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Can Your Business Really Afford a PC Server?

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One of the biggest arguments you hear from non-AS/400 people is that the AS/400 is just too expensive to be used as a server. They'll tell you that they can purchase a new Compaq two-way server, such as the ProLiant ML 370, for about $4,500. Next, they'll tell you that the price of a comparable AS/400 starts at around $18,000 to $20,000. Then they'll usually laugh derisively and walk away. Are they right? Do you really get a better deal by buying a Compaq or similar PC server as opposed to purchasing an AS/400 as your server?

To find out which is the better deal, first take a look at the Compaq. Unless you're going to use the new PC server just to play games on, you're going to have to upgrade it to meet your business requirements. For example, you're probably going to need more memory than the 128 MB that come standard. So, toss in an additional 1 GB of memory. That'll cost you $3,915. Next, add some DASD so you have somewhere to store all of your data. A typical price for, say, 36 GB of DASD runs about $1,600. Now, add in the costs for the LAN, tape drives, and other peripherals and necessities required for this box to host your network. (Now, round that figure off to about $1,100. That's a low estimate. If you added an internal tape drive, it would have bumped that figure to well over $10,000.) Finally, toss in all the little extras that make life as a network administrator bearable. For example, you'll need to purchase an operating system ($9,592 for a Windows 2000 standard server, which includes a license for 80 seats), and a Microsoft SQL Server database ($28,999 for an unlimited user license). Hmm...this is getting expensive. Now add it all up and you get a grand total of $45,206. Add to that the cost of the PC server itself, and you get a final total of $49,652! These prices, by the way, are conservative and can be found on Compaq's and Microsoft's Web sites. Your actual costs may turn out to be much more or much less, depending on how many user licenses you purchase as well as other factors not accounted for here. These prices were current at the time of this writing.

I'll Have What He's Having

Now take a look at a comparable two-way AS/400 server: In this case, the new Model 270. The base price for this box is $20,000. That's definitely a lot more than the $4,500 base price of the Compaq. Add in all of the same components for the AS/400 that you threw in for the Compaq. An additional 1 GB of memory for the AS/400 will cost you about $4,096. Add in 36 GB of RAID-5 DASD, and it'll cost you about $11,200. Throw in a tape drive, LAN, and other peripherals, and you'll need to add about $3,105 more. What

else do you have to buy? How about the operating system? Actually, OS/400 is included in the base price, so there's no additional charge. Need a database? Not a problem. That's also included in the base price. So what does that come to? According to my calculator, I get a grand total of $42,901.

This Isn't Rocket Science

Now, I'm not a rocket scientist, but it seems to me that $42,901 is a lot less than $49,652. And you're getting more bang for your buck when you purchase an AS/400 as your server, compared to a PC. Not only are you putting out less money up front, but consider all the hidden costs you are saving by purchasing an AS/400. If you purchase a PC server, you have the additional cost of paying for unplanned downtime. How many times a day does your Windows PC crash? Mine crashes so often I spend more time rebooting than I do working-compare that to the AS/400, which has 99.94 percent availability. With a PC server, you have to pay separate maintenance on the hardware, the operating system, and the database. With the AS/400, you have one vendor who has integrated all of its services for you. There is no pointing fingers when something goes wrong with the AS/400 (which seldom happens, anyway). Speaking of databases, if you own a PC server, get ready to pay big bucks for an SQL Server database administrator. These guys don't come cheap. The AS/400's database, (DB2/400), is integrated into the operating system. It is so easy to use that even folks with little or no training can begin adding, changing, or deleting records on the very first day.

The Choice Is Yours

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. I only did a single comparison here, with one PC server and one AS/400 model.

You can do your own comparisons and the AS/400 will come out ahead every time. Regardless of which PC server and model AS/400 you compare, AS/400 comes out the winner every time in a side-by-side, feature-by-feature comparison. So, before you run out and purchase a so-called cheaper PC server to run your business on, do some real number crunching. You may be surprised by what you find. If you'd like to do the price comparisons for yourself, here are the URLs I used: The IBM AS/400 Configuration Web site is at www.as400.ibm.com/configure and the Compaq Enterprise Servers page is www.compaq.com/ products/servers. Do a little surfing and a little comparison shopping and come to your own conclusions.

Shannon O'Donnell has held a variety of positions, most of them as a consultant, in dozens of industries. This breadth of experience gives him insight into multiple aspects of how the AS/400 is used in the real world. Shannon continues to work as a consultant. He is an IBM Certified Professional--AS/400 RPG Programmer and the author of an industry-leading certification test for RPG IV programmers available from ReviewNet.net.


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