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IBM sees new AS/400 as e-commerce server

IBM is reinventing its AS/400 line as an e-commerce server as part of an aggressive campaign to build sales in SME markets.

In what the firm described as the biggest set of AS/400 announcements since the launch of the hugely successful mid-range system line in 1988, the new AS/400e range will be positioned as an out-of-the-box solution for small and medium-sized businesses upwards wanting to sell products over the Web.

Paul Fryer, marketing communications manager for the AS/400, said that the machine's strength in scalability, reliability and security makes it an ideal server for commerce. The new products will have bolstered security features a firewall card and encryption, and will ship with Net.Data software for creating Web pages.

In a bold move, IBM will price the systems at a flat rate from £4,885, to lure a new audience from its traditional users in banking, data warehousing and distributed environments. IBM also claims a 460 per cent leap on previous AS/400 performance. The new version of the OS/400 operating system, version 4 release 1, adds Internet user and validation list access control and system user access control, allowing managers to provide access across the Internet or extranets.

In the first three months of 1998, IBM will add Net.Commerce, templates that allow electronic stores to be quickly set up; a 100 Per Cent Pure Java Virtual Machine; and integrated versions of Lotus Domino and Windows NT.

"There are customers who may not have these skills in-house to develop e-commerce," Fryer said. "What we're offering is the next generation of computing with the most advanced architecture available, fully 64-bit enabled and with the most available applications... a platform for delivering Java and other applications in the most secure and reliable way."

Fryer added that IBM will spend heavily on national and trade press advertising to convert users. "The most important thing to get over to those people with a small company is that this is an option against Windows NT boxes. If people are looking to scale, there are still questions about NT."

Fryer said that the AS/400 name is synonymous with security: "There has never been a virus on the AS/400," he said.

Tomorrow, IBM will show a revamped Web site for the new AS/400.