services to all environments.
In Robert's opinion the common personality servers will make the open systems, LAN and PC bigots think twice about slandering the AS/400, and I agree!