IBM shipped the xServer iSeries 825 to InfoWorld preconfigured and prelicensed. Bringing the server up was not complex; it required hooking up the redundant 208-volt power, inserting a physical key, and pushing a front-panel button to IPL (Initial Program Load), IBM-speak for bootstrap.
Configuration is only slightly more complex than the physical hookup. Unlike PC-based servers, the iSeries doesn’t have a keyboard, mouse, or monitor port. Historically, AS/400s were configured via a 5250 terminal.
While the modern iSeries still has an old-fashioned 5250 terminal adapter, I set it up entirely using two Windows-based utilities, iSeries Access and iSeries Navigator, which presented a task-based setup and configuration console. There's also a browser-based version of iSeries Access, but the Windows-based version is faster and easier to use.
These new GUI utilities are far cry from IBM's older command-line tools, which I remember with distaste from my previous work with AS/400 servers. While the concepts involved in running a minicomputer are different than, for example, Windows Server 2003, the new tools make it fairly intuitive to set up users and allocated server resources (which IBM calls "partitioning") to run instances of applications.
The biggest challenges in operating the iSeries server involved configuring partitions and allocating network resources, such as IP addresses and network cards, to the partitions and their applications. IBM preinstalled many PCI-X cards, including several Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet NICs, which were hooked up to the lab's networking capability, as well as other I/O connectors that remain a mystery to this day. Configuring fail-over for the cards with the tools is not difficult, working flawlessly when the cards are removed and reinserted while operating.
The iSeries may cost as much as a small battleship, but with impressive hardware, a solid OS, and strong GUI-based administration tools, it's built like one, too.